Set Your eCommerce Brand Up for Sweet Success This Season With Our (Early) Holiday Planning Checklist for 2023

Set Your eCommerce Brand Up for Sweet Success This Season With Our (Early) Holiday Planning Checklist for 2023

‘Tis the season to get way ahead of the holiday hustle and bustle! While the holiday season may still be a few months away, for eCommerce brands, there’s no better time to start preparing for Q4. Why? When it comes to holiday planning, the early bird really does get the worm. For starters, almost 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween (with 60% of them completing all their holiday shopping by Cyber Monday).

Not to mention, the competition during the holiday season is intense, especially with retail giants dominating the market. Forrester Research reports that during Q4, retail eCommerce sales are expected to surpass $200 billion, with major players capturing significant shares. However, small and medium eCommerce brands can level the playing field by preparing ahead of time. Implementing a comprehensive marketing strategy and optimizing online platforms early can help carve a niche and capture consumer attention before the giants take more than their fair share in a slice of the success.

Think of it this way: the same consumer your eCommerce store plans to target with holiday campaigns in the coming weeks may be walking into Target at this very moment to pick up laundry detergent. Without even realizing it, that consumer wandered into a holiday-shopping winter wonderland. What may have begun as a simple errand may lead to that consumer checking off all their holiday shopping in a one-stop-shop sweep!

To minimize the effect of retail giants stealing your business, you’ll want your store’s holiday promos and products to be top-of-mind early on, so consumers don’t forget about you when they run their weekly errands.

By getting a head start on your holiday planning, your brand can also benefit from increased organic search traffic. Google Trends data reveals that holiday-related search queries start to rise as early as August, peaking in November. So, brands that have their holiday-themed content, products, and promotions ready by this time can leverage this surge in search interest to attract potential customers.

Ready to make this holiday season a sweet one? Here's CakeCommerce’s official 2023 holiday planning checklist to ensure your Q4 is as smooth as buttercream frosting!

Whipping Up Success: Why Start Early?

Summer might have you reaching for the beach towel, but for eCommerce brands, it's the perfect time to start prepping for the holiday season. If you ask us, the sooner you start, the sweeter the results. The eCommerce strategists at CAKE agree that early holiday planning promises:

  • Increased online sales and revenue. Tap into the holiday shopping frenzy when consumer spending is at its peak. By having marketing campaigns, promotions, and product launches ready in advance, brands can attract early shoppers and capture a significant share of holiday sales, leading to increased revenue.
  • A competitive edge. Set yourself up for success with a competitive advantage over rivals who may delay their holiday planning. By being one step ahead in the market, brands can secure better positions in search rankings, establish themselves as industry leaders, and preemptively address customer needs, thus outperforming competitors.
  • Efficient inventory management. Early planning gives you the chance to forecast demand accurately and manage inventory efficiently. By analyzing past sales data and predicting future trends, brands can stock up on popular products, avoid stockouts, and prevent overstocking, leading to cost savings and improved customer satisfaction.
  • Enhanced marketing opportunities. Planning early allows you to create more effective marketing campaigns. By having ample time to develop creative and compelling content, brands can build anticipation, engage with their audience, and foster brand loyalty. It also provides opportunities to leverage different marketing channels, including social media, email marketing, influencer partnerships, and more.
  • Seamless operations. Adequate preparation ensures smooth operations during the holiday season. Brands can hire and train seasonal staff, fine-tune logistical processes, and test website performance to handle increased traffic. This minimizes the risk of technical issues and customer service bottlenecks during critical periods.
  • Customer loyalty and engagement. Brands that plan early can engage with their customers proactively and build lasting relationships. By offering exclusive previews, early access to deals, and personalized recommendations, brands can foster loyalty and encourage repeat purchases.
  • Flexibility for contingency. Early planning allows brands to account for unforeseen circumstances and adapt their strategies accordingly. They can implement backup plans, adjust pricing, or modify marketing approaches to navigate challenges such as supply chain disruptions or changing consumer behaviors.
  • Better budget management. Starting early gives brands more time to allocate their budgets wisely. They can negotiate better deals with suppliers and advertising platforms, avoiding last-minute premium costs. This way, brands can optimize their spending and maximize their return on investment (ROI).
  • Data-driven decision making. Early holiday prep allows brands to gather and analyze relevant data from past holiday seasons and implement data-driven strategies. Brands can identify successful tactics, understand customer preferences, and make informed decisions to drive positive outcomes.

All the Essential Holiday Planning Ingredients

1. Taste Test Last Year's Channel Performance

Look back at last year's performance and see which channels brought the highest returns to your business. Evaluate your media spend and returns on investments, and prioritize channels that worked best. Use this data as your recipe for success this year.

2. Mix in SMART Goals

Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Want to increase holiday sales by 20%? Aim for it! As you assess your goals and scale your campaigns, don't forget to sprinkle some holiday magic for that extra sparkle.

3. Measure Your Budget

Before you start really getting into the thick of holiday planning, it’s important to measure your budget. Determine how much dough you're willing to spend on your holiday campaigns. Be prudent but don't be afraid to invest in quality ingredients that will make your holiday sales irresistible! Some top-performing channels your brand should consider investing in for the 2023 holiday season are TikTok and email.

4. Whisk Your Customer Experience Until it’s Smooth

Ensure your website offers a seamless and stress-free customer experience, especially for mobile users. Make it a delightful journey from finding products to checkout, leaving no room for hesitation or frustration. A pinch of ease and a dollop of user-friendliness are the secret ingredients to success.

5. Add a Dash of Holiday Bundles

“Gift-ifying” your product catalog is an absolute must! Planning and packaging irresistible gift bundles and limited-edition items is a super sweet way to win some big sales. Plus, pairing together both new and existing products into a holiday bundle can re-engage customers’ interest in your brand (and stock), especially when sold as a set or positioned as an exclusive gift option. You can also explore updating your packaging with festive add-ons and offer complimentary gift wrapping as an incentive.

Bonus tip: digital gift cards (sent via email) with holiday designs can add a bit of seasonal, festive fun! These are a great option for last minute gifts for customers who may be in a time crunch and don’t have time to visit a store or have an item shipped.

6. Perfect Your SMS and Email Recipes

Confirm that all your core email and SMS automations are mixed to perfection! Ensure you're not missing out on recovering those abandoned carts or enticing customers with upsells and cross-sells. Sweeten their inboxes with a little holiday charm!

7. Bake Audiences to Perfection

To ensure you’re targeting your audiences effectively, focus on acquisition. Start planting visions of sugar plums in your users’ heads now and then tenderly nurture them throughout the season.

8. Sprinkle in Some Email Segments and Curated Content

Think about the segments you have and those you want to nurture. Tailor your content to different audiences — new customers, past purchases, loyal fans — each slice of content should feel specially curated for them. For the upcoming holiday season, here’s how we recommend segmenting your emails:

  • VIP customers and previous Black Friday/Cyber Monday purchasers. Send these shoppers access to your holiday promos early, before they become available to other users.
  • Browse abandon cart shoppers. Send these users a custom gift guide based on what they viewed and didn’t purchase.
  • Abandon cart shoppers. Offer these shoppers custom gift wrapping on the item that’s still waiting in their cart.

9. The Pièce de Résistance: Customer Service

As your holiday traffic increases, so will inquiries. Ensure you have a well-organized customer support strategy. From live chats to FAQ pages and sweet customer support, be ready to assist with a cherry on top.

Make The Holiday Season YOURS With a Little Help from CAKE!

Ready to own Q4 2023? Let CakeCommerce take your brand top-tier this holiday season with a chef’s kiss Q4 eCommerce marketing strategy. Contact our team to learn more about our eCommerce marketing services.