The air is crisp and the leaves are falling which means that the holidays are just around the corner. And for many online retailers, the holiday season is the busiest (and most stressful) time of year. Proper planning can be the difference between a poor or pleasant experience for your customers, gift recipients and staff.
In 2014, overall online sales during the holiday season increased by 13.9% from the previous year and that number is only expected to increase in 2015. With holiday sales accounting for approximately a quarter of all online purchases during the year, it is essential that your business is prepared to take advantage of the opportunity and meet market demand.
To help you plan for the upcoming joyous holiday season, we’ve put together a series of items that you should consider addressing to help ensure everyone on your customer list has a great experience purchasing from your business. At the end of this post you can also download an abridged version of this list in the form of a FREE checklist.
Identify Your Campaign Angle
To generate interest for gift givers during the holidays, you’ll want to consider what angle or message will resonate best with your audience. The first step in creating your campaign ideas is to create a brief that identifies who the campaign is for and what action you want them to take. There are literally hundreds of different approaches you can take. The success of your campaign is largely dependent on alignment with customer needs and demand for your product.
In 2014, Target create a wish list app that allowed users to create a list of the items they wanted for the holidays. Users were also offered free shipping and 10% off of everything on their list. This app is a great idea for both planners and last minute shoppers. You can find almost anything at Target and it encourages users to keep an organized list of all of the items they want to purchase, and even offers a discount beyond other store discounts. Now that’s motivation.
Create & Schedule Your Promotional Assets Now
With the busy rush that the holiday season is sure to deliver, there will be little time or brainpower left to craft clever and enticing email campaigns and social messages. Get in the spirit early by planning, creating and scheduling your email campaigns and social messages now. This will create less pressure later in the year and allow you to quickly evolve or edit campaigns based on any change in customer habits or needs.
All promotions should be a part of an integrated campaign design that will speak to your customers and create a similar experience across all tactics including paid advertising, website assets and more.
Ensure Your Website is Technically Sound
One of the worst things that an online retailer can have happen during the busy season is for their website to malfunction, lack proper optimization for search visibility, contain broken links or load slowly. All of these issues (and more) will have your potential customers quickly moving on to the next company that can more efficiently service their needs.
Another aspect that is becoming even more important each year is to ensure that all pages (especially purchasing pages) are optimized for mobile customers. Almost 50% of all traffic to eCommerce websites during the 2014 holiday season came from mobile devices. And while the majority of purchases are made by desktop users, people are searching for gifts on the go from their mobile devices on a regular basis.
If you plan on utilizing coupon codes for special deals, make sure that these are all generated correctly and that your website is setup to accept the codes. None of your customers will be pleased if they spend hours collecting all of their big ticket items and expect to receive their 25% off voucher at checkout only to find that it doesn’t work.
Prepare & Communicate Your Shipping Timelines
No matter when your buyers plan on placing their orders, it’s essential that you provide them with the appropriate timelines for receiving their items. This need is intensified significantly at the end of the year when multiple items are being purchased and may need to be delivered to more than one location.
Beyond the customer that purchases your products, you should also consider the recipient of the gift. Strive to offer ease of use with shipping and returns because when someone receives one of your products as a gift, they have the potential to become a customer as well. Your likelihood of converting that person to a customer significantly increases if they have a pleasant experience.
Remember, part of creating a good user experience is setting clear expectations and fulfill those expectations as promised.
Experiment with Gift Guides
Holiday gift guides are an excellent way to showcase some of your top selling or new items for the holiday season. Some shoppers almost become paralyzed when they see all of the options available and a gift guide provides a small number of items that are popular with other customers from them to choose from. Also, if designed in a quality way, these gift guides become very shareable on social media which can lead to even more potential customers finding your products.
Last year, TopRank Marketing worked with our client Leaflet Missal to create a Holiday Gift Guide as part of our larger integrated content marketing strategy. This campaign was optimized for high-volume search terms to increase visibility and traffic for the guide. It was then promoted via email, influencer outreach and social amplification.
Invest in Ad Retargeting
Holiday shoppers are looking for deals? Why? Gift giving this time of year can get incredibly expensive and today’s buyers are savvy enough that they may search multiple places to find the best price available. Begin by analyzing and segmenting your website traffic by returning customers and identify people that have made multiple visits but did not complete a purchase. Then you can run that data against the most popular pages for returning customers.
Once you’re armed with this information, you should be able to target these visitors with a paid search campaign that offers them a great deal on those products knowing that they’ve already viewed them 3 or 4 times.
Accommodate Last-Minute Shoppers & Convert Seasonal Shoppers into Repeat Customers
Either you’ve been the person or know someone who waits until the very last minute to make their holiday purchases. Just because it’s nearing the end of the season, doesn’t mean that you should turn off your promotions. Consider having some campaign elements that run up until the last moment.
Once you’ve picked up the pieces from the busy season, the work isn’t necessarily done. You can turn one-time buyers into repeat customers by sending post holiday offers and adding them to your mailing list so that you can send them other promotions in the future.
Make Your List & Check it Twice
If you haven’t already, make sure that you begin planning for what we hope is a busy and profitable holiday season. To provide you quick access to some of the tips included in this post, we’ve created a handy checklist of items to keep in mind for you to follow or share with your team. Click on the link below to download your free copy.
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