last-minute-christmas

Preparing Your Marketing Channels for the Holiday Rush

  |  October 23, 2012   |  Comments

With online holiday sales set to be bigger this season than ever, here are a few tips to maximize customer opportunities this year.

With the holiday season fast approaching, marketers are preparing for those fun-filled, fast-paced days of shopping madness.

But getting ahead of the competition is not just about ensuring your virtual shelves are stocked and seasonal favorites are ready-to-ship. The crucial next few weeks are also about prepping and aligning your website, your marketing team, and your calendars.

With online holiday sales set to be bigger this season than ever, here are a few tips to maximize customer opportunities this holiday season.

1. Update your website to give it a holiday feel. Don't just aim to simply give your website an updated look. Instead, take the time to determine how to accentuate the unique value or service proposition that differentiates your brand from your competitors. While you may not be able to beat Amazon on pricing, perhaps you can offer enhanced services like free shipping for orders over a certain threshold, in-store returns, and 24/7 customer service.

Email is still one of the highest value contact points for your customers. To give holiday shoppers a reason to sign up for your email program, highlight the seasonal benefits of being on your email list and update creative to reflect the season. If you're in need of something quick, build a standard lightbox that directs visitors to your existing sign-up page.

It's also essential to incorporate quick, holiday-specific navigation options that emphasize gift-giving guides and special sections of the websites devoted to gifts. Try adding banner-style navigation elements that call out the gift areas that are right for shoppers coming to your website for specific reasons.

This holiday season will see record-breaking traffic and sales via smartphone and tablet devices. While you may have an elegant mobile or tablet app, a majority of shoppers will find your brand through the browser. Target these customers by incorporating quick navigation options that highlight popular mobile features like a store locator, account sign-in, or product search. Tablet users should receive different calls-to-action and larger checkout and other buttons that accentuate the touch-screen environment.

Finally, make the checkout process even more seamless by offering third-party payment options such as PayPal, Google Wallet, and Bill Me Later functionality. And since many holiday shoppers use their cart as a "favorites" or "saved" tool during browsing, update creative to highlight seasonal urgency around availability and shipping times. Also consider adding promotional offers to high-value carts.

2. Audit your metrics from last season. A lot can be learned by digging into your metrics from Q4 last year as you prepare for this holiday season. Run an audit of on-site search terms, top external search terms, top referring sites, top bounce pages, and the most common exit pages. If your product index page is a top exit page, for example, combat this by adding product badging or extra curation features that can help keep a customer's attention.

Review your holiday marketing spend plan and use that to prioritize opportunity and the need for echo messaging on the website. If your PPC spend is going to increase exponentially, for example, so should your efforts to increase landing session effectiveness. When auditing your campaign calendars for the holiday season, it's essential to reinforce your acquisition and retention marketing programs from popular email, affiliate, and keyword referrers on the website itself to enhance the customer experience.

3. Holiday calendar prep. This may seem like a fundamental element, but it's critical that all areas of the organization are aligned when it comes to your holiday campaign calendar. Getting on the same page early will ensure there are no inconsistencies in the customer experience and all channels are in sync with what you're presenting to the consumer. For instance, make sure there's a unified promotional calendar across the organization so a shopper who comes into your store sees the same deals she sees online or in other channels.

It's also important that service and operations teams are fully aware of all promotions and online marketing campaigns for each acquisition and retention channel. Make sure that shipping and service deadlines are clearly spelled out so the customer understands any extended service hours or the last day to order and receive their gift on time.

Finally, get ahead of all asset development for holiday campaigns. Make sure creative elements like AdWords copy and any display banners are up-to-date. The sooner you can get the holiday calendar in place, the better you can jump on these opportunities.

4. Target content to different customer groups. One of the most effective ways to maximize results during the holiday rush is to segment new and returning customers to deliver targeted messages to each group.

For new shoppers visiting your website this season, highlight service differentiators and trust factors that can help convert them into loyal customers. Try incorporating creative acquisition offers or retention programs to encourage them to come back after the holidays. For example, offer new holiday purchasers a coupon that is good to be used in January or February that will encourage a long-term relationship with the customer and help turn the "one and done" mentality around. Also, incentivize new customers to sign up for your email or other CRM programs like social to keep them engaged beyond the season.

On the other hand, greet returning customers with targeted "welcome back" messages and offers that acknowledge them as an existing, valued customer. Also, make sure to provide quick links and call-outs for important website features, updates, or changes for the holiday season - like dedicated gift areas - and offer quick and easy navigation to these areas.

You can also use what you know about the returning customer's shopping history to help guide her to relevant categories and products on your website. If she has consistently purchased jeans in the past, make it easy for her to find new jean options.

Now Is the Time

During this busy time, the most important success factor toward reaching and exceeding your holiday goals is preparation. The sooner you start focusing on your holiday campaigns, the better chance you'll have to be successful in converting customers and driving revenue in this crucial time of year.

And remember: use what you know. You already have a database full of information about your customers, so you just need to learn how to use it to make the most out of this holiday season.

Last Minute Christmas image on home page via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nathan Richter

Nathan Richter is the global director of client solutions at Monetate, where he advises top enterprise clients on website optimization. A veteran of digital marketing and online retailing, Richter has extensive hands-on experience helping enterprise clients implement successful multichannel marketing campaigns. Richter has directed online marketing and site optimization programs for David's Bridal, QVC, The Franklin Mint, and dELiA's.

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