thumbnail It’s the season for giving, and that means people are buying.

Your customers are looking to spread joy, and it’s time for you to ask how you can help them accomplish their mission. To do that, you'll want to pay attention to your merchandising, which is how you showcase your products. Think of ecommerce merchandising like your online store's equivalent to a brick and mortar store displaying its products in a carefully curated store window display. Both are integral parts of a store's success. And just as the "location location location" phrase works for brick and mortar stores, it now pertains to email inboxes, the web and other online avenues too.

To ensure your store's merchandising is at its most effective, first make sure your basics are covered:

  • Solid design and usability: Your store needs to be more than just a pretty face. It needs to make sense to your customers. Make sure they can naturally browse your products. Look for any barriers within the buying process and try to minimize them. For example, count the number of clicks it takes to actually make a purchase. Once you know, how can you reduce that number?
  • Search and online advertising: Is your meta data optimized for search engines to find your product? Consider boosting it further with a pay-per-click or shopping feed program. These options, implemented at the right moment, can open the holiday season window considerably.
  • Compelling content and product information: Make sure your content is clear, including headlines, product descriptions and navigation. A strong voice and brand that speak to your products and customers are great, but make sure they're not distracting or creating a barrier.
  • Pricing: Last but not least, double check your prices. Are they competitive enough? Price is something that you’re likely paying close attention to already, but this becomes more important when you get a big jump in visits.
Now that we have those basics out of the way (pretty easy, right?), here are a few tactics that will help drive your online sales further.

Identify key dates so you can prepare for them

We don't need a crystal ball to know what's headed our way. Every year, there are early holiday shoppers and last-minute shoppers, and every year, Cyber Monday posts increasingly astounding numbers. So to plan for these dates most effectively, you'll want to keep them in the forefront of your mind, even when they seem far away.

Here are some dates you should mark down:

  • Early holiday shopping: Mid-November
  • Cyber Monday: November 30
  • Last-minute shopping: Mid to late December

Think about customer segments and how to address their needs

Instead of looking at your customers as one unit, break them out into groups and consider what sorts of special offers you can make to target each of these segments. For example, those last-minute shoppers will probably want expedited shipping (and be more willing to pay a pretty penny for it), while the early birds will be more concerned with saving money by getting started ahead of time. You can also try figuring out a way to entice a particular segment that might be drawn to certain products you sell.

Example segments:

  • Customers who spend less than $100 on your store vs. customers who spend more than $100
  • International vs. local shoppers
  • Repeat shoppers vs. first time shoppers

Consider bundling popular items

In many cases, complimentary products sell well together. Whether it's because they support each other or they just look great as a pair, you'll want to advantage of their teamwork. One way you can do that is by offering an additional discount if the products are purchased together.  If you're curious as to which of your products would pair well, you may want to try looking for trends in your sales data. And don't forget to promote your offers once you've gotten your promotions and timing nailed down.

Example bundles:

  • Fountain pens plus a package of ink
  • Individual clothing items that together, make a good outfit
  • Several items that could make good stocking stuffers 

Offer coupons when you can

Shoppers are always looking to save. Use the information you’ve gathered up to this point to create coupons. You could have one coupon code for the entire season, or mix it up and rotate several throughout the holiday shopping season. This is a way to encourage the sale of particular items, but it’s also a way to entice your customers. Furthermore, starting early gives you time to plan out your coupon strategy and make sure it suits your business' resources.

Coupon examples:

  • 20% off for the month of December
  • Buy 3, get 30% off
  • 20% off all widgets

Utilize deal of the day offers to keep them coming back

One way to attract customers to return more frequently to your store is with daily deals. After they’ve bought something today, they'll want to come back to see what the new deal is tomorrow. With a little bit of planning using the information you’ve gathered above, you can come up with a cadence of offers that evolves through the season. Plus, daily deals are also relatively easy to promote.

Deal of the Day examples:

  • 50% off this product today only
  • Free shipping today only
  • Available only today: This product

Don’t forget to email your promotions to existing customers

Although it's important to expand your customer base during the holidays, don't forget to take the opportunity to throw a bone to your current customers. Make it easy for them to find your best deals on your website, social media pages and especially in their inboxes. When it comes to effectively promoting your deals, remember that email marketing has a particularly high conversion rate.

Email examples:

  • Free shipping this week on select products
  • Get 50% off today only
  • Save $30: Buy pens and ink together

Think about additional integrations

Consider taking advantage of additional integrations to get your products in front of even more customers. For example, you could utilize Volusion's eBay integration to easily create eBay listing of your products while still being able to manage all orders from your store admin.

Integration examples:

All these tactics should lead to a strong 2015 holiday season

If you haven’t already, create a calendar of these activities to help guide you before you’re in the thick of the season. Calendars should be flexible to adapt to unforeseen obstacles and opportunities, but strong enough to carry you through the season. This is the largest sales time of the year. Make it count with some early preparation.