Proven tips to help you get through the holidays

T’was the month before Christmas, when all through the house,

Everybody was scrambling, looking to buy a blouse.

Company A waited and waited, now their site’s in repair,

While Company B made the sale, they planned ahead to avoid the scare.

The moral of the story is: the holidays are a busy time—don’t sleep on your e-commerce. Companies frequently begin planning for the holiday season months in advance, so if you’re not already prepared, you’re well behind the competition. If you’re not quite sure where you currently stand with your e-commerce, here is a small checklist to help you get going.

1. Understand your audience

Around the holidays, your target audience may not be the same as the one(s) you’re accustomed to selling to. The first step to ensuring a successful e-commerce campaign is to narrow down who your audience is so you don’t spend your advertising budget on the wrong people.

A good start is to look at who is doing the gifting, as they will be the ones purchasing from you. For example if you sell toys, you may want to think about marketing to an older demographic such as parents or grandparents. Or if you sell women’s products try allocating some of your marketing efforts towards the male demographic, as they will likely be searching for gifts for their partners around this time.

2. Make that plan once and check it twice

Don’t expect any holiday magic with your online campaigns if you don’t have a plan. Make your life as easy as possible by following this rule of thumb: allocate two-thirds of your time to create a plan for the holidays and spend the other third executing it. A well thought out plan will save you enormous amounts of time later on having to go back and make corrections.

Start your plan by listing out all the major dates and creating a visual representation of when content, emails and promotions are to be deployed. It is important that you execute your promotions in a timely manner. By making your plan visual, you will be able to see what’s going on, making your job a lot easier.

3. Make sure your mobile jingles

The importance of having a mobile site optimized for the holidays can’t be emphasized enough. Last year, nearly a third of all holiday retail sales were influenced by mobile shopping searches. That means consumers are using mobile platforms to both convert and conduct their research.

If your mobile site is down, poorly optimized or even non-existent, you are running the risk of not only being missed by Google, but also by potential customers. A basic mobile site has these characteristics:

  • It uses dynamic serving (server sends different code when the site is accessed on different devices, but the URL remains the same);
  • It has responsive design; and
  • It is developed on a mobile sub-domain.

From there, it is important you make sure all your pages are up and running properly, and that checkout and conversion on mobile is made as simple as possible.

4. Add some magic—make it personal

After you’ve narrowed down your target audience(s), you have to get their attention. How do you stand out from the hundreds of ads on the Internet during this busy time? The answer is simple. Tailor your ad copy and messages towards your audience with a goal of ensuring optimal relevancy (i.e. give potential customers a reason to want to buy from you). If you’re stuck with a few options and unsure which message will convert best, try using A/B testing.

By tailoring your messages, you will improve your conversion rate and won’t need to waste all your advertising dollars on a single campaign. Companies often believe that by spending as much money as possible to increase visibility, they will make more money. The reality of it is you will increase your chances of success if you can find the perfect balance of visibility, relevancy and scalability with your campaigns.

5. Don’t go cold turkey on your website

While you’re in the midst of your promotions, campaigns and everything else in between, don’t forget the most important part of the whole conversion process—your website. If you can’t convert your site traffic, no amount of external marketing will help you. Common problems to look out for include the following:

  • Site speed issues;
  • Slow/faulty checkout;
  • Broken links;
  • URL issue; and
  • Inaccurate product and meta descriptions.

Be sure to get as much (if not all) of these fixed or else you’re in for a long winter.

6. Tell your story—the best way to spread holiday cheer is to sing it loud for all to hear

Now you’re probably wondering, how will storytelling help my e-commerce? By telling a story that is both genuine and personable, you are creating a conversation around your brand that will help you generate valuable word of mouth and create external backlinks to your site. By generating backlinks from credible sources, you are boosting your reputation with search engines, and that will translate into valuable organic traffic.

7) Figure out your shipping—we don’t all have a sleigh and reindeer

This is a bonus tip and has little to do with your online presence. With any product-based business, you want to make sure delivery to your customers is prompt and timely. Make it clear to your customers when the cut-off deadline is for guaranteed Christmas delivery.

Secondly, around this time, customers don’t like to pay for shipping. Get into the holiday spirit and offer your customers the liberty of free shipping over the holidays. If you can’t afford to offer it for a lengthy period of time, at least do it over a fixed period (for your reference, December 18th is National Free Shipping Day). If you live up to your end of the bargain by offering free shipping, your customers will be more inclined to buy from you.

Last but not least—have fun!

The holidays can be stressful, but follow these tips and you will save yourself plenty of time that can be spent on other things. Plan everything well, don’t stress over your e-commerce and enjoy the process.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Sean Jimenez

Sean Jimenez is the CEO of Soulpepper, a full service digital marketing agency based in Vancouver, B.C. A social impact entrepreneur, Sean uses his expertise in e-commerce, sales and sustainable business practices to develop digital strategies to help impact corporations grow. His areas of specialization include omnichannel and digital strategy, web analytics, search engine optimization and online advertising. Sean's passionate about developing triple bottom line businesses equally focused on profit, people and the environment. He is the former owner and operator of Champions Martial Arts, Canada's largest martial arts school.

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