Posted Oct 9, 2015 by Lina Vashurina, Ecwid Team

The Essential Guide to Holiday Promotions for E-Commerce Stores

$19.62 billion.

That’s how much money online shoppers spent between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday in 2017.

For retailers, there’s no better season to be in business than the holiday season. As summer fades into fall, and fall into winter, shoppers splurge thousands of dollars on holiday gifts and goodies.

How can your e-commerce store take advantage of this holiday season? How should you plan your promotions, emails and discounts to maximize sales? What are the best promo channels for your store?

This post will give you all the holiday promotion ideas you need.

The Holiday Season at a Glance

Perhaps you’re still on the fence about doing a blitzkrieg of holiday promotions.

In that case, take a look at this chart:

Holiday sales in percentage

That’s the total consumer spending during all holidays in the US in 2014. The winter holiday promotions alone accounted for $602.1B of this $750B pie. In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates that these two months make up nearly 30% of a retailer’s annual sales.

Don’t think that this shopping frenzy is limited to physical stores. In 2017, online shopping was a leading customer preference for the holiday season.

Consumer holiday shopping preferences

Clearly, shoppers are spending a massive amount of money during the holiday season. For e-commerce store owners, this is a big opportunity to cash in and make big profits.

When Should You Plan Your Holiday Promotions?

The short answer to this question would be: “as early as possible.”

To be more exact, you should start planning your holiday promotions from late September to early October.

Traditionally, the shopping season doesn’t begin in earnest until late November (Thanksgiving). However, more and more shoppers are starting their shopping early to beat the season rush and take advantage of Halloween promotions.

In fact, a Google survey revealed that more than 29% of shoppers started their shopping before Halloween. According to PopSugar, this number is as high as 42% for women shoppers.

With Halloween becoming increasingly popular, it is a good idea to start your promotions by early October. Your marketing machinery should be firing on all cylinders by the time the biggest sales day of the year — Black Friday — rolls around.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how you can plan your promotions.

Preparing Your Business for the Holiday Promos

Before you can do a promotion blitzkrieg, it’s important to prep your business for the holiday rush.

Make sure you have the following handy by October:

1. A holiday promotion calendar

It helps to have a detailed overview of where and when you’ll do your promotions. For this, you’ll need the following:

  • A list of target holiday promos: Figure out when your business sells most of its goods, then make a list of target holidays. As a general rule, if you sell cheap, “impulse buys”, your sales will come either in the first half of the season, or right before big holidays. If you sell expensive, decision-intensive products, most shoppers will wait until November to get steep discounts.
  • A list of promotion materials: Gather all your promotion materials — emails, graphics, banners, ads, etc. — and separate them by holidays. Thus, all your Halloween-themed promos go in one folder, Black Friday-themed promos in another. See if there are any graphics or ads you can repurpose for multiple holiday promos.

It’s important to remember that shoppers nowadays don’t limit themselves to 1-2 days of shopping. Rather, as Custora points out, they spread their purchases across several days:

Holiday Revenue Custora

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday should still be the fulcrum of your sales promotion, it’s a good idea to use promotions throughout the holiday period.

The holiday season of 2017 set the trend of long sales. Next year, customers might expect deals as early as the first days of September.

Read also: 10 E-Commerce Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

2. Website preparation

The last thing you’d want in the holiday season is for your web host to give in or your website CMS to break. Before you start promoting, make sure that you’ve prepped your website for the avalanche of traffic ahead.

  • Upgrade to a faster webhost. Ask them how they handle their infrastructure for the holiday rush. Make sure the host can tolerate a big spike in traffic.
  • Get a CDN. This will make your website much faster to load — which is crucial, since nearly 50% of shoppers will abandon slow sites.
  • Make your website mobile-friendly. 52% of online shoppers used their phones throughout the shopping process. In 2017, Cyber Monday became the first $2 billion mobile shopping day. By making your website mobile-friendly you will ensure that you can tap into this massive market, while also helping with SEO.

3. Social Media Profiles

As an e-commerce store owner, you already know that social media represents a massive opportunity. Facebook alone has over 2B users, while Twitter’s audience is 330M, and Instagram unites 800M users.

Social media plays an important role in holiday promos as well. According to HubSpot, 64.8% of consumers turn to social media to find the right gift. Another 64% of shoppers said that they bought something after seeing it on Twitter.

To take full advantage of social media, make sure you have the following:

  • Profiles on the top 5 social networks — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. You can skip LinkedIn unless you’re specifically targeting business buyers.
  • All profiles link back to a holiday-themed landing page with promotions/contests/deals on your site.
  • Profiles have holiday-themed cover images and profile pictures. Think pumpkins and zombies for Halloween, snowmen and Santa for Christmas.
  • Offers “pinned” to the top of the feed on Facebook and Twitter and announced in your Instagram bio.

4. Promotion infrastructure and tools

Do you have complete funnels with landing pages and emails for the holiday season sales?

If not, you need to prep your infrastructure for holiday promotions.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • An email marketing tool. This will send out all your promotion emails, newsletters and autoresponder sequences. Some options are MailChimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, or InfusionSoft.
  • A landing page tool. You’ll need this to create holiday-themed promo pages and to capture leads and sales. Pick from LeadPages, Instapage, or Unbounce.
  • Analytics software. This will help you figure out where your traffic and sales are coming from, and how you should plan your marketing. Google Analytics is a good free choice, but you can also try KISSMetrics and Mixpanel. Ecwid store owners can see all the important store stats in the “Reports” section of their control panel.
  • A social media marketing tool. Social media is a big channel for retailers — according to our survey, 65% of Ecwid merchants use social media to promote their products. You’ll need something to schedule content on social media. Edgar, HootSuite, and Buffer are all viable options.
  • A blogging tool. Nearly 74% of holiday shoppers search online for gift ideas. A blog will help you show up in search results for such queries. It’ll also help you connect to shoppers and build brand loyalty — crucial in an often fickle market. We recommend using WordPress for your blog.
  • pop-up tool. You’ll need this to capture leads and offer discounts/deals to shoppers. Some pop-up tools such as BounceExchange even use behavioral targeting to show offers to cart-abandoning visitors. Other options include Picreel and LeadPages.

That should be enough for most businesses. If you need more tools (such as a CRM or split-testing), check out this list of marketing tools from TrackMaven.

Related: Ecwid Promo Toolkit to Power Your Black Friday Sale

Planning Your Holiday Marketing

Once you’ve done all the prep work, it’s time to start planning your holiday marketing blitzkrieg.

There are two components to this: targeting the right channels and using the right promotions.

Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

1. Targeting the Right Marketing Channels

Facebook, Twitter, content marketing, AdWords — there are more marketing channels today than you can count. Which one should you focus on? Which should you ignore?

Here are some things you must know before choosing a marketing channel:

  • Budget: Not all marketing channels cost the same. PPC (AdWords), for example, demands a much larger budget than inbound marketing. If you have the cash, choose paid advertising. Otherwise, choose “free” methods such as social media and content marketing where your only investment is time.
  • Existing expertise: It’s better to focus on a channel you already understand than to waste time mastering a completely new marketing medium. If you (or someone on your team) is a keyword expert, focus on AdWords. If you are a meme king or queen, focus on content marketing. If you are good at photography, head to Instagram, and so on.
  • Audience demographics: Ask yourself: where are my target customers likely to hang out? If you sell hearing aids for older people, you won’t see a lot of results from social media or searches. Similarly, if you sell business gifts, you’ll do better on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Take a look at this page to understand social network demographics. Generally speaking, LinkedIn = business, Pinterest = women, and SnapChat/Instagram = millennials.
  • Product type: Pick a marketing channel that fits your product type. For example, lifestyle-, food-, and fashion-related products do well on platforms that promote discovery, such as Pinterest and Instagram. Tech-related products perform better on channels that offer shoppers research and reviews, such as blogs.

This will help you choose the right platform(s) to target with selected promotions.


Using the Right Promotions

The wrong promotions can kill even the most well-planned holiday marketing. Before you spend a single penny on any marketing channel, it’s important to get this part right.
Here are some pointers to help you figure out promotions:

1. Double down on email

Deals sent via email generated 27.3% of orders on Black Friday in 2016. Double down on email marketing during this season, and you’ll see great returns.

2. Free shipping is crucial

According to, free shipping is the second biggest reason why consumers shop online. Research also shows that 70% of online shoppers will add items to their carts just so they can qualify for free shipping.

A lesson for store owners: offer free shipping during your holiday promotions, at least for orders above a certain threshold (like $50). Also make sure that customers know about this — use a pop-up or a bold graphic to tell them that you offer free shipping.

3. Deals, deals, and more deals

According to Google, low price is an important factor for 91% of shoppers. 92% of shoppers also check prices online to get the best bargain before hitting “buy.”

Your customers expect great deals during the holiday season. If you want to capture and retain their attention, make sure you deck the site with steep discounts.

4. Encourage loyalty

In a customer survey, 58% of shoppers said that loyalty rewards and bonuses would influence them to complete a purchase on social media. 52% of shoppers also said that exclusive access to new products and deals would encourage them to shop more.

Keep this in mind when planning your promotions. Find out who your most loyal customers are, then give them rewards/discounts that encourage their loyalty.

5. Don’t forget gift cards

In the holiday season frenzy, it’s easy to forget about this promotion work-horse. They might be old fashioned, but gift cards still represent big business. The National Retail Federation estimates that total spending on gift cards will reach $31.74 billion in 2015. Deloitte’s Annual Holiday Survey also says 43% of consumers plan to give gift cards or certificates this year.

Keep this in mind when planning your promotions. Make sure shoppers can easily buy gift cards from your website or physical store (if you have one). If you have an Ecwid store, use the “Gift Up!” application to enable gift cards.

6. Run better contests

Contests are old hat in the marketing world, but they still work. The hard part is standing out in a season where every business runs its own contests.

The key to running a successful holiday contest is to:

    • Select better prizes: Offer something that is relevant to your target customers, not just an iPad or Xbox. For example, if your customers love to travel, offer them quality travel gear as prize.
    • Make it social: One way to spur shares is to connect the contest to social media. For example, you can give participants extra points for every referral they send, thereby encouraging shares.

If you’re new to online contests, here are 25 proven contest ideas to promote your online business.


The holiday season is tough for store owners, but it is also wildly lucrative. You’ll have to push your team to the limit to prepare your store for holiday shoppers, but the returns are well worth it.

Just remember to start early, focus on social + content, and give plenty of deals to win customers.

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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