While “Black Friday” marks the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, the day after Halloween marks the official start of the online holiday season.
Web sales are already at a record high this year and the fourth quarter of 2005 is projected to bring in $26 billion in online sales alone – a whole third of the sales for the entire year.
And since Halloween, your in-box has been overflowing with all those new orders… right?
Or maybe not.
If you’re like many small retailers, you’ve waited until the last minute to start thinking about your online holiday sales. You’ve been too busy, too short-staffed, too distracted, or perhaps even too confused to take the necessary steps to get your Web site ship-shape for the holidays.
Don’t despair… the online holiday shopping season hits its peaks around December 5-10, and continues right up to Christmas Eve (and in some cases, through Kwanzaa and Chanukah, which end Jan. 1 and 2, respectively). You can still take advantage of the holiday sales season if you take immediate action.
Here are seven things you can do *right now* to boost your online holiday sales this year.
1. “Hello, is anybody home?”
Update your Web site. If your home page still boasts “Summer Specials,” this means you! Put photos of your best sellers out front, and highlight any holiday specials.
2. Use the power of suggestion.
Make it easy for shoppers to figure out what to buy. Try adding a “Great Gift Ideas” list on your home page with links to each product. Better yet, organize the list into categories: “Gifts Under $20,” “Stocking Stuffers,” “Gifts for Kids,” “Gifts for Him/Her,” etc.
3. Bundle it.
Combine popular items into a “gift set” that shoppers can add to their carts with one click. Package them together in an attractive gift box or basket. Be sure to display a photo of the gift packaging.
4. Sell the gift that always fits.
Offer gift certificates for the shopper that isn’t sure what to buy, or who needs a last-minute gift. TIP: Make sure your shopping cart ships gift certificates free.
5. Wrap it up.
Offer to wrap and ship a gift directly to the recipient for a small fee. You’ll earn loyalty from your customers if you can help them out during a busy, stressful time.
6. “Will it get there on time?”
Concerns about delivery are at the top of Web shoppers’ lists. Overcome their uncertainty by posting information about shipping times, order cut-off dates for holiday delivery, and express delivery options in a conspicuous place.
Now is the time to toot your own horn and help people remember that your products and services make great gifts. Email the folks on your mailing list at least once a week until the end of the holiday season. Pick a different gift product to feature with each email, and be sure to include a direct link to the product page. Also, work the phones. Don’t be afraid to be low-tech! Pick up the phone and call your 10 best customers to let them know about your great holiday deals.
Although there are lots of things you can do to jump start your online holiday sales, there’s one thing you *shouldn’t* do right now:
*Don’t* try to give your web site or e-commerce system a major overhaul during the peak season.
The last thing you and your customers need is to deal with technical glitches or lost orders during the holiday crunch. If you’re planning a major upgrade, wait until January when things are a little slower and there will be minimal disruption to your customers.