Holiday shopping is getting an early start, but there’s still time to finish prepping your website, campaigns, and overall operations to fill those orders. To help you avoid finding coal in your company stockings, here are five strategies and elements you can address now and prepare yourself for a successful holiday selling season.

1. Refresh your Brand Story

Amazon remains the top marketplace for eCommerce brands’ holiday sales. Last year, one report estimated that 11% of consumers planned to buy all holiday gifts on Amazon. Tap into that market by creating a compelling connection with shoppers. Thankfully, you get access to a custom set of content tools within Amazon’s A+ Content Manager. Start by optimizing your Amazon Brand Story with a mix of content, photos, and similar visuals.

The Brand Story is where you can tell customers about your company. Not only do you get to add a logo and some products, but you can offer a brief description. Updating this for holidays allows you to create a tailored message. You might highlight where you donate, eco-friendly efforts, or your reason for the holiday season.

Many companies use this feature to tell a story about their holiday products or best sellers. It’s a digital window display where people are eager to read and see what you’re offering.

2. Verify your sales SEO

With most of your sales happening during the holiday season, you need top SEO work done ahead of time. That starts with established best practices, such as getting your site load time to just a few seconds. Improve overall performance and verify that page elements work for desktops and mobiles.

After you check site elements, look at trend data. Are you capitalizing on last year’s trends? Have you refreshed product descriptions and keywords based on this year’s shopping habits? Combine the two to ensure you’ve got the right product keywords mixed in with holiday ones. The Google Trends tool is a smart way to capture long-tail keywords focused on your holiday sales.

And don’t neglect specific SEO for your online store. How you achieve on-page and sales SEO can vary by your platform and tools. WordPress has plugins that help you check elements like meta descriptions for keyword use, while Shopify has options designed to check your product descriptions. The goal is the same, but your path can be different. The benefit of using sales SEO tools for your sales platform is that you’re less likely to have elements break with an update or forget eCommerce essentials.

3. Test those targeted emails

Holiday campaigns come with a wide range of new targets and market segmentation. You might personalize around past habits, age ranges, or who someone is shopping for based on their clicks. There’s a lot of valuable data that people are willing to share directly for content or that you can glean from how they use your website. Use that to create your audience.

Then, test, test, and test again. That’s useful whether you’re building out seasonal branding or just expanding a standard campaign. And it can be beneficial if you’ve got a timed event, like Black Friday campaigns or emails that count down until a deal ends. Check that the sending is set correctly, the right audience is selected, visual elements work but also have alt-text, and more. Some of the best advice to help you here is to create a holiday checklist specific to each campaign. That way, you’re not leaving any money on the table at the end of the holiday season.

4. Consider new types of deals or discounts

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this holiday season doesn’t feel like previous years. We’re all facing a big carrier crunch, supply chain delays, and more eCommerce orders than ever before. That can create a lot of concerns while you still want to get goods moving. But it also gives you some opportunities.

Many recommendations we hear involve offering deeper discounts or product giveaways, but that doesn’t necessarily help you tackle supply chain concerns. However, some eCommerce businesses are now offering discounts on bulk shopping for their standard customers and end-consumers. That may be an especially compelling offer for both your business and customers. You get to move significant product with lower fulfillment expenses, while customers can be sure they get everything they need in one big order.

This also shifts much of the last-mile fulfillment to the consumer. If you offer a significant discount for buying in bulk, they get the large package and split it accordingly. That moves them to take these packages to the post office or a carrier store for individual shipments. It can be a solid win-win where you more than make up the discount provided based just on fulfillment savings.

5. Talk to your fulfillment partners

Companies like yours need a clear path forward for delivering goods to consumers this holiday season. That approach starts with a conversation between you and your fulfillment partners. Third-party logistics providers (3PLs) have constant communications with carriers and should get regular updates on the state of shipping. They can pass that information to you, helping you set holiday shipping expectations with customers.

Carriers are telling my company about where they expect to see capacity issues and what regions should remain safe. They’re providing updates on shipping times, when capacity may be reduced, and more. ECommerce companies should discuss these issues with their 3PL to plan for fulfillment ahead of time. That can mean moving inventory to separate locations, shipping early, using expedited options for every order, and more.

Part of this includes planning for returns, too. If your fulfillment partners handle returns processing, work with them to understand what’s required of you. Do you need to provide guidance on what’s acceptable? What return volume are you expecting? Could they raise costs on you if you exceed a certain threshold? Start talking now to create plans to manage different kinds of volume during the holidays.

Start encouraging shoppers now

As soon as you’ve run tests and verified capabilities, start encouraging customers to shop. Get out ahead of the normal busy seasons so that you have as much time as possible to manage inventory, fill orders, and ship to customers in time for the holidays. The sooner people buy, the better your chance of delivering on a promise. Thankfully, my company is hearing that most shoppers are being receptive to this messaging and are already spending at high volumes with major eCommerce retailers.

You can also learn what to do now by looking at what happened last year. Red Stag has put together some of the core lessons learned from the 2020 holiday shipping experience, which you can read for free here. Good luck everyone, happy selling and shipping this holiday.