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Holiday shopping has been changing for the past few years. Online shopping is more popular than ever. It won’t be surprising if kids forget about Santa Claus, and instead leave milk and cookies for the trusty delivery driver. Luckily, this trend can be an opportunity for ecommerce businesses to establish their presence and increase their conversion rates. So if you want to know how to prepare your ecommerce store for the holiday season, then keep reading!

But if your store is disorganized, it can also spell disaster. So avoid the headache and prepare your store now! That way, you can reap the rewards of the most significant spending period of the year.

In this post, you’ll learn about:

  • The outlook for the holiday shopping season
  • Initial steps to prepare your ecommerce store 
  • The critical areas of your website to optimize 
  • Holiday promotional ideas 
  • How to use your holiday season results to prepare for next year

Holiday shopping online 

Last year, holiday sales were up 3.5%, reaching $211.70 billion in web sales in November and December. It’s a slower growth than recent years, but it still shows that people do the majority of their holiday shopping online. 

Still, holiday sales are expected to grow yet again in 2023. Deloitte announced that it estimates ecommerce sales to grow 10.3% to 12.8%, which could mean an amazing year for online stores. 

Holiday shopping predictions for 2023

To prepare your ecommerce store for the holiday season, it’s good to look at trends for this year. Forecasts predict the 2023 holiday shopping season will see: 

  • A rise in mobile shopping
  • An increase in social commerce
  • Higher demand for fast orders

First, consumers are getting more comfortable with mobile shopping, which means their standards are rising. That’s why it’s smart to optimize your store for online and mobile shopping. 

Same goes for social commerce, otherwise known as shopping via social media platforms. The appeal? Social commerce reduces friction between discovery and conversion. In other words: it simplifies the buying journey. Currently, about 76 percent of consumers in the US have purchased a product they saw in a social media post. And this number is expected to almost triple by 2025. Shopify even states that shopping via social media will become the most important customer acquisition and retention strategy for businesses. 

The third on the list is pretty self explanatory. With online shopping being so popular, people simply start to expect more. One of these is the expectation that their orders will be fulfilled within 48 hours or less.

First steps to prepare your ecommerce store for the holiday season

Learn from the past 

This is an obvious but important step. Glean as much as you can from last year’s holiday season. Did you have enough stock? Did you lose customers because of a lack of customer service? Be sure you don’t make the same mistakes twice. 

Though it’s been almost three years, the 2020 pandemic did provide a good learning opportunity for online stores. Especially regarding shipping times. In 2020, packages could be delayed for months. And with online shopping being as popular as it is right now, it might be smart to order your products way in advance to prevent delays.

Pick your holidays 

You can’t be everywhere all of the time, and the same goes for your online store. Choose which holidays to optimize for, then do it well. Maybe you’d rather go big for Small Business Saturday than compete with the giants on Cyber Monday. Or you might want to roll out some new items just before Black Friday. 

Have a plan that suits your store. Assess your audience, and determine which dates they’ll be the most active. Plus, be aware that people are shopping earlier for holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas. So you might want to reconsider that December 23rd sale.  

Inventory check 

If you want to be prepared for the holiday season, shoring up your inventory is essential. Do an overview of your supply chain and check in with suppliers to make sure everything will run smoothly. 

Assess what you have and what you need, and make a plan for meeting your sales forecasts. Consider adding holiday-themed items or putting seasonal spins on your existing inventory. 

Also, make sure you have an efficient way to track your inventory. Customers won’t be happy if they have a product in their cart, only to later realize it’s sold out. 

Strengthen site function

One of the most important preparations: Making sure your website runs well. Users want a smooth holiday shopping experience, so make sure your website can handle an influx of traffic. Avoid any significant web changes, and do a speed check, because customers want sites that load fast. 

How fast? Well, Think with Google’s research shows that one to three seconds of load time can increase the likelihood of users leaving the page by 32%. That number jumps to 90% after five seconds. This also goes for your mobile site. A Google experiment found that participants who dealt with lagging websites quickly became frustrated.

Think about holiday conversion and retention

The online holiday shopping season is a great time to focus on conversion and retention. A bevy of potential customers will be visiting your website. You want them to buy something and come back for more. 

First impressions matter. It takes about 50 milliseconds, so 0.05 seconds, for customers to form an opinion about your site. The harsh truth: If they don’t like it, they’ll leave. But your website’s design is just one part of a customer’s decision to stay on your site. If your website has a weird menu layout or online store that’s impossible to navigate, users will quickly leave too. So evaluate your customer experience (perhaps by simply asking them). Next, ensure that your website is easy to use, organized, and valuable to your customers. 

Tip: Consider offering a loyalty program and/or exclusive deals for customers who sign up for your mailing list. Encourage them to use your members-only coupon to buy more gifts at your store, or come back throughout the year. 

Holiday promo ideas 

– Decorate your store with holiday season touches
– Change your SEO strategy accordingly 
– Update your website copy to have holiday content and blogs
– Create an email campaign to capitalize on big-spending days 
– Feature holiday sales and deals 
– Host contests and giveaways with a holiday theme
– Be creative and show your brand’s personality
– Do a holiday countdown to remind people to shop
– Offer gift suggestions and lists to promote your products 
– Put a holiday spin on your social media content, and make your posts shoppable 
– Reward loyal customers and subscribers with exclusive deals

And last but certainly not least: Have fun creating your holiday content!

Tip: Use a checklist! We know it’s a lot to take in, so here’s a list with tips curated for you to make it easier to prepare for the hectic holiday season.

Optimize for easier checkout and shipping

– Make checkout one page
– Allow for guest checkout
– Only ask for the same information once
– Accept multiple methods of payment

Cart abandonment is another factor to have on your radar. Baymard Institute found purchases went uncompleted 70.91% of the time worldwide. Implement cart abandonment emails to attract customers back. Note that customers might give up on a purchase if there are unexpected shipping costs.

In addition, free shipping is a profitable choice if you can offer it. The Baymard Institute also found that 48% of online shoppers abandon their cart if the shipping cost is too high. 

Also, if manageable, consider providing gift wrapping or packing your shipments with a personalized note. These details can set you apart from other retailers. Even adding a festive color to your shipping boxes can add a nice touch for the holiday season.

Provide strong customer service

In today’s ‘customer-first’ world, it’s crucial to offer your customers great customer service. Why? Because research found that 48% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after a poor customer service experience. On the positive side, a whopping 89% of customers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.

Conclusion: Having good customer service is important in order to have fully prepared your ecommerce store for the holiday season. In our opinion, the best defense is a good offense. So pad your website with information and a thorough FAQ. Anticipate any questions customers might have and answer them in your content. 

You might also want to consider hiring someone to focus exclusively on customer service. For example, they can field emails and deliver quick responses. Offering a live chat is also a nice feature for customers. 

Flush out your return policy

Many questions you’ll receive will be about your return policy. Especially during the holiday season, when people receive gifts they already own or don’t like. To prevent confusion (both for the customer and yourself), provide straightforward guidelines and easy-to-understand policies. 

However, it might be good to be a bit more flexible with your return policy during the holiday season. Remember what we discussed before: A good customer service experience will almost guarantee that people will return. 

Good to know: Most returns will come in the new year.

Make a plan for after the holidays 

You might be thinking: I thought this was a guide for preparing for the holidays, not after. And you’re right. But it’s good to reflect after the chaos of the holidays; a step that’s easily forgotten because the holidays can be very stressful. 

So plan a time to review sales! And don’t forget to look at the other elements of your ecommerce store, including: 
– Page traffic
– Most-asked questions
– Conversion rate
– Shopping cart abandonment stats
– Website speed
– Highest profits on which days

This information will empower you to create a game plan that will help you beyond the holiday season.

In conclusion

Since customers will be doing most of their holiday shopping online this year, it’s good if you’re prepared. How? By creating a plan, and checking off your to-do list months in advance. Make sure you meet your customers’ demands, optimize your store by evaluating your checkout process, fine-tune your return policy and customer service, and stay on top of your inventory. Bolster your holiday promotions by creating discounts, writing gift lists, and creating holiday social media content.

And finally: Don’t let your work be sabotaged by slow load times. As we mentioned before, customers don’t like to wait. So fortify your Ecommerce website with a reliable host. Check out Bluehost’s hosting packages today!

  • Tiffani Anderson

    Tiffani is a Content and SEO Manager for the Bluehost brand. With over 10 years experience across all facets of content and brand marketing, she strives to combine concepts from brand marketing with engaging content through the lens of SEO.

    University of North Texas
    Previous Experience
    Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
  • Minal Agarwal

    Minal is the Director of Brand Marketing at Bluehost. With over 15 years of business experience in the technology industry, she strives to create solutions and content that fulfill a customer's needs. She is a dog mom and a stickler for calendaring.

    Masters in Marketing Management
    Previous Experience
    Strategic Partnerships, Customer Success, Events and Community
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1 Comment

  1. Kamlesh Choudhary Reply

    Excellent point on taking lessons from past failures. It’s simple to overlook the mishaps from prior holiday seasons, yet they can teach us important lessons. And it’s exciting to think about which holidays to plan for. It definitely depends on who your intended audience is, don’t you think?

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