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Set Your Business Up for Success with Our 2021 Holiday Selling Guide

The holiday shopping season brings with it a potential increase of new and returning customers. By optimizing your online store, you can enjoy a welcome sales bump with minimal headaches and emerge from the season with a better sense of what works for your business. 

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are traditionally the busiest of the year for brick-and-mortar retailers, and it’s no different for online store owners. While the day after Thanksgiving, aka “Black Friday,” marks the official start to the holiday shopping season, the entire fourth quarter is generally the biggest one for sales, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, as many people scramble to get gifts for the holidays.

Get ahead of the holiday rush by following these holiday tips so your ecommerce business can be ready for the season:

Step 1: Get your online store ready for holiday shoppers
Step 2: Optimize selling and collecting taxes on your store
Step 3: Upgrade your holiday marketing strategy
Step 4: Build a strategy for rewarding customer loyalty
Step 5: Analyze the performance of your holiday sales efforts

Step 1: Get your online store ready for holiday shoppers 

The first step to prepare for the holiday rush is to get the inventory you plan to sell uploaded to your online store as soon as possible. If you already have an existing store on a marketplace platform like Etsy, add those products to your website so that everything is in one place. You can easily import your products from Etsy so you can sell them directly from your own site. That makes it easy for potential customers to find everything you sell while they’re doing their holiday browsing, no matter what shopping platform they started from.

To help new customers find your store in the first place, search engine optimization is vital. The built-in search engine optimization tools on Squarespace automatically handle indexing, so everything you have on your site can be discovered in a search result. Keep in mind, though, that it takes search engines time to index your page. You should get your site up or add your new products and features as early as possible so your pages can be indexed before the holiday shopping season is in full swing. Then, you can assess performance and optimize your store to rank higher in search results when the shopping rush starts.

Gift cards are always a popular holiday item. They're easy to customize based on your customer’s budget and easy for you to send digitally. Plus, they give the recipient the option to choose a gift that they actually want or need. Offer the flexibility of emailing the cards to the gift giver or directly to the recipient. And get creative with your gift options. If you have a product that people tend to use consistently and need to continually replenish, you can set up a subscription series that can be sent as a gift, such as a “Coffee of the Month” club.

Even if you’re not selling physical products, you can offer other types of creative gift options for your customers. Set up a private Members Area where people can access exclusive content, like yoga classes or cooking videos, either for a one-time fee or as a subscription. And then allow for people to send memberships as gifts to their friends and family. 

If you offer services, integrate with Squarespace Scheduling to sell gift certificates. Gift recipients could use those to book appointment packages of live classes or services, such as tarot readings or manicures.

Read more about ways to prepare your site for the holiday season.

Step 2: Optimize selling and collecting taxes on your store

The next step to preparing for the holiday rush is to set up a checkout page that's easy to find and use, while also fitting your store’s aesthetic. Play around with designs until you find something that fits; there are plenty of options so you can find one that speaks to your brand. 

From there, you can integrate the payment processors of your choosing, or the installment service AfterPay, which lets customers pay off purchases over time. You can also integrate TaxJar, which will automatically calculate state sales tax by location and keep track of how much tax you have collected. When the holidays are over, TaxJar can help you automate your filing for each state where you owe sales tax.

You also have a lot of options when it comes to shipping providers to get your products in people’s hands. If you aren’t sure which option is best for your needs, browse Squarespace shipping extensions for services that compare rates from carriers for any order you receive.

If you’re selling in-person, consider offering a local pickup option for customers who would like to collect their items rather than ship them. If you’re selling online and in-person, whether in your own storefront or at local markets or fairs, you’ll be able to keep your inventory in sync with a Squarespace Commerce plan. Learn more about using Squarespace to accept payments at the point of sale

To make certain people can find your real-world store, integrate the Location Management feature, which will ensure the correct street address, contact information, and operating hours appear when customers search for your store’s location via search engines.

Read more about how to optimize selling, shipping, and fulfillment.

Step 3: Upgrade your holiday marketing strategy

Update your online store to reflect any holiday-specific marketing. Keep your customer in mind when making any changes so that their shopping experience is as straightforward and as seamless as possible. 

If you haven’t set it up already, make sure your site has a Newsletter Block to collect email addresses. This can make the difference between serving a one-time buyer and earning a repeat customer. Promotional emails are one of the most important tools a business owner has, and the Email Campaigns service allows you to collect those addresses and roll them into a mailing list for custom newsletters. 

Produce professional-looking emails for your current and potential customers using existing content from your blog or by writing new messaging for the holiday season. Once you decide on the right look for your marketing email, you can seamlessly pull the products you want to feature from your store into your email blast. This process will automatically transfer over the product image and description, as well as a link to the product listing on your store. You can also include any discount codes that you want to create in order to incentivize your customers to return to your site.

If you have a seasonal offer, consider adding a new banner image or a promotional pop-up that announces the details of your latest discount or newest product. You could also use these tools to share any holiday-specific deals you have, such as free shipping or a bonus gift with purchase. 

You can also advertise your latest products or seasonal promotions on social media. Add your own photos or imagery to your posts or, try creating a video. To easily create promotional videos, try the Squarespace Video Studio app. It allows you to create professional video ads to help increase traffic to your website and boost your online sales. Learn how to make your first one in minutes.

Remember to enable the abandoned cart recovery feature so you can automatically send reminder emails to customers who placed an item in their cart but didn’t complete the purchase within 24 hours. Another useful tool to convert sales is the limited availability label which adds a sense of urgency on almost out of stock items when shoppers are browsing your offerings. 

Finally, make your customers’ busy lives a little easier by offering the option at checkout to gift-wrap their purchases, either for a fee or as free with purchase.

Read more about how to upgrade your holiday marketing strategy.

Step 4: Build a strategy for rewarding customer loyalty

One of the best ways to build year-round customer loyalty is to make sure that your return policy functions smoothly, so that a customer can still have a great experience with your store even if they aren’t satisfied with their purchase. You can choose to offer a full refund, or a refund of the full purchase price minus shipping and taxes. These refunds will go back to the customer’s credit card, or as an alternative, you can offer a discount that acts like store credit.

Customer service is one of the key ways to interact with your audience, and it's important that you make a great impression. When dealing with customers who need to return an item, remember to adopt a warm, empathic tone. If you make the return process easy, they will feel more comfortable buying from your store in the future because they’ll know you'll take care of them.

In addition to a post-holiday rise in returns, there may be a decrease in sales in January. If you have leftover inventory to move, you can send a discount code to your mailing list, which will also have the bonus effect of reminding customers of the great experience they had at your store just a short time ago.

Read more about building year-round customer loyalty. 

Step 5: Analyze the performance of your holiday sales efforts

There are a few analytics tools that you can use to measure which pages get the most views, where your visitors come from geographically, and which pages or products are trending upward. 

Use this information to make decisions about which products to invest in going forward. For the products with the highest conversion rate, consider whether you spent more time refining the product listing or polishing the product imagery, and whether you promoted them more through email or social media. Keep track of the tactics you used to market your products to determine which part of your marketing strategy was the most effective.

For a deeper analytical dive into what works and what doesn’t for your store during the holiday season, visit the purchase funnel panel in the Analytics section of your account dashboard. The purchase funnel panel breaks down the journey of a sale into a four-step process — Visits > Viewed Product > Added to Cart or Started Checkout > Purchased — so you can see where interest seems to be converting into sales at a high rate and where there are low conversion rates and drop-offs. This can give you a sense of which products you should continue to invest in, and perhaps make more of, and what products you might need to rethink.

Read more about analyzing the success of your holiday season sales.

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