2020 Holiday Preparedness Guide

Historically, the winter holiday season is the busiest time of the year for the Cratejoy Marketplace. This year will be busier than ever

Online retail sales are predicted to grow by 25-35% this holiday season (compared to 14.7% growth during the 2019 holiday season), with 73% of consumers planning to spend the same or more than they did last year. 

In a typical holiday season, many shoppers might wait until November to begin holiday shopping. However, we are seeing trends that indicate holiday shopping is predicted to begin in mid-October. 

Watch the Cratejoy team discuss how to be successful this season during our Holiday Prep Town Hall. ⬇️

Plus, we made you a list to help you get your business ready for the holidays. Be sure to check it twice! 📝 📝

Watch on YouTube

Subscription box owners are in a unique and enviable position in the retail industry going into this holiday season. This post will focus on how you can:

  • Use this position to have a profitable holiday season 
  • Boost post-holiday sales by gaining new, long-term customers
  • Best prepare for a truly unique shopping season

Table of Contents:


Providing clear and concise shipping information is essential, especially during the hectic holiday season. Give your subscription box business a clear advantage by making a holiday shipping plan today.

Holiday 2020 Shipping Deadlines

For more information (including international shipping cutoff dates) check out this ShipStation blog post.

Know & Communicate Your Shipping Plan 

As we noted in this article, providing clear shipping information gets you more sales and helps cut down on post-purchase confusion. This is more important than ever during the holiday season.

Design your shipping section with current subscribers, new subscribers, and shoppers making one-time gift purchases in mind. 

You should explicitly note in your listing’s shipping section:

  1. Any shipping schedule changes due to the holiday season
  2. The cutoff date for making a purchase that can be delivered by December 24th

 Check out these examples of clear shipping information:

Your first box will ship on the 10th of each month. Please order by the 6th of the month to get the current box. For existing subscribers, we ship on the 10th of every month.

For holiday gifts, order by [date] to receive your box before December 24th. Any orders placed after [date] may not arrive in time for the holiday.

Planning on appealing to last-minute shoppers? Let them know you offer fast or last-minute shipping:

Your first box will ship immediately after you place your order. After your first order ships, we will automatically ship your next box every three months (based on your first order date).

Your first box will ship within 3-5 business days after your order is placed. Order by the 15th to receive the current month’s box. For existing subscribers, we ship on the 1st of the month.


Holiday Shipping Predictions

Holiday levels of buying and shipping have already been reached this year due to COVID19.

Every shipping carrier we reviewed is predicting longer shipping times and, in some cases, extra fees for the actual holiday season.

Make sure you know your shipping deadlines. Planning now = succeeding later.

Click here for Holiday Shipping Deadlines for USPS, FedEx, & UPS

Use Shipping to Get Featured


The Cratejoy Merchandising team will shift their marketing focus toward gifting – particularly last-minute gifting – as the holidays get closer. They’ll be paying close attention to the shipping section of your listings!

What’s the most important detail they’re looking for?
If you ship boxes within 3-5 calendar days (not business days).

Make sure your shipping section includes a shipping schedule and an order-by date so that your store will have a greater chance of being highlighted in our marketing campaigns (especially if you ship within the 3-5 calendar day timeframe)!


Updating your listing is a low-effort, high-reward way to get your listing noticed by the surge of holiday shoppers. Set time aside to update your listing with a holiday sneak peek & appealing gifting copy!


Update Current Box / Sneak Peek

Use the Sneak Peek section on your listing to pique interest in your upcoming box. Choose to add details about the contents of the box or describe the theme.

Use a great photo because it’s the first thing most buyers will notice (low-quality photos = low sales — learn how to take a great photo here)! You want holiday shoppers to imagine the delight of giving this box to someone they love.

Remember you are trying to appeal to multiple audiences:

  • Current subscribers
  • Potential new subscribers
  • Customers who are exclusively gift shopping

The Sneak Peek also gives you a second place to display your order-by date (the first place is in your shipping section)! Putting the order-by date in two places creates urgency for buyers looking for gifts. It also reduces post-purchase customer questions about when their order will arrive.

Have a sequential box? That’s ok! Just put the first box shoppers should expect to get with the first shipment!

Worried about giving away the surprise? Not to worry, you can include a lifestyle image or a simple image of your packaging to entice subscribers without giving it away!


Revise Listing Copy

Many sellers use their List of Features year round to indicate that their box can be gifted. Because a high percentage of sales come from gifting in Q4 (October – December), we recommend using your top bullet point to describe why your box makes a great gift

Already using a bullet point to indicate gifting? 
Move it to the top of your list of features for the holiday season!

Here are some examples:

  • Give your loved one moments of joy and surprise through a very unique, memorable gift.
  • Great gift idea for that special someone!
  • Beautifully and thoughtfully created – makes the perfect gift!

As you’ve noticed, none of these examples refer to a specific holiday. Why not? Though gift shopping surges during the last few months of the year, customers are likely to shop for gifts all year. 

The more you brand your Marketplace listing with references to Christmas or Hanukkah, the sooner you’ll need to update your store listing with all new information. (For instance, if your listing references Christmas, you’d need to update your listing on December 26th!)

Another consideration? Not everyone who gives gifts, even during a specific holiday season, celebrates those holidays.  By not tying your listing to a specific holiday, you can appeal to as many gift shoppers as possible


Offering prepaid subscription terms and a small discount coupon this holiday season gives your business a boost and ensures you aren’t leaving money on the table.


Offer Prepaid Subscription Terms

Purchases of prepaid subscriptions (3 months, 6 months, 12 months) spike during the holiday season. (59% of Marketplace gift sales during the 2019 holiday season were prepays!)

Shoppers on Cratejoy typically purchase subscriptions for longer terms when they are buying gifts vs. when they are buying for themselves. That means more capital upfront for your business. 

Most shoppers, when purchasing a gift subscription, select not to renew the subscription after it expires. However, gift subscriptions are an easy way to get your product in front of new audiences. Impress them and you’ve got some new long-term subscribers! 

By offering prepaid subscriptions during the holiday season, you can:

  • Get an influx of cash from gift buying
  • Reach a new audience (gift recipients)
  • Convert some of this new audience to long-term subscribers by wowing them! 

If you don’t offer prepaid subscriptions, you are preventing yourself from a significant opportunity for sales and business growth. (Read more here about the value of offering prepays). 

So, what can you do to place your business in the most advantageous position possible?

  • Learn how to update your subscription product terms here
  • Highlight that you offer prepaid subscription options on your list of features 
    • 1st bullet point = gifting | 2nd bullet point = prepaid subscription options
  • Leverage discounts (see below!) to incentivize prepays

Include Coupons

Everyone wants a deal! Especially when buying multiple gifts during the holiday shopping season. Shoppers can be more easily swayed into choosing your products if you offer a coupon

So you should offer a big discount, right? Not necessarily. 

You’re trying to appeal to an audience already interested in your products. Offering a small discount is often just the nudge they need to make the purchase. 

We’ve also found that offering a larger discount will get you buyers who are more interested in the discount and not in the product. That means more cancellations (or churn) when it comes time to renew. 

Top tips for coupons this holiday season: 

  • Make sure the discount makes sense within your margins
  • Make the coupon code something simple like CRATEJOY or SAVE10
  • Keep the code after the holiday season is over
  • Make sure the coupon code is set to ACTIVE so shoppers can use it
  • Test different types of coupons (Percent off total, Percent off first shipment, Flat amount off total, etc.) to know which your audience loves the most!

Making a plan to prepare your business for this hectic season is crucial! Part of that plan is to update your photos to increase your chances of getting featured in Cratejoy’s Marketplace Gift Guide (even if you don’t get featured, better photos attract more business!).


Update Images

Potential subscribers and gift shoppers aren’t the only ones looking at your listings. The Cratejoy Merchandising team is looking for standout listings to feature in our Marketplace Gift Guides.

The first thing customers will see in those gift guides is your first slideshow image. Stores with outdated or poor-quality photos are thus less likely to be selected and featured. 


We recommend at least 8-10 total images of your most recent box & current products that feature your branding. Quick tips: 

  • Use natural light to capture the subject
  • Set up objects according to the Rule of Thirds
  • Avoid text overlays – your products should shine without extra clutter

For more reading on how to take great photos:
Cratejoy Quality Images Guidelines

Set up for a product photoshoot

Take photos for your listing

Improve product photos 


Prepare Business Operations for Success

A lot goes into having a successful holiday season and this year will be unlike any other year before. Many of our sellers have already experienced increases in general sales due to COVID-19. We have reason to believe that those sales will climb higher during the holidays. 

E-commerce sales are projected to increase between 25-35% this year and 73% of consumers are anticipating spending the same amount or more as they did during the 2019 holiday season.

What can you do to prepare? 

  • Forecast correctly to make sure you have enough products for growth
  • Craft your marketing plan now
  • Make sure you have enough supplies
    • Order early to guarantee your shipping materials & products arrive on time 
  • Know your shipping deadlines
    • All major shipping carriers are expecting shipping delays this holiday season

Last Minute Tips + Post Holiday Success

Our Last Minute Holiday Handbook Webinar covered how to achieve success for your business in the month of December and beyond. Give it a watch for many tips (including some from our top sellers!).

Watch on YouTube

Our two biggest pieces of advice for right before the holiday is: don’t go into sold out mode & communicate about shipping!

Don’t Sell Out

Holiday sales are notoriously hard to predict, but typically Christmas Eve is the busiest day of the year on the Cratejoy Marketplace. Here are our top strategies to avoid selling out:

  • Send one-time speciality boxes out for the first shipment
  • Be clear on when that first shipment will ship
  • Order more products to fulfill all future shipments!

Shoppers can order gifts that will ship after the holiday, but still be able to delight their loved one with a note telling them a gift is on the way. There are two ways to send gift messages: 

  • Cratejoy’s Printable Gift Card (this will be sent linked in an email to buyers who purchase a gift subscription) 
  • An email gift notification which can be sent directly to the gift recipient

Your displayed shipping information also helps you continue to sell even if gifts won’t arrive by a certain date. Make sure to:

  • Update your listing to let buyers know when their first shipment will come
    • Especially if it will go out in the next batch of shipments 

Communicate about Shipping

Globally, shipping is delayed this holiday season. If you are sending any kind of confirmation email and shipment tracking email to your buyers, it should include:

  • Confirmation that your fulfillment process is still operating as normal
  • Acknowledgement that shipping carriers are dealing with unprecedented volume and their package may be delayed because of this
  • Notification that tracking numbers may take up to *insert number here* hours or days to update

Post Holiday Success

Engage with gift recipients

You will most likely see an increase in gift sales this season, which is so exciting! It means your products will be in front of a new audience. These gift recipients could become long-term subscribers, leave you a great review, or provide valuable insight for your business. 

We suggest making a plan to engage with gift recipients of your box. Some ideas:

  • Include a thank you note with a coupon code in their last shipment
    • They could use it for themselves or to send a gift to someone else 
  • Send them an email survey about the box contents & experience
    • Use this feedback to plan for next holiday season
  • Ask them to leave a review
    • Future gift shoppers will be swayed by seeing a favorable review from a gift recipient! 

Make a marketing plan to recapture one-time customers

The customers who purchased gifts or one-time boxes during the holiday season from your store are another new audience to be engaged. 

This holiday season won’t be the last time they need to buy a gift. Some ideas to engage one-time shoppers:

  • Include them in email marketing for future major holidays
  • Send them a sneak peek of a new box regularly 
  • Schedule a “just because” email with a coupon code

What you do during the holidays AND after the holidays matters to your business. Create a success plan and activate on it!

Be sure to schedule time in January to review outcomes of your success plan and strategize for the next holiday season!

Don’t forget: you can watch a recordings of Cratejoy’s Holiday Preparedness Webinar & Townhall & Last Minute Holiday Handbook Webinar & Townhall where we cover all these topics & answer seller questions about the holiday season!

Want to keep reading? We think you’ll benefit from this blog post about how to create a great marketplace listing!

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