It may be July, but online stores are already gearing up for the holiday shopping season. Whether you are a first time store owner or a seasoned pro hopefully these tips will help you to organize and prioritize your holiday efforts to achieve the maximum effect this holiday season.
Based on feedback we have received from our customers the best way to get your online business “holiday ready” is to follow these three general steps: look pretty, get your name out there, and communicate with holiday shoppers.
In terms of appearance, many online store owners are planning on making eye catching holiday specific design changes to their websites to bring shoppers in. Others are also considering spotlighting their most popular products with a “Seasonal Favorites” or “Holiday Must Haves” section on their homepage.
Get your name out there
To get the word out about their sites online store owners are running the gamut of advertising options from traditional media like magazines and holiday shopping guides to newer social media like Facebook.
Communications with customers this holiday season will range from text-based newsletters and emails to interactive live chatting. The goal will be to announce holiday promotions that are running and give consumers the information and resources they need to get their gifts.
But even if you know what you will be doing this year, you may need some help deciding when you should you be doing it. Here is a rough time schedule of these crucial months leading up to the holiday shopping season:
- Print Ads should be submitted to magazines and holiday shopping guides.
Magazines and the like generally run on a 90 day schedule so if you are planning on getting featured in time for the holiday shopping rush you should be creating those ads now.
- If you plan on doing the Design Elements on your site yourself start early so that if you get stuck you still have time to get professional assistance.
Design tips for your site can be picked up from our design videos, and feedback about more custom design elements can be found in the Volusion forums.
- Re-evaluate your SEO efforts and begin updating/making changes as needed.
Make sure your Volusion store is set to “SEO friendly” in the admin area, get your meta tags in order and configure your SEO for products and categories.
- Start collecting Ratings/Reviews to help influence holiday shoppers.
Activate your customer reviews section and encourage your customers to leave reviews to help influence holiday shoppers that may be on the fence about a particular product.
- Order professional Design Services to spruce up your website.
Home page design will take about 4-6 weeks to complete, and the Volusion design team sees a significant increase in design orders in October so beat the rush and order early to make sure your design is completed in time to maximize its return during the holiday shopping season. (Remember that you can always order long before the holidays and have your professional design created by our design team and then implemented closer to the holiday season.)
- Get your Live Chat installed if you haven’t done so already.
Volusion offers both a free and a premium live chat available to all merchants. Live chat allows you to answer your customers questions quickly and efficiently when you are in the office, and provides a way for customers to leave questions and their contact information without hassle when you are out of the office.
- Install vZoom on your site to give you a competitive advantage over other sites in your industry.
vZoom is a great way to give shoppers access to the detail they want to see.
- Leverage social media through Volusion’s Social Store Builder.
Available for gold stores and above, the Social Store Builder lets Volusion store owners add products from their online store to their Facebook and MySpace pages.
- Add Homepage Specials or a Featured Products section to showcase your top sellers.
Display your best sellers on your home page to entice shoppers and promote your heavy hitters. In keeping with the holiday theme rename your featured products section something more descriptive like “Seasonal Favorites” or “Holiday Must Haves” (or even something totally wacky and unique like “Things The Elves Can’t Live Without”).
- Send out Newsletters.
Newsletters are a great way to keep shoppers informed about special holiday promotions you may be running and again highlight your best sellers. You may even consider including exclusive promotions in your newsletters to peak interest.
- Send reminder Emails.
Reminder emails are a great way to encourage shoppers to get online and make their purchases (provided you don’t fill their inboxes with a blizzard of correspondence). Let consumers know when they need to make their purchases by to receive them in time for the holidays and encourage them to tell their friends about the promotions you are running.
Now that you have an idea of when you’ll need to be executing your “holiday readiness” plans put down the ice tea and get out there- Black Friday is only 19 weeks away!
Did we forget something? Leave a comment with your “holiday readiness” suggestion to help fellow Volusionites plan for this holiday season!
Don’t have a Volusion store yet? There’s still time! Start a free trial today!
A special thanks to our forum user Lightning2000 for his insight on this topic!
-Kate Pierce eCommerce Specialist