You might think that the end of January is a bit early to start planning for holiday shopping, but it's not. If you want to knock 2016's biggest sales days out of the park this year, you have to start planning now.
The year's biggest sales days start in the Fall, beginning with back-to-school shopping and ending with Christmas. Regardless, there are a few days before the year's end that you need to prepare for to capitalize on the opportunities.
Valentine's Day - February 14th
This is an obvious one, but even if your ecommerce store doesn't sell chocolates or giant stuffed teddy bears, that doesn't mean you can't get in on the Valentine's Day shopping spree.
Having grown up in a rural area in the Western US, I've seen a pretty wide range of Valentine's Day gifts - everything from 4-wheelers to a new hunting rifle or any kind of outdoors gear was considered an acceptable Valentine's Day gift where I grew up.
The point of that little anecdote is to reinforce the idea that just because your products may not be typically associated with the usual flowers/chocolate/fancy dinner Valentine's Day gift doesn't mean that you should automatically exclude yourself from cashing in on this selling opportunity. Who knows? There may be someone out there who thinks that a custom waffle iron is the perfect gift for their significant other. And if your store's specialty is custom waffle irons, you're missing out!
St. Patrick's Day - March 17th
While this holiday is known primarily for drinking, there's still opportunity to position your store for this holiday. Running specials for these smaller holidays - Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, etc - should be seen as playing a long marketing game. By running smaller promotions throughout the year (almost like flash sales, but not quite) you'll move your store to top-of-mind for consumers when the time comes for serious holiday shopping - especially if you offer great deals and amazing service on the year's smaller holidays.
Easter - March 27th
Easter is a bigger occasion than St. Patrick's Day or Valentine's Day, and you should adjust your offerings accordingly. Since it falls so closely to St. Patrick's Day, this gives you time to show customers how you'll handle the extended sales season in the Fall.
Mother's Day - May 8th
Just like with Valentine's Day, you never know if some of the products in your online store are exactly what some husbands, sons, or daughters are looking for for their mothers.
Memorial Day - May 30th
Memorial Day is a big weekend for the outdoors industry. It's usually the first weekend of the year when the average person will consider going camping, and just about every outdoors retailer I frequent (everyone from Cabela's to Lost Creek Flies) will run some kind of Memorial Day promotion. RC Willey is famous for their Memorial Day sales, as are most other big-box retailers. This holiday brings a rising tide for all retailers that are prepared to harvest the cultural shopping demand around it.
Father's Day - June 19th
Smokers, grills, tents, fishing poles, sleeping bags, hammocks, ties, cufflinks, new suits, cologne, koozies, gift cards to steak restaurants - the possibilities for Father's Day gifts are endless, and chances are your store carries something that plenty of fathers out there would love to get. Just as with Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, don't overlook this day just because you don't think your assortment matches the "typical" products sold on these holidays.
For U.S.-based retailers, and even international retailers who have a large U.S.-based audience, this holiday is a must. You can't skip this opportunity.
Back to school - August/September
When school goes back in session during August and September, it kicks off the real Fall shopping season. This "holiday" is harder to participate in if your online store specializes in custom wood rings or high-end irons (yes, those are two legitimate examples). If there's a more natural fit for your products with back to school (including for parents with a few extra hours of solitude in the day to enjoy), you should prepare a marketing and promotions strategy for this time period.
Labor Day - September 5th
As with Memorial Day, there's something about the imminent shift in the weather that stimulates buying behavior, so be ready! Big purchases (furniture and other home furnishings, electronics, cars, and so forth) are popular this time of year because of the increased urgency to transport them in warm, sunny weather that will soon come to an end for the season. Shoppers are also looking to fill gaps in their cold weather wardrobes before the rain and cold descends on them.
After Labor Day, make sure you're ready for the following holidays.
Black Friday - November 25th
One of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday kicks off the holiday season.
Small Business Saturday - November 26th
Instigated by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Small Business Saturday always falls on the day after Black Friday. According to Forbes, consumers spent $5.5 billion on Small Business Saturday in 2012.
Cyber Monday - November 28th
This is the most obvious shopping day of all for ecommerce store owners to prepare for. According to PFSWeb, $3.19 billion was spent in 2015 in digital sales on Cyber Monday in 2015, an all-time high. About $800 million of that occurred via mobile devices.
Green Monday - December 12th
According to the site Socially Stacked, Green Monday is almost as profitable as Cyber Monday, and is historically December's busiest shopping day. It's always on the second Monday of December.
Super Saturday - December 17/24th
Super Saturday is traditionally the final Saturday before Christmas, but with Christmas falling on a Sunday in 2016, it's safe to assume most Super Saturday online sales will happen on the 17th, in order to ensure products ordered arrive on time. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, it's probably a good idea to plan for a Super Saturday sale on Christmas Eve this year.
This list should help you stay organized and plan your holiday sales throughout 2016. Planning now will ensure that you have all the products, promotional materials, email campaigns, blog posts, banners, site designs, and everything else ready to roll for this year's biggest sales days. Did we miss any important sales days? Do you have some tips and tricks you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments section.