12 Tips to Help You Get Your Online Store Ready for the Holidays

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If you have an online store, then you don’t need me to tell you how Christmas and other winters holidays can impact your annual sales.  In order to maximise your profits during the holiday season, you need to make the most of your existing customer base and every new visitor to your ecommerce site.

I’ve provided 12 tips to help you get more visitors, increase sales and revenue, satisfy your customers, decrease complaints and inquiries, and spread some holiday cheer!

Offer Free Shipping

Voucher codes are great, but free shipping is even better.  Recently, Forrester conducted a study to find out why so many online shoppers add products to their shopping carts but don’t actually end up purchasing these items (also know as shopping cart abandonment).  The results of this study showed that most people abandon their orders due to high shipping and handling fees.

By offering free shipping to your customers, like online retailer GadgetsUK, you should see a significant reduction in the number of shoppers who abandon their carts.

gadgets uk free shipping offer

Offer a Free Gift

One way to increase sales and revenue during the holiday season is to offer a free gift when customers spend over a certain amount at your online store.  Fragrance Direct, an online retailer, includes a free tube of mascara when customers order more than £30 worth of products.

fragrance direct free gift offer

Free gifts with purchases over a certain amount don’t necessarily need to be expensive to entice buyers to spend a bit more in your shop to get a little something extra.  Also, these complementary items don’t have to be substantial enough for a Christmas present–shoppers can use the free gift as a stocking filler, or even keep the product to treat themselves during the sometimes stressful holiday season.

Offer Electronic Gift Vouchers

Shipping items takes time, which means online shopping isn’t particularly attractive to people who are trying to get a gift on Christmas Eve.  However, if you offer electronic gift vouchers like Amazon, then shoppers will be able to buy last minute gifts without ever leaving the comfort of their homes.

amazon electronic gift voucher

Plus, electronic gift vouchers are cheaper to produce than physical gift cards, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give them a try!

Deck the Halls (of Your Shop)

A few well placed baubles and snowflakes on your online store can really help shoppers get into the giving (and spending) spirit of the season.  Like Sainsbury’s, you can add some simple festive touches to your site to get visitors excited about the coming holidays.

sainsburys decorate for christmas

Sainsbury’s uses a smattering of snowflakes in their signature orange to add some Christmas joy to their website, proving you don’t need to cover your online store with gaudy red and green icons to celebrate the season.  Check out iStockphoto for interesting holiday images and icons you can use to decorate your ecommerce site.

Offer Gift Wrapping

Due to the current economic climate, some shoppers will choose to wrap their own gifts in an effort to save money, but there will always be people with more money than time who will gladly take you up on this service.  By adding a gift wrapping service, like Marks & Spencer, you can increase your revenue and make your products attractive to people who are either shipping gifts directly to their recipients, or are simply too busy to spend time wrapping presents.

marks and spencer gift wrapping service

Display Shipping Cut Off Dates

When customers shop online during the holiday season, they need to know if a gift will arrive in time for the big day.  In order to communicate this information to your customers, follow online retailer Harry & David‘s example and simply create a chart containing all your shipping options and the dates by which an item must be ordered for it to arrive in time for a specific holiday.

harry and david shipping cut off dates

This chart will help your customers choose the most appropriate delivery option, and you and your members of staff won’t have to spend a lot of time answering questions about shipping.

Make Your Promotional Emails Stand Out

According to a recent study, the majority of retailers increase the number of emails they send to customers during the six weeks leading up to Christmas, which means you have to make your emails stand out from your competition.

An attractive email template is a great way to highlight your store’s special offers, but you need to craft an enticing subject line to increase the chances of recipients actually opening your emails.  If you’re offering free shipping, then be sure to mention this in the subject line of your promotional emails.  Alternatively, you can personalise your emails by including the name of the recipient in the subject line.

However, inundating subscribers with emails may cause some recipients to mark them as spam, which can lead to email delivery problems, so you should avoid sending promotions on a daily basis.

Send a Holiday eCard to Your Customers

Sending paper cards to all of your customers can be costly and time-consuming, but sending an eCard to everyone on your mailing list is an inexpensive and fast alternative.  Themeforest.net is a great resource for attractive and inexpensive holiday themed email templates that you can customise with your company’s logo and branding.

christmas holiday ecard

Your company’s holiday card is an opportunity for you to express your gratitude to your customers, not promote your company, so avoid including information about your newest products and special offers.

Highlight Stocking Fillers

You can increase the amount of your average sale by drawing your customers’ attention to small and inexpensive items they can buy as stocking fillers.  For example, online retailer Cath Kidston has a section dedicated to stocking fillers, and all of the items are relatively affordable and compact.

cath kidston highlight stocking fillers

Whether you create a designated menu tab, display a handful of suggested gifts on product pages, or showcase some cheap and cheerful items during the checkout process, highlighting stocking fillers can help you increase your store’s earnings this Christmas.

Tweak Your PPC Advertising

During the holiday season, it’s important to evaluate your pay-per-click campaign.  While certain terms may serve you well the rest of the year, it’s important to consider the keywords shoppers use during the run-up to Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays.  Use the tools provided by Google, such as the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator, to find new holiday-related terms you can use to drive traffic to your store.  For example, you might want to add keywords like ‘unusual stocking fillers’ and ‘Hanukkah gifts for girls’ to your AdWords campaign during November and December.

adwords ppc advertising for christmas

Shop Your Store

Before the Christmas orders start rolling in, take some time to check your online store for weaknesses.  Go through the order process from beginning to end to find faults before your customers do.  This process will help expose any issues you need to fix before you and your staff become inundated with orders, so you’ll actually have some time to make things right.

404 shop your store for christmas

By shopping your own store, you can find and fix problems with your site’s navigation and appearance, as well as issues with your payment processor or shipping provider.

Categorise Products as Gifts

While a lot of shoppers know exactly what they want to get for loved ones during the holidays, many people need a bit of inspiration.  To help customers find the perfect presents, follow Marks & Spencer‘s lead by categorising your products as gifts for a particular budget or gender.

marks and spencer categorise products as gifts

For example, you can have a ‘Gifts for Her’ section that includes jewellery, perfume, lingerie, and handbags, or a ‘Gifts Under £20’ section that includes books, scarves, and inexpensive gadgets.  By categorising your products as gifts, you can help customers find presents for everyone on their lists.

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  1. On January 11, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Logo Design Studio said:

    This is right shipping items takes time, which means online shopping isn’t particularly attractive to people who are trying to get a gift on Christmas Eve and all festival eve. Really if we offer electronic gift vouchers like Amazon and sound system also, then shoppers will be able to buy last minute gifts without ever leaving the comfort of their house.

  2. On November 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    renting coches said:

    Thanks! I going to try to make a small e-commerce project in future. So I’ll keep your tips in mind )

  3. On November 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    James Caron said:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing these tips. It was very interesting and informative also.

  4. On November 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    graphic calculator said:

    I have tested two of them and they worked. Thanks very much.

  5. On November 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Neil Asher said:


    I’ve just made all my site free postage and packing for Christmas, now to test if it works 🙂

    great tips Cat thanks

    Neil Asher

  6. On November 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Steve said:

    Great article as always Cat! I have found the past few years that Christmas Card Videos to clients are a pretty good way to go as well, and there was the point where I sent my brother out dressed as Santa to deliver on Christmas eve to local clients! (has to be fun for everyone of course ;o)