This year’s holiday shopping is upon us. The golden opportunity for small businesses to earn significant holiday traffic sales. According to recent estimates by the National Retail Federation (NRF), 2021 promises to be the year of the highest holiday retail sales on record.
The NRF data forecasts that "holiday sales during November and December will grow between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion.” That’s good news for small businesses everywhere, including online retailers.
The PowerReviews Holiday Consumer Survey 2021, based on responses in 2021 from 7,743 consumers across the U.S., found that “nearly all (99 percent) of consumers will do at least a portion of their holiday shopping online this year. Fifty percent will do most of their holiday shopping online, and 13 percent will do all of it online.”
2021 Holiday Traffic Versus 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in high numbers of consumers shopping online in 2020, and that shift seems to have accelerated the overall increase in digital shopping, believes Harry Dixon, CEO of Checkmate Savings, Inc., an online savings tool. “The digital shift was apparent in 2019 but accelerated due to COVID," he says.
After an unprecedented surge in 2020 digital holiday sales, “U.S. consumer spending online is set to grow at a far more modest 12.1% year over year this 2021 holiday season,” according to projections by Digital Commerce 360, an e-commerce research company. Limited inventory and rising costs are some of the reasons for more modest growth this year.
Tips for Capitalizing on Holiday Traffic
Here are some holiday marketing strategies that can help you maximize your sales, both online and off, this season.
1. Post helpful content on your website (gift guides, product comparisons, etc.)
“It’s more important than ever for brands to reach their audiences where they often are, which is online,” says RJ Licata, director of marketing for Terakeet, a marketing and technology company.
"As fewer consumers go into stores to compare products and ask questions, they’re turning to Google search to inform their purchase decisions," says Licata. "Our research shows that prioritizing relevant and helpful content that aligns with informational search queries helps businesses rank higher in Google, capture more online traffic, improve website conversions and generate more sales.”
To drive traffic to your website, Licata suggests creating the following content: gift guides, product comparisons, virtual try-on tools and top-of-funnel informational articles.
2. Be prepared for supply chain slowdowns.
This year supply chain slowdowns and a resulting lack of inventory is a looming problem. Hilda Wong, founder of Content Dog, an SEO content writing company, says her company is dealing with this possibility by pivoting to a gift card model in case they sell out of something quickly.
“This approach allows us to still have something to offer customers," says Wong. "We explain that inventory is low and things may not arrive in time for the holidays like usual."
3. Capitalize on last year’s holiday traffic.
Use last year’s holiday landing page rather than creating a new one, suggests Leslie Gilmour, a marketer at ServisBOT, a conversational AI platform. She has worked as an SEO and digital marketing consultant for many small retail businesses.
"Last year’s page is already indexed by search engines and ranking on Google for your keywords, so why start over every year?" says Gilmour. "By using the same landing page every year, you will keep building the authority of that page and increase the chances of customers stumbling upon your website.”
4. Draw from earlier holiday marketing campaigns.
Analyzing your earlier strategies will assist you in pinpointing campaigns that worked and avoiding those that didn’t, advises David Reid, sales director at vem-tooling.com, a plastic mold manufacturer.
“Look to see if your client base shifted substantially in the past year," he says. "If so, what are your chief demographics, and what do they value? Knowing critical factors of your ideal client will help you craft holiday messaging that clicks.”
5. Consider your target audience.
"Holiday traffic offers do best when they're engaging and relevant to your particular target audience," says Joe Bailey, operations manager at My Trading Skills, which offers courses and coaching in trading. "Understand the purchasing trends of your audience during the holidays. This will guide your marketing strategy as to the best offers."
6. Ensure excellent customer service.
Holiday traffic is wonderful, but it’s nothing without satisfied customers. “Emphasize to employees the importance of addressing customer queries effectively even when staff are busy," says Michelle Ebbin, CEO and founder of the e-commerce clothing brand Jettproof. "Assign very specific roles among staff members so they can focus on work and avoid spreading themselves thin."
If you’re an online business, Ebbin suggests leveraging live chat so that customer service advisors can interact personally with inquiring customers and provide product recommendations. "Ensure that customer service advisors respond in a timely manner for a frictionless communication process," she says.
7. Organize an exclusive holiday party.
“Shoppers say elite status is one of the biggest benefits of a loyalty program,” says Wong. “Hold an exclusive online holiday event just for your VIPs. Give your special guests a coupon they can use only during the event. Also offer holiday-themed beverages, free gift wrapping, and give a loyalty point for every $100 spent.”
8. Think beyond the holiday.
According to Wong, fourth quarter sales can have a “snowball effect on your whole business if you leverage it correctly.”
Jared Weitz, founder of financial services provider United Capital Source, agrees. “Offer a product or service that extends past the holiday at hand. When you provide something like a membership or multiple service offering, you'll be able to build a relationship with the consumer long after the holiday has passed."
November and December may get the most attention when it comes to boosting holiday traffic, but any holiday can drive online and brick-and-mortar sales. In fact, there are numerous days throughout the year that provide opportunities for an uptick in revenue.
A version of this article was originally published on May 17, 2019.