Why eCommerce Stores Should Plan Holiday Exclusives Now

Is your new eCommerce business getting ready for its first holiday season? How exciting! And maybe a little bit nerve-wracking, too.

Delivering a holiday sale your customers will love takes a lot of planning, and there’s a learning curve for sure. That’s why we’ve put together this series to help you rock your online store’s first holiday season. 

So far, we’ve looked at how to put together holiday promotions and how to market those promos to bring customers to your online store. Now it’s time to think about how you’re going to wow them when they visit your site—and that means offering special products, package deals and perks to make their holiday shopping easier and more appealing.

Plan Your Holiday Exclusives Now

What makes a good holiday offer? Here are four elements to consider.

  1. It’s something your customers will want. Either they’re already buying it from you or it’s like the things they buy from you. For example, if your bestseller is a T-shirt with a picture of ducklings, a T-shirt with a picture of ducklings in Santa hats will probably do well during the holidays. 
  2. It’s at the right price point for your shoppers and your bottom line. Even if people do get spendy at the holidays, they still look for deals. Offer that Santa duckling T-shirt at a price that delights your customers and turns a profit.
  3. It’s easy and inexpensive to ship. This matters a lot, because shipping is expected to be a bottleneck this holiday season, and shippers sometimes add surcharges during the holidays, which can hurt if you’ve already promised free shipping. So, think t-shirts and tea towels, not garden statues or hand-painted kettlebells.
  4. It’s in stock and you have plenty, so you’re not going to run out on Day One of your holiday sale. You don’t want customers coming to your site only to be disappointed.

Get your holiday deals out early

Back in the day, promoting your holiday merch too early in the year made some shoppers grumbly, because they wanted to focus on Halloween and Thanksgiving before moving on to the winter holidays.

Now, though, you can safely launch some, if not all, of your holiday exclusives as early as October. In fact, you probably should.


The biggest reason is because Amazon Prime Day has been moved from July to the last quarter of 2020, with many eCommerce watchers predicting that the huge sales event will happen in October. That would turn Prime Day into the de facto holiday sales season kickoff event and divert revenue from other retailers who wait until November to ramp up their holiday deals. 

Another reason to offer your holiday specials early is because last-minute delivery is almost certainly going to be a struggle. Shipping delays were a problem for eCommerce in 2019 and 2018—and that was before the number of eCommerce orders surged in 2020. 

Analysts predict that as many as 700 million gifts are going to arrive late this holiday season, so encourage your customers to snap up your holiday deals before last-minute shoppers and winter weather create logistics chaos.

Think bundles and bulk orders

Sometimes you just need a whole bunch of stuff for yourself or the people on your gift list. You can cater to shoppers who are in bulk-order mode—while encouraging other customers to give it a try.

  • Create a buy-more, save-more section filled with items you have in-stock, and bill them as time- and money-saving stocking stuffers or holiday must-haves. 
  • Bundle items that people often buy at the same time and offer a discount on the bundle. Retailers expect self-care items (for gifts and self-gifting) and home decor items to sell big this year, so now’s the time to bundle things like scented candles and candleholders, spa towels and luxe soaps, loose-leaf teas and mugs. Other popular categories: cooking, fitness, home office and gardening
  • The gift box or basket is a bundle dressed up in its holiday best. Set up a gift box section on your site and wow customers with great photos of gift packs that are ready to put under the tree or on a loved one’s holiday table.
  • Promote items that you have lots of with an “in-stock now” banner or section. If you’ve been frustrated while looking for sold-out and backordered items online (like nearly half of shoppers this year), you’ll understand the nearly magical appeal of knowing that the item you put in your cart is actually available. Just make sure to remove the banner on items when their stock level gets low.

Debut subscription deals

Got a product that your customers buy month after month? Offer it as a subscription so they can treat their loved ones (and themselves) to a year’s worth of hassle-free deliveries. You can do the same thing with your gift baskets and product bundles. 

You can even encourage your holiday shoppers to load up on subscriptions by offering discounts when they order more than one at a time. For more creative ideas and step by step guidance on subscription offers, check out our post on creating an eCommerce subscription business.

Create holiday-themed gift cards

Do you already offer gift cards? If so, add a holiday motif and feature them on your homepage and in your store’s gift sections. 

No gift cards yet? No time like the “present” to get started. But how? Your payment processor and your ecommerce platform may have options. 

For example, if your store runs on WordPress and WooCommerce, the Gift Cards extension adds digital gift card functionality so your customers can send e-gift cards. Recipients can add cards to their accounts and check their balance easily in your store.

Square offers digital and physical gift card options for its merchants. Its physical card packs range from $0.80 to $2 per card. If you’re doing physical cards, plan ahead – they take one to 15 business days to produce, depending on the option you choose. 

Independent gift card outlets like GiftCards.com offer customized or predesigned Visa cards for small businesses with pre-set dollar amounts that you choose. Make sure you order in plenty of time for production and shipping.

Exclusive stuff for your closest customers

Can you offer some local deals only for delivery within an area near your HQ or warehouse? This kind of holiday offer delivers several things that many shoppers will want this winter: 

  • They want to support local businesses.
  • They want to know exactly when their order will arrive.
  • They want to get it early. 
  • They want something unique and different. (Couldn’t we all use something unique and different right about now?)

So maybe offer a deluxe version of your baked goods gift baskets for local delivery only—something that would be too bulky, perishable or heavy to ship for free. Or name your premium spa towel gift bundle after a relaxing local sunset-watching spot. Then set up a deal with a local delivery service or make a plan with your employees to get the goods to customers’ doors as soon as possible after they place their orders. 

We’ll cover your door-to-door local delivery options in detail – along with other ways to sweeten your holiday deals – in our next Rock the Holidays post.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance B2B content marketing writer. Her specialty areas include SMB marketing and growth, data security, IoT, and fraud prevention