It’s staaarting.

Retailers are spilling the beans on their offers. Economists are making their annual predictions. Shoppers are doing their research and making their lists.

Yes, Black Friday 2017 is underway, and it won’t stop until… well, 46 days from now. 49 if you count Cyber Monday (and you should).

But instead of lamenting “Black Friday creep” — or losing your mind over all the things you have left to do — try to see this as an opportunity. After all, the holiday season can represent as much as 30% of annual sales for mid-sized retailers, with online merchants alone expected to ring up $111–114 billion.

Just think of the holiday you could have with that kind of money.

To help get you there, we’ve put together a checklist that covers everything you need to do to prepare your store for the sales frenzy of November 24–27th. It’ll be coming at you in seven accessible, actionable instalments every Monday until Black Friday. Think of it as your weekly to-do list.

We’re kicking things off this week by laying the groundwork for your store’s holiday operations and marketing. You’ll estimate your orders and stock needs, plan your marketing campaigns, and begin to build your mailing list (if you haven’t done so already).

Complete the items below and you’ll be one week closer to Black Friday, and one step closer to your best holiday season ever.

Dig into your analytics to see what sold well last holiday season (and beyond).

If there’s one thing that separates the ecommerce pros from amateurs, it’s data. Tools like Google Analytics and even Shopify’s own reports can give you all kinds of insights into your visitors’ behaviour and sales transactions— information that’s especially important to review ahead of the busy holiday season. By looking at last year’s sales data (or even data from earlier this year) you can predict what your hot sellers might be, as well as identify areas of your site that need a little TLC.

Estimate how many orders you’ll receive and how much stock you’ll need.

Holiday shoppers won’t hesitate to go elsewhere if you don’t have what they want in stock, ready to ship. If you rely on a supplier for inventory, talk to them about the increased demand you expect during the holiday season. Remember, it’s better to have too much than too little — leftover inventory can always be sold off at a discount in January (a great way to get customers in the door during what’s typically a very slow month in retail).

Create a holiday marketing plan — and stick to it.

This one’s a doozie, but it’s super important. Instead of churning out blog posts and social media updates on the fly, map out your plans using a master spreadsheet or Kanban board. Include the relevant details about when graphics and content need to be created, reviewed, and deployed (and who’s responsible for them). Refer back to your plan frequently as Black Friday approaches to ensure you’re hitting all the marks.

Research advertising options.

When it comes to advertising channels, online businesses are spoiled for choice. That said, bids skyrocket during the ultra-competitive holiday season, and we certainly don’t recommend blowing next year’s marketing budget so you can cover this year’s front page ads. Instead, do some research, choose a few that align with your target demographics, and put your efforts — and your dollars— there.

Get a jump on ads and content.

You’re going to be busy as heck once November hits, so being proactive when it comes to content is a very, very good idea. Prepping ads, creating graphics, and writing blog posts well ahead of when you’ll actually need them will keep your messaging more consistent — and of better quality — than if you wait until Thanksgiving to throw together your Black Friday ad. Nobody does their best work in a food coma.

Double down on email marketing.

Email may not be as new or novel as live video or social selling, but with email marketing driving almost 18% of Black Friday sales last year, it’s a tried-and-true communication channel you can’t afford to ignore. Start drafting your emails now, get your lists in tip-top shape, then deploy every few days according to your marketing calendar.

Install Pixelpop and start building your mailing list.

Speaking of email marketing, the lead-up to the holidays is the perfect time to build your mailing list. Why? Because traffic to your site is going to explode over the next few months, and you should be doing everything you can to turn browsers into buyers, even if that doesn’t happen right away. Our Pixelpop popup app is a great way of doing this — just set up an email signup popup, offer a killer incentive, then sit back and watch the emails roll in.

That should be plenty to keep you busy for now. Don’t forget to check back next Monday for another handy to-do list!