Holiday sales online continue to rise year after year as consumers become more familiar and comfortable with the online shopping process. After all, what beats the ease and convenience of purchasing on the web and having the gifts shipped to your final destination? As an online retailer, making a splash in the consumer-crazy holiday season can be a struggle, but we’ve outlined a few tips to help optimize your peak purchasing time.

Create a Calendar – Not the Advent Kind


The first step is making a work-back calendar to properly outline the holiday season, track peak sales times from last year, and earmark any possible campaigns. Having a calendar will keep the entire team on track and allow you to best utilize the highest traffic days. Highlight days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when sales are traditionally the strongest, and make sure the entire website is ready to go before those dates. There is nothing more frustrating than a lost sale because of a poorly developed website or ineffective last-minute campaign.

Make the Shopping Experience a Breeze


Your website optimization and ease of purchasing play a big part in your sales at all times of the year, but especially during the holiday season when people are looking for the extra convenience factor. Have a friend go through your online purchasing process and suggest potential changes.

Creating holiday landing pages is a great way to showcase your specials; you can also encourage email list sign-ups in the same location and tease any future holiday specials you may roll out closer to the big day.

From the design side, your website needs to reflect the holiday season without going too overboard on the fake snowflakes and Santa Claus GIFs. For suggestions on different ways to incorporate a holiday theme outside of the cliché norm, try Shutterstock’s 5 Cool Christmas Twitter Headers . Any social media presence should be coordinated with the current website theme as well.

While preparing from the visual side is important, it’s even more important to be secured on the back-end. A crashed website doesn’t lead to sales, so make sure the infrastructure is ready to take on any impending surges. Also, broken links are a surefire way to lose customers as they make your website look less credible and provide a frustrating experience for the shopper. Make sure to use a tool to fix any link issues before the snow falls.

Create Content

The holidays present the perfect time to generate new and interesting content for your blog and social media sites. Top 10 lists, gift guides and infographics tend to be great collateral that is easily shared. Update your current website content to celebrate the season – this should also be reflected in your product descriptions. The more the content caters to the shopper the better the chances of a successful purchase.

Use this as an opportunity to showcase your holiday product focus to your customers. Gift guides and product reviews can highlight items and give customers the necessary information to make a purchase.

Make Way for Mobile


It’s estimated that more users will shop via their mobile device or tablet this year than any previous year so cater to that group by creating an easy-to-browse interface that adapts to both iOS and Android users. Having the ability to purchase on the go may be a key element in retailer success this holiday season.

You can also engage mobile for social promotions. Ask customers to create a festive Vine video or snap their favorite Instagram picture for a chance to win a gift card. Promotions give you usable, customer-generated content you can promote later and adds a little personality to the site.

Do Something Nice


Thinking beyond the customer during the most giving of seasons may be a way to sway a customer to your site over a competitor. Incorporating some type of charitable event into the promotions on your site or coordinating an all-office event is a great way to showcase the human connection behind your site. Is budget a concern? Get creative with your giving. Not all donations have to be huge, large events. Offer to write a Christmas card to a military member for each $50 spent and take pictures of the event.

Also, many non-profit organizations have donation buttons that can easily be placed on your site to publicize your involvement.

Get it There Fast and Free

If at all possible, optimize shipping methods to make the delivery fast and as inexpensive as possible. If you’re expecting to compete with the big players, free or discounted shipping is a must, especially on Cyber Monday. If you’re more of a specialized retailer, you might be able to squeeze by with just a guaranteed Christmas delivery promise or a free returns offer, but considering shipping in your promotions strategy is a must for companies large and small.

Putting a Bow on It


For smaller retailers, competing with the big boys during the holiday season may seem like a lost cause, but by utilizing creative strategies and integrating promotions, the smaller retailer can experience great sales over the winter months. Some larger retailers are even sharing their keys to success – including Amazon who just released Amazon’s Ecommerce Holiday Guide . Check their advent-style guide for more great promotional tips.

Explore what your competitors are doing, create a great plan of action before the season kicks off and prepare for skyrocketing sales. With so many people purchasing online, there is plenty of buying action to go around.