The holiday season is officially here, and it’s shaping up to be one of the biggest on record. With eMarketer predicting retail e-commerce spending to surpass $142 billion this season, there’s plenty of good to go around, even for smaller retailers. The trick to staying competitive is to get smart about preparation.
Ideally you will have already begun this process, using the past few months to plan your campaign and build branding and audience lists. But to those who are still warming up their engines, take heart: it’s not too late to make an impact. Here are four concrete steps that will help you build and execute a successful holiday strategy.
Step 1: Optimize your Timeline
Though ‘the holidays’ technically span Thanksgiving to Christmas, the holiday shopping season is not so defined. Based on 2018 shopping behavior, Google shows that 45% of consumers reported having purchased a holiday gift by November 13th, and many have finished their holiday shopping by late November.
With a smart timeline, arriving late to the party won’t mean missing out on the main course. Use mid-November to focus on branding and prospecting – this will help you reach consumers earlier in their consideration and purchase phase.
As Thanksgiving and Cyber Week approach, begin to roll out deals and expand ads across channels, creating excitement among consumers. Then, increase your search and remarketing budgets right before Cyber Monday. Overall, increasing budgets by three to fivefold throughout the holiday season will give you the best chance of capturing those extra conversions in the competitive market.
Finally, Q1 has proven to be one of the strongest months for e-commerce, carrying holiday momentum well into the New Year. Keep your budget strong through at least January 15th to make the most of this growing trend in post-holiday shopping.
Step 2: Prioritize Personalization
Most small retailers can never hope to match the ad budgets of giants like Amazon and Walmart. To stay competitive, market smarter – not harder – by acing your personalization.
As you gather your custom and look-a-like audiences, focus in on lifetime value. Who from amongst your lists has spent the most money with you, and who shops with you most frequently? Who have been your most recent shoppers? These are prime targets for upselling and cross selling, by diverting extra ad spend, suggesting related items, offering bundling at a discount or awarding a gift at checkout.
While nurturing lifetime shoppers, don’t forget to track and target new visitors. Criteo reports that website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70% more likely to convert. Recording these visitors’ activity and building segmented lists throughout the holiday season are key to bringing them back and securing conversions.
Step 3: Craft Smart Promotions
Promotions will work best if they fit the needs and preferences of your specific audience. Review your past holiday trends and study what works, then invest in those promotions.
Not sure what’s working best? eMarketer reports that the most appealing promotional offers are discounts by an overwhelming 95%. Free shipping is also a must when possible, and free gifts and loyalty points are also appealing to consumers. Depending on your product and budget, you may consider guaranteed delivery dates, coupon codes, pre-wrapped gift sets and custom messages.
Step 4: Get your Website Traffic-Ready
Is your website actually ready for holiday traffic? A few small changes can make a big difference when it comes to making the final sale.
Start by ensuring that your website addresses core questions and doubts that emerge during the shopping experience. How high is the barrier to entry? How easy are returns? How do I use the product? Simple steps such as segmenting products by price, featuring customer reviews and outlining the ease of return help build trust with customers.
Next, make your website easy to navigate on mobile. Google research shows that 73% of consumers will switch from a poorly designed mobile site to an alternative mobile site that makes purchasing easier. Don’t risk losing these conversions by overlooking your mobile presence.
Finally, optimize the most important part of your e-commerce store: the checkout. Take the time to understand what causes shoppers to abandon their carts and correct those issues. Is it shipping fees or other unexpected prices? Is your checkout complicated and time consuming? Do shoppers have to create an account? Simplify the process as much as possible to give yourself the best chance of completing a sale.
These are just a few key steps to take when preparing for the holiday season – but no matter how late you start, each move toward optimization and personalization will help make a difference in your bottom line. Even better, the work that you put in now, from prospecting to site changes to brand development, are already preparing you for effective marketing through the New Year and beyond.