We know you have a holiday readiness plan: analyze last year’s sales, understand all the trends in play this year, and put together merchandising, marketing, and content strategies that support a(nother) banner holiday season. If only it were that simple!

Your detailed holiday readiness meetings will no doubt overlook a few new opportunities, to say nothing of all those things not in your control, like the economy, weather, hot products, and did we mention it’s an election year?

No matter what, preparation for the holiday onslaught of traffic is both exhilarating and scary. Sales start to take off, bottom line profits and Black Friday collide, and hopefully your hard work results in a nice holiday bonus! To that end, here are some things you can do now and right up to the last minute to drive business wins and operational efficiency:

Update your merchandising strategy:

•      Create product sets (outfits) that display mittens, hat and boots that match a ski parka. Adding multiple products to your shopping cart from one page increases your AOV. Feature these sets in content slots or top level categories.

•      Launch Product Recommendations. Begin gathering data for holiday optimization now.

•      Launch a Holiday Gift Guide. Make gift guides targeted to a theme (beach bum, jewelry lover, stocking stuffers, etc.) and by price. Update consistently, and feature them in emails. Target female shoppers earlier in the season and male shoppers in the last two weeks. (experience tells us that women are early shoppers while men tend to procrastinate)

•      Implement holiday specific sorting rules. Our customers can check out the Holiday Resource Center in Xchange in for some award winning ideas:

Tune your Site Search Results:

•      Add the most common misspellings to your dictionaries, and review weekly during the holiday season. Keep an eye out for low-converting terms that are getting results.  Are the correct items being returned?

•      Create dedicated landing pages for “holiday gifts”, “sale”, “gift ideas” and other popular search terms. Consider using redirects for holiday-curated categories.

•      Test your top 50 site search terms from last holiday season – where do they end up?

•      Make sure to avoid the dreaded “No results found” experience.  Even misspellings should take your shoppers to their destination so there is no money left on the table.

•      Update “No Results” page to target holiday gift guides.

Update your SEO:

•      Analyze keywords that drove success last year.

•      Check the health of your site – Review 404 errors in webmaster tools.

•      Create sneak peek or “coming soon” pages – perfect for when you are planning your gift guide, and it provides a nice boost to your SEO rankings.

•      Get a head start on indexing Christmas-specific queries, with keywords included in the page metadata and copy.

Don’t forget your campaigns and promotions:

•      Create and share your holiday promotional and communication calendar. Our customers should let our support team know if there will be peak traffic days beyond the norm; for example, an off-day flash sale.

•      Map out an email strategy to ensure the right segmentation and frequency of messages are being used.

•      Keep in mind that more messages are opened on mobile devices, and that using emoticons and emojis in the subject lines drive open rates.

•      Build a page to clearly communicate delivery dates for holiday, and push this out through social media and email.

•      Experiment with tiered promotions to help drive AOV and customer engagement. For example, Buy More — Get More.

•      Make sure promotions communicate urgency and FOMO (fear of missing out): Online only, Limited Quantities, Ends Tonight!

•      A free shipping promotion is a must. This is widely expected by customers, and not offering it for at least some portion of the holiday season will put you at a disadvantage.

•      Offer a “Gift with Purchase” promotion – this is one of the most successful and highest converting promotions a retailer can offer during the holiday season.

•      Use source codes and customer groups to offer “holiday previews” to your most loyal customers.

•      Post top holiday products to Facebook to drive deep links and consumers to your site.

•      Use a single holiday hashtag for consistent social interactions.

•      Launch holiday-themed Pinterest boards for your best selling products. Activate our Pinterest Buyable Pins cartridge. Consider a “Win your Wishlist” promotion, which are popular.

•      Experiment with an Instagram hashtag. Encourage customers to share images of them wearing/using your products. “Share a Photo to win!”

•      Investigate potential tie-ins with charities for a “Giving Tuesday” promotion.

The 11th Hour:

•      Put together “12 Deals of Christmas.” Offer a new deal each day leading up to shipping cut-off. Reveal one deal each day to drive repeat visits. Schedule content slots in advance to relieve the burden of daily content slot swaps.

•      Last minute holiday shopping is a given. Call out available shipping upgrades, extended shipping deadlines, etc. Push these through affiliates and social media. Create a sense of urgency…”only three days left” – “There is still time!”

•      Push gift cards after the holiday shipping cutoffs including redirecting key site search queries. Use content slot scheduling and the storefront toolkit to test so your staff can have a few days off!

In all of this, make sure you take a mobile first focus. A significantly higher number of your visits, visitors, and orders will be coming through mobile devices. Whether your customers are checking inventory, shopping on the train, or placing a large order, your mobile experience has to be seamless.

Maybe you will get to sit back and enjoy some eggnog while you’re spending your holiday bonus – online of course.