There are a million things you could do to grow your holiday sales, but you can’t do everything, you need to find where your efforts will deliver the biggest results.

Yesterday we teamed up with SLI Systems to cover what should be in every ecommerce retailer’s playbook. The playbook is the birds eye view of what you can’t get wrong this year. We covered specific tactics, like site search and testing, but also more general concepts that every store should be applying, like forecasting demand by looking at last year’s performance.

If you missed it, you can download the slide deck or watch the full event here:

Let the data guide you

Holiday planning starts with data. The first place is looking at what sold last year.

The next place is looking at what didn’t sell last year, but could have if you had the inventory. There are two data points that will point you to where you missed out on holiday sales last year: 1.) Searches that yielded no results 2.) Orders that you were unable to fill.

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Bottom Line: Once you know your top-performing products and have an accurate forecast on how they’ll perform this year, then you have clear understanding on how to prioritize marketing and optimization efforts. Stay away from plans that rely on doing all the things.


Allocate your marketing budget

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Last year NoMoreRack grew their holiday sales by 165%. Vishal Agarwal, CMO at NoMoreRack, says this:

Most companies start with a budget and then allocate it. We don’t. We use RJMetrics to find the channels with the best ROI, and then spend money there.

We recommend looking at the ROI of programs that you were running during last year’s holiday season, but also working in what you’ve learned from January to October in 2014. And don’t forget to take just a tiny bit of inspiration from the Grinch:

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Yep, we recommend getting a few wonderful (potentially awful) ideas. Try something new. The holidays are an amazing learning experience, don’t waste it. One great starting place for coming up with some wonderful ideas is to ask yourself what you wished you knew about last year. Maybe you wished you knew:

  • The percent of new customers acquired during the season that turned into repeat customers during the year
  • How a certain product line might have performed
  • How a crazy campaign idea might have performed…but then you decided not to run it

Try a few new things this year, just make sure you’re collecting the data that will help you be smarter about your planning next year.

Optimize your website

Last year Victor Castro, Director of Ecommerce at Zachy’s Fine Wine, was tasked with improving holiday sales. He had one month before the holiday rush set in and needed to find the highest-impact area. He chose to focus on optimizing site search.

If your site search is struggling, make this your year to fix it. Zachy’s investment in site search brought in big results:

  • 13% increase in conversion rate
  • 98% increase in transactions
  • 130% increase in revenue
  • 19% decrease in bounce rates
  • Site search is valuable year round, but it becomes particularly important around the holidays. During the holidays you’re selling to gift buyers who may not be your typical customer. Expect them to have less knowledge of your product line and certainly have lower interest in browsing your site. You want to remove every possible barrier preventing them from finding the right gift — and delivering good search results is a great starting place.

    Other tips to help get customers to the gift faster include:

  • Creating curated landing pages and gift guides
  • Giving your top-performing products some extra love (i.e., testing, improving product images, sprucing up descriptions)
  • Seasonalizing your messaging
  • Prep your supply chain

    Of course, the thing that keeps the whole machine running is product. Two things that no online retailer can afford to overlook:

    1. Paying attention to the major shopping days

    These days move an enormous amount of inventory and deserve to be treated as their own special occasion. Make sure you’ll have enough product in stock, and employees on staff to meet customer expectations on these days.

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    2. Streamlining your supply chain.

    Tanner Agar, CEO at the Chef Shelf offers this excellent advice:

    Long before the holidays start we have to talk with our partners to forecast demand, ensure that products will continue to be available, and strengthen the distribution channel of products to us and products to our customers. These conversations ensure no one is surprised by volume and that our customers receive quality gifts every time.

    Next Steps

    Most of us are still enjoying sunshine and vacations, but the holidays will be here before you know it. Get ready for your biggest season every by enjoying a few of the following beach reads:

    Of course, we also recommend scrolling back up to the top of the page and watching the webinar you missed, you’ll definitely learn something. These people all did: