The 19 Days of Christmas

Prepared for the holiday selling season? Have you planned your strategy and a timeline for your affiliate Web sites’ marketing efforts? Are visions of sugarplums and fat commission checks dancing in your head? Do you hope to leave Santa the deluxe gourmet cookies this year?

Affiliates aren’t immune to the massive sales potential of holiday purchasing. Online buyers will be there for us, as they are for everyone else. The question is, are we going to end up with a sock full of coal or a box full of cash for our efforts?

There are only 19 days from the day after Thanksgiving to December 17, the last day many online retailers can guarantee delivery before Christmas. Last year, there were 25 days. That’s six fewer days of holiday purchasing this year.

According to “Unlocking Holiday Revenues” from Jupiter Research (a unit of ClickZ’s parent corporation), online merchants must focus on several things this year.

The report states U.S. online sales will grow 17 percent this year. Combine that with an 11 percent growth in the percentage of online buyers, and you can understand the potential — and the concerns.

Getting the Early Sale

A short holiday season is dangerous for affiliates. One major concern is “consumers who procrastinate may have to buy offline.”

Our goal as affiliates this year is to sell early, so we can curb the procrastinators and the eventual sales slump.

The report goes on to say 79 percent of likely online holiday shoppers said they intend to do their online holiday shopping at least four weeks before the holidays. That’s great news! How do you plan to capitalize on that fact:

  • Have you finished building and optimizing all your new holiday pages?

  • Is your hosting company ready to handle a large increase in traffic?
  • Have you budgeted advertising costs: pay per click, offline, and so forth?
  • Are your merchants aware you will need special holiday incentives and creative early?
  • Have you checked with your merchants to determine what their drop-dead last day is for shipment to meet Christmas delivery?
  • Have you been naughty or nice?

It’s highly unlikely everyone will buy early. Affiliates and merchants need to get to work to jump-start early purchasing. Consumers may need incentives, such as early cost savings or shipping discounts to get them to think about purchasing earlier instead of later.

A Consumer’s List for Santa

Forget the fancy information guides and gift-wrap services. This year, consumers are seeking the lowest price.

“When it comes to consumers’ choice of merchants, price still reigns supreme…. Consumers overwhelmingly said price-related factors are primary merchant selection criteria,” according to the report. Low-cost shipping options and ease of use were second and third on the list, respectively.

That fact alone is enough to tell you what type of products to push this year and at what price point.

Hopefully, your merchants read a copy of this report and are currently working away like Santa’s helpers to create amazing cost breaks and targeted creative to match.

If your merchant doesn’t know about this forecast or is making no plans to help you with early promotions, it may be time to find one who does. Hint: The best merchants are a step ahead. They want to help you as much as possible. It might not hurt to send them a copy of this column with a note asking them what they are doing to help you cash in this year.

“Online shoppers in the U.S. will spend a total of $13.1 billion during the 2002 holiday season.” Affiliates can have a huge piece of that pie if they get the Christmas lights out of the attic early.

If you have additional ideas or methods to help maximize holiday sales for affiliates, please let me know.

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