Gift Guide season is upon us, and that means e-commerce businesses are gearing up for the rush of orders that have made Black Friday a staple of online business.
According to Yahoo! Finance, Black Friday online sales are projected to rise by 20 percent over last year to $7.5 billion, and Cyber Monday sales are expected to grow by 19 percent to $9.4 billion.
And according to figures from the National Retail Federation, overall holiday sales are expected to increase as much as 4 percent.
[Related: How to Prepare Your Small Business for the Holiday Rush]
We asked woman business owners to share insider tips and tricks about what they’ll be doing to make their businesses stand apart during the holiday crush.
1. Optimize your search terms
Michelle Madhok, founder of deals site SheFinds.com, which pulls in about $2.5 million in revenue annually, said everyone in the e-commerce world scrambles to figure out the best search engine optimization words each holiday season.
Her business, which showcases the latest fashion and beauty products, makes money when readers browse recommendations and then shop from the site. For example, if someone finds a pair of boots they like on SheFinds and then clicks on the shopping cart icon and makes the purchase, the company will get a commission off the sale.
“I still think Black Friday is a very big day, just because it has the excitement behind it, but a lot of the sales are starting earlier and earlier,” said Madhok. “Everybody’s fighting for dollars, and the commerce companies want you to go directly to them, so the big fight is in SEO.”
One year during the early 2000s, at the height of the Ugg boot craze, Madhok recalled being the No. 1 hit online for the coveted tan-colored footwear — and she sold $250,000 worth of the boots during a single holiday season.
The online shopping expert said she routinely scours the press and social media to spot new shopping trends. The more specific you can be about what you’re selling, she advised, the easier it will be to close a deal.
“It’s a big secret how the algorithms actually work,” she said. “There’s gift guide overload, so it’s really about getting the SEO terms, like ‘Gifts for the Boss’ — if you can be No. 1 on that, you’ll probably do well.”
[Related: Presenting: Our Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Guide!]
Currently, SheFinds.com features a Holiday Gift Guide on its homepage, as well as “Best Beauty Gifts,” “Best Stocking Stuffers,” and “Best Gifts for Kids.”
Madhok said beauty advent calendars, weighted blankets and Orolay ‘Amazon’ coats are this year’s hottest items.
“This is our biggest quarter,” she said. “The big week is still Black Friday and through Cyber Monday.”
2. Offer a rush option
In Saloni Doshi’s eco-friendly packaging business, she always needs to stay a few weeks ahead of the curve — so during the holiday season, that means ramping up operations even earlier than usual.
Doshi bought EcoEnclose, a Colorado-based e-commerce business, in 2015. She has worked with some of the biggest brands with a focus on sustainability, including Fjallraven, the Swedish clothing and accessories company, and Ritual, a vitamin venture.
“People are thinking about their packaging by September 1, and we start to get all of our big custom printed orders from September to the end of October,” she said. “Everyone wants to be able to ship print packaging before Thanksgiving, so they can ship out for their Black Friday sales.”
Just a couple weeks ago, Doshi announced a two-week rush option — which is not common in the industry this time of year. “People were so excited because they can get a rush-printed mailer,” she said.
She looks to blogs on websites like Shopify and BigCommerce to analyze data on online sales for the coming holiday season.
[Related: She’s Providing E-Commerce Businesses with Sustainable Packaging Solutions]
Whereas shoppers typically flock to brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday, Doshi said, “e-commerce is seeing Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday as their time to shine.”
There may be another reason for why the shopping frenzy has been extended over a longer period of time.
“I think there are a lot of people who go out to stores now, see something, and think, ‘Oh, I wonder if I can get that cheaper online,’” Doshi said.
She said this might be why customers flock to her for more packaging on the Monday after Black Friday, because consumers have spent more time researching products on their wish lists to find better deals online.
“The brands we focus on are sustainable, millennial-focused, high-priced brands, and they’re feeling really bullish about the year,” Doshi said. “It’s a fun time of year.”