by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

10 last-minute holiday strategies for e-tailers

Nov 15, 2016
E-commerce SoftwareInternetIT Leadership

Digital marketers and ecommerce experts discuss how to drive traffic to your online store – and increase sales – between late November and the end of the year.

holiday ecommerce ts
Credit: Thinkstock

While most online retail businesses spend months planning for the holiday season, if you are not one of them, take heart. There are plenty of things owners (or managers) of online stores can do between the middle (or even the end) of November and the end of the year to help drive traffic to your site and increase sales.

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1. Create last-minute holiday buying/gift guides

“Create inspirational buying guides – Top 10 Gifts for Dad, What to Buy the Picky Fashionista, Gifts for the Foodie at Heart,” says Lindsay Moore, vice president, marketing & business development, Zmags. You can also create gift guides that will appeal to those on a budget, such as Gifts for under $50 (or pick your amount), or last-minute shoppers, e.g., last-minute gifts (gifts that are guaranteed to ship in time for Christmas). Just “make sure [guides] are interactive and easily shoppable, not a sterile category landing page,” she says. And “consider adding a video [or description] that explains why your team chose these items.” 

2. Run limited-time offers

“One way to generate more business [close to the holidays] is to harness that sense of urgency with limited-time promotional deals,” says Asif Ismail, CMO, Inspired Global Marketing. “Send emails or offer your followers on social media one day chances to receive a percentage off items, free shipping or BOGO. They’ll want to grab it before it’s gone!”

3. Add a countdown timer

“One simple tool that still does a great job at creating urgency and boosting conversion rates is the countdown timer to count down the number of hours left on a sale day or the final opportunities to buy a product and have it shipped in time for the holidays,” says Brad LaRock, vice president, MarketForce at Digital River. “The beauty of a countdown timer is that it doesn’t require new offers or sales. Rather, it’s just a different way of messaging an expiration time or date.”

4. Send regular customers special promotional offers

Reward your most loyal customers this holiday season with discount codes or free shipping (on all items before a certain date or if they spend over X amount).

“These are typically inexpensive compared to other pay-per-click campaigns and can bring in the immediate traffic you’re looking for,” says Geoff Hoesch, principal, Dragonfly Digital Marketing

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6. Highlight items great for gift-giving on Instagram and Pinterest

Each day (or twice a day), post a photo of a holiday item/perfect gift on Instagram and/or Pinterest (along with the link to the item when posting on Pinterest).

7. Showcase items that can be delivered last minute

“As you get closer to the holidays, focus your marketing content on products and promotions that can be downloaded or delivered quickly,” says EJ McGowan, senior director & GM, Campaigner. “This will give last-minute shoppers the opportunity to buy a gift – whether it’s an eBook [or music] that can be downloaded to a device or a hardcover novel that has next-day shipping – that will arrive in time for the holidays.”

8. Post shipping deadlines and offer free and/or expedited shipping

“When it comes to shipping, communicate your shipping offers (especially free shipping) and cut-off prominently,” says Sarah Cucchiara, senior ecommerce strategist, DEG. “As your cut-offs approach, communicate those more frequently and clearly so your customers know when to take advantage of the offer.”

“According to our data, 63 percent of consumers find it important or very important that the products they buy are discounted, with specific offer preferences largely pointing towards free shipping,” says Marci Hansen, CMO, SheerID. “Forty percent of consumers said they prefer that over any other deal, and a whopping 56 percent said they would abandon their shopping carts mid-purchase if shipping was too expensive. [So] to ensure conversions and drive purchases, consider adding free shipping to your site over the holidays.”

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9. Reach out to customers who abandoned their shopping carts

“Encourage them to [come back and] buy by sending them reminder emails that there is a lonely item in their cart,” says Ismail. “Or offer them free shipping or a discount on the item(s). They were once clearly interested, and if you sweeten the deal they’re more than likely to hit purchase.”

10. Offer incentives for coming back in January and/or new email signups

“With tens of thousands of new shoppers reaching your pages [during the holiday season], offer incentives, deals and one-time discounts for new email sign-ups,” suggests LaRock. “While a vast majority of your new subscribers – some estimate as high as 80 percent – will subscribe purely to receive additional coupons and discounts, this new audience is a great group of shoppers to nurture over time and convert to long-term brand loyalists. Build a solid foundation [email list] by reaching out to them throughout this holiday season.”

Similarly, offer holiday shoppers an incentive to come back after the new year by sending them a discount code or free shipping offer for purchases made in January.