48 Ecommerce Strategies to Maximize the 2018 Holiday Shopping Season – Including The Best Tools!

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Hello there, and thanks for taking a look at this post. Holiday shoppers are starting even earlier than ever this year than ever before with starting their online holiday shopping, so I’ve put together some information and strategies for getting ready for and maximizing the holiday shopping season for your ecommerce business. Some of the channels this article will be discussing include: website optimization, email marketing, search engine advertising, social media marketing, affiliate marketing, visitor retargeting, effective tools to use, and more.

Website-Oriented Holiday Marketing Strategies:

  1. Holiday themed main graphic on the homepage; frequent holiday promotions, best sales of the year. -> Free Shipping is the #1 promotion that motivates consumers to purchase online.
  2. Holiday themed company logo – Adding a little graphical flair to your company logo for the holidays like: garland, snow, pieces of a wreath, and other related touches, is a really nice look.
  3. “Pre-Holiday Deals” Page – add a page on the website that can be linked to, with a graphic on the homepage, in the header, and/or in the side column. And then promoted via email blasts, social network posts, and ads.
  4. Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals Pages – Create pages on your website for Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals that can be linked to via email, Facebook, and the home page’s main graphic. Create blog posts for “Top 10” lists for multiple product categories, such as “Top 10 Black Friday Deals on Gadgets.” By including your retargeting cookie on your article/blog pages, it can add to your re-marketing reach during the holidays.
  5. Holiday themed header/footer – Adding some ornaments, garland, or other holiday items can add a nice season touch and make visitors know you’re timely. The header and footer are good places to advertise promotions as well.
  6. Free Shipping Offer – consumers love free shipping, it’s the #1 promotion in ecommerce. Push it in your emails, website graphics, social network pages, live chat, and in the phone sales center.
  7. Server Load – Make sure your website server can handle the influx of traffic very well and is loading as quickly as possible at all times. A NO EXCUSES POLICY needs to be in effect. Nothing kills conversions like a slow loading website. Check into “load balancing” and server error reporting, to keep an eye on it. Use website monitoring alerts so you know when your site goes down.
  8. Site Speed – this is one of the top factors in having a well-converting website. You can optimize your website’s load time through various strategies. We have programmers that can do this for you, contact us if interested.
  9. Abandoned Shopping Cart Follow-ups -Use abandoned shopping cart follow-up emails to convert more visitors. We have a couple of providers for that. It’s a must in high-volume traffic timeframes. Make the promotions seasonal!
  10. Reach Dynamics – this is a service to send email retargeting followups to your website visitors even if they don’t leave their email address with you. They also do website to postcard direct mail campaigns which are great as well. I have a contact there, or tell them Evan Weber sent you for special pricing.
  11. Mobile Website/Mobile App – make sure you have a great mobile version of your website live. I recommend mShopper or similar tools to create an easily shop-able website for the phone, if you don’t have a true mobile website. But there are other plug and play apps if you don’t have a custom built mobile app. You absolutely need a mobile version of your site this time of year with more people shopping on their phones. A mobile app is also a great idea if you have the budget to have it developed.
  12. Pro-Active Live Chat – I LOVE this tool!! Pops up from the footer on all visitors with a Holiday themed box stating, “Happy Holidays, can we help you with anything?” It’s an info first, promotion second chat management strategy that adds the human element to your web traffic, tracked with coupon codes. It’s a proven strategy to increase conversion rates! I really like Olark.com but there are others.
  13. Push Notifications – having push notifications, i.e. browser notifications is a very good way to increase repeat website traffic. It will proactively market your offers to your audience that says yes to receiving them, and increase sales and overall conversion rates. Check out PushCrew.com.

Search Engine-Related Q4 Holiday Strategies: Search is still a hugely important factor in driving targeted traffic and revenue during the holidays.

  1. SEO – Blog Posts – post about holiday deals, ex. 10 Top Holiday Gifts for Kids for 2018 (insert product category). Numerous blog posts can be written targeting people searching for the top gifts of the year for various categories. Check your Google Analytic reports from last year and see what search phrases brought people to your website during the holiday season, to guide both your SEO optimization and keyword buying. If you can see which phrases led to sales, even better to guide your content posting and keyword advertising. If you want to grow your free/organic traffic you will commit to a proactive content marketing strategy. Contact us for rates, we have an excellent team of inhouse writers at very affordable rates.
  2. Google Keyword Planner – this is a great tool to find search phrases and their volumes to add to your Google Ads account.
  3. SEM – Paid Search (Google Ad, Bing Ads, Shopping Engines) – making sure your paid search ads are updated with holiday offers this time of year, especially for your branded terms. Expand keyword lists into holiday gift related product and niche search phrases. Add holiday content to your product catalog, titles and descriptions. You will have to revise it back afterwards, but it could be both a way to increase targeted traffic and appear timely to visitors, which should increase conversion rates.
  4. Retargeting/Remarketing – make sure you are utilizing all of the retargeting and remarketing campaigns possible in your paid search accounts. This is a very effective way to increase sales and overall conversion rate in a high ROI manner. If you need your paid search accounts audit contact us today.

Affiliate Marketing Holiday Strategies:

  1. Add holiday banner ads, text links, and offers/promotions for your affiliate marketers.
  2. Push out more frequent affiliate newsletters with deals and promotions for your affiliates to promote. Affiliate marketing is promotion driven, so make sure to ramp up your sending of promotions to your affiliates. Affiliate marketers love promotions, in fact don’t expect them to promote your company without arming them with frequent, good promotions for their audience.
  3. Recruit holiday-oriented affiliates and publishers, such as gift site affiliates, shopping affiliates, cash back sites, loyalty portals, and other holiday or shopping related affiliates. Contact me if you need affiliate recruiting campaigns conducted, my agency is the best in the business at both recruiting new affiliates and managing affiliates to get them producing more revenue. If you  need to grow your affiliate program let us know, this is one of our specialties!

Influencer Marketing Strategies:

  1. Influencer Outreach – it’s a good idea to conduct outreach to social media influencers that reach the audiences that you want to get in front of for the holiday shopping season. We use a tool called CISION to target influencers, journalists, bloggers and other types of content producers on behalf of our clients. It’s the #1 tool for reaching journalists, web publishers, bloggers and other types of influencers. Contact us for pricing. This is a very effective way to get your company out there on well-ranking 3rd party websites and blogs.
  2. Dedicated Promotions – giving your influencers dedicated promo codes that they can market to their audience is a great way to track the results. A lot of times they are charging fees to market to their audience so it’s imperative to measure the results.

If you need Influencer outreach campaigns, contact us about it. We can create online press releases and then promote the releases to an influencer audience that we create through Cision. Cision is an expensive annual membership that we subscribe to, so you can leverage their contacts and the influencer outreach strategy by hiring my agency to run your influencer outreach campaigns. Contact Us for more information.

Email Marketing Holiday Q4 Strategies:

  1. Email HTML Creatives – Launch a series of beautiful holiday-themed email offers for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then leading up to Christmas, and then Post-Holiday Deals. (Our designers can whip these up in a day or 2 if you need HTML emails turned around quickly). Increasing your email sending frequency is very advisable during November and December. Also, make sure you are using pop-up boxes on the website to increase email collection from your increased holiday website traffic. You should be able to really increase your email list when your website’s holiday traffic increases, which feeds into the following year.
  2. Test Subject Lines – Refine subject lines, include first name in the subject line whenever possible. “Best deals of the holiday season, Evan!” Make sure to emphasize deep discounts and other timely promotions. Keep your subject lines as short as possible.
  3. Responsive Designed HTML Emails – these are mobile friendly emails and a must for the holiday season since more than 70% of email openers are doing it on smartphones. (We are able to design and code responsive emails, just let me know).
  4. Email Platform – Make sure you have a well-performing, well-delivering email marketing platform that segments your database and personalized offers where appropriate. If you send out to a larger size list, you might want to check out Ongage.com which helps companies maximize their email delivery by rotating the ESPs being used to send your email blasts, and keeps the deliverability at the highest possible. Just a couple of percentage points can make all the difference in the revenue from the blasts.
  5. Email Frequency – I recommend daily deal emails and weekly seasonal emails into the holiday season, so you have to plan and design numerous promotional emails to send out in succession. This is the time of year that you can get away with daily email blasts to your lists, so take advantage of it, but with a strategy.
  6. Don’t be shy – Email is the #1 revenue generator for ecommerce, so make sure not to under-do it. Make sure to increase email collection both on the website with pop-ups, sweepstakes entries, and try Facebook Lead Ads to increase email subscribers to your list (inquire with us if you would like an agency to run these campaigns for you).

Social Media Holiday Strategies:

  1. Holiday-themed Sweepstakes or Photo Contest – “Win the NEW iPhone (or iPad) Sweepstakes!” You can do an amazing Holiday Season Sweepstakes or Holiday Photo Contest to increase fans, email opt-ins, conversions, and viral sharing. Typical budget would range between $500-2500 for a contest, depending on how big and exciting you wanted to go with the sweepstakes. Sweepstakes should be promoted on your website, on your Facebook page with Boosted Posts, Sponsored tweets, Facebook Ads to new audiences, and to your email databases. Not to mention, when the winners get their prize they can be asked to share a picture on the fan page holding their prize, which is promoted on Facebook and other social networks with ads to increase exposure. It’s great for PR and has great engagement associated with it. Press releases can also be done for the sweepstakes to further market it. You can also run Facebook and Twitter ads to promote it, and re-market website visitors to enter your sweepstakes. You can also add a “site link extension” in your Google paid search ads so it shows up in all of your search ads so people may click on the link and sign up.
  2. Holiday-themed Facebook Page Cover images – to be added in advance of all the main Holiday promotions. It’s good to keep cover images changing and fresh on your Facebook page, and Twitter as well.
  3. Holiday-themed Fan Page profile thumbnail – sure why not add a holiday-themed company logo on your Facebook and Twitter pages.
  4. Facebook Fan Ads – consider allocating budget to advertise for more targeted fans (i.e. Page likes) on Facebook before and throughout the holidays so you can market deals to more targeted people with “Boosted Posts”. Then using Facebook Offers and Facebook Boosted Posts to monetize your fans and track the ROI of your fan advertising. Make sure to track Facebook ad campaigns with dedicated coupon codes, Facebook’s tracking pixels, and dedicated toll free numbers for Facebook.
  5. Twitter Ads – Ads can be run on Twitter to boost clicks, followers, and leads. Don’t forget about Twitter Ads this holiday season. I also really like running ads to your customer databases on Twitter (custom audiences), which always has good ROI. Another winner on Twitter is to run retargeting ads to your previous website visitors. So make sure not to neglect Twitter, especially in retargeting your website traffic and your previous customer email lists, with deals and/or to enter your holiday sweepstakes to build your email list.
  6. Instagram -You MUST be on Instagram with a company page and posting pictures and links to it, with hashtags to gain followers. Ramp up your Instagram strategy now to build your followers for the holidays. Now, when you advertise through Facebook, your ads will run on Instagram automatically, which is a beautiful thing.
  7. Videos – make sure to create and utilize videos in your holiday shopping strategies. Videos tend to have higher rates of engagement that static ads. Videos can be created and utilized on your social networks, in your ads, on Youtube, in Youtube ads, and other places as well. Videos are also great for using with Google Ads to retargeting/remarket to your website audience, previous customer file, and new targeted audiences (If you need inexpensive video creation services let us know)
  8. Pinterest – Make sure you are pinning all your products from your site and blog to Pinterest in your company account. Create boards for your product categories to make it great. Sign-up for a Pinterest business account so you can run ads through Pinterest to targeted audiences for the holiday shopping season. If it’s going to work, it’s likely going to work during the holiday shopping season when your conversion rate is higher, so make sure to leverage it to the fullest.

Native Advertising / Programmatic Ads:

  1. Native Ads: these are ad campaigns that run as “recommended articles” on 3rd party web properties that typically are high traffic websites. You may have seen these blocks of 4-8 set of stories with an image and a content blurb that link to a landing page. There are a couple of ways to target these types of recommended articles, including targeting your previous website visitors known as “retargeting” ads, as well as targeting “custom audiences” which are databases such as a website’s customer database, or very targeted customers that have either show interest in that same type of product or services, or have in fact made a purchase previously with another similar website. You can run your “recommended articles” which are actually ad units that market an article and an image to these audiences, bringing the people that click on the ads to your website, or to a “landing page” that collects their contact information so they can be followed up with and sold your products or services. You can put a holiday shopping spin on your ad units and landing pages, to make them really timely and more effective. Native advertising is a very popular new form of online advertising, and represents the future of digital advertising because it essentially allows Advertisers and merchants to run ad campaigns to very targeting audiences, which allow what in the past were display ad campaigns that are much easier to generate a return on investment with this more modern and more effective way to advertise on 3rd party websites through display advertising campaigns, and drive a ton more traffic for advertisers. The other amazing aspect of Native advertising is that you can set up several different ad units and drive the traffic to a variety of landing pages, which allows for a higher degree of on the fly optimizations, which improves ad campaign performance over time. Check out Storygize.com for fully managed Native Advertising campaigns, and check out OutBrain and Taboola for self-serve Native Ad campaigns. Adroll also have Native Ad units for your retargeting and prospecting campaigns.
  2. Programmatic Ad Campaigns – The difference between Programmatic and traditional display advertising campaigns essentially is just how targeted the advertising inventory is with this new more precise form of targeting that’s used by programmatic ad networks. For instance, if you want to run ads to target women that have purchased from designer boutiques in the last 6 months, you can do that. If you want to target moms with kids in elementary school, you can do that. If you wanted to target plus sizes women that shop for clothes online, you can target just that audience. I think you get the picture. Essentially, you can leverage information on users from 3rd party “data providers,” or companies that know people’s buying behavior and other valuable data points you can utilize to target those people online with various types of ads and videos. You will pay a premium for the ability to target people based on this information, but it makes all of the difference in the world. Let’s say you want to advertise your new iPhone speaker through display advertising campaigns. You can select audiences of people that you know have recently purchased the new iPhone for instance. You can also run a variety of different types of ad units like videos and HTML5 ad units which are interactive ad units which increase the ability to get people’s contact info if they are interested so you can personally follow up and sell to them or market to them in a very targeted way. Another phenomenal aspect of programmatic, is that you can target web properties that have certain content or keywords present on the pages. For instance, you want to target web properties that are discussing hardwood flooring options in their content or blog post. You can target just these pages of content with your banner ads or video ads for a flooring company, and get them to visitor your website or your landing page to get a free estimate. You can see how paying a little bit extra for this type of data is worth the money and in fact worth it’s weight in gold. Now, you have to do a great job with your website landing page conversion rate to make it work as well as possible, but assuming you don’t do a completely horrible job, it has a very good chance of working and producing an ROI. What a great strategy to increase website traffic for the holidays, by using Native ads and Programmatic ad campaigns. (If you need an agency to help you run these campaigns, let me know. We use a phenomenal programmatic campaign platform to get the best ROI on your Native ads and programmatic ad campaigns.)

10 Additional Website Conversion Rate Strategies:

  1. Customer Referral Program – launch a customer referral program to turn each customer and previous customer into a potential referrer. It’s a great incremental revenue play. I recommend FriendBuy.com for a great plug and play customer referral program. There’s also Ambassador, which is a great customer referral program or it can also be used as an affiliate tracking platform.
  2. Pop-up Live Chat – Olark.com is a really effective proactive live chat widget, that nicely slides up from the bottom right corner of the screen to see if the visitors wants to ask a question. It has many great features, like transcriptions, and canned responses to help save time. It also tells you where the visitor came from to get to your website and what website pages they are viewing on your website so you can tailor your responses appropriately. Another cool feature is that they tell you if the visitor is a repeat visitor or not so you know how hot they may be.
  3. Pop-up email capture – asking for their name and email in exchange for a coupon code is a great way to increase your email database much quicker than previously. One of our clients increased their email collection by 500% just by adding a popup box to their website offering a first-time customer discount. The deeper the discount the better it tends to work. Check out a really amazing tool for ecommerce called Contact Pigeon, which handles both email collection, shopping cart abandonment emails, and targeted offers. Definitely check it out to boost conversions on your ecommerce website. Tell them Evan Weber sent you for a special deal.
  4. Testimonials/Reviews – make sure your customer reviews are placed prominently on your site and you have a widget in place to ask your holiday shoppers for reviews going forward. Sites with reviews convert 5X better than ones that do not have them. Make sure to use the ones with 5 gold stars, customers like those best. I recommend a customer review widget called ShopperApproved, which you can get launched through my agency, as we are an approved reseller of their tool and our customers get a better deal than going directly to the company, so inquire with me if you are interested in adding customer reviews or switching to a better reviews tool. Shopper Approved collects reviews at a much faster rate than other reviews tools, by surveying your visitors during their website experience, and after they have received their order. The gold stars it accumulates get posted to your Google Adwords campaigns and in your Google organic listings, which boosts conversion rate in itself.
  5. Shopping Cart Abandonment Email Follow-ups – This is a vital tool to saving sales and increasing conversion rates. We can recommend the best tools to use for this service like ConvertCart.com.
  6. Retargeting on the Web and Facebook – Not only is website visitor retargeting some of the best converting traffic on the web, since they have already expressed interest in your website, but in the last couple of years several new retargeting options have emerged. So I most definitely recommend leveraging visitor retargeting to the fullest. Some of the ways we use it with clients include: Dynamic product retargeting through Google, product-level retargeting through Facebook, retargeting back to the website through Facebook and Twitter, email-based retargeting campaigns through SendRoll (part of Adroll), email-based retargeting through Reach Dynamics, which is a performance-based (affiliate) partner that sends retargeting emails to your visitors that haven’t converted yet based on their cookies and IPs.
  7. Trust Logos – Every ecommerce website needs to really impart trust, security, and confidence in the online transaction, especially with the recent data hacks. Some of the top trust logos you can place in the website’s layout include: Norton’s Trust Seal (#1 in ecommerce), Norton’s Shopping Guarantee Program (contact us to be introduced to Norton’s for a special deal), BBB Online, Industry logos, SSL certificate, and Truste. These logos increase conversion rate just my them being placed on the website. Product reviews widgets usually come with a nice logo to place on the website. (contact us for a contact for the Norton’s Shopper Guaranty package).
  8. A/B Testing Tools – use Google Optimize on your website to work on boosting your overall website conversion rate. The nice thing about modern day conversion rate optimization is that you can run the A/B tests right in the website’s layout in real-time, without using any tech resources. So once you determine which promotion, call to action button, logo size, product size, and button color/sizes works best, you can go live with those versions and be ensured that you have the best converting page elements live on your website.
  9. Sweepstakes – as we discussed earlier, but it’s worth re-emphasizing that running a holiday sweepstakes is a great way to increase email list size, increase page likes, and increase overall conversion rate, because you are at the end of the day increasing email collection, which can be then sent automated email follow-ups to increase sales.
  10. Lucky Orange – this is a tool with several benefits. It will allow you hone your conversion rate by utilizing their tool set on your website. You just add their script to your website and then configure the tool in their dashboard. It’s very inexpensive tool and very effective at boosting your website’s conversion. I recommend doing that now in advance of the holiday shopping season.

Time is of the essence, let us know if you want to discuss these suggestions on a call, or feel free to share internally and those staff members contact us with any questions. You can hire our agency to manage any of your digital marketing and online advertising strategies, or just 1 channel. We can implement a multi-channel, comprehensive digital marketing strategy to make your Q4 holiday shopping season the best ever! You can also hire Experience Advertising’s CEO Evan Weber personally as your digital marketing and online advertising consultant, to work with your internal team. He has worked with many companies in this capacity to boost their conversion rate and the effectiveness of their digital marketing channels. Don’t settle for less-than-excellent agencies or in-house staff that doesn’t have a great strategy in place…there really is a difference! Thanks for taking a look. Have a wonderful Q4!

Holiday Shopping Strategies for Ecommerce and Websites

Holiday Shopping Strategies for Ecommerce and Websites

Evan is the CEO and Founder of Experience Advertising. He has more than 20 years experience and background with ecommerce website marketing. His skill sets include: search engine marketing, social media marketing, affiliate marketing, conversion rate optimization, and other traffic driving and community building strategies.

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