If you’re looking to grow your store, it’s worth adding Singles’ Day to your holiday marketing calendar. In China, the holiday’s country of origin, Singles’ Day has become bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday! In this blog post, we’ll look into how that happened and share some Singles’ Day marketing ideas for increasing store sales.
What is Singles’ Day?
Singles’ Day is all about celebrating singlehood. Created in 1993 by Nanjing University students, it was then called Bachelor’s Day. As its popularity grew among Chinese youth, the world’s ecommerce giant Alibaba adopted it as a singles’ shopping holiday in 2009. Alibaba renamed the holiday Singles’ Day because the date, 11/11, represents 4 singles.
Singles’ Day on the rise in ecommerce
The explosive growth of Alibaba’s Singles’ Day has shattered sales records worldwide—from $5.7 billion in 2013 to $30.8 billion in 2018—capturing the eye of the international ecommerce industry. The rise of Singles’ Day can also be partly attributed to China’s whopping population of 1.4 billion. It is, after all, the world’s biggest market and most populous country!
Recently dubbed the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, Singles’ Day is fast becoming a global shopping phenomenon. Even major retailers such as H&M, Nike, and GAP have successfully merged Singles’ Day into their end-of-the-year sales. Time to jump in on the trend!
How did Alibaba’s Singles’ Day become so big?
It all comes down to strategic planning, marketing, and sales promotion. Here’s a breakdown of Alibaba’s brand experience for Singles’ Day:
- Interactive and engaging shopping experience
- Consistent multichannel selling and omnichannel marketing
- Virtual reality experiences for customers—from interactive games to lucky draws
- High quality and affordability
- Mobile-first and in-app coupons (over 90% of purchases last year were done via smartphone or tablet)
- Customer loyalty program with the chance to earn rewards, credits, and free gifts
Then there’s the Alibaba’s Singles’ Day Gala that also combines shopping with entertainment—live streaming fashion shows and onstage celebrity appearances like Pharrell Williams’ and Kris Wu’s “Double 11” duet in 2017.
Beyoncé’s Single Ladies could’ve worked, too, though
5 Singles’ Day marketing ideas for increasing sales
Since ordinary folks like you and I probably can’t get celebrities to promote 11/11 sales, we have to use other strategies to make the most of this global shopping day. Let’s go over some Singles’ Day marketing ideas! However, do keep in mind your customers’ needs and preferences when experimenting with campaigns.
1. Create an email discount campaign
According to a study by Marketing Sherpa, 72% of customers prefer to get promos through email. For them, it’s the easiest way to stay connected with your brand. Sending email campaigns drives traffic to your website and gets the word out fast—it’s personal, convenient, and direct. Most people check their inboxes on mobile, making email marketing the ideal tactic.
The most effective way to catch your audience’s attention on email is to create a sense of urgency with a campaign, e.g. a flash sale. You can also reward your customers with a Singles’ Day coupon code. On November 11, most international brands offer 11% off. This year’s Singles’ Day marks the 11th anniversary of the holiday—all the more reason to offer the discount!
Aside from product discounts, some brands offer free shipping as well. My suggestion? As a gift to your customers, you can offer both to ensure customer satisfaction. A study by NRF in early 2019 revealed that more online shoppers expect free shipping, so this is a great marketing tool for boosting customer loyalty. Not only does it lead to reduced cart abandonment, but also increased sales.
2. Launch products that promote self-love
This shopping holiday is the perfect occasion for self-gifting, a trend that’s on the rise among Millennials and Gen Z. Daniel Zhang of Alibaba confirms that “46% of 11/11 sales in 2018 came from customers born in the 1990s and later.” Why not follow suit and offer your customers products promoting self-love?
A recent survey revealed that the most popular Singles’ Day product category is apparel, followed by accessories. As far as self-love goes, no accessory expresses it more intimately than jewelry. Use the opportunity to launch a limited edition jewelry line! To take it to the next level, you can make it customizable with Printful’s personalization tool. For example, you could offer customers to have their names engraved as part of the design.
3. Boost social media engagement
Prepare your store for a Singles’ Day sale by engaging your social media followers. 80% of marketers use pictures in their social media marketing, so go heavy on the visuals, and don’t be afraid to use a little humor!
A few ideas for what you can create to gain more exposure for your business:
- Infographics with interesting facts about the importance of self-love (infographics can increase web traffic by up to 12%)
- Memes with puns or funny gifs related to singlehood or bachelorhood
- Images that showcase your upcoming Singles’ Day products
- Videos with relatable humor about “being single vs being taken” or “treating yourself”
- Behind-the-scenes or personal, genuine content (images, a blog post, or vlog)
Another way to increase brand awareness and social media engagement is to create a branded hashtag. This also shows you’re part of a movement. Encourage your followers to use your hashtags and offer them something in exchange, like a chance to get featured on your accounts!
4. Create a personalized shopping experience
Alibaba has taken it to the next level with gamification. Gone are the days when customers would just wait for a sale to buy something—now they take part in highly immersive shopping activities. Online retailers often use games to enrich the shopping experience or quizzes to generate sales leads—just look at BuzzFeed’s success! The popularity of this viral news site went through the roof when they started adding shareable quizzes to their content. You, too, can do something similar.
Here are a few ways to make Singles’ Day fun for your customers:
- Free quizzes. Topic suggestions: “What kind of a holiday shopper are you?”, “Find the perfect Singles’ Day gift for yourself!” Use free tools such as Interact or PlayBuzz to create quizzes for your website or social media.
- Instagram or Facebook Polls. Topic suggestions: “What is the biggest shopping holiday in China?”, “Which product do you think will be a Singles’ Day best-seller?”, “What Singles’ Day deals would you like to see?”
- Surveys. Topic suggestions: “Which new products would you like to see in our Singles’ Day collection?”, “What’s the best Singles’ Day gift you’ve given yourself?” Use free tools such as SurveyMonkey or SurveyPlanet to create a survey and share it online with your customers. If you have a Facebook page, you can also create a survey using Facebook List.
Topshop’s Style Quiz on their website
5. Livestream your Singles’ Day sale launch
Depending on your audience, you can build up suspense and hype by livestreaming with Facebook Live. As of June 2019, Facebook reported an estimated 2.4 billion monthly active users, which makes it a great platform for extending your organic reach. Due to the sheer amount of users, Facebook Live has overtaken YouTube as the top video streaming service since its launch!
Aware of the potential, many ecommerce businesses use Facebook Live to boost sales and attract new customers. The best part? It’s cost-effective and easy to use—no production or editing skills required.
A few things you can livestream:
- Countdown to a Singles’ Day sale
- Launch event or new product announcement
- Exclusive sneak peek of an upcoming Singles’ Day collection
- Singles’ Day Q&A or a discussion about the content you’ve shared (e.g. infographics, videos, posts, quizzes) to encourage feedback from your followers
Before you livestream, post reminders of the event so people won’t miss it!
As an alternative to Facebook Live, you can also amp up your Instagram Stories on the day of the launch or use Instagram Live.
Time to start promoting
Last, but not least—start promoting early. Timing is everything when it comes to marketing, so it’s a good idea to get a head start and prepare your store for Singles’ Day. To learn more about how to create an actionable holiday marketing plan, head over to our blog on jumpstarting your holiday preparations.
Use our Singles’ Day marketing ideas to provide interactive content and drive traffic to your store. The more traffic, the higher the chances for increasing Singles’ Day sales! While planning, take a quick look at the top trending products in 2019 to see what sells.
Pricing your products can seem intimidating. And for a good reason—deciding on a product price is one of the determining factors that affects how well your online store performs among competitors as well as how much profit (and if at all) you make.
The fact that you’re here, scouting the internet for information and looking to find the right way to come up with a price for your product, is already a good sign. It means you already avoided the worst possible choice in product pricing—simply guessing the price and hoping it works out.
In this blog post I’ll walk you through the process of assessing your product expenses, picking out a strategic approach, and ultimately, set the final price of your product.
1. Assess your product cost
Product cost is the total value you spend to create your product. For example, if you sell print-on-demand or drop shipping products, you’re going to start product cost assessment with the price you pay for each item. However, there are other expenses involved as well.
Chances are, you’ll want to customize your product if possible, which leads to design costs. If you’re outsourcing design services, divide the price you pay to the designer with the number of product items you expect to sell. This is especially crucial if you plan on releasing the design on a limited volume or as a limited-time offer, since that narrows how much you can profit from that design.
If you create designs yourself, it’s tempting to ignore design costs to keep the retail price low. However, that is still valuable time spent on your product, so make sure you’re making a profit off of it. My best suggestion is to come up with a realistic hourly rate for your own work. Then add that to the product cost. This will also help you evaluate the effectiveness of the time you spend working on your business.
Warehousing and shipping costs
Two things to keep in mind. One—storage. Maybe right now your garage or living room suffices, but what happens later? Your customer demand might outgrow your living space and your capacity to pack and ship orders on time. Keep an eye on your product demand and warehousing prices that might eventually be necessary.
Second cost—shipping. Divide the supply shipping costs with the number of items in your order and add that to the product cost. For example, you pay $20 for shipping 50 t-shirts. You then divide 20 by 50 and get 0,4. Your shipping cost per product is 40 cents.
Pro tip: Using print-on-demand services could help you avoid shipping and storage costs.
Speaking of shipping, you need to consider what kind of shipping rates to offer to your customers. Free shipping for all orders will boost your sales. In fact, customers are 4 to 5 times more likely to buy something if you offer them free shipping, but that means higher product costs since you have to cover the shipping yourself.
2. Choose a product pricing strategy
Once you know how much money goes into making your product, time to come up with a game plan. Here are some of the most effective product pricing strategies that are easy to manage in the long term.
Cost-plus pricing is possibly the simplest strategy out there. The formula is: Product costs + profit margin = your retail price
You take the average product cost and add your desired profit margin. The result is the price tag that you should attach to the product. You need to be careful with choosing a profit margin. If your profit margin is too low, you might end up making too little for your business to be sustainable, which is especially important if you’re looking to make your online store your main source of income.
When choosing this strategy, Printful’s profit calculator might come in handy.
Cost-plus pricing strategy example using Printful profit calculator
Market or competition-oriented pricing
To do market or competition-oriented pricing you have to start off by comparing your products with similar items on the market and see what the average price is. It’ll give you an overall idea of the potential price range. There are 3 main tactics that you can choose from.
- Pricing above the market average—one way to outrun your competition is by adding more value to the shopping experience. You can do this by adding free gifts or personalized messages to each order, or go for a higher quality visual presentation (professional photos, store design).
- Pricing the same as the market—this is a safer bet if you want to cover a large target audience and still make some profit. This will put you in the same price league as your competitors and you’ll be able to attract the same customer audience they do.
- Pricing below the market average—this way you can undermine your competitors with more appealing prices, possibly steal some of their customers.
Be careful—if you severely underprice a product, it can generate insufficient profit and seem sketchy. Des Traynor, author at Intercom.com, put it perfectly in their book Intercom on Starting Up:
“Low pricing rules out lots of potential customers for your product, in the same way serving $3 steaks in a restaurant actually restricts your clientele.”
Des Traynor, Intercom.com
You can see the market-oriented pricing strategy in action with a lot of drop shipping stores that sell the same products but at vastly different price points. Take Zaful. They’re a drop shipping store supplied by AliDropship that sells a lot of the same trendy fashion items you can find on the Aliexpress marketplace but for a higher price. Zaful drives sales by showcasing their items with better photos, loyalty programs, influencer marketing, and store design. They show that going the extra mile with properly marketing their product can potentially bring in larger profits.
Aliexpress marketplace vs. Zaful
They also combine market-oriented strategy with anchor pricing, which I’ll talk about next!
Chances are you’ve already seen it in action—a brand sets up an imaginary anchor price only to immediately announce a lower discount price. The discount seems appealing so it’s more likely to boost sales from people scouting the internet for bargain deals.
Possibly the best example of a well-thought-out anchor pricing strategy is by Apple. In the video below you can see Steve Jobs explaining the iPad pricing process. He mentions that the appropriate price for a product like this should be $999. After this he announces the price will actually be $499 and the previous price of $999 shatters.
Demand or dynamic pricing
Demand or dynamic pricing requires you to be constantly in the loop with recent market trends and customer desires. Here product prices depend on demand and seasonality, which means you need to change prices frequently. You’ve probably noticed this strategy with airline companies—plane ticket prices can change within days, even hours.
This strategy can be seen on Amazon Marketplace. Using the nifty price tracker by camelcamelcamel.com you can track how various product prices change over time.
Example of Schwinn bike price fluctuations over time
Pro tip: Use camelcamelcamel.com tool to track prices of products similar to yours. That way you can predict your own potential product demand hikes and drops.
Discount pricing is similar to anchor pricing. The only difference is that the starting price actually exists. You set up a starting price that is higher than the average market price and then frequently host sales, drawing in bargain shoppers. With this strategy, you’ll receive most of your sales in bursts.
Discount pricing is similar to anchor pricing. The only difference is that the starting price actually exists. You set up a starting price that is higher than the average market price and then frequently host sales, drawing in bargain shoppers. With this strategy, you’ll receive most of your sales in bursts.
Asos discount pricing example
Even if you don’t plan on hosting regular sales, remember popular ecommerce events like Black Friday & Cyber Monday—your customers will expect to see deals on your site on these days. So, while choosing a price for your product, leave some room for future discounts.
The skimming pricing strategy is when you enter the market with a high price and then slowly lower it over time. This way brands try to make the most out of the market by gaining profits before the product starts losing its demand. This is a popular strategy among stores selling electronics. As the product model ages and new models are released, the demand for the old one decreases.
Example of Samsung TV price decreasing over time.
This is a risky strategy for new brands, especially if your product already has well-established competition. It would, however, work well for those who are selling a unique product with little to no competition—if you’re looking to sell the newest tech invention and planning to release updated versions of it in the future, you should consider giving this strategy a go.
This is basically inverted skimming pricing, meaning that you enter the market with a below-the-average price to attract a large customer base and then gradually raise your price as you grow the number of loyal customers. This is a beginner-friendly option, as long as your starting price has a profit margin that doesn’t go below $0.
You’ll see this strategy in action quite often with startup companies that grow into market leaders, especially those who offer a subscription type of service. Take Netflix for example:
Netflix penetration pricing strategy example
3. Review your prices regularly
After such a thorough process of figuring out your product pricing and picking the best strategy, it’s tempting to sit back comfortably and not come back to your prices again. I’m here to ruin your party by saying that this process will never be entirely finished.
Demand for your products might rise or decrease, some additional product costs may come along and your retail product price should change as a result.
Review your prices on a regular basis. Check your product’s seasonality, stay in the loop with ongoing trends that might involve your product, and keep up with your supplier pricing. And frequently check up on competitors because they are surely going to observe you.
Get to pricing
Now that you’ve got the tools to figure out how to price your products for retail, it’s time to get to work:
- Assess your product costs carefully;
- Pick a strategy from the list above that you’d feel most comfortable managing and that matches your products and business vision.
- Come back to your product pricing strategy on a regular basis—go over your product costs and see if there have been some changes.
What’s your experience with product pricing so far—have you been using any of the above-listed strategies? What’s your most important takeaway from that experience?
So you want to earn an income online but aren’t sure where to start. Or maybe you’re already running an ecommerce business, but have a feeling that something’s just off with your storefront.
One of the keys to small business success is targeting the right people and finding a niche.
A niche (pronounced as neesh or nitch) is a specialized market that attracts a specific audience. A niche-oriented business addresses the needs that aren’t being addressed by mainstream providers.
For example, office supplies is a broad niche that can have countless sub-niches like office supplies for left-handed people or notebooks from recycled materials.
Nevertheless, what truly separates one niche from another is the people who buy these products. For that reason, approach the niche-searching process with this in mind:
It’s not the product or service, it’s the people who use it that defines a niche.
There’s a person behind every purchase, so think of your niche as a group of people who have at least one common interest, problem, or need.
In this post, I’m going to cover the 4 steps to finding a niche for your online store. And if you stick with me till the end, you’ll also get a free list of more than 100 ideas you can use in your brainstorming sessions!
Niche marketing vs. selling everything to everyone
A niche only focuses on a fraction of the market, so you might be wondering, “Why would I want to target just a small section of the population? Wouldn’t I get more sales if I targeted everyone?” These are valid questions; after all, there are companies like Amazon and Target that are able to sell everything to everyone, and still be successful.
These companies, however, are an exception, not the rule. By targeting everyone, you end up targeting no one as a result, and your sales suffer.
Aim to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than a little fish in a big pond.
Consider these benefits of narrowing your niche down:
- Better search visibility. Targeting a specific niche will get your store in front of online searchers who are almost ready to buy a specific product.
- Less competition, higher profit margin. If people have less options to choose from, they’re less price-sensitive.
- Lower advertising costs. Since you’ll be targeting only a specific portion of the population, you won’t have to compete with giants with unlimited advertising resources.
- More dedicated audience. You’ll get more email subscribers and social media followers because a niche audience is more passionate about the product you’re selling.
Before you start building your online store, you need to know exactly who you’re building it for. This first step will help you understand which niche you belong to as a customer and help you make more informed decisions when you choose a niche for your own store.
Step 1: Draw the niche inspiration from your personal experience
Your personal taste, preferences, and needs put you in several sub-niches, making you a target for countless marketers. Take a look at your favorite brands and the online purchases you’ve made recently. Why did you choose the product from this company, and not from their competitors? What does your preferred brand offer that no one else does?
The Bad Dads Club clothing brand was started by hip dads who felt that the clothing and accessories available on the market did not represent their creative personalities and lifestyle.
Source: The Bad Dads Club
Many stores offer custom t-shirts, but very few brands target dads who love motorcycles and tattoos. So if you’ve ever felt limited in the selection of products or services in a niche you belong to, take The Bad Dads Club example and fill that space.
Step 2: Identify your passions and interests
If you base your brand on something you believe in or are willing to fight for, your business will build itself.
StomaStoma was started by Nick and Darlene Abrams. Their son Owen was born prematurely and needing a breathing tube and feeding tube. During the long hospital stays, Nick noticed other families wearing inspiring t-shirts and felt it was a powerful way to bring people together.
A graphic designer himself, Nick soon started creating artwork for his family and friends. Other people started noticing his eye-catching designs, and today StomaStoma has become a close-knit community with families raising medically fragile children.
This is an example of a niche that shows how you can build your brand based on something that’s very personal to you or the people in your circle. If you’re emotionally invested in your brand, it will give you the strength to persevere when you face the challenges of running a business.
Step 3: Research your niche market
It used to be that small businesses had no way to compete with big companies. Things have changed, and with the right amount of SEO (search engine optimization) and dedication, you can make your way into your biggest competitor’s space.
Before launching or scaling your store, find out what’s already going on in the market. You might be unaware of a competitor your potential customers are already interested in, or you may discover the market you’re looking to enter is much more saturated than you expected.
Some competition is OK because it validates that there’s money to be made in this niche for you as well. Your competitors will keep you on your toes which in turn will help you improve the quality of your products or services.
To keep up with (and, eventually, get ahead of) the established brands in your niche, you need to figure out your competitive advantage—the thing that makes your product stand out from the rest. What problems can you solve better than your competitors? What’s unique about your approach?
Give people a reason to choose you. It might be product quality, outstanding customer service, or the number of products you offer—whatever it is customers in your niche care about the most.
Small business SEO
SEO is the process of making your website rank higher in Google in order to bring in visitors. Here’s an outline of the basic metrics you should be looking at, as well as some great tools you can include use in your research.
Search volume and search queries
Search volume is the estimated volume (or number) of searches for a particular keyword in a given timeframe, and it’s one of the most important metrics that can help you evaluate the interest in and profitability of your niche.
Don’t build what you think people want. Build what they ask for.
Take advantage of the marketing tools out there and pinpoint what is it that people are searching for online. Tools like Ahrefs and Semrush will find the data behind Google searches. You can also use free tools like Answer the Public or Ubersuggest to find information about people’s search queries.
If the search volume is high, it means that there’s a lot of interest in this niche. A lot of interest also means a lot of potential—and a lot of competition. Ideally, you should target keywords with the search volume of 1,000 and higher.
If the search volume is very low, it doesn’t necessarily mean the niche doesn’t exist or it isn’t profitable. Low search volume may indicate that you’re about to be a pioneer in the niche. And if the product doesn’t exist, people don’t know to search for it. Use this to your advantage as your business continues to scale—the search volume will increase with the popularity of your niche.
Online shoppers get very specific, so pay attention to long-tail keywords. “Rose gold custom bracelet” will see a far fewer searches that “women’s jewelry”, but it’s a search performed by someone who knows exactly what accessory they want.
Trending niches and niche products
When choosing products for your online store, keep an eye on what’s trending. Don’t fall for a fad though—use Google trends to help you to find out which of your niche ideas have a steady and growing trend. If you want your store to thrive as fads change, focus it on something that has more staying power than a fidget spinner.
Step 4: Propose a solution to your niche audience’s problem
Now that you’ve done your research, you need to get a better understanding of what exactly your potential customers need.
Create your store for people, not products.
If you’re going to give your niche audience just another product, you may end up not getting anywhere. What you need to think about is how to solve their problems. Find the issues your target customers might be having, then determine whether you can actually provide a solution.
For a more in-depth look at your niche audience, explore forums on websites like Quora and Reddit related to your niche, then take a look at the discussions taking place. What questions are people asking? What problems do they have?
Iconspeak, a brand selling t-shirts for travelers, is a great example of a niche that has emerged from a problem-solving process. Inconspeak co-founders George and Florian came across the idea of their main product by accident.
During a trip across Southeast Asia, their motorbikes broke down frequently, and they had to find a way to communicate with the locals to find repair shops. Images speak a universal language, so they started drawing pictures of what they needed on paper. George and Florian realized that they kept reusing the drawings all the time, so they decided it would make more sense to put them on a t-shirt. And that’s how Iconspeak was born.
This is a textbook case of a niche: George and Florian discovered a niche (independent travelers) with a specific need (an easy way to communicate when words fail) and provided a unique solution with their niche t-shirts.
100+ Niche Market Ideas for Your Online Store
As promised, here are 100+ ideas you can base your online store upon. This list is not exhaustive, so feel free to mix and match these topics to create a unique niche for a t-shirt store, art shop, or any other form of ecommerce business.
- Fashion (Brand example: District of Clothing)
- Wanderlust (Iconspeak)
- Parenthood (Classic Dad, The Bad Dads Club)
- Rare conditions (StomaStoma)
- Beliefs (PAL Campaign)
- Districts and neighborhoods (#muhoov)
- Woodworking (Nick’s Wood Shop)
- Parks and green spaces (Love MPLS parks)
- Workout gear (Kettlebell Kings)
- Social media for pets (We Rate Dogs)
- Virtual and augmented reality
- Wearable technology
- Zero-waste lifestyle
- Civil rights
- Vegan cuisine
- Paralympic sports
- Stay-at-home parents
- Single parents
- Expecting parents
- Tiny house
- Van life
- Animal welfare
- Dog & cat breeds
- Unusual pets
- Animals with special needs
- Animal sanctuaries
- Pet accessories
- Specialty coffee
- Local cuisine and delicacies
- Artisan foods
- Meditation and relaxation
- Posture devices
- Internet memes
- Demotivational quotes
- Hand lettering and calligraphy
- Left-handed people
- Tech preferences
- Sailing and canoeing
If you didn’t yet find the topic that makes your eyes light up, we have 50 more ideas prepared, you can download them below.
Time to pick your niche
We have now covered the main aspects of finding your place in the ecommerce world. To recap, here are the 4 things you should do to find your niche:
- Find out where you belong as a customer
- Decide on an area in life you care about deeply
- Research the interest in your niche
- Identify a problem and propose a unique solution.
And now it’s time to implement these steps in real life. Taking action is the scariest part for any entrepreneur, but fear not: if you go through these steps thoroughly, entering the market will be a calculated risk, not a shot in the dark.
Tell me in the comments how it went, I’d love to hear from you!
When it comes to finding the perfect gift around the holidays, many of us do it online, avoiding the bustle of brick and mortar shops.
Online buying is huge around the holidays. 65% of our holiday purchases are fueled by the promotions and sales we’ve come across.
In 2018, 7.6 billion email campaigns were sent by retailers during the Black Friday, Cyber Monday weekend alone. Those email campaigns raked in 24% of the total sales during that week.
Holiday email campaigns are a must to drive traffic to your online store during the holidays. So which are the holidays to market towards? In a way, all of them.
The holidays are your opportunity to craft creative email campaigns inspired by the celebrations. Studies show that shoppers who buy products they saw in email campaigns are likely to spend 138% more per order than those who didn’t see email offers. That’s some bulletproof logic right there.
See the end of the year holidays below. Keep them in mind for your email campaigns, deals, and sales. Check our full 2019 ecommerce holiday marketing calendar, too! You’ll learn the history behind every holiday, along with a plethora of tips for content and target audiences.
Ecommerce holidays, 2019
Now let’s jump into 10 holiday email marketing campaign ideas to get you inspired for creating your own online store promos!
Bonus alert! We prepared 10 holiday email templates you can download for free. Use them for your holiday promotions, daily deals, shipping deadlines, and more! You’ll find the link at the end of the post.
10 holiday email marketing campaign ideas
We scouted our inboxes for some good holiday email campaigns and then turned them into creative sparks for your own awesome promos. Let’s go over why we think they’ll get you results and why you should base your campaigns on them.
1. Send a short and funny Halloween sale announcement
Who doesn’t love a good discount? 75% of consumers report combing through their emails just to find relevant discounts. Offer your customers what they want—a sweet discount wrapped in a fun email they won’t be able to resist. Here’s a Halloween email marketing campaign idea from Postable.
Subject: Humongous Halloweekend Sale 🎃
Halloween holiday email campaign by Postable
Why it works
The best part about this campaign is surely the GIF. It gets your attention right after you open the email and radiates this weird graveyard party vibe you just can’t help but giggle about. And that’s good because you want your email campaigns to spark emotion. Be it joy, surprise, or interest—it engages the reader and makes them more likely to read through the entire email.
Once they’re hooked, the customers are directed to the prominent call to action (CTA) button that encourages them to do a bit of shopping. We especially like that it’s contrasting to the email background and clearly stands out from the rest of the content. Read more about designing with contrasting colors here.
Lastly, we like how there’s little text in the email which makes it easy to read and quick to understand. The main offer is well presented, too—in capital letters, centered, and straight to the point.
Pro tip! Instead of giving a deal with a percent off, offer money discounts. Customers like to know exactly how much they’re saving and research suggests that people fancy money-off deals even more than free shipping. So this is what your next campaign might sound like—“use code ‘party’ to get $5 off of all t-shirts”.
2. Share a thank you letter with a referral code
Thanksgiving—a family holiday to give thanks, feast, and… shop? The holiday generated $3.7 billion in online sales and ranked as the third heaviest online spending day in 2018.
As unfestive as it may be, smartphones are present both at the Thanksgiving dinner table and on the couch (right there with you finishing your third consecutive slice of pie). It’s the perfect time to swoop into your customer’s inboxes saying thanks for their support and offering a sweet referral deal. Here’s how Ibotta did just that.
Subject: Happy Thanksgiving from Ibotta 🦃
Thanksgiving holiday email campaign by Ibotta
Why it works
First off, you see the giant “$50” and instantly think it must be a good deal. The email has captured your attention so you’ll read on. The content is snappy and sweet—just the right length for a quick read.
We also like that the referral code is clear and stands out in the email. Plus, the header announcement “ENDS TOMORROW” creates urgency to act on the offer while it’s not too late.
Lastly, we think this holiday email campaign’s message was perfectly timed. Imagine, you get an email that gives you a $50 referral code to share with your family… right when you’re most likely with them. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!
3. Create an early bird Black Friday sale
Pre-sale announcements are perfect for generating hype around your products. You give your customers some extra time to shop the deals presented in the email campaign.
Retailers focus most holiday marketing activities on the exact day of the holiday. So why not send out a pre-holiday email campaign to stand out? It’ll get your business more exposure in your customer inboxes. See this pre-Black Friday email campaign from Brooklinen.
Subject: It’s Go Time. Black Friday Starts Now!
Early bird Black Friday holiday email campaign by Brooklinen
Why it works
One of the best parts about this pre-Black Friday campaign is the urgency it creates. The GIF is lively and so is the campaign’s message “GO! GO! GO!”. It sets you on a race to be the first one to get the best deals.
What’s interesting is that Brooklinen hasn’t even specified what the deals are. They’re just urging you to shop with them. At this point you can’t even decide if the deal’s worth it or not, you just have to enter their shop and see for yourself.
The last thing worth mentioning is the tone of the email—casual and friendly. It feels as if your friend could have written it. How can you resist such a friendly offer?
Our tip? Place your customer at the center of attention and watch your email campaign click rates increase.
4. Announce an unexpected Black Friday deal
The average discount on Black Friday worldwide is around 55%. And it’s the one day of the year when customers expect nothing but major discounts.
So what better day to surprise your customers and not give them any deals? In fact, why not ask them for money? Let’s take a look at the email campaign Cards Against Humanity ran for Black Friday.
Black Friday holiday email campaign by Cards Against Humanity
Why it works
Asking for cash and giving nothing in return is a tricky campaign to run. But it works if you’re a reputable brand and it ties together with your brand voice and the holiday you’re promoting it around. You might just get away with it… and collect $71,145 like Cards Against Humanity did.
Want to go with a similar Black Friday promotion for your store? Make sure it suits your brand. If your brand voice is usually happy-go-lucky, then this campaign will come off as weird or even rude.
If your brand voice is similar to Cards Against Humanity, then go for it! Take inspiration from the main idea of the campaign—do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. For example, when everyone’s sending out emails with “Black Friday special—get 40% off”, you could send something like “Black Friday who? Enjoy 0% off of your purchase!”.
5. Set up a sale countdown for Cyber Monday
Some people can’t wait for Cyber Monday to come (yes, even more than Christmas). The holiday raked in 16 million shopping transactions in 2018, surpassing Black Friday with 14.8 million. Talk about intense shopping sprees…
Check out this fun Cyber Monday email campaign Udemy sent out and see what ideas you can take for your Cyber Monday shopping extravaganza.
Subject: Just hours left of our biggest sale!
Cyber Monday holiday email campaign by Udemy
Why it works
When it comes to getting someone’s attention, yellow’s a good choice. The scattered objects perfectly illustrate that the sky’s the limit for learning new skills.
The contrasting color of the CTA button and the offer to shop $10 courses are both clever ways to lure in customers. Presenting your most affordable service or product is a good strategy to catch the customer’s interest.
The digital timer at the bottom of the email creates urgency. Similar to Ibotta’s announcement header, the countdown pushes to act while it’s not too late.
If the first part of the email didn’t convince you—Udemy has placed some of their courses in the bottom to spike your interest. They’ve also added the before and after sale prices so you know how much you’re saving, and good customer ratings as an extra push.
Looking for more Cyber Week promo material? Browse through our blog chock-full of Black Friday, Cyber Monday marketing ideas.
6. Do a bold Boxing Day sale announcement
Long before Black Friday, Boxing Day was the most anticipated shopping day of the year in countries of the Commonwealth (it’s still big in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
Historically, Boxing Day was the first weekday after Christmas Day when household employees were given Christmas boxes as presents.
Fast forward 200 years and the holiday has turned into unsold Christmas product chaos. Most retailers find themselves with extra stock after the holidays, so to offload the surplus, they hold clearance sales.
It’s not the case with online stores selling print on demand products with no stock limits… but your customers don’t need to know that. You can offer “everything must go” deals as it’s an industry standard and people expect that. Or you can also do a no-muss, no-fuss sale, like Amaroso.
Subject: 25% off starts NOW!! Our Boxing Day sale has come early?
Boxing Day holiday email campaign by Amaroso
Why it works
Amaroso’s forward “SALE” and highlighted “25% off storewide” offers are bold and that’s why we love them. Honestly, sometimes that’s all a customer needs to know. There’s a sale, you get % off, now shop—that’s it. Not every email campaign you send has to include an ode to explain the sale.
From the color psychology perspective, the red color they used is spot on. Bonus points because they included gold—it’s the classic Christmas color scheme.
Red is the most intense color and can provoke the strongest emotions—energy, alertness, power, sensuality. And you want your email campaign to create an emotion the customer acts on. In this case, get excited and shop while on that high.
7. Offer a free shipping bonanza
Giving free shipping is the most-used promotion for online stores. It’s also one of the biggest triggers that push customers to make a purchase. According to the Deloitte 2018 Holiday Survey, 72% of respondents claimed free shipping was the #1 perk they planned to take advantage of during the holiday season.
Here are some ideas on how to include free shipping in your holiday email marketing campaigns:
- with a certain expiry date or time;
- on orders over a certain amount;
- for an email exchange;
- on specific items.
Or you can delight your customers with free shipping—no strings attached—and just give a promo code without any order minimums! That’s exactly what ban.do did.
Subject: last deal! FREE SHIPPING + MORE
Free shipping holiday email campaign by ban.do
Why it works
The email’s like an explosion of bubble gum and happiness. The color scheme ban.do used for the email radiates calmness, peace, and optimism. It’s the absolute contrast to the Amaroso’s high-energy email campaign we looked at earlier.
Both campaign color schemes work great to evoke an emotional response for the customer. Ban.do’s email is successful because it sets the shopping mood to fun and relaxing.
This holiday email campaign gives customers two whopping reasons to shop with the brand—free shipping and a free product for orders over $30.
The “FREE” sign works well to draw attention. Who doesn’t enjoy stuff for free? On top of that, ban.do offers a freebie if customers spend over $30. That’s a good sales tactic to encourage even more purchases.
8. Share a Christmas gift guide
To calm your customers in their time of gift despair, send them a Christmas gift guide. It’s a way to put your products right in front of the customers, so they can make a purchase and be finally done with Christmas shopping.
There are two types of email gift guides you can make—with displayed products and without products, just linking to the store.
The guide with displayed products works well to offer an instant product browsing experience. The gift guide without any products creates mystery and may gather more clicks to your store. Let’s see the gift guide email Vans sent out:
Subject: The Vans Holiday Gift Guide
Christmas gift guide holiday email campaign by Vans
Why it works
We like this email because it’s just fun. Vans has created a little story wrapped in a bold cartoon. There’s a lot going on with the person in the trash can and the bunny sliding on the skateboard, but that’s what makes the email so interesting.
Vans links you to their store with a CTA button “Shop gift guide” and that completes the message perfectly. A graphic email like this doesn’t need product showcases, otherwise, it could end up looking busy.
Clear focus points, like the CTA button here, doesn’t needlessly confuse the customer with too many options. Here we see just two—enter the store or close the email.
Pro tip! Add a “Christmas gifts” category in your online store for the upcoming holiday season. It’s an option for your customers to browse present worthy products. And you can also link the Christmas Gifts category to your holiday gift guide email.
9. Inform them about the holiday shipping deadlines
Last-minute Christmas shopping got you cornered? We’ve all been there and it’s not a good place to be. To help your customers buy their gifts on time, notify them of your holiday deadlines.
The holiday shipping deadlines are set by the shipping carriers. We add our order fulfillment time on top of those deadlines and finalize Printful’s order deadlines (bookmark the page, we’ll update it as soon as we get the carrier deadlines!). The dates in our order deadlines are the last days to place an order to get it in time for Christmas.
All that’s left for you to do is share the deadlines with your customers. It’s not an easy job as you don’t want to confuse your customers with various calendar screenshots and dates. Here’s how Asos took care of informing their customers about the holiday shipping deadlines:
Subject: Free Holiday Shipping Ends In Two Days
Holiday shipping deadlines email campaign by ASOS
Why it works
We love the brevity of the copy. Less information means less opportunities to get distracted from the main CTA. In this case—shop now to get your goods on time for Christmas.
Usually, just the one button works best because it gets all the attention. The Asos’ email has three CTAs and it’s not a bad move. The three CTAs are Asos way of capturing whatever your interest is—be it to shop for items on sale, gifts, or party outfits.
Lastly, we have to mention the “snow joke” in the email. It made us chuckle internally so we approve. We addressed how valuable it is to connect with your customers even if just for a chuckle. It’s a way to build positive brand recognition.
10. Give a special New Year’s discount
“New year, new me” is the kind of attitude most people set for themselves when the New Year approaches. It’s the perfect time to reach out to your customers with relevant shopping suggestions.
Don’t want to get involved with your customers’ aspirations? There are many other content ideas you can use in your emails. Send out a greeting message, a new product launch or a themed NYE sale. Let’s take a look at Lord & Taylor’s clever New Year’s discount offer.
Subject: Special Email Exclusive Offer Only for You — Happy New Year!
Happy New Year holiday email campaign by Lord & Taylor
Why it works
Simply put, we like the idea of the NYE-themed discount. This way, you’re celebrating the upcoming year and presenting your customers a discount that has added emotional value. Meaning, it’s not just a discount, it’s a gift to celebrate the New Year!
There are many ways you can play around with NYE discounts. This season, you can do a $20.20 or 20.20% off for specific products (or all your products!).
If giving discounts isn’t your jam, you can offer your clients free shipping until 20:20 PST or for orders over $20.20. To create urgency, you can also create an email campaign with a 20h 20min sales countdown to celebrate the upcoming year.
Use whichever idea you find the best for your store and products. Focus on the main message so your customers have a clear understanding of the email content and what they have to do after reading it.
Over to your holiday marketing plans for 2019
People are as busy during the holiday season and rarely does anyone have the time to browse the web for hours to find the perfect gift.
That’s where your email marketing skills come in. Take this opportunity to reach out to your customers and showcase your deals.
Use the holiday email campaign ideas we compiled in this post and create effective promotions. Even if your emails stay unopened, you’re making a connection with your customers.
So get busy, start mapping out your email marketing campaign strategy. We’ll give you a head start with our free holiday email templates with visuals—download them below. Happy holidays!
This article was originally published in September 2015; it has since been updated.
Last year Black Friday and Cyber Monday generated $7.9 billion in sales and became the biggest online shopping day in US history. Note that those were only two days in November. With a handful of other spending occasions in December, online retailers stand a chance to make Q4 their most profitable time of the year.
While the holiday season holds a lot of opportunities for businesses to grow, it’s also extremely competitive as everyone tries to get a piece of the holiday shopping pie. To be ahead of the rest, you need a clear action plan for the months to come.
The last thing you want is to pull an all-nighter to make something work right before the Black Friday and Cyber Monday craze. Not only will it be stressful, but it’ll also cost you lost sales. To make sure this doesn’t happen, in this article we’ll outline some of the key things you should do to have the smoothest holiday season yet.
1. Plan your marketing campaigns
Kevin McCalister knows the importance of a good plan
First things first, mark down the important dates so you can plan your marketing campaigns later.
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the stars of the season, there are other shopping occasions that shouldn’t slip your mind. Here are a few you can research and put on your calendar:
Before finalizing your marketing plan for the holidays, get in touch with your suppliers asking them to specify the shipping deadlines. Those are the days by which your customers should place their orders to receive them in time for the festivities.
Use these dates as part of your promotions, just make sure your customers understand what they mean.
2. Decide on your holiday specials
Next on your to-do list—deciding what types of deals you will offer this holiday season. Pick one, or mix and match to find what works for your audience:
- % or $ discount
- Free shipping
- Next-day shipping
- Flash sale
- Giveaway or contest
- Promo code
- Loyal customer discount
- Extra loyalty credit
Once you’ve made your mind about the deals, think about the products to put on the pedestal. Are you going to promote your best-sellers, or will you try to get customers interested in slower selling pieces?
If you’re looking to add holiday-themed products to your store, consider these trending products of the season:
- Canvas prints
3. Set up the tech in your store
Extra functionality on your store could really help you sell more this holiday season. Research and try:
- Abandoned cart recovery emails
- Retargeting pixels
- Exit pop-ups
- Web push notifications
- Customer loyalty program
- Coupon codes
Whichever tool you decide to experiment with, set it up ahead of time. You want to have some wiggle room to test it so everything works when shoppers rush to your store in a couple of months.
4. Run store maintenance
Your email campaigns, social media posts, blogs, and videos will direct your audience to one place—your website. To make it smooth sailing for your customers from there, run store maintenance now.
Here’s what you should pay extra attention to:
- Website speed. A single second delay in your website loading time can result in a 7% loss in conversion. Use GTmetrix to test how fast your website appears in all its glory—it shouldn’t take longer than 3 seconds.
- Navigation. Well thought-out website navigation lets customers find what they need and find it fast. Ask your friends and family to browse your store to check how user friendly it is. Use their feedback to improve the navigation or layout of the website.
- Checkout process. The most important part of your website is your checkout page because it’s where your store visitors become customers. Go through the checkout process yourself to make sure it’s short and intuitive.
If after running technical maintenance you notice that something needs improvement, make any necessary changes right away to avoid updating your site during the holiday season.
You also want to double-check:
- Product description and care instructions
- Store policies (privacy, shipping, returns)
- Contact and subscription forms
- About Us page
Pro tip: Find time to go over the tools and plugins you’re currently using on your website. If you stumble upon something that you haven’t used in a while—uninstall it. Any implemented software, even when it’s not in use, can slow down your website or cause downtime.
5. Write those emails
What writing a subject line looks like
In the next couple of months, you’ll send a lot of emails to your customers. Write a good chunk of them now and you won’t have to worry about the catchy subject line the night before.
You also don’t want to risk rushing through your emails and forgetting something important. Writing them in advance will also help you keep your voice and tone consistent.
A few ideas for your holiday emails:
- Order deadlines announcement and reminder
- Product/offer of the week
- Sale preview
- Free shipping campaign announcement and reminders
- Gift guide
- New product launch
6. Craft social media copies
The most popular social media channels for ecommerce businesses are:
When creating copy for your holiday social media posts, remember that each channel is used for slightly different purposes.
For example, Twitter is a platform where people voice their opinions, discuss public events, or let off some steam. Pinterest, on the other hand, is purely visual and is used for design or lifestyle inspiration.
Although the two social media platforms are similar, their user demographic doesn’t exactly match. So, it’s fair to say that what’s popular on Pinterest, won’t be as engaging on Twitter and vice versa.
To get even better picture of what content will get more attention on your social media accounts, examine your audience’s behavior on each channel paying extra attention to user activity peaks and top performing content.
Does your target audience spend quite a bit of their time on Instagram? Then our article that explains how to use Instagram hashtags is a must-read for you.
Pro tip: Don’t spread yourself thin trying to be visible on all platforms. Instead, pick your target audience’s favorite and focus all of your energy on it.
7. Prepare the visuals
People remember up to 80% of what they see, and only about 20% of what they read. So if you want to stand out from the crowd this holiday season, invest some time into creating eye-catching imagery for your marketing campaigns.
Depending on what you have planned for the holiday season, you might need to create visuals for:
- Product showcases
- Email campaigns
- Social media posts
- Social media covers
- Blog headers
- Email headers
- Email content
- Store banners
The great thing is, you don’t have to take all the photos yourself. Use the Printful Mockup Generator to create and download stylish lifestyle snaps of your products. If you need more general visual material, browse websites like Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay to get beautiful royalty-free images.
Make sure to check our list of free Adobe Photoshop alternatives you can use to create stunning imagery for your store!
Of course, you can always kick your visual store representation into higher gear by trying professional ecommerce product photography services. Just remember, whichever road you take, use images and graphics that are relevant to the product or deal you’re offering.
8. Announce order deadlines
Before holiday shopping is in full swing, make sure your customers know about the most important dates—order deadlines:
- Create an order deadlines landing page
- Send an announcement email and schedule reminders
- Incorporate deadlines in your marketing copy
- Add the deadlines to your social media profiles or cover photos
Pro tip: Segment your customers based on their location and only inform them of their specific deadline. For example, customers in Europe should only receive an email reminder about the European order deadlines.
9. Schedule your campaigns
Time for the big reveal
You did a great job creating content for your holiday campaigns, it’s now time to let your customers see it. For the best results, don’t just share your content, schedule it to go live at the time your audience is most likely to read and interact with it.
Best time to send emails
Based on the data of 14 different studies about the best email sending times, you should prioritize your send days in this order:
As for the spend times, schedule your campaigns around:
- 10 AM
- 8 PM to midnight
- 2 PM
- 6 AM
Don’t worry about overloading your subscribers with emails because most people don’t mind receiving emails from brands they trust.
Best time to post social media updates
We did some digging and found that the best times to schedule B2C content on social media are:
- Facebook: Monday to Wednesday at 12 PM
- Twitter: Monday to Wednesday at 12 PM or 1 PM
- Instagram: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday at 12 PM
- LinkedIn: Monday and Wednesday at 7:45 AM, 10:45 AM, 12:45 PM, and 5:45 PM
10. Block out time in your day to communicate with customers
Once your social media posts and emails start reaching your audience, you’ll have another task on your to-do list—keeping up with all the comments and replies.
63% of online shoppers expect companies to answer their questions via social media, and 62% of customers prefer solving customer support related issues via email.
Instead of handling customer questions sporadically, block out time in your calendar to answer them once you get them. Doing so will boost your productivity and reduce stress.
BONUS: Give a warm welcome to your new customers
End-of-the-year holidays are likely to bring quite a few new customers for your business. To turn them into loyal brand supporters you need to welcome and treat them with respect and appreciation right from the start.
We’ve all heard how important it’s to make a good first impression, make yours memorable by:
You’re off to a great start
There’s a lot to do in the months to come, so we recommend that you start now! Download the holiday prep checklist below to make your holiday season organized and stress-free.
In case you’re looking for holiday marketing inspiration, read:
Is it your first holiday season, or are you an experienced player in the game? Let us know in the comments below!
“Productivity” is an overused word. Or rather, the context in which it appears is. People tend to treat productivity as a standalone notion—detached from the rest of your life and somehow “hackable” with a series of apps.
I think that productivity is a conscious decision. In fact, it’s a series of conscious, purposeful decisions that you make for your own good. “Boosting” productivity isn’t a one-time event, it’s a long-term commitment in all areas of life.
I’d like to share with you some of the productivity tips I’ve picked up while working at Printful, and get you to skip over the superficial guilt you sometimes feel for being “unproductive” or “counterproductive.” Instead, I want you to unlock your personal style of productivity by understanding the way you function and asking yourself a few questions.
Let’s get to it—10 ways to be more productive.
1. Always start with you
When you feel you’re being “unproductive,” it’s likely out of comparison—we’re naturally inclined to think the grass is greener on the other side.
While making comparisons is completely normal, the outcome of comparing your productivity to someone else’s is apples and oranges. If you copy someone else’s productivity routine, you’ll end up chasing the idea of productivity rather than your actual goals.
Tip: Remember that another person’s productivity has nothing to do with you. Your productivity, however, starts and ends with you. It’s both liberating and terrifying!
2. Steal productivity tips from people you admire
While it’s a bad idea to chase after someone else’s dreams, it’s a good idea to follow someone whose dreams you share.
Most of what I’ve learned about productivity (and not copy+pasted) comes from my friends, family, and people who I relate to or who inspire me. Interestingly enough, most of them don’t see what they do as “productivity hacks.” For them, it’s a way of life.
I recently came across a fantastic productivity tip from Kate Lewis, Chief Content Officer at Hearst Magazines. She says she creates an extensive weekly to-do list and immediately throws it out. What she remembers is what sticks, and the rest proves to be irrelevant enough to be forgotten. Now, this might not be the best approach for work, but it’s definitely worth a try for errands!
Tip: Who do you find inspiring as a person? Warren Buffet? Your dad? Oprah? Check out their productivity habits and look out for other ideas while you’re browsing the media. The right tips will find you and will be fun to implement.
3. Be realistic about your to-do list
Kate Lewis’ approach to to-do lists illustrates a major productivity cornerstone—prioritizing. If you keep long, static lists of things you don’t even get around to doing, the problem is you’re treating everything as a priority.
You probably have a to-do list somewhere (or several) that’s giving you anxiety. Get it out and take a long, hard look at the items that have been lingering. Be honest—they probably fall under one of the following categories:
- Things you recognize as important, and also scary or overwhelming
- “Nice to have” items with no particular reason or value
- Tasks you’ll do anyway (added for the sheer pleasure of crossing them off)
- Things that someone else thinks you need on your list (this one’s a bit painful)
Now, go ahead and delete everything that falls under the second, third, and fourth category. We’ll get to the first one in a minute.
Tip: Save your to-do lists only for what you really need or want to do.
4. Prioritize tasks as they come in
Managing your workload isn’t just about keeping a list. A big part of being productive is reacting to incoming tasks and ideas, and sorting them before they fall into that “nice to have” category that ends up cluttering your mind.
At Printful, we’re fans of the Getting Things Done (GTD) system by David Allen. When you do a bit of research, you’ll find that it overlaps with the Eisenhower Box and other methods.
The Eisenhower Box
This is how to apply GTD the moment you receive a new “thing to be done”:
- Record the thing
- Make a decision about it on the spot:
- If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it right away (bonus: completing the task that fast will give you immediate satisfaction)
- If you can’t do it right away, decide on when you’re going to return to it
- If it’s not your job, delegate someone else to do it
- If it’s not relevant, drop it
- Review your list of things to keep the process going
It’s important to keep all your notes in a single space that you can easily access and review—a mix of app+notebook+email+post-its will soon get out of hand. Some of our favorites for productivity software include Google Keep, Evernote, Things, Wunderlist, and Any.do. And then there’s good old paper and pencil.
For prioritization to work, you have to enjoy using your productivity tools. Note that the first one you try might not be the right fit. I go for a combination of Google Keep for upcoming and ongoing tasks, and a notebook for quick, unexpected tasks I have to resolve the same day.
Tip: If task prioritization is new for you, be patient with yourself. Changing habits is hard and takes a bit of time, but it’s worth the effort.
5. Break up bigger tasks
Remember the first category of to-dos I mentioned earlier, those important, scary ones? A productivity tip you’ll often find is to break them down into smaller, less scary ones. So rather than facing a big, overwhelming task (or the desired outcome), you see actionable steps to get you there.
I don’t always like the idea of crowding my Google Keep with too many predefined baby-steps—I know I’ll just get frustrated with not taking each baby-step as I had intended. Instead, I update the entry until the task is completed.
So, if I were creating an important email campaign for any of the upcoming holidays, the updates might go like this: “organize campaign brainstorm,” “create campaign draft,” “finalize copy and visuals,” “schedule campaign.” And once the entire task is completed, remember to monitor the results. For the holiday email campaign, I’d change my Google Keep entry to “check on holiday campaign in 5 days.”
Tip: Walk before you run—give each step the time it deserves. Don’t start drawing up what you assume to be the final product while still at the brainstorming stage.
6. Work with a sense of purpose
I believe the key to productivity lies in purpose. Once you’ve defined the purpose of what you’re doing, productivity will follow.
One of the great American writers of our time, Nora Ephron, has said: “I don’t write a word of the article until I have the lead. It just sets the whole tone—the whole point of view.” An idea that extends well beyond writing, wouldn’t you agree?
Tip: When defining this purpose, be brutally honest (you don’t have to tell anyone!). Are you working on something to improve your skills? Make money? Help out a friend? There’s no wrong answer.
7. Communicate with your team
You may have noticed that your productivity is also influenced by the habits of the people around you. Unsurprisingly, teamwork is a great asset for boosting productivity.
Solving problems on your own is a fantastic skill, but it’s productive up to a certain point. If you’re stuck for a long time, you’ll start going in circles and feel annoyed. That’s when you need to step away and ask someone to lend you a hand—you’ll save time and energy for yourself and your team.
When communicating issues, delegating tasks, and giving answers, be brief and to-the point. It’s a good mental exercise, shows courtesy, and shows you’re in control. Say, someone on your team has asked you to share a Google Doc with them, and you have no idea where it is. Instead of wasting time replying “Oh no, hold on, I’ve no idea what folder I put it in, let me check if I can find it in my inbox [+ emoji],” try “On it, I’ll let you know in 10 minutes.”
Tip: Not reacting to someone’s message is also a reaction (usually interpreted as “I don’t care”). Save time for both parties and acknowledge the situation by saying you need to think about it. It’s a perfectly valid response that keeps the ball rolling.
8. Rethink your mobile habits
Getting sucked into a vortex of mobile apps is a headache for many. It starts with “I’m just going to check the weather real quick” and ends with you mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed (stop telling yourself it’s “research” for a project).
Being up-to-date with current affairs is important, but not to the point of shifting focus on someone else’s life instead of your own. Whatever’s going on with you and the people next to you at any given moment is often way more important than any social media post.
There are two main ways to manage app overuse. You can either set up some kind of downtime function or app blocker as a quick technical fix, or really ask yourself why you’re picking up your phone in the first place. Why go on your phone at a time you’ve specifically set aside for completing a task? Is the task boring? Do you need help? Is something distracting you?
Tip: I picked up this one only recently, and it’s freakishly simple. If your line of work allows it, keep your phone off your workspace (I put mine in my bag). Although my desk feels a bit naked, I like having the phone out of my field of vision while I’m concentrating on my computer screen. Another good one is to sign out of your social media accounts after using them. Logging back in will take more taps than usual, giving you time to check in with yourself if it’s really necessary.
9. Look after yourself
Your body is the vehicle of your “productivity,” making sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet the three pillars of self-care you can’t ignore or substitute.
Your sleep pattern is as unique as your fingerprints, so find the one that makes you feel your best. Take proper rest breaks–no coffee, no phone, no people–and nap, if you must. I know people who do just fine with 6 hours of sleep, and I’ve heard of med-students going to bed straight after their 5 p.m. class and waking up to burn the midnight oil.
I’m seated for most of the workday (and often too lazy to use my standing desk). That’s why for exercise, I’ve gone for a workout routine rooted in physiotherapy. There’s a lot of core stuff. On some days it’s not unlike slow torture, but I’ve never had a better confidence booster. I spend less time worrying about my appearance which leaves me more focused on what I have to do.
Since the workouts, I’ve also become more aware of how everything in the body is connected—legs, butt, spine—everything. So now I make a conscious effort to make my body work outside the gym, too—I try to stand up straight, I’ve stopped crossing my legs while sitting, and I no longer shift the weight of my body on one leg while standing. Over time, these habits cause muscular disbalance, making you slouchy and tired.
Another thing—please enjoy your meals. Try to extend your lunch break by 5-10 minutes to properly chew your food. You’ll notice you actually need a smaller portion size and you’ll feel less drowsy (more productive!) after the meal.
Tip: The week after you’ve read this, make small changes to the way you sit, stand, and eat. See how they affect your productivity and well-being.
10. Be OK with procrastination
Lastly, accept that you’re not a machine and there’ll be days when your brain is going to make you take a break. You’ll feel sluggish, uninspired, and blank.
When it happens, don’t panic and use procrastination to your advantage. Go slow, and soak up some inspiration—catch up on your reading, listen to a podcast, or watch a movie. There’s even a TedTalks playlist for procrastinators to help you put your downtime to good use.
Tip: Don’t try to snap out of your procrastinating mood, it’ll only make it worse. Embrace the void and remember that “this too shall pass,” an adage that goes for both procrastination and productivity.
Final thoughts: personality over productivity
Cultivating productivity means building your entire personality. So, what kind of person are you going to be? A flaker who refuses to pull their weight, or a proactive doer?
Leaving unproductive habits unchecked only creates obstacles. Whenever you postpone something, choose to ignore something, or take up a forgotten project the very last minute, all you do is keep adding those hurdles.
What I’d really want you to do is to not be discouraged neither by this, nor any other list of productivity tips, and set your own rules. Only you can define what being productive means for you, and only you can reach the goals that will make you fulfilled and happy.