38 Ways Ecommerce Sites can Grab the Upcoming Holidays by the Horns

If you want your ecommerce business to rock the holiday season, you have to start now. The biggest shopping days of the year will be here soon.

Along with Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are Halloween, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s, as well as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday, and who knows what else marketers will dream up next.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales have increased by 3.5% each year. Here are 38 ways you can get your share of these massive holiday revenues.

Planning and Preparation

Before you market, you have to get ready. That’s where these first two tips come in.

1. Figure out when your customers will shop. While you prepare for the holidays, check the analytics for your ecommerce site to see which days have been the busiest historically.

For any online retailer, Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) is the busiest online shopping day of the year (even for people in the UK, who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving at all). ComScore recorded a 30 percent increase in sales last year for a total of $1.5 billion. Best Buy already has its Black Friday sales page up.

best buy

2. Prepare your site for the influx. Your Cyber Monday boom could quickly become a bust if the onslaught takes down your site. Make sure you have plenty of bandwidth and check your site with GTmetrix or a similar tool to find and eliminate the causes of site slowdown. Depending on your expected traffic, it might be worth getting a content delivery network (CDN) to provide an even better experience for your customers.

On-Site Optimization

During the holidays, people will be searching for more information than ever. You can help your product marketing stand out with the strategies below.

3. Market with themed pages for holiday SEO. Visit any of the top retailers’ sites, and you will see special landing pages for holiday offers. This is an easy way to collect products and services around a particular holiday, and it also makes it an easy resource for people to share.

backcountry gift guide

In addition, you pick up SEO benefit as people search for holiday-themed sales, deals, and offers. And don’t forget to encourage email list signups by placing forms wherever you need them.

4. Create holiday content for your blog. While this might not tie directly to sales, you can build authority with great, shareable content, which helps to build your list and drive additional sales.

A good example is marketer Tea Silvestre’s 12 Days of Branding Campaign where she riffs on the 12 Days of Christmas song to give it a marketing twist.

12 days of branding

5. Optimize your top pages and products. It’s back to analytics to figure out where buyers are going on your site. Find the trends, and put a compelling call to action on those pages, automatically increasing the chances of boosting your sales.

Then, use paid advertising on social channels or via PPC to make your site and your offer more prominent. Long tail keywords could bring in additional traffic and lead to sales.

6. Enhance your checkout. Many people lose customers on the checkout page, either because something doesn’t work right or because the shipping costs are higher than expected. Free shipping offers pay dividends. Also, you can improve your checkout page with related products, which is something Amazon excels at.

frequently bought together

Go Mobile

These days, people expect to be able to purchase their products from any device, wherever they are. It’s what Forrester Research calls the Mobile Mind Shift, and it will have a big impact on ecommerce sales.

The latest figures from E-Marketer predict that this year, mobile purchases will account for 16 percent of sales, with a value of $41.68 billion. How can you capitalize on the trend?

7. Cater to mobile users with a beautiful, colorful catalog that’s visually appealing and easy to browse (with product links built right in). While you’re at it, make the design of your entire website responsive for easy mobile browsing. According to research from Icebreaker Consulting, mobile shoppers are quicker at making purchase decisions than desktop users so this could really pay off.

mobile behavior infographic

8. Link related and recommended products, especially for the more relaxed shoppers browsing at home. Research shows that these shoppers are more likely to make impulse purchases.

9. Use geotargeting to personalize your offers so that people feel more connected to you. Also, make a note of the devices shoppers are using so you can provide promotions suitable for them (like iPhone accessories deals for iPhone users).

Promotions

Can giving something away result in more revenue? It certainly can, and it will do wonders for your reputation, too.

10. Do something charitable. An offline charitable event can be a great way to market for the holidays. Not only does this strategy have the feel-good factor, encouraging people to participate and promote, but it provides major publicity for your ecommerce site.

It doesn’t even have to cost much. Encourage your staff to take part in the event, and spring for some branded T-shirts. Then, take lots of photos and share on social media.

toys for tots

Examples include hosting your own Toys for Tots or Wishmakers At Work (Make-A-Wish Foundation) event- the names of which are nationally recognized. Additionally, you can volunteer at your local soup kitchen or find other local opportunities at www.volunteermatch.org.

11. Have a holiday-themed freebie. Free stuff is always popular, and if it’s something valuable, people are willing to spread the word. Freckle’s annual Freelancember giveaway provides useful tips and downloads for freelancers as an enticement to sign up for their time tracking software.

12. Use a calendar. The holidays are a time to count down to the big day. Integrating a calendar and countdown into your online marketing, as Pinterest did last year with its 30 Days of Pinspiration campaign, can build a lot of buzz and encourage shoppers to visit your site daily.

13. Save the world. This is related to charity, but goes one step further, illustrating your commitment to tackle a major world issue. For 15 percent of people, a responsible corporate citizen is a big attraction. Support a cause and people will support you, trust you, and buy from you.

Get Social

Using social media is a great way to humanize your brand and build personal engagement with your customers. In addition to regular conversations, here are some other ways to use social media for marketing.

14. Run a Pinterest contest. As a major driver of retail and online sales, you can’t afford to ignore this social media site. Encourage customers to share holiday ideas, recipes, and more, and to tag you so that you can pin their suggestions to one of your Pinterest boards.

15. Host a holiday photo contest on Instagram, giving prizes for the best photos (perhaps of someone using your product). Encourage users to input locations and hashtags which you can use on other social media sites, too.

Worried that there are only two tips in this section? Don’t be, because social is integrated into many of the tips below.

User-Generated Content

According to HubSpot research, user-generated content (UGC) can help improve your sales to millennials, a huge consumer segment. Here are some ideas for capitalizing on that trend.

16. Combine UGC and social like Dunkin’ Donuts did last year. Their contest encouraged people to submit New Year’s messages with photos and videos. Crate and Barrel did something similar on Facebook, and Pepsi requested photos from fans to promote the Super Bowl.

17. Encourage holiday-themed videos from customers via Vine and other sites. One way to make this happen easily is to use UK startup Pitch’d which helps people run contests on MixBit, Instagram, and Vine, and tie that in with Facebook and Twitter.

18. Ask customers for reviews of everything from your products to your services. Reviews are proven to have a high trust factor and drive sales. Don’t you look at the reviews whenever you buy something on Amazon? So do your customers.

Email Marketing

You already have a list of past customers. How can you add to that list and provide value so that they will want to continue shopping on your site? Here are some ideas.

19. Create a holiday product or simply something useful to give away and build your list. For best results, tie this in with another promotion, such as a holiday contest.

20. Set up a marketing campaign aimed at existing customers, as research shows they are most likely to buy. Sweeten the pot with some insiders-only deals, and those customers will be sure to tell others about your promotion.

21. Remember that Pinterest contest I mentioned earlier? You can do the same thing in an email marketing campaign featuring a product or product range that you want to focus on.

22. Use remarketing to reduce the effects of shopping cart abandonment by reminding people there are products they looked at that they still might want to buy. This can bring increased sales as well as a feeling of goodwill. ‘Tis the season, after all!

23. Use after-sales emails to alert customers to other relevant products and to encourage them to share your information with their friends. It’s a good way to provide a useful service while picking up additional sales.

24. Encourage sharing. In the warm fuzziness of the holiday season, friends and family are important. Starbucks used a share-with-a-friend campaign successfully in 2012. Could that work for your business?

Help Your Customers

Stepping away from the (relatively) harder sell of email marketing, you can encourage customers to buy by creating a wealth of helpful resources. Here are some tips.

25. Use video for marketing. Video drives sales, so use explainer videos (about your business), product demonstrations, customer review videos, holiday message videos, and more to make a connection with your customers.

26. Create an infographic illustrating shopping trends and fun facts about your most popular products. And since infographics are eminently shareable, that will boost your social media presence, too.

27. Provide free tips on decorations, wrapping, recipes, and more, linking back to relevant products every time.

28. Create a gift finder to help people find the perfect present at the right budget. Theme it by gifts for him or her and/or sort by age, stage, or interests. There are lots of ecommerce sites that do this well, and some combine them with giveaway gift guides for a double marketing whammy.

29. Target last minute shoppers by encouraging them to give digital gifts, whether these are coupons or ebooks.

30. Create bundles of products and services and feature them in all of your marketing material. Tie items that are less popular to those that have a strong following and you probably will sell more of both!

31. Respond to new leads quickly. The holidays are chaotic, and folks are time-strapped. A lead response automation solution like Speak2Leads can help your sales team connect with prospects in under a minute.

Fun Marketing Strategies

Finally, here are some holiday marketing ideas that are just plain fun. We’ve pulled from the best for these.

32. Divide your customers into tribes and do fun things with them. This is one of the latest strategies for connecting with the people you want to reach. You can have lots of fun with this, from quizzes that determine a customer’s ideal tribe to promotions targeting each group specifically.

33. Redesign your logo, but not permanently. Take a leaf out of Google’s book, and create some buzz with a seasonal look. A recent example of this at work was Yahoo’s campaign with 30 different logos before they revealed their new one. Here’s a Halloween rendition of Cadbury’s popular Crème Egg product:

34. Hop on a meme and then extend it. If there’s a suitable meme that lends itself to a holiday interpretation, this could be a great way to market via social sites. Vivid Seats did this on its blog featuring, among other things, a grumpy cat that is not a fan of the holidays.

35. Theme your social media avatars. Last holiday season there was a rash of people who changed their avatars to feature antlers, red noses, white beards, and more. It’s another way to humanize your brand. Check out this example from Underwater Audio for last year’s season.

36. Add holiday related jokes and trivia to your site and marketing campaigns, and encourage customers to submit their own.

37. Do something for the kids, especially if you have products related to children. The customizable letter to Santa sites get lots of traffic every year, resulting in significant ad revenue.

38. Create a game for customers to play online (good idea) or on their mobile devices (even better idea). Not only has gamification become a huge business marketing tactic, but people love mobile games. If you can boost your image while people have fun, that’s a huge marketing win!

Your Thoughts

What do you think? We hope you found at least one or two marketing ideas you can use among this list. If you have even more ideas, tell us about it.

About the Author: is the CEO of TOFU Marketing, an internet marketing agency that helps startup companies hack their growth. You can request a free consultation with him here.

  1. hey Chris

    I like your tips, as some if not most of them can also be applied to micro niche sites or product review blogs, isn’t it?

    I run a couple hundred niche sites myself and know the Holiday seasons drive sales in a frenzy… some people have seasonal web sites and make a bunch of money with the spike of traffic and product interest.

    Hope everything works fine at TOFU. Best!

    • Chris Kilbourn Sep 12, 2013 at 6:17 am

      Hey John,

      I’m glad you enjoyed it!
      My goal was to list ideas that marketers like you can use with your niche sites and spark your imagination for other great ideas.

      Let me know how it goes!

  2. Rachel Kennedy Sep 12, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Hi Chris,

    Great blog! These are all great tips!

    Another is integration. Ecommerce businesses can integrate their web store to their marketing automation software to target customers as soon as they purchase as well as integrate all their shipping needs over the busy holiday season!

    • Chris Kilbourn Sep 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm

      Hey Rachel,

      Thank you!
      I completely agree. Automation can be one of the best transitions E-Commerce websites can make- just need to be sure it’s tested before the volume spikes. ;)
      What’s your favorite automation tool?

      Thanks for the input!

  3. Hey Chris – very helpful advice on the blog.

    Working for a CDN provider, I have encountered many ecommerce businesses that are unprepared for an increase in seasonal traffic… especially during the holidays. Spikes of traffic from Cyber Monday can put a toll on the server and increase page load times, causing abandonments and lost conversions. Site owners should definitely use analytics to prepare for this, and be sure to have an optimized checkout process for when customers come flooding in.

    • Chris Kilbourn Sep 12, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Hey William,

      Exactly. Very important points.
      Similarly, businesses should ensure their support phone # is prominent and that they have enough staff on handle the influx of incoming calls.

      Thanks for your input!

  4. Not a single tips, all tips are useful as you provides creative ideas like making a holiday themed page as well as like running a pinterest contest.

  5. Pulled a ton of ideas from this list to use for the holidays (and beyond), thank you for putting it together!

  6. These are great tips! I think engaging on social media will be more important than ever. Also offering people gift suggestions, whether it’s through an actual gift finder based on budget, age, etc. or if it’s just offering suggestions via image posts on social media and your blog.

  7. Timothy Mobley Dec 03, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Thank you for the extensive list! These are all great ideas and most of them can also be applied to service oriented companies such as ours. While we not looking for traffic to generate sales necessarily, it’s still very useful to build brand recognition and just help with rankings. Thanks so much!

  8. Wow! i was searching something this detailed. Glad that i found it. Do you have such detailed advice for stores that are only selling digital products?

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