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10-Point Holiday Marketing Checklist for Shopify Stores

Only one week left until the holiday shopping season starts. ComScore forecasts e-commerce sales to approach $90 billion, which is a 13 percent increase over 2015.

It’s like the gold rush in the West. There are a lot of opportunities, which means a lot of competition and no or very little room for mistakes. The best way to prevent them is to prepare ahead of time.

Here is a checklist to help you prepare and win in the holiday marketplace. The checklist is based on our internal BASE principle–digital marketing basics should be covered first. With this in mind the checklist covers four areas: business, analytics, strategy, and execution. All four components are interrelated. Without having them in place and working properly, you will have a hard time competing in the market.

So here we go.

(B) Business

1. Develop and Communicate a Clear Shipping Policy

Wharton study suggests that shoppers will spend 30 percent more to qualify for free shipping.  This suggests that shipping is very important to your buyers and you need to adapt to it. If you can offer  free shipping, it’s great. Free shipping and fast delivery would be even better.

  • Unexpected Shipping Cost
  • Had To Create A New Account
  • Was Just Conducting Research
  • Payment Security Concerns
  • Confusing Checkout
  • Couldn't Find Coupon Code

Reasons of Why Buyers Abandon Shopping Cart

You need to be clear and upfront to successfully manage buyer expectations regarding shipping costs. Sticker shock is bad and 28 percent of shoppers will abandon their cart if presented with unexpected shipping costs. If you deliver late, it’s even worse–you could lose a potential repeat customer.

Questions to think about:

  • Will your free shipping offer apply to every order?
  • Will you require a minimum purchase (quantity, amount)?
  • Do you have the ability to project arrival dates?
  • Do you communicate last possible shipping dates?

Once you answer these questions, incorporate them into your business model, and communicate them to your customers. You don’t want any surprises. Keeping your buyers informed will alleviate stress and improve your customer service.

Here is a good example of how Shopify expert, Kurt Elster communicated the shipping policy for his client.

Example of Clear Shipping Details

2.   Develop and Communicate a Clear Return Policy

Buyers want peace of mind. Unlike in a traditional retail environment, they can’t come in and experience your products. On top of that, they will be buying gifts for their friends and family, who will likely want to return or exchange their gifts into other things.

A return policy can have a significant influence on buyer decision as well as on your conversion rates. In addition, a good return policy, like Zappos, can help your business stand out from the crowd.

A lot of retailers take care of their customers when problems arise, but they don’t communicate that. Communication is important because it portrays trust and peace of mind to your buyers.

Develop a winning return policy that helps you stand out from your competitors. Next, clearly explain it on your product pages and at checkout.

(A) Analytics

3. Analyze and Plug Holes in the Checkout Process

Your checkout process may have barriers to purchase. Buyers may be getting stuck and you don’t even know about it. These issues will scale during the holiday season.

Use the Checkout Behavior Analysis Report in Google Analytics (Enhanced eCommerce integration required) to analyze your checkout process. It gives you a snapshot of the steps in your checkout process and where buyers drop off.

Checkout Behavior Analysis Report in Google Analytics

Drill down into your checkout through other insightful categories such as:

  • Geography
  • Keyword
  • Source or Medium
  • Device

Once you have identified the issues, fix them. Checkout issues could range from no return policy to too many shipping choices, or even payment gateway errors.

4. Analyze the Conversion Path for Your Buyers

It’s not a secret that 95 percent of first-time visitors don’t convert. 46 percent of them need 3 or more visits to purchase. Your buyers are already distracted with an overwhelming amount of information and choices on the Internet. Their attention is already divided among multiple devices and channels. This holiday season will not be an exception. You need to adapt, track your buyer path to purchase and adjust your marketing to steer them in the right direction.

Identify the buyer path through Path Length report in Google Analytics (Enhanced eCommerce integration required). It summarizes the interactions your buyers take before they purchase.

Path Length Report in Google Analytics

Once you find out the percentage of your buyers needing more interactions, before making a purchase, deploy methods to capture their information (e.g., exit pop-ups) and stay on top of mind (e.g., email follow-up sequences and retargeting campaigns).

5. Test Promo Offers Early

Non-working promo offers can lead to customer disappointment quickly. Customer disappointment is costly, especially when you invest in marketing channels to bring them to your site. It also creates a customer service nightmare.

In addition, review your previous offers and understand what has worked in the past for your store. If you have new ideas to test, test them on a smaller scale and get initial feedback. Knowing ballpark conversion and engagement metrics will help you fine-tune your holiday offers.

Map your promo offers to respective campaigns in a spreadsheet. Everything has to work as intended. Test each and make sure each offer works as intended.  This includes confirming that campaigns are sending the right traffic to the right landing pages, communicating each offer properly, and ensuring all promo codes are working correctly when added in the checkout.

(S) Strategy

6. Develop a Mobile Presence Strategy

In the 2015 holiday shopping season, mobile devices drove 30.4 percent of online sales. It’s time to adapt and be present where the buyers are. Buyers use mobile devices primarily for discovery and research; however, more and more customers are starting to make online purchases for lower-priced products.

  • % of Online Sales

Online Sales Share of Mobile Devices

Develop a strategy to drive mobile traffic to your site and present a mobile-friendly user experience to your buyers with a responsive site or web application.

7. Launch Loss Leader Pricing to Drive New Customer Acquisition

Holiday season is a great time to acquire new customers. Buyers are shopping for deals and successful eCommerce businesses offer loss leader pricing to acquire new customers. Then, they focus on customer retention and increasing Customer Lifetime Value, which is less expensive than acquiring a new customer.

Identify products that make sense for loss leader pricing and develop a strategy to retain these customers.

(E) Execution

8. Increase Efficiency of Existing PPC Channels Through Better Targeting

Based on the statistics gathered by Disruptive Advertising, 76 percent of AdWords spend is wasted. The situation can get even worse at scale when you are competing for buyers during the holiday shopping season.

  • Wasted
  • Effective

AdWords Budget Efficiency. Analysis scope: 2,000+ AdWords accounts

Before diving into the holiday season, make sure you have correct targeting, including:

  • Audience
  • Search Terms
  • Location
  • Ad Schedules
  • Devices

Once you verify that the intended targeting is correct, verify its performance. Some areas may be underperforming and need to be trimmed down. For exact details on how to analyze and trim them down, download our free guide called Reduce CPA by 20%.

9. Launch Systems to Recover Abandoned Checkout

69 percent of checkout transactions are abandoned. The lost opportunity is too big to ignore.

We recover abandoned checkout in two ways:

  • Send abandoned cart emails. Use Shopify’s built-in feature or a third-party app such as Klaviyo.
  • Setup retargeting ads. We use both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads channels. We plan these campaigns using a framework called Retargeting Matrix.

10. Bid Where You Can Win During the Holidays

Your budget will be limited. With more players in the marketplace bids will go up. Some retailers will have to  increase bids just to keep up and some will have to increase them even more to grab more market share from others.

The trick is knowing your numbers. Analyze your products and campaigns to understand where you can bid disproportionately more and how much. Look for metrics such as conversion rate, average order value, and profit margin.

Once you know the numbers, document your upper bid limits and execute the bidding.


Now that we’ve given you the rundown of our holiday marketing checklist, you have all the tools you need to succeed. Now it’s time for implementation. Which items will you tackle first?

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