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How to Create an Online Holiday Gift Guide

Cathie Ericson, Writer

As shoppers start drafting their holiday lists, you’ll want to be sure items from your online store are included. According to a holiday survey, last year 65% of shoppers turned to online retailers when researching holiday gifts.

One of the best ways to boost your eCommerce sales during the holiday shopping frenzy is by creating a well-rounded digital gift guide. Showcasing curated merchandise in an online list or guide can simplify the gift-buying experience and ease your customers’ stress.

Here’s everything you need to know about creating a successful online holiday gift guide.

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Organize your lists thoughtfully

Rather than putting random items into a digital gift guide, focus on targeting specific customer segments with relevant and appealing suggestions.

Here are a few ways you can approach list organization:

  • By recipient: Go beyond “women,” “men,” and “kids” to address groups who are more specific or harder to shop for, such as teachers, work associates, and service providers.
  • By interest: If you have a wide range of merchandise, segment your list by hobbies or personality traits, such as “gifts for hikers” or “gifts to work from home.” This works even better if your store caters to a niche. For example, a cooking store could do lists of “gifts for novice cooks” and “gifts for the chef who loves gadgets.”
  • By price: Offer a variety of price points. While many shoppers may gravitate toward lower-priced categories, don’t shy away from a luxury list for those looking to splurge.
  • By age: Help a confused shopper find just the right thing for their tween niece or elderly uncle by segmenting the list by age. Broad categories are fine for all-purpose recommendations, e.g., “toddlers,” “teens,” and “adults.”
  • A combination of these: There may be elements of each of these segmenting strategies that work for your site. Once you’ve created the text and images, you can mix and match lists. An art set could be marketed in lists targeted toward “kids,” “under $25,” and “gifts for sheltering in place.” You could also create a top list of “best all-around gifts” to appeal to a busy shopper who wants to make a fast decision. And don’t forget to suggest your gift cards for the easiest purchase of all.

Choose products carefully

Once you’ve established categories, you might be tempted to start including everything on your site that logically fits. But shoppers appreciate a curated selection that includes just a few choice items in each group.

To decide which items to promote, think about where your eCommerce store would benefit from increased sales. You might decide to focus on popular products as hot sellers to help attract new customers. It might also make financial sense to feature merchandise that allows a larger-than-average markup to improve your profitability. Or you might want to include an item for which you have a backlog of inventory.

Seek input from your suppliers on new products or what they expect to be especially buzzworthy this year. They might offer you a discount if you include their products in your online holiday gift guide. And discuss how easy certain items are to source to ensure your digital gift guide suggestions will be available throughout the shopping season.

And finally, aim for quality. Suggesting a shoddy product can mar your reputation among the online shoppers who are relying on your recommendations.

Focus on presentation

You want to make your digital holiday gift guide stand out, so go the extra mile with attractive graphics and high-quality photos or videos. Use text that reflects your brand voice and engages your audience. Consider telling a story or having a theme that runs throughout the online piece.

As you design your eCommerce guide, make sure that each “list” includes a summary at the top that clearly informs customers of the type of recipient for whom these items were curated. And test that the digital holiday gift guide loads and displays well on all kinds of platforms and mobile devices.

Educate the shopper

With in-store browsing curtailed, help customers feel confident in their purchases by doing the following:

  • Include clear photos, taken from multiple angles.
  • Write detailed item descriptions that engage the five senses.
  • Update sizing charts with explicit information on fit.
  • Include item dimensions for physical goods so shoppers can visualize the merchandise in their space.
  • Add shoppers’ feedback, testimonials, or reviews, if possible.

Develop an online marketing plan

The internet will soon be filled with digital holiday gift guides, so you’ll need to step up your marketing to get noticed. Tease different types of lists in social media posts, and add relevant hashtags to help get your eCommerce holiday gift guide in front of your ideal customer. You can use general ones like #HolidayGiftGuide, #HolidayShopping, and #PerfectGift, or mention customer personas tied to the type of gift, like #GiftsforWorkingMoms or #GiftsforGolfers.

Create an email newsletter that highlights various categories and reveals a few representative standout items. Customize the content to cater to specific shopping groups.

To aid discovery, use search engine optimization (SEO) best practices that can help get your list to the top of an eCommerce web search. Conduct keyword research and include those words and phrases prominently in the category names, product descriptions, and image file names.

Provide a seamless user experience

Once a customer finds an enticing item in your online gift guide, you want them to be glad they’re shopping with you. Make sure your page loads quickly — you may need to decrease your image file sizes — and double-check that all links you include in your email or social media marketing aren’t broken or going to the wrong page. Create a generous return policy and offer multiple payment options.

It’s also important not to overlook the personal touch. This holiday season, more shoppers will be turning to eCommerce for all their needs and may miss the service they’re used to receiving in stores. Provide different avenues for customers to get in touch, such as chatbots or messaging platforms, that encourage shoppers to contact you with questions about an item or for assistance with their gift list.

The ups and downs of 2020 have forced many consumers to reflect and retreat to family and friends. This season, shoppers are likely to make their gift-giving more meaningful than ever. A well-curated digital holiday gift guide can help them make just the right decisions for their loved ones and contribute to a very merry holiday season for you.

Cathie is a freelance writer who specializes in clear, actionable content on finance- and marketing-related topics to help owners of small-and-medium-sized businesses focus on their goals.