use website analytics to prepare for holiday shoppers

If you run an eCommerce store, it’s already time to be thinking about the holidays.

The holiday season is exciting for online stores because it means an influx of sales. But it’s also stressful, because it’s the most important time of year to be on your A-game so you don’t miss out on the profit opportunities of all that gift giving.

For the next couple of months, you want to make your website and holiday marketing strategy do as much for you as absolutely possible.

One of the best ways make the right movies to get those holiday dollars is by making your analytics a key part of your planning for the holiday season.

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8 Ways Website Analytics Can Prepare You for Holiday Shoppers

Here are eight ways your analytics can help you craft a more successful holiday marketing campaign this year.


1. Revisit last year’s analytics.

Start by looking at the analytics for October through early January of last year. Pull up all the different data sources you have so you can get the big picture of what worked during last year’s holiday season.

This likely includes:

In addition, you may have analytics from your SEO, CRM, audience listening tools, and any other piece of marketing technology you use.

Identify all the different sources of analytics you have so you can bring them together to do your analysis. You want to be able to spot how different analytics tell a larger story – was that boost in traffic for a particular blog post in December because you emailed it to your list or promoted it on social media? Did the gift guide you put together drive sales to the products you highlighted?

The most important data to analyze here is that from the holiday season, but don’t stop there.

Take a high-level view of all your analytics from the past year. This will help you spot trends in what your audience responded to throughout the year and if there have been any changes to the channels they care about between last year and now. If the past few months saw an uptick in results from Instagram, for example, you don’t want to leave that out of your holiday marketing planning.

The overall trends from the past year will help you gain a better understanding of who your audience is and what they respond to, while your data from this time last year provides insights into how they behave during the holiday season. Looking at both will help you gain a clear picture of what works for your target audience so you can craft your holiday marketing strategy accordingly.


2. Identify your top marketing channels.

With all your data in front of you, start figuring out which tactics and channels most consistently lead to sales and, more importantly, which provide the highest ROI.

Google Analytics will show you where traffic is coming from and allows you to set up conversion tracking (so you can connect website behavior to eventual sales). Your other analytics sources can help you dig deeper into the data for each visitor —your email marketing data can reveal which email drove a specific visit, and your social analytics show which specific posts contributed to your social traffic.

view top traffic sources in google analytics

Keep in mind here that some of your tactics that don’t lead to conversions right away may help drive people to the channels that eventually pay off, so don’t discount those social media posts that got people to your website even if the visitor didn’t convert to a sale on the first visit. This is why you’re working to see the bigger picture — so you can draw connections between how everything fits into your larger strategy.

With this information, you can begin to rule out the tactics that aren’t leading to sales and determine the ones you should definitely invest time and money into this year.


3. Analyze the timing of purchases.

Conventional wisdom about holiday shopping may be that most shoppers will buy gifts on Black Friday or last minute in the weeks leading up to the holidays, but research from CPC Strategy found instead that over a third start shopping before Thanksgiving.

when do people start shopping for holiday gifts

This is why you should trust data over conventional wisdom! But don’t just assume CPC Strategy’s averages apply to your customers. Sit down and figure out for yourself when your audience does their shopping.

Analyze your purchase data from last year to figure out what portion of your customers did their shopping well in advance and which tended to be last-minute shoppers. You may well have a mix of both, but if your audience tends to buy within a particular time period, then that should be when you do the biggest push in your marketing. Send out persuasive promotions to your email list, increase your PPC maximum budget, and do a big social media push.

This data can also help you figure it out if it will pay to offer faster shipping options when it gets closer to Hanukkah and Christmas day. If a majority of your customers are last-minute rush shoppers, then you can make the decision to buy from you easier with guarantees that the products will get there in time.


4. Figure out which keywords lead to conversions.

This is key for both your PPC and SEO strategies over the next couple of months. You don’t just want to track which of the keywords you targeted led to increased traffic, you want to figure out which of those visitors turned into customers.

Based on what your analytics show, you can craft a PPC strategy for the holiday season that targets the types of keywords most likely to lead to actual revenue. And you can create a content plan that incorporates the keywords that bring in your most high-value visitors to improve your holiday SEO.

HostGator’s expert team of PPC pros can help you spin up a lucrative holiday campaign quickly. Contact us to learn more.


5. Repurpose your best content from past seasons.

Content marketing may be a long game, but that doesn’t mean that seasonal content can’t pay off big if you do it right.

Look at the holiday content you created over the past few years and which pieces brought in new visitors and purchases. This can not only help you generate new ideas for content to create this year based on what you know resonates with your audience, but you can take the concepts you know pay off and rework them to replicate those results.

Was your gift guide a hit last year? Create a new one for this year, or make a few different versions for different audiences. Did people really respond to your blog posts about holiday giving? Create a video tackling the same topic. Repurposing is a tried and true tactic for making the successful content you’ve created go further.


6. Highlight your best products on your most popular pages.

In the Behavior > Site Content section of Google Analytics, you can see which pages on your website get the most visits.

find most popular pages on website using Google Analytics

Each of these is an opportunity to drive more conversions. Look at the products and promotions that performed the best during the holiday season last year and use your popular pages to promote them. By getting the items your visitors are most likely to buy in front of more of them on those pages, you increase the chances of turning visitors into conversions.

You have to make sure that your products don’t feel shoehorned in here, but an attractive image that links your visitors back to the product page can likely be worked into the design of the page without it distracting from what your visitors came to the page for to begin with.


7. Send personalized emails to your list.

Your email marketing analytics provide a wealth of data on what your subscribers have opened and clicked on in the past.

And unlike the rest of your data, most email marketing software providers let you break down the data in terms of the behavior of specific people. That means you don’t just see that 1000 people opened your email, you can see who those specific people are.

Use the data you have on what individual subscribers like to create a personalized email campaign during the holiday season. Put together emails that highlight the kind of content and products that were popular during the holidays last year and create segmented email lists to get the most relevant holiday emails to the right people on your list.


8. Do A/B testing to collect better data for next year.

Everything you do for the next few months will create the analytics you use to repeat this process next year. Use the opportunity to establish even better data to shape next year’s plan with A/B testing.

See what happens when you offer free shipping on some days and not others, or pit a free gift-wrapping option against faster delivery to see which gets more people to buy. Try A/B testing emails with different subject lines or CTAs to see which get people to open and click. And try promoting different products and packages to see if some lead to higher conversions than others.


Don’t Forget Your Site Analytics This Holiday Season

This is the most important time of year to get things right. In addition to making sure your web hosting plan can handle an influx of traffic, use the analytics you have now to create a strategy likely to increase sales and revenue throughout the holiday season, and generate more useful analytics at the same time to take things even further next year.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.