Can you believe there are only 200 days left until Christmas? On the one hand, that sounds like a long way off, but if you're a retail marketer, the time to start planning is now. Well, more like yesterday; but if you haven't started, no need to panic - yet! After the gifts have been shipped, wrapped, and opened, we can look back and spot the obvious mistakes we made and things we could have done differently to help sales soar higher than Rudolph. Start Holiday 2013 off right by beginning your planning now with three meetings that should be on your calendar this month.
"I don't have enough resources to________" is one of the most frequently recited reasons, dare I say excuses, for many brands to not enhance and evolve their email marketing programs to apply lessons learned from the previous holiday season that can improve performance for the coming year. The truth is that you have extended teams with your partners like your email service provider and e-commerce platform provider. Just like you, your marketing and e-commerce platform partners get incredibly busy during the holidays. They also go into code freeze and many of the ways they can help you enhance your program and drive additional sales will take time. Your first thought may be, "time and money," but the truth is your marketing and commerce partners likely have tools, strategies, and tactics to enhance your holiday marketing programs, streamline processes, and provide a better customer experience with little or no cost. Now is the time to put your heads together, ask them for ideas, and bring a few of your own.
Review automated processes like triggered messages (abandoned cart reminders, order/ship confirmations, welcome series, etc.), and determine how they could be more effective and how they should change during the holidays. Remember, your customers will begin to shift from shopping for themselves to shopping for others as the holiday season approaches, so it's important for the tone of these messages to reflect that shift.
Internal Team Development
Everyone on your team will have their day-to-day jobs amplified during the holiday season, but the holidays also require going outside of those daily roles to keep holiday campaigns rolling along. Anticipating these situations now and preparing the team will help make crisis situations more manageable. Build an emergency contact list (including your internal team and external partners) that details roles (IT, analysis, deliverability) and when they should be contacted (technical issue, design issue, poor performance). Define roles for aggregating reports across your email service provider and e-commerce platforms. Do dress rehearsals to ensure processes are efficient and productive. Tweaking the processes now will help you get the marketing, sales, and ROI data insights you need in a timely fashion. A subject line team can be essential. Course-correcting low open rates on your jam-packed marketing calendar can be a stressful situation. Having a team in place closely monitoring both pre- and in-season subject line performance will help you achieve optimal results.
Holiday season (not tax season) auditors are essential. You need to go into the holiday season with a complete understanding of last year and with every "i" dotted. Compile performance reports for last year on a campaign level focusing on key holiday periods including Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the lead-up to Christmas. Identify sales trends, peaks, and valleys. Develop plans to combat those low periods and build on the successes. This may sound like a chore or you may be thinking, "I already know how we did last year," but there's always something to learn.
Additionally, audit all of your forms and your checkout processes. Remove extraneous data fields in forms and ensure that they are designed to help the customer opt in and/or check out as quickly and easily as possible (while giving you the data that you must have). Confirm that forms are functional in multiple web browsers, operating systems, and mobile devices. Modifying these processes could take time, so starting now will ensure all the gears are turning during the peak season.
While it may seem like there's plenty of time on the calendar to get your holiday act together, the clock is ticking. Creating the foundation of your holiday plan now will position you for success this holiday season!
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Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
As an expert in email, mobile, and social strategies, Jim Davidson brings over 13 years of experience in online marketing, managing email and cross-channel programs for top retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. As Bronto's manager of marketing research, he regularly publishes industry-focused white papers, research reports, and contributes to the Bronto Blog. Jim's articles frequently appear in leading retail, e-commerce, and marketing publications.
March 19, 2014