There is still time left to setup your business for success before the holiday shopping season is in full-swing.  This isn’t a comprehensive list of things you should do, but it will help organize your Holiday efforts and provide a means for delivering sales growth.

  • Communicate Internally: Provide your team with frequent progress updates so they’re motivated and working toward achieving the common goal.
  • Beef-up the Server: Going back to analyzing last year’s performance, trends for this year and forecasting for the remainder of this year.  Test the site and look for bottlenecks that hinder optimal performance.  Consider upgrading an old hard drive to an SSD drive (improves disk I/O) and increasing RAM (result = faster site and more concurrent users).
  • Speed-up the Site: This piggybacks on beefing up the server.  A study by Akamai found that almost half of respondents expected web pages to load in two seconds or less. Amazon reported revenue increases of 1% for every 100-millisecond improvement to site speed.  Walmart reported a 2% increase in conversions for every 1-second improvement.  Here are some things to address:
    • Minimize HTTP requests (if possible, consolidate style sheets, use CSS instead of images and put scripts at the bottom of the page)
    • Enable compression (e.g. Gzip)
    • Enable browser caching
    • Minify CSS and JavaScript
    • Reduce image file sizes
    • Reduce plugins used on your site (if possible, custom development is more preferable)
  • Increase Conversion and AOV via Strategic Merchandising: Expand SKUs by simply creating bundles and look for opportunities to make gift giving easier for your customers. For a food retailer, a bundle is basically a gift basket and that can generate huge revenue. Create a gift category and then showcase gift guides by price, gender, etc.

Online Marketing Planning

  • Acquire new customers while building loyalty
    • Match products and/or services with consumer intent: Paid and Organic Search, Email, and Behaviorally-targeted Display Ads.
    • Increase brand awareness, build brand association: Display Ads, Paid Search. Social Media.
    • Target logically: No need to waste advertising budget on visitors outside your service region or outside of geographic areas to which you cannot ship.
  • Develop a Marketing/Promotion Schedule
    • Review last year and determine what was successful. Carry-over the successes, ignore what did not work (or test it again if you have the means/resources), and look for new opportunities based on existing trends.
  • Know the Important Dates
    • Be aware of key holiday marketing events (calendar link)
    • Know Holiday Shipping Deadlines: Both you and the customer need to be aware of major carrier holiday schedules. Otherwise, expect a lot of angry phone calls/emails, wasted ad spend, and lost business. See below for UPS and FedEx holiday schedules:
    • Email: Determine the types of offers to promote along with send frequency (being mindful of potential for mass opt-out vs. increase in conversion). Cadence should be dictated by your marketing calendar.
      • Retention: Focus on communicating compelling offers, important dates, using previous behavior to target more relevant content.
        • Opinions vary wildly on frequency during the Holiday shopping season, but common sense (your inbox) shows pretty consistently that the mantra is send, send, send. Ideally you test to determine optimal frequency before risking a spam-like frequency.
        • Acquisition: Whether or not customers ultimately convert, the increase in visitor volume provides an opportunity to add more subscribers.
  • Search Engine Optimization and Paid Search: Review last year’s data and identify what drove traffic and revenue.
    • SEO: Create content, build links and optimize so your site is positioned for success. Include terms that are seasonally relevant and work toward maximizing traffic/conversions from those terms.
    • Paid Search: Competition increases dramatically and without ongoing optimization, you will spend more per click and increase the cost of acquisition. Things to consider during the optimization process are keywords, ad copy, bid strategies, and landing pages. Improve click-through rates and conversion to improve Quality Score to reduce acquisition costs.
  • Affiliates: Work on adding high quality sites to your network, creating promotions and appropriate creative assets and a communication strategy. You won’t be the only one promoting a sale during the holidays, but if you have an effective communication strategy you’ll be a step ahead of your competition.
  • Social Media: People love to complain on the internet. You can’t please everyone, but take the opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one by responding quickly and appropriately.

Good luck this holiday season! We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

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