10 eCommerce Holiday Planning Tips: How to Prepare Your Online Store for Holiday Sales

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The holidays are the most profitable time of the year for many retailers. In 2021, Canadian shoppers anticipated that 37% of their holiday budget would go towards online shopping, a figure which is considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels.

As the holidays approach, it’s a good time to think about how to prepare your eCommerce store for the season. Whether you’re just starting an online store or you’re looking to optimise sales for the one you already have, these 10 tips will help you get the most out of your eCommerce site this holiday season.

1. Prepare your eCommerce website for online visitors

The first (and most important) step is ensuring your online store is ready for visitors. A shopper’s initial impression of your eCommerce store can make or break a sale – poor aesthetics, a lack of information, or tricky navigation can cause a potential customer to quickly leave your site.

Taking advantage of easy-to-use website templates can help you create a design that matches your brand and incorporates some seasonal elements. Adding some holiday charm, featuring specific products, and creating some holiday-specific messaging can help grab a shopper’s attention and guide them through your product offerings.

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2. Update your product photos

Turning your website traffic into a sale depends quite a bit on the photos you use. Square found that only 11% of retail items were sold without an image, while 88% of items were sold after an image was added.

Making sure your eCommerce product photos look professional – and that you have multiple photos showcasing different angles of each product – is essential. If you don’t have the time or budget to hire a professional photographer, the Square Photo Studio app helps you shoot high-quality, professional photos from your phone. Discover real-time photography tips, automatic background removal, and styling tools that’ll make your website photos look professional.

3. Generate some product reviews

Customers love reading reviews. The majority of consumers base their purchase decisions on what others have to say, and many customers want to see honest product reviews written by real people. Research has even shown us that 80% of Canadian shoppers are influenced by online ratings and reviews.

Besides helping to drive sales, reviews can help build your store’s reputation and even aid SEO efforts. The simplest way to start gathering reviews is by asking customers to leave them and making it easy for them to do so. You can offer a chance to leave a review at checkout or through a follow-up email, and even incentivise customers with discounts or perks if they leave a review.

4. Make sure customers can easily find your eCommerce site

Customer reviews can help boost your site’s SEO – customers often use keywords and product names that are associated with your online store, which can help your site appear in searches. But reviews alone aren’t enough to ensure your online store is discoverable by customers - implementing simple SEO tactics can bring more traffic to your eCommerce site.

If your eCommerce site is hosted by Square, you can easily access and update SEO information (like optimising items, categories, and photos) to make your site more visible to users. Square Online also integrates with Google Product Listings so shoppers can discover your products on Google Search, Shopping, and Images to help boost sales.

5. Sell your products on social channels

Simply put, social selling shouldn’t be left out of your sales strategy. Square found that 88% of retailers are now selling on a social channel, and research shows that social commerce is one of the biggest digital trends in the retail industry.

Integrating your online store with social channels could boost your product’s visibility and can be especially effective during peak shopping seasons. Creating shoppable Instagram posts and including product links in TikTok videos can accelerate sales, and shoppers can go straight from their feed or videos to your Square Online Store with the click of a button.

6. Cue up some marketing emails

Marketing emails are a helpful way to drive traffic to your eCommerce store, and if they’re planned in advance, can be a great tactic for keeping your business top of mind for customers during the holiday season. Think about crafting a holiday email strategy that’s catered toward customer spending habits or promotes certain products and discounts.

In addition to a planned email strategy, creating some abandoned cart emails – emails sent to shoppers who leave items in their cart and don’t complete a purchase – can help re-engage customers and encourage them to complete their purchase.

7. Create easy gifting options

Holiday shopping can be overwhelming for customers, so providing some straightforward gifting options through your online store is a great way to simplify the process for them.

Offering gift cards, gifting options at checkout (like gift wrapping and personalized gift messages), or adding gifts as a product category makes it even easier for customers to find and buy their holiday gifts from your eCommerce store.

8. Launch a new product or run a special promotion

If your online store needs an extra marketing push for the holidays, launching a flash sale or product drop can help create some brand awareness and shopper excitement. Since both flash sales (limited-time discounts) and product drops (introducing a new product) are timely and limited, they can boost shopper interest in your products while helping you move specific inventory.

Using digital coupons and customisable codes that shoppers can redeem at your online store can help market your promotions and limited-time events, and can be useful tools for raising your brand awareness on social channels, capturing new leads, and rewarding your loyal customers.

9. Offer multiple, flexible ways to make a purchase

Once a shopper is interested in your products, providing multiple ways to pay is essential for a smooth checkout process. Customers want options when they pay, so accepting digital wallet payments (like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Cash App) is an important feature to offer. And as buy now, pay later options like Afterpay become increasingly popular – especially with younger shoppers – offering ways to pay in installments can help increase your chances of making a sale.

10. Keep customers coming back to your eCommerce store

Ideally, your holiday preparations and marketing efforts should pay off over the long run and encourage your customers to come back – even after the holidays are over. Implementing a loyalty program can help you do that with the Square Loyalty rewards program. Enrol customers at checkout, send automated texts and track sales to see how your loyalty program is impacting customer spending.

Personalising the shopping experience for customers can also make it easier for return customers to reorder items and check out faster. With Square online, customers can create accounts to track their orders, view order history, and quickly reorder their favourite items. You can also add personalised recommendation sections to your site, so returning customers get unique product recommendations based on their order history.