4 Proven Tactics to Promote Your E-commerce Store This Holiday Season

Sep 26, 2016 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team
4 Proven Tactics to Promote Your E-commerce Store This Holiday Season
Posted Sep 26, 2016 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team

Family, friends, festivities…and a BIG bump in sales.

That’s what the holiday season means for millions of e-commerce stores all around the world.

The holiday season is traditionally the biggest sales period of the year. Between Halloween and New Year, millions of customers spend billions buying gifts for friends and family.

In fact, roughly 24% of all retail sales in the US happen during the holiday season.

It doesn’t matter what you sell or which country you sell it in, the holiday season is crucial for your store’s profitability. If you’re still on the fence, check out our recent post on which holidays your business should take part in.

The question now is: how can you make the most of the holidays?

In this post, we’ll share 4 proven ideas to help you make the most of the lucrative holiday season.

I. Create a holiday-themed Pinterest contest

Pinterest is exploding right now.

One of the best ways to use Pinterest for holiday marketing is to run a holiday-themed Pinterest contest.

Pinterest contests work for two reasons:

  • Pinterest is a visual platform, which works perfectly to show off your products.
  • The contest format encourages organic engagement, increasing your reach exponentially.

Here’s how you can run a Pinterest contest of your own.

1. Ask followers to create a custom board

Start by asking contest entrants to create a custom board where they can share their pins with you.

For example, for its Pinterest contest, ModCloth asked participants to create custom boards titled “Spring ModCloth Wedding”.

Here’s one example of a contest board:

Spring ModCloth Wedding

Spring ModCloth Wedding

Three things to note here:

  • Ask participants to follow you on Pinterest before entering.
  • Use your brand name in the board title (like “Spring ModCloth Wedding” above).
  • Offer a relevant prize to encourage participation. This can be a gift card, a “holiday makeover” or something related to the holiday season.

2. Ask participants to pin images to the board

Next, ask contest participants to pin pictures to the recently created board.

You can have a free hand when choosing what type of images to share. Ideally, they must be somewhat related to your brand or contest theme.

For instance, ModCloth asked its participants to pin 20 different type of images:

ModCloth

ModCloth’s contest

Most of these correspond to the contest theme — weddings.

A few things to note here:

  • Don’t ask participants to pin any specific images — that’s against Pinterest’s terms of service.
  • Use vague categories such as “something vintage”. This gives contest participants much more room to experiment and makes the entire process more fun.
  • Ideally, pinned image categories should correspond loosely to your brand. If you don’t offer any vintage clothing, don’t ask followers to share a lot of vintage clothing pictures.

3. Promote your contest

The best way to do this, of course, is through Pinterest itself.

ModCloth, for instance, created this pin on its main board:

ModCloth

ModCloth pinned the terms of the contest on their board

You can either divert traffic to this organically or run a paid Pinterest campaign.

Here are a few things you can do to get more engagement to your contest:

  • Make sure that the contest pin image dimensions are large enough for Pinterest. Like the above example, make your images tall, not wide (i.e. portrait, not landscape mode).
  • Ask pinners to use branded and generic hashtags when pinning. For example, ModCloth asked participants to use the #weddings and #modcloth hashtags.
  • Ask participants to share their board links in Pinterest comments. This creates social proof and encourages participation.

ModCloth

ModCloth’s contest results

For example, here’s how ModCloth used the above tactics to get 302 participating pinners and 547 comments:

This is pretty much the playbook for running any kind of social contest. While it works great on Pinterest, you can also run similar contests on Instagram or Twitter.

You can also use Wishpond’s Pinterest contest app to make this process faster.

II. Start a holiday-themed Instagram campaign

Instagram is perfect for e-commerce. Like Pinterest, it is also visual. Plus, it also has:

You can use branded hashtags to curate contributions from followers like in the Pinterest contest example above.

For example, Starbucks runs mini-contests every week where it encourages users to share their pictures with the #TreatReceipt hashtag.

Starbucks

Starbucks

All pictures with the hashtag show up on a separate page:

Starbucks

Starbucks

While the contest tactic can work spectacularly well on Instagram, you can also take this time to build up your brand.

Here’s how.

1. Use subtle visual changes to signal the holiday season

Remember that Instagram is a visual medium. Start by signaling the change of seasons through subtle branding tactics, such as a logo in the holiday theme or posts in the colors of the season.

For instance, Starbucks uses fall colors in its posts after announcing that “fall is here”:

Starbucks

2. Curate season-themed promos

Another Instagram tactic for the holidays is to create season-focused promos.

For example, Target sent out a promo saying that “Fall is for Facial Hair” to promote a brand:

Target

Target

You can also curate user-generated content.

Starbucks, for instance, ran a “Red Cup Contest” and shared the best images on its Instagram page for fall.

Starbucks

Starbucks

3. Take holiday-themed product photos

You can also feature your own products in different settings to capture the holiday theme. Hershey’s, for example, shared a quick visual “how to” to turn its Kisses into Christmas tree-shaped gifts:

Hershey’s

Hershey’s

Think of creative ways you can use your own products in different Christmas settings.

ASOS went a step further and created a bunch of pictures in the holiday theme for the ASOS ADVENT campaign. Every day, it asked users to share their posts with that day’s reference image using the #instadvent hashtag

ASOS

ASOS

If you’re going to take this route, a few things to keep in mind:

  • Use holiday-themed colors, such as green, red, etc.
  • Offer a substantial gift to encourage participation.
  • Use your participants pictures on your product pages after taking permission. Such UGC can increase conversions.

III. Run a better email campaign

Despite the rapid growth of social, email marketing remains one of the best channels for customer acquisition during the holidays.

In fact, one study found that email accounted for the highest percentage of customers on Black Friday in 2014  27.3%.

So how can you send better emails this holiday season?

Here are a few ideas.

1. Spread your holiday emails all across the season

Holiday-themed email marketing peaks before Christmas. The promotions, however, start much earlier.

Here, for instance, is a graph of all emails containing the word “Christmas” sent through MailChimp:

MailChimp

Here’s another graph of the volume of emails on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

It’s also a good idea to tell your readers your email schedule. This keeps surprises to a minimum and helps readers plan their purchases.

Zappos does this exceptionally well. Take a look at their “seasons greetings” email:

Zappos

Zappos

A few things to note here:

  1. Free shipping: The email starts off by highlighting the free shipping and 365 day returns policy. Free shipping is a major concern among holiday shoppers. Telling customers outright that they don’t have to pay for shipping can improve conversion rates and increase average order value.
  2. Headline: This simple, clear headline tells readers immediately what the email is about. More importantly, “seasons greetings” is perfectly neutral — important when your customers might adhere to different beliefs.
  3. Email schedule: Zappos lays out its email schedule very clearly. Customers can expect emails thrice a week with gift guides and coupons.
  4. CTA: The call to action is clear and action-focused. “Start” and “Now” are both action-oriented words, while the CTA button color stands out against the blue background.
  5. Zappos family values: Zappos has built a business on the belief that customers are like family. While this footer might not actively promote an offer, highlighting a core Zappos value reinforces the Zappos brand image. Powerful stuff.

This is a great template to base your holiday emails on. It’s visual, succinct and hits at all the major customer pain points (free shipping, too many emails, etc.). It also tells the reader what they can expect from each mail.

Besides this, you should also send out promotional emails throughout the holiday season. If you can stick to a schedule, then all the better.

2. Send better contest emails

If you’re running a contest — on Pinterest, Instagram or elsewhere — email will be one of your best channels for audience participation.

Sending a strong contest announcement email can make the difference between a successful and a failed contest.

Here’s what you should follow in every contest email.

Contest landing page

Here’s a great example of a contest landing page:

Besides the obvious (clear headline, strong value proposition — 1,200 gift cards worth $25 each), there are three things you should note here:

  1. Contextually relevant image: A smiling person holding a gift card is a great way to capture attention. Keep in mind that studies show faces attract the gaze immediately on any page. The person in the image is also pointing to the right towards the form, putting it in focus.
  2. Countdown timer encourages action: By using a countdown timer for the contest end, you encourage more people to take action.
  3. Social sharing buttons: By including social sharing buttons from all popular networks, you get more shares and participants.

Contest email

Here’s a great example of an effective contest email:

What makes it work?

These four things:

  1. Bold headline (and fun contest): From the color to the copy, the headline grabs attention. It also helps that the contest itself evokes the festive spirit in a fun way — “12 days of ugly Christmas sweaters”.
  2. Clear instructions: Your readers should know exactly how to participate in the contest, the contest deadline, and contest requirements. Make sure this information is easy to find in your email.
  3. Contest rules: Contest rules can be tricky. You obviously can’t have a lengthy ToS in your email. Instead, lay out your most important rules and mention them as clearly as possible in the footer of your email.
  4. Social sharing buttons: Lastly, give readers a way to connect with you on social media or share the contest with their friends. In case of a social contest (such as a Pinterest contest), this can also act as the CTA.

Keep in mind that these rules are equally applicable to any email, not just contest emails. A strong CTA, clear instructions and a bold headline (or subject line) will always get you better open rates and engagement.

3. Go physical with your mail

Emails are great but when all your competitors are already doing it, they don’t really help you stand out.

Instead of email, experiment with physical postcards or letters this holiday season.

These don’t have to be promotional in nature. A simple “thank you” card can go a long way towards building brand loyalty.

Plus, saying “thanks” to your best customers is the perfect way to spread the holiday spirit.

For example, HEX regularly sends out handwritten notes with its orders.

If you can send out thank you cards and holiday greetings by hand, great. If not, you can use Direct Mail Manager with Batchbook integration (an Ecwid app) to send out cards automatically. Batchbook will take all your Ecwid customer contacts and work with Direct Mail Manager to send cards for just $1.39/card with a custom message.

Another alternative is to use Lob.com to send out postcards automatically. This is slightly technical (you have to work with an API) but you get cheaper postcards at just $0.70/card.

IV. Create gift guides on your blog

Gifting is a time-honored holiday tradition.

According to the NRF, gifts also account for a majority of all holiday spending. Of the average $805.65 each person spent on holiday shopping in 2015, $462.95 was spent on gifts for family members.

However, if you have a large product selection, your biggest challenge isn’t to get people to buy your products; it is to help people decide what to buy.

This is why gift guides are such a big hit around the holidays.

According to Google Trends, interest in “holiday gift guides” peaks around the end of November — Early December each year:

How can you create better holiday gift guides?

Here are a few tips:

1. Organize gift guides into different categories

Your customers have different tastes and budgets. Some want cheaper gifts, some want gifts for women, and some want cool things to buy for close friends.

Keeping this in mind, you should organize gift guides into the following categories.

By Price: Create multiple gift guides for different price brackets such as “budget”, “premium”, and “extravagant”. This way, you might have guides like:

  • Gifts under $25
  • Gifts under $50
  • Gifts over $100

For example, here’s a gift guide for budget buyers (under $25):

By Gender: This is easy enough: organize gifts into different categories by gender. This way, you’ll have two categories:

  • Gifts for Him
  • Gifts for Her

You can also create guides from the perspective of the person buying the gift. Thus, you might have a “girl’s guide to buying gifts for guys”, like this example:

Piperlime

Piperlime

By Age: Another way to organize gifts is by age. You might have categories like:

  • Gifts for boys/girls/kids
  • Gifts for teenagers
  • Gifts for millennials (under 35)

You can also go more granular and organize gifts by age groups (2-5 year olds, 5-7 year olds, etc.). For example, Target organizes its toys page into different age groups:

Target

Target

By Relation: This is a very natural way to organize your products. After all, most of your customers will buy gifts for friends, siblings, parents, etc.

Thus, you might have relations like:

  • Gifts for moms
  • Gifts for dads
  • Gifts for husbands/wives
  • Gifts for brothers
  • Gifts for sisters

Here’s an example of a “Gifts for Mom” page on Gifts.com:

Gifts.com

Gifts.com

By Interests: The best gifts usually take into account the person’s interests and hobbies. Organizing by interests is a great way to make compelling gift guides.

Of course, what interest categories you use in your gift guide will depend on your product. You might have gifts for “musicians”, “movie buffs”, “fitness enthusiasts”, etc.

Here’s a great example of a gift guide organized by interests by Land of Nod:

The Land of Nod

The Land of Nod

Besides these, you can also organize gifts by holiday (“Gifts for Halloween”, “Gifts for Thanksgiving”), by item category (“Gifts in Books”, “Gifts in Toys”), and even by color (“Gifts in Red”, “Gifts in Blue”), etc.

2. Create gift guides on Pinterest

Besides your own site, you should also create separate boards for your gift guides on Pinterest.

Amazon does this exceptionally well. Right around the holidays, it starts curating its products into different Pinterest boards.

Here’s Amazon’s electronics gift guide:

Amazon

Amazon

And here’s a gift guide “for the kitchen”:

Amazon

Amazon

3. Make it easy to buy gift cards

Shoppers spent $31B on gift cards in 2014 as per a National Retail Federation survey. The survey also found that gift cards were the most requested gift item with 62% of shoppers saying they’d like to receive one.

Bottomline: your customers love buying gift cards, so make them as easy to buy as possible.

One way to do this is to create a separate page for gift cards on your site and feature it prominently in the navigation menu or footer menu.

REI, for instance, has this page for buying gift cards:

REI

REI

Amazon does it even better. It features a separate link for “Gift Cards & Registry” in its navigation menu. It also gives shoppers multiple ways to buy and gift cards.

Amazon

Amazon

You can use gift cards in your Ecwid store by creating single use discount coupons with absolute or percentage off discounts.

Follow the answer here to learn more.

4. Make your gift guides (and gift cards) easy to find

Lastly, make sure that your gift guides are easy to find.

Before the holiday season starts, make sure that you feature your gift guides prominently on your homepage.

Amazon, for instance, features gift guides on each category page:

Amazon

Amazon

REI has a separate tab in its navigation menu to access the gifts page:

REI

REI

Target sends out highly visual gift guide emails before and during the holiday season:

Target

Target

Lastly, make sure to link to your social media gift guides (particularly on Pinterest) prominently on your site.

Your Next Steps

As an e-commerce store owner, the last thing you want is an endless list of marketing ideas.

This is why we’ve limited this post to just 4 actionable marketing tactics that yield results consistently. While Instagram will improve your branding, Pinterest will get you more traffic and stronger email marketing will improve your conversions.

Meanwhile, a focus on gift guides and gift cards will make it easy for customers to find what they want.

Here’s what your next steps should be after reading this post:

  1. Work with your designer and photographer to create a library of images for social media
  2. Schedule these images in your social media calendar (especially for Instagram and Pinterest)
  3. Next, use these images to create gift guides for different customer categories
  4. Create a number of marketing emails for the entire holiday season. Make sure to create multiple subject lines for A/B testing.
  5. Finally, publish your gift guides, Pinterest boards, social media contests and send out your emails well before the holidays.
About The Author
Lina is a content creator at Ecwid. She writes to inspire and educate readers on all things commerce. She loves to travel and runs marathons.

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