While the rest of the world is lazily drifting through the dog days of summer, retailers are in the throes of planning for what is their most stressful time of year – Christmas holiday shopping which, for some, represents a third of annual sales.

Against that backdrop, Demandware, a Salesforce company, recently kicked off a series of regional roundtables for retailers hosted by our Retail Practice group, which has informed this, the first in a three-part blog series on holiday readiness.

The first will focus on business considerations relevant to marketers and merchandisers. The second will focus on mobile and the third will be more technical in nature, with tips on how to optimize your infrastructure for holiday.

The Retailer’s Holiday Wish List for 2016:

  • Extra shopping days for the season

There will be two extra shopping days during the peak period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. In 2015, the one extra day drove a 3% increase in orders, meaning that retailers need to prepare and account for additional promotions, inventory and spikes in demand.

  • Seasonable appropriate weather

Be prepared for unpredictable weather, and adjust your promotions accordingly and on the fly. Consider the 70-degree weather last December in New England, which didn’t set many holiday shoppers in the mood to buy down coats and other cold-weather gear.

  • Top SEO ranking

Build your SEO to capture early bird shoppers, and make your best offers early in the season. In 2015, traffic was higher on the days leading up to Black Friday as shoppers pre-shopped and build shopping carts and wish lists.

  • Eager shoppers

Using daily flash sales is a good idea, but consider creating FOMO or “fear of missing out” by emulating what one retailer did – create an advent calendar with the previous day’s sale item grayed out so shoppers could see what they missed.

  • High open rates

Don’t underestimate the importance of email subject lines. Experiment with emojis, mystery offers, humor, branded hashtags, a sense of urgency or even refer to a specific dollar amount promotion. Demandware customers have access to Predictive Email to deliver personalized offers. Shoppers will be buried with email offers. Yours must stand out.

  • Increased foot traffic

Don’t forget last minute shoppers. Drive them in-store with incentives once free shipping deadlines have passed. Create in-store events for shopping laggards and communicate how store associates can help “save the holiday” by finding the perfect gift.

  • Easy gift selection

Use guided selling gift finders, using a series of questions and answers to suggest items. Consider updating the content slot headers and footers with holiday-themed text.

  • Higher conversion rates

Offer at least one alternative payment type and always offer shoppers an option to check out as a guest. Need proof for that last point? Eight-five percent of checkouts on the Demandware platform are guest.

  • Customer satisfaction

Step up your game with respect to pre and post-sale service. Consider a “holiday services” page with shipping and returns information, and give an opportunity for customers to leave feedback, expressing excitement about their gift or unboxing.

  • Shipping accuracy

And speaking of shipping – during holiday, consumers’ expectations are raised exponentially. They want to know precisely when product will be delivered, so retailers should offer real time tracking and SMS alerts.

Holiday shopping season officially kicks off in about four months, better start your shopping now…