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Get a Head Start on Holiday Planning

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News Team
News Team
Last Edited 11:42:11 AM



Sure, it's late June, and while most folks are planning for the long Fourth of July weekend, we’re thinking months ahead to the holiday retail season. Soon, the biggest retail opportunity of the year will be in full swing. What does this mean for you? It’s not too early to start planning to maximize your holiday sales now.


Let’s get super strategic and break down your holiday preparations over the next few months into three areas to take action: Merchandising, Marketing, and Operations.


Merchandising: What You’re Going to Sell


Whether or not you have a niche category, it’s typical that you’ll have some stand-out items that sell better than others during the Holiday period. The peak timing of your best sellers may vary over the course of the season, especially if buyers follow typical timing for activities like decorating, attending parties, and wrapping gifts. Pro tip: time your merchandising to take advantage of these consumer activities.


Let’s start with a quick look back at 2016 (1). This can help you think about how to determine when to drop prices, how you can increase your average order value, or if you need to negotiate with or manage suppliers differently.


  • Last year, holiday retail sales during November and December increased 4%, and eBay’s holiday sales growth was a point higher at 5%. That means by the time November 2017 arrives, more than half of buyers will have started buying holiday gifts, but 41% start in the fall or earlier mostly to spread out their budget.
  • Historical Holiday Gift Spending averages: for family: $460.67, for friends: $76.83, for co-workers: $24.75, and for others: $26.65.
  • In 2016, almost 60% of shoppers planned to take advantage of holiday deals for non-gift purchases and spend an average of $140. That’s a lot of self-gifting, and we expect that number to only increase.
  • Industry-wide category growth: Fashion and Electronics grew over 2%, Home & Garden and Building Materials and Supplies grew almost 5%, Health and Beauty grew 7% and Sporting Goods almost 2%. More than 6 in 10 shoppers bought clothing and accessories, 3 in 10 will give electronics, and 4 in 10 will give toys.

Your Merchandising To-Do List

  • Take a look at your 2016 sales. What would you change or improve? Did you have a plan of when prices would go on sale and were you well stocked? What was your average order value?
  • Take a look at your current sales. Is the mix of inventory you have today staying the same? If yes, how will prices fluctuate and when? If no, have you started to plan and order your new stock? Are your sales today meeting your expectations? Do you have more watchers than buyers?  Maybe you need to think about pricing, improving the listing or images, or re-consider the demand for your products.


Marketing: Finding Customers


According to the National Retail Federation, 75% of shoppers are looking for some sort of deal or promotion (2). If you offered a promotion, how would they know? Use your marketing skills to make sure shoppers see your sweet deal.


Think of marketing in two ways: what you can do on-eBay and what you can do off-eBay.


On eBay, there are a number of marketing tools available to promote your store such as Promoted Listings, Promotions Manager,  or Markdown Manager.  Make a plan to automate your promotions--that will save you time and help maintain sales momentum.


Having an online presence is important off eBay’s site as well. You can optimize your listings so that search engines can pick up your View Item pages. Research shows that 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from social media referrals (3), so boost your sales through social selling. Share upcoming sales or sneak peeks into your new products, and cross promote your blog posts with Facebook and YouTube.  


You Marketing To-Do List

  • Plan and schedule holiday promotions. Think about building a six-month promotions plan, including End of Summer, Back-to-School Sales, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday (Nov 25), and an End of the Year clearance. You can use this time to test out a “Buy One, Get One at 50% Off” promo, for example, and see what works for your business.
  • Tell buyers about your upcoming sales. If you are on social media, you can set up a promotional events calendar on your Facebook page or send out tweets. Link back to your collections, listings and store.  
  • Write an eBay buying guide. You're already a knowledge expert in your category. Educate potential buyers on how to buy certain items in your store. When someone searches for a specific item and it's related to your guide, it can drive more traffic to you on and off eBay.
  • Check out eBay’s social selling tips. We include a downloadable 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report


Operations: Packaging, Shipping, and Customer Service


Let’s look at some consumer trends to inform your planning for these areas.


First, shipping. Expectations around delivery times are only getting higher and higher; buyers want their items, and they want them now. Be sure to set your handling time to the shortest possible time you can commit to and process orders as quickly as you can.


During holiday, you’ll experience peak days, of course, but there are also peak times during the day for order processing. Prep your shipping stations to handle the increased volume. You may also want to schedule multiple pick-ups per day from your carrier.


Secondly, there are a slew of special shopping days (think Black Friday and Cyber Monday) that you should be tapping into to boost sales. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are 110% higher than any normal weekend, it's not the last weekend of big Holiday sales. Plan for the long haul: more than 10% of buyers say they continue shopping until December 23, and nearly half of buyers say they plan to shop the week after Christmas.


Finally, think about your customer service plan. Are you set up for a good customer service experience? eBay saw 7 million new buyers come to the site last year. If you normally turn around responses in a day, you might consider staffing up to cut that time in half. 45% of buyers will abandon an online transaction if they don’t hear back quickly.


Your Operations To-Do List

  • Anticipate customer questions. Now is the time to set up a resource or have FAQs in your store or listings. Explain your returns, shipping, and customer service policies.
  • Staff up during the busiest times. From Mobile Wednesday (before Thanksgiving) through Giving Tuesday, sales can peak, so make sure you have enough staff.
  • Update your returns policy. A returns policy and a quick, simple returns process are must-haves for online shoppers.
  • Order branded eBay shipping supplies. Your packaging can help you stand out and show off your fun side. Holiday supplies coming in stock soon!
  • Learn about eBay shipping labels if you’re not already using them. You can save up to 24% on domestic and up to 32% on international shipping.
  • Opt-into eBay Guaranteed Delivery. Now your buyers will know exactly when their items will arrive, creating happier customers and more sales.

There you have it—our first set of recommendations about how to approach the Holiday selling season. Be sure to check this blog for more Holiday selling advice in the coming months.


1. Treacy Reynolds, “Holiday Retail Sales Increased 4 Percent in 2016”, https://nrf.com/news/holiday-retail-sales-increased-4-percent-2016 (January 13, 2017).

2. National Retail Federation, 2013.

3. 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report (see page 17)


by chilispice* · Adventurer | Updated

Starting to build up inventory now with a new order from suppliers and hoping to be more stocked for this season. #goals

This is EXCELLENT! I plan to use these tips to help boost sales in my store! Thank you