Every year, Christmas seems to somehow appear from nowhere. Online retailers, both small and large, often wait until the very last minute to plan their Christmas marketing strategies. Why? Because they are busy doing a million other things throughout the year.
Christmas is too big for online retailers to wait until the last minute.
- The most critical factor to your online holiday success comes down to planning.
Are you planning ahead – meaning, right now – for this Christmas? We’ve put together this helpful list of best practices to help you plan for every element of a digital holiday strategy.
Understand when your customers will shop. While you prepare for the holidays, check Google Analytics to see which days have been the busiest historically. For any online retailer, Cyber Monday (the Monday after Black Friday) is the busiest online shopping day of the year. ComScore recorded a 30 percent increase in sales last year for a total of $1.5 billion.
- Start where it matters most: with your products.
The foundation of a great Christmas plan is a solid, timely and somewhat new product line. Defining what products are available for Christmas – and whether there will be new and/or special options – is vitally important. Ask these questions:
- Are there special products that will be offered only during Christmas?
- Will new products be available?
- Are there any gift bundles that will be available to drive up average order value?
- How will you show your customer that your products make good gifts?
- Clearly identify your promotions and/or offers.
With your products firmly squared away, it’s time to start thinking through the myriad of ways that you can incentivise your customers to buy from you this Christmas.
- Do you offer gift cards? Can you offer them?
- What Xmas specials will you run?
- Will you offer any special discounts for Xmas?
- Can you offer a giveaway to your customers? What exactly can you give away?
- Will you offer gift guides to help steer your customers to the products that are most important to them?
Ensure you focus on bundles and gifting. Get stocking fillers in place, use incremental basket promotions (like get a set of cushions for £X when purchasing any sofa suite), merchandising your best selling, cross-category items together, create discounted bundles (Amazon do this really well), communicate this to your affiliates, update your paid search ads, experiment which gifting and bundles can perform for your business.
- Black Friday is great, but don’t forget about Cyber Monday!
This day is huge and it can be quite easy to take full advantage of the digital push! Think through the promotions you’ll offer on Cyber Monday, and be as unique and as valuable as you can.
- Can you tie those promotions into existing specials, but make them stand out so as to be extra irresistible?
- What is valuable to both current and new customers?
- What can you offer to ensure satisfaction for both?
While important year round, gift wrapping is a great way to stand out at Christmas. Ask these questions now to prepare:
- Do you offer gift packaging for Xmas purchases?
- If so, is there anything extra special you can do at Xmas to promote the service?
- If not, can you offer gift packaging on items over a certain price point?
- Operationally-speaking, would you be able to offer special packaging if you don’t currently do so?
- Consider offering free shipping AND free returns to make customers happy.
Online shoppers can sometimes be a bit wary of making a purchase if they feel the need to pay an additional fee to receive it. Ask the following:
- Can you offer free shipping?
- What’s your return policy? Is it clearly stated on your product pages?
- Are you clearly communicating your shipping and return policy on your promotions and holiday offers?
- Make sure your last order date is prominent and consider including a countdown.
- Create a Christmas donation campaign or implement a donation program to your site, dedicate your time as a volunteer or draw people’s attention to the cause you support with the content marketing – videos, printable posters, landing pages, blog posts, etc.
- Capture your promotions and products with new photography and video.
This is where advanced planning really matters! It’s always nice to have Xmas specific assets to get the most out of your promotions and campaigns:
- How can you stage your products to align with your Xmas promotions?
- Are you using stock images? Yes, you can easily add the “holiday spirit” in Photoshop, but it’s much more fun to do something original!
- Do your videos show how your products will make great gifts? Do they show off the best qualities of your product?
- Use your website and/or landing pages strategically.
Market with themed pages for Xmas SEO. Visit any of the top retailers’ sites, and you will see special landing pages for Xmas offers. This is an easy way to collect products and services around a particular occasion, and it also makes it an easy resource for people to share.
Outline your promotional schedule to ensure your website aligns with the overall Christmas strategy and what is being done promotionally (via email and PPC) to support the strategy. Ask the following:
- What offer will you promote on your home page?
- When will you want to promote specific products on your home page?
- What promotions will you feature on your category pages?
- Can you create a landing page for any special offers that you will run during Christmas?
- Is your shipping schedule clearly communicated on every page of your website? We’re all guilty of being last minute shoppers!
- Put a list of text links on key pages for most searched for or bestsellers
Create Christmas content for your blog (if you have one). While this might not tie directly to sales, you can build authority with great, shareable content, which helps to build your list and drive additional sales.
- Make sure that paid ads are in sync with your Christmas message!
PPC can be a massive revenue generator during Christmas, provided you have a well thought out strategy. Plan thoroughly by asking the following:
- Are your banner ads and search ads aligned with the promotions you’re running?
- Does your creative include any new photography you’ve shot for Xmas?
- Is your ad copy (the text on the ad itself) clearly aligned with your promotions?
- Do you know what banner and text ads are running, when they are running and where they are running? Always have a clear schedule at hand!
SEO can definitely have an impact – if you plan now for content.
During Xmas, content is definitely KING for your search performance. You should be doing the following right now to rank when it matters most:
- Do you have an editorial calendar created around your holiday promotions?
- Have you identified the terms and phrases that you want to rank for during Xmas?
- Are you creating relevant promotional content for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other sales?
- Can you repurpose content you already have? This is where your gift guide can become a powerful asset.
- Remember: email is extremely effective at Christmas.
Simply put; if you aren’t doing email, start now. If you are doing email, it’s time to up the quantity. Then ask yourself the following:
- How often will you send a promotional email to your customers?
- Will you offer special incentives to your email subscribers?
- Are you crafting subject lines that will win the attention of your customers?
- Are you communicating your shipping options directly in the email itself? Are you telling your consumer about returns?
- Get the most out of social by being social.
Social is more than cat pictures, but you already know that. Here’s what you should be asking to generate engagement and awareness around your Xmas offers:
- Are you making it easy for shoppers to share your promotions and your products?
- Which channel does your model consumer use most? Make sure that your most active content is reserved for this channel!
- How will you use your holiday photography and video assets to create interesting posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest?
90% – if not more – of your success this festive season will be determined by how well you plan. Start your holiday planning NOW!
- Enhance your checkout.
Many people lose customers on the checkout page, either because something doesn’t work right or because the shipping costs are higher than expected. Free shipping offers pay dividends. Also, you can improve your checkout page with related products, which is something Amazon excels at.
- Ramp up your customer support team.
Each query is a potential sale. Give your advisers the tools to convert from web enquiries. Keep them in the loop on what you’re doing online, online exclusives, promotions, targeted landing pages.
Don’t assume that everyone who visits loves Christmas. Some people don’t celebrate Christmas, others don’t find it a season of joy – so make sure your site caters for them – try a cheeky “Don’t like Christmas? Then you’ll love our Christmas free zone!” with free content and special offers based around non-seasonal product.
Don’t forget to put a strong follow up marketing plan in place. If someone buys over Christmas then target them again in the January sales.