How to Plan Holiday Promotions

The winter holiday shopping season is the biggest moneymaking time of the year for eCommerce merchants. As a new online-store owner, you no doubt want in on the revenue. In fact, you may need in on the revenue if you started your eCommerce business after a layoff or a reduction in hours or pay. 

How can you make sure your store delivers the goods (to your customers and to your bank account) while you’re still working your way up the eCommerce-beginner learning curve?

Get someone to help you boost you up the curve faster. 

We’re ready to give you a hand. Over the next few months, we’re bringing you the tips and tactics you need to rock your online store’s first holiday season. Ready to get started?

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Tip #1: Plan Your Holiday Promotions Now

Now is an excellent time to start thinking about promos like holiday gift guides, contests, giveaways, shipping deals and buy-one-get-one offers you’ll use to bring seasonal shoppers to your online store.

Yes, it may be 100 degrees outside where you are right now, but trust us, you want to line up your promotions well ahead of the shopping rush. 

Why so early? For one thing, you don’t want to trail your competitors when it comes to being prepared. Some retailers—about 9%, according to Garter’s Software Advice—start planning their winter holiday promos at the start of the calendar year. Another 29% do their holiday planning during the summer and 41% of retailers lock down their promo plans in September and October

None of this means you have to launch those promos as soon as they’re planned. No one wants to see Christmas-in-February messaging, and launching promos too early in the fall may turn some shoppers off. But the fact that some stores start planning their next holiday promos immediately after the last holiday season shows you how seriously merchants take holiday planning. 

So, when should you run your holiday promos? Almost half of retailers launch their holiday promotions in October and November, according to Software Advice. That coincides with the time when consumers start ramping up their holiday spending. 

half of retailers launch holiday promotions in october and november

In 2019, 20% of shoppers were snapping up items in October. By November, 43% had started their holiday shopping, per National Retail Federation data

There are other reasons to get your holiday promotions mapped out early. 

1. You need time to turn your promo plans into promo realities.

For example, if you’re planning a gift guide with cool product photos and styling tips for your clothing store, you need time to write, shoot, edit and produce the guide.

Or, if your big promo is going to be an old-fashioned holiday candy giveaway, you need to make sure now that you’ll have enough sweets on hand to meet your estimated demand.

Basically, whatever your promo promises, you need to have it ready to deliver when your promotion launches.

2. You need time to map out your promo marketing strategy.

We’re going to devote a whole upcoming post to walking you through promo marketing. In the meantime, if you don’t already have a content calendar for marketing your eCommerce business, you can get a head start by choosing one now.

OK, so you know it’s time to get started on holiday promo planning. What exactly should your holiday promos be? To answer that question, it’s a good idea to start with your customers.

Who’s the target audience for your holiday promotions?

Start by thinking about your best customers. What will they want this holiday season? 

Figuring this out can be a challenge during your first year in business, because you don’t have past years’ sales data and customer analytics to review as you plan. But you still have resources to draw on:

If you’re created personas for your target customers, look at what they’ve bought from you since you launched your business. 

Are there items that they rush to snap up as soon as they’re available? Products that sell steadily? Items that are frequently sent as gifts? Consider building promotions around these products. 

What do site visitors look for the most? You can use your Google Analytics to see which search terms drive the most traffic to your site. You can also review the questions people have asked on your social media pages or through your customer service channels like email, chatbot and phone conversations. Whatever’s most sought after is something you may be able to build a promotion around.

What marketing content has done the best for you so far? Look at the emails that generated the most click-throughs, the blog posts that brought in the most traffic from search, the social media posts that generated the most shares and the videos with the most views. 

For example, if your most popular content is videos, maybe a holiday gift guide video would click with your customer base. If your how-to posts get the most love, maybe a series of holiday-themed tutorials is the way to go. 

What do you want your target audience to do?

You want them to buy your stuff, of course—and promotions can definitely help with that goal. However, as a new business, you may have other urgent goals, too, like reaching new customers and getting current customers to buy more from you. 

That’s why a lot of promotions ask customers to register for a drawing or giveaway. Promos like these can funnel new people onto your email marketing list, where you can use drip campaigns and other strategies to turn them into loyal customers. 

It’s also why so many promos feature content that’s designed to be shareable. If you make something that people want to share with their friends and followers, more people will learn about your store and the cool stuff you offer.

What should your holiday promotions be?

Once you know what your customers have bought the most, what they search for the most and which content they like the best, you should have some ideas for promos.

For example, let’s say the bestselling items in your online gourmet food store are collections of spices, most visitors are searching for dessert recipes and your most popular piece of content has been a collection of cupcake decorating how-tos. A good holiday promo for your store might combine spices, dessert and tutorials in a shareable guide to whipping up holiday-themed cupcakes—with recipes that feature a special bundle of spices that you offer at a discount for a limited time. 

So, that’s our first tip for crushing your first e-commerce holiday season. Invest some time now in thinking up your promos so you’ll be ready for our next rock-the-holidays post—how to market those promos for maximum impact. 

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