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Designing for the Holidays

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Design & User Experience

The holidays are the most profitable time of year for many retailers. It’s that magical season where shoppers splurge on each other sending commerce profits through the roof. Brick and mortar have the opportunity to create a warm and inviting environment by decking out their store fronts with snowflakes, holiday products, and maybe even a Christmas tree. There’s no reason we can’t replicate this experience online!

I hate to break it to you, but it’s too late to consider a full redesign in time for the holidays. However, there are ways you can capitalize on this consumer frenzy with limited time and budget. eCommerce platforms make it easy to update the look and feel of your site without compromising the integrity or structure. This allows you to add holiday elements while ensuring your site is at peak performance during such an important time.

Here are some tips on how to use your current website to promote for the holidays by leveraging the power of design.

designing for the holidays

Step 1: Analyze your current site & determine which elements are easily editable.

Most eCommerce sites are comprised of a series of static blocks which are updated on a regular basis to feature different products, promotions, or events. These are the perfect places to infuse a little holiday spirit! Depending on your in-house ability, you may also be able to make subtle changes to colours or fonts.

Tip: Make sure you’re staying true to your brand’s integrity. Your site should still look like you!

I’ll be referencing Ren’s Pet Depot as a sample site for creating a holiday theme. Their site has several static blocks we can leverage.

Related: SEM Budget Planning for the Holidays

Step 2: Develop a flexible & consistent theme.

Applying a holiday themed design should be fun and cheerful! But let’s not splash on some red and green on one side with snowflakes and a santa on the other. Choose 1 or 2 holiday colours that will fit nicely with your branding and apply them tastefully. Leverage the power of photography. It’s relatable and really gives users the feeling of the holidays. Your theme should be flexible enough to work with any marketing outlet whether it be a Facbebook Ad, eblast, site banner or print flyer.

Tip: It’s ideal to design a non-religious holiday theme in order to appeal to the widest demographic possible.

Ren’s already uses blue as a brand colour, which goes perfectly with a winter theme. Using elements representing the weather means it will be relatable to everyone. Put together a quick mood board to solidify the direction before the design begins.


Related: Managing Promotional Content for a Holiday Sale with Magento

Step 3: Develop a strategy around the products you feature & the language you use.

It’s important to develop a marketing strategy coinciding with the promotions you plan to run. What will be the theme or messaging? What is your audience interested in during the holidays? Make hypotheses around which products fit into your customers holiday purchasing habits and create a marketing strategy around them. Feature promotions and create bundled products while building urgency and temptation to make purchases.

Tip: Be consistent. Use the same style, colours, and imagery across all your marketing platforms including social media and ads. Having a consistent direction will ensure customers know they’re in the right place.

Here are some of my thoughts around potential Ren’s holiday customers:

Related: Holiday Customer Service Protocol: 4 Tips for The Rush

Step 4: Combine your theme & strategy onto the site staging environment.

Now that you know what you want to say and have a look and feel prepared, it’s time to combine the two into your new site design. When you’ve completed your design here are a few check points you should review to ensure it’s effectiveness…

  • Do all your designs have clear calls to action?
  • Is your language short and simple?
  • Are you being as transparent as possible?
  • Are you building urgency to purchase?
  • Have you offered products that appeal to all potential customer groups?
  • Tip: Be responsive. People are busy during the holidays and may be forced to make purchases on the go. Make sure your layout displays properly across all devices (desktop, tablet, mobile). According to IBM, data tracked 41.2% of Cyber Monday traffic coming from mobile devices in 2014. This is up 30% from 2013.

    Here’s an example mock up for a Ren’s holiday theme.


    Related: Gear Up Your Email Marketing For The Holidays

    Step 5: QA everything!

    You should complete your planning and design well ahead of the holiday season. Although you haven’t changed the structure of your eCommerce site, you need to ensure everything is clicking through to the right pages and your product categories are properly set up.

    Step 6: Launch & Learn

    Now that your design is complete and your site has been heavily tested you’re ready to launch. Ensure your site is set up to collect analytics in order to perform a post-mortem. What got the most clicks? What was your top selling product? Was there a certain style or language that resonated with your shoppers? You can use this information to leverage your marketing efforts for your next holiday season.

    Related: Crucial Campaign Strategy for the Holidays

    More Holiday Examples

    The direction you take should be based on your customers and your brand. Here are a few more examples from big brands.

    Target and Macy’s take a more traditional Holiday approach using red and green. They build urgency with messaging the “Order by 12/20 to receive gifts for Christmas morning!”.


    Tiffany & Co. keep it classy adding a simple red ribbon. The site has added such a small element that conveys holiday and stays true to their brand.

    To make the most of the holiday season download our free eCommerce Holiday Sales Kit for your website by clicking below:

    Download The Holiday Sale Kit

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