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22. Holiday Season Campaign Series: Planning

The Holiday season is right around the corner which means it’s time to start getting all your duckies in a row. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have your most successful holiday season ever without having to stress about your business and still getting to enjoy your pumpkin pie with the family? I agree! That’s why I created this 3 part series, to walk you step-by-step through the 3 P’s of any marketing campaign and get you set up for success!

Get the Holiday Planning Guide + Conent Bundle

Need a deeper dive into all things Q4 planning for your eCommerce business? Get your hands on my Holiday Planning Mini-Course and the Holiday Content Bundle with 90 content prompts and 75 email subject lines. It’s the ultimate toolkit for eCommerce biz owners who want to rock their holiday sales while still enjoying their pumpkin pie and time with their family.

Learn more at eCommerceBadassery.com/holiday

What You’ll Learn: 

  • All the things you need to start thinking about now to have the most kick-ass holiday season ever
  • How to make sure you have enough inventory to hit your sales goals and how to handle your seasonal goods
  • What changes you should make to your website for the holiday season and when to set them up.

All Holiday Planning Episodes

EP. 23 Holiday Planning Series: Preparation

EP. 24 Holiday Planning Series: Promotion

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Signup and get immediate access to my vault of guides, tools, and worksheets for eCommerce business owners, including your Holiday Planning Checklist!


Read the Full Episode Transcript

Before you completely tune out because you’re thinking, shit I can’t even wrap my head around the Holiday season right now — I want you to think back to the beginning of the pandemic. If you were one of those businesses that saw an increase when brick-and-mortar was shut down, you might see a similar one during the holiday season. How much nicer would it have been if you were prepared ahead of time?

The 3 P’s of the Holiday Season 

Over the next three episodes, we’re going to talk about the 3 Ps of the Holiday Season, Plan, Prep + Promote. We’ll touch on all the things you should be thinking about. 

If you’re ready to go all-in on your Holiday planning and have the most kick-ass season ever, then you’re going to want to get your hands on the eCommerce Badassery Holiday Planning eBook. I go much deeper into all the things we’re going to talk about in these episodes and then some. It’s on sale right NOW!. It’s seriously a fucking steal and comes with accompanying video training and templates to support you in all your Holiday Season planning! 

Things to keep in mind while you’re holiday planning for your eCommerce business 

  • People are NOT going to be packed into stores on Black Friday weekend like years past.
  • Lots of big stores are not opening on Thanksgiving night like they used to.
  • With shipping being completely jacked up and everything taking longer to arrive, people are going to be shopping EARLY
  • And every BIG retailer is likely to have BIGGER sales than they have before to try and make up for what they lost earlier in the year. 

This Holiday season is going to be unlike anything you’ve seen before and I want you to be prepared! Plus, a lot of the concepts I’m going to share can be easily adapted to your overall eCommerce strategy and for other holidays and promotions, you do throughout the year. 

Reflect on last season’s performance with a campaign postmortem

The first step in any good campaign plan is to reflect on your performance from the last time around. That’s where my campaign recap or postmortem process comes in. 

I walk you through this step by step in episode 11

At a high level, it’s just a document where you collect all the important information from a campaign, including your overall KPIs, any promotions you ran, and their results, along with what did and didn’t work well during that time. 

Having a campaign recap is key because there’s no way you can remember all the things, so having a document that lays out everything you learned from your last holiday season or even your most recent campaign will make it easier to rinse and repeat what worked and avoid any big screw-ups. It’s simple but powerful and I promise it will totally save your ass when you do it regularly. 

Plot out the important dates on your calendar for Q4 

Don’t forget to consider your own holiday plans as well as key highlights such as the Cyber Five, which includes Thanksgiving through to Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, as well as Free Shipping Day on Monday, December 12th. We’ll talk more about what to do around all of these important dates in the last episode of the series but start plotting them out now.

Consider whether you will be available to be fully in the business. Do you have a vacation planned or holiday parties to attend? Or maybe you just want to set aside time to step away and be fully engaged with your family. You may need to invest in some extra help, cut off holiday shipping early, or just have some contingency plans in place. 

Typically, November 1st is the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season for most retailers. We know that Nordstrom never sets Holiday until after Thanksgiving and maybe that’s traditionally what you do too — and hey, you do you babe — but I bet people will be starting earlier than usual this year to get people in the spirit and capture as much revenue during this time as possible. 

Being online means your holiday season naturally ends earlier than a brick-and-mortar store. Don’t forget that you’ve also got COVID shipping delays to contend with.

Reverse engineer when you need to get started 

With everything plotted on your colander, you can start to create some milestones to hit.

If you’re going to have holiday-specific merchandise for example, and you want it in stock and available on your website for November 1st, start mapping out the steps for making that happen. 

Consider how long it takes you to get the items listed on your site, get photos taken, what is the lead time from the manufacturer or how long it will take you to create if you’re a handmade business. 

Don’t forget any promotional material you might want to create for email and social media. Are you going to run ads specifically for these products and have to set up new campaigns for them? Leave an extra buffer for shipping delays and all the other sort of weird shit that can happen — Murphy’s Law is a bitch. 

Side note: Rinse and repeat the reverse engineering process for EVERYTHING. Not only just your holiday campaign but your entire business. Having a goal in mind is the first step to success and creating deadlines and milestones helps to keep not only yourself but your entire team on track. 

Inventory and merchandising 

If you get this wrong, you could end up missing your sales goals or being stuck with excess inventory you can’t move. 

Figuring out how much inventory you have and what you already have on order. Is that in line with your sales projections? For instance, if your projections say you’re going to do $30k in revenue during the season, but you only have 15k in inventory at retail, well, that math just doesn’t work. 

Be cautious here and don’t go overboard, but make sure you consider potential difficulties of replenishing your best sellers if you do run out and the lead time it takes for you to get inventory in hand. 

Projecting your numbers for Q4

There are a lot of variables at play here so you really have to dig into your specific numbers. Aside from considering the increase you saw last year during the holiday, make sure you take into consideration what this year looks like. 

A lot can change in a year of your business. You’re much more established and maybe you’ve started to see a lot of success with ads. Perhaps you have a better email marketing strategy and more tools under your belt in terms of HOW to actually execute a campaign. This year you have the capacity to do even better than you ever have before. 

Rumor has it that Amazon Prime Day is happening in October this year. And many eCommerce retailers see an overall lift around this event, even if you aren’t selling on Amazon. You might want to do your own version of Prime Day so you’ll need to consider what current stock you might sell through.

Consider how your product fits into the modern eCommerce landscape

It’s possible your product will be more in demand this year than it was last year. Customers will likely be more focused on experiences and sensory items than electronics. There’s also likely to be an even bigger push toward buying from small businesses over big-box retailers. 

If you’re bringing on seasonal items, aim to sell out by your ground shipping cut-off. If you want to get the order to your customer by December 23rd, the last day to ship ground is December 14th so focus on selling through those items by that date. Forecasting for new items can be difficult because you don’t have any sales history, but past trends can help you make smart decisions. 

Seasonal item past performance

If you’ve had seasonal items in the past, previous data can show you how this year’s items may perform. Consider:

  • How long did it take for your customers to latch on and start buying these products? 
  • Was there a spike in the very beginning and then it trailed off? 
  • Or did it take awhile for people to get interested? 

Assuming all your promotional efforts are the same, past seasonal product performance will be a good indicator. 

Have a plan to move through your holiday inventory 

If sales are slower than you anticipate, don’t wait until after Christmas to mark down your items. There are a few different techniques you can try to help move through those items before you have to take a hard markdown. 

Product bundles are a great option. If you have a particularly slow mover try bundling it with your best-selling items. If you do have a total dog that just isn’t moving at all, mark it down BEFORE your shipping cut off! Your customers will generally qualify your items quickly, so don’t get emotionally attached to anything. 

Your initial markdown will ALWAYS be the cheapest. I know it hurts to markdown things, but it’s worth more out the door than it is collecting dust on your shelves.

On-Site merchandising for the holiday season

Visual merchandising is just as important online as it is in a brick-and-mortar store. Make sure you have your holiday items front and center and move them to the top of your collections. If you’re using regular Shopify merchandising go into the collections and manually adjust the product assortment. If you have it defaulting to best sellers your new and holiday items may not get enough visibility. Link to any holiday-specific items in your navigation bar as well. 

Adding a gift guide is a great way to get the necessary items in front of your customers. When you go shopping in a brick and mortar store usually all of the holiday items are grouped together, either within their own department or right at the front of the store. How you set this up on your site is going to depend on your business and product assortment, but the goal is the same. 

The Holiday season is a small window of opportunity to make big bucks in your business. Don’t put this off, start planning now. 

Don’t forget to snag the eCommerce Badassery Holiday Planning Guide. It’s in-depth enough that you can come back to it to implement new strategies as your business grows and I’ll be updating this baby each year 

Next week we’re talking about Holiday preparation, which includes making sure you have your operations, technology, shipping, and customer service on lock. 

Until next time eCommerce friends, I’ll see you on the flipside. 

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Hey, I’m Jessica!

eCommerce + email Marketing Strategist

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. Learning from the top experts in the digital marketing & eCommerce industry she loves working with female entrepreneurs and teaching the secrets of 7-figure eCommerce businesses.

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