There is no overstating the importance of the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to a retailer’s business. It can make or break a year, not to mention a career.

That’s why experts from the Salesforce Commerce Cloud spend considerable time with global brands each year, helping them formulate a battle plan for the peak season. From merchandising, marketing, promotions, mobile considerations, site readiness, logistics and so much more, retailers have much to consider.

The Commerce Cloud 2016 Holiday Readiness eBook (chapters summarized below) provides a guide to this most important time of year.

Chapter One: Macro Factors Impacting Holiday

The Christmas holiday season represents a full one-third of annual sales for many retail brands. What are the macro retail factors impacting brands this year? One example: how will the two extra shopping days during the peak period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day impact retailers this year?

Chapter Two: Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

The story of this holiday shopping season will be mobile, as phones now account for all of the growth in traffic to retail sites. This holiday shopping season may be the first where most people cannot shop without their phones. This has huge implications for retailers, as those who don’t take a mobile-first approach will be left behind by more fleet-footed competitors. How can retailers optimize their mobile presence to engage with and retain easily distracted, impatient shoppers?

Chapter Three: Site Readiness

In the run up to holiday, retailers pull out all the stops to ensure that their systems are thoroughly optimized to handle big and prolonged spikes in traffic and purchasing activity. This chapter looks at the three primary reasons retail brands experience site problems during holiday (slow pipeline runtimes, ineffective caching, and external integrations) and what to do about it.

Chapter Four: Retailers, and Consumers, Give Back

The holidays are the time of year when consumers are most active and focused on end-of-year charitable giving. So it’s a good time for retailers to implement charitable campaigns. Every year, encouraged by the growing cohort of socially-conscious consumers, we see more and more charitable campaigns launched by our customers during the holiday season. What defines a  successful campaign?

Chapter Five: Post Holiday Strategies to Maintain Momentum

Traditional retail seasonality is marked by the hustle leading up to Christmas, followed by the post-holiday doldrums when retailers are overwhelmed by returns, merchandise leftovers and markdowns, and consumers pull back the reins on spending. However, retailers should not take their foot off the gas. Post-holiday is the perfect time to continue the momentum into the New Year. This chapter offers ideas for getting creative and start planning strategies now to build customer engagement and drive sales going into 2017.

Chapter Six: Making the Most of Returns

Not long after all the gifts have been opened, the next great holiday tradition commences–the return. The National Retail Federation’s 2015 survey of North America retailers found that about one quarter of all merchandise returned–$63 billion worth – derived from holiday. Who wants that? Actually, you do.

Chapter Seven: Your Ultimate Holiday Readiness Checklist 

No matter what, preparation for the holiday onslaught of traffic is both exhilarating and scary. 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.

Download the full 2016 Holiday Readiness eBook.