The Countdown to Holiday Season 2010 is On – Is Your Store Ready? (Part 1 of 2)

As the holiday season continues to draw closer, retailers and wholesalers are in full planning mode. And even though it might be a little early for the holiday sales season to start, online traffic shows that the majority of Internet shoppers are beginning to do their research. According to the National Retail Federation, 40% of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping before Halloween.

    The holidays have traditionally been a time of driving critical profits for the year. A study done by the National Retail Federation in 2009 showed that the average consumer spent $683 on holiday shopping in 2009. Deloitte estimates that consumers will spend $852 billion during the approaching 2010 holiday season. Deloitte’s late last month’s forecast also shows that overall 2010 holiday sales will increase 2% over last year, but that the direct-to-consumer sales will increase 15%.

      With these sales projections and increasing online holiday shopping traffic, retailers need to make sure they have their holiday campaigns ready for holiday online retail sales. In order to see positive numbers for 2010, this season’s holiday campaigns should be aimed at reaching out to consumers through various channels of communication including the web and mobile phones. This can be done through mobile initiatives, commerce-enabled mobile sites, and marketing through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

        So what can you do to successfully capture your fair share this holiday season?

          1. Plan Your Holiday Marketing Strategy in Advance

            Think about the promotions and offers you want to focus on. Start by reviewing and revising your online marketing to see what worked last year and what did not work. You might want to consider creating free shipping promotions as a way to encourage customers to spend more. Free shipping is very popular over the holiday season, and even if you generally do not offer free shipping, you may find that you are not losing money by offering it this year. Instead, you are actually driving much higher sales.

              As part of your ad creative and promotional material this holiday season, make sure you stand out from your competitors by offering unique call to action statements and images. Remember, holiday shopping does not end on December 25; people rarely get the gifts they asked for or desired, so keep returns in mind when planning out your holiday marketing strategy. Also, take advantage of last minute shoppers. They are typically ready to pay a premium to have their orders rushed.

                When planning your marketing strategy, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

                • Do you have the requisite help in fulfillment and customer service departments to handle peak volume?
                • Have you planned your inventory? Too much or too little can hurt your profits.
                • Can your ecommerce site handle large spikes in holiday traffic without impeding performance? Can you scale on-demand?
                • Your shopping cart abandonment rate is most likely going to increase during the holidays. How are you going to deal with this dilemma?

                  2. Dress Up Your Site for the Holidays

                    If you haven’t noticed already, online consumers have become increasingly sophisticated. Static and boring websites are becoming a thing of the past. Your customers expect dynamic and interactive websites. By giving your website a holiday design makeover, you will be using a new, creative way to share the same information more effectively.

                      Consumers love sites that are decorated for the holidays. However, you must be careful that the holiday images are not over done or distracting. For instance, falling snowflakes may be appropriate for MySpace or Pandora.com, however they are disturbing and annoying to customers trying to get their holiday shopping completed.

                        Start preparing new graphics for your homepage, category pages and popular product pages now to ensure the final images are professional looking. Images thrown together at the last minute do not build customer confidence.

                          Throwing a Christmas tree or a pumpkin in as part of your logo may be very celebratory, but don’t sacrifice branding for festiveness unless you know how to pull it off correctly. With the holidays bringing in massive amounts of new customers, you want to be able to market to them beyond this holiday season. But if they don’t recognize your logo or brand name later, you may lose those new customers. So be careful when dressing up your site for the holidays.

                            Make sure your site’s homepage is overhauled to allow customers on the go to quickly locate your most popular products. Your website should have a robust site search feature that returns relevant results. This is particularly important for sites with large product catalogs or ones with sub-par navigation. Display the search box prominently as part of your site template on all the pages.

                              3. Amplify Your Search Engine Optimization and Marketing Efforts

                                Use Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising to drive traffic to your site. Be prepared for an increase in bid amounts and greater competition. Begin preparing ad copy, landing pages and micro sites now. Add holiday-related words such as “Gifts,” “Christmas,” and “Holidays.” For example, if you sell sporting goods, phrases on your keyword list might be “gifts for skiers” and “holiday gifts for hikers.” If you’re a candle retailer, a phrase on your keyword list might be “aromatic Christmas candles.” And make sure your ads are linked to specific landing pages with a holiday theme.

                                  The number of searches that includes the word ‘free’ skyrockets during the holiday season, whether someone is looking for free shipping or free gift wrapping, you should introduce this keyword throughout your site well before the holiday season begins.

                                    Begin acquiring last minute back links through directories (Yahoo directory, Best of the Web Directory, Joe Ant, Wow Directory), guest blogging, and social media participation to give your site an extra boost.

                                      4. Market and Merchandise like a Pro This Holiday Season

                                        Turn your site’s Wish List feature on and make it easier for users to locate the Wish List page. Consider offering a discount to people who purchase gifts for others from their wish lists. You should also consider developing a special Holiday section or page on your site that features gifts broken down by demographics and pricing.

                                          Make sure you turn your site’s product review feature on and motivate customers to write compelling product reviews by giving them a free gift as a thank you, e.g. $5.00 off their next purchase. Consumers are much more likely to purchase a product which others highly recommend and from merchants that appear to have a large customer base. This can also increase sales by showing that your site is fresh with useful, consumer generated content.

                                            It is also a good idea to include Product Stock Status and Expected Delivery Date (and Delivery Guarantee if you have one) both on your product and all your critical checkout pages. Make it easy for customers to locate your shipping and returns policy pages.

                                              You may also want to create Special bundles/kits for popular items to motivate customers to buy more. Offer online gift certificates and Reward Programs. Online (email and paper based) gift certificates are becoming extremely popular among holiday shoppers. The ability to purchase a gift card online and redeem it at a physical store and vice versa works very well and will give you a solid multi-channel advantage that’s hard to match by web-only retailers.

                                                Is your ecommerce solution provider ready for this holiday season?

                                                  GoECart has a robust feature set that allows you to effectively market and sell your products online. GoECart is fully integrated with leading social media networks and allows your customers the ability to quickly and effectively share your products on both Twitter and Facebook. In just one click your customers can share your products on their Facebook profile page and simultaneously post them to their friends’ newsfeed. And, when they share your product, the product image, title, description and a link to the page are posted and immediately shared with all their friends.

                                                    Last holiday season, GoECart hosted ecommerce sites consistently experienced upwards of 99.99% uptime. GoECart understands how important it is that your site is up and running 24/7/365. GoECart also knows that most merchants experience large spikes in traffic during the holiday season. All GoECart powered sites are hosted in Tier-1 ecommerce hosting facilities with proactive load balancing and monitoring to ensure maximum uptime and high performance. In addition, our solid technology architecture and on-demand ecommerce hosting infrastructure allows for virtually unlimited scalability. So go out and sell more! GoECart Ecommerce Platform and Order Management System will be there to handle any spikes in your holiday traffic.

                                                      Coming soon in Part 2 of the article… Stay tuned!

                                                        • Email Marketing for Holidays 2010
                                                        • Social Media Planning and Execution
                                                        • How to deal with Shopping Cart Abandonment during the Holidays
                                                        • ‘Tis the Season to Target Alternate Sales Channels
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                                                        1 Comment

                                                        • James Lerch says:

                                                          I really feel that social media particularly Facebook will play a big role in Christmas shopping. I was very pleased to see Goecart make all those social integrations a few months ago. We are tracking the number of customers which share our products on both Facebook and Twitter so we can gauge the amount of revenue generated from these two sharing features.

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