Before they even celebrate Halloween, online marketers are kicking off the holiday marketing season!
What’s in store for retailers? Just like last year, shoppers want bargains. The eMarketer’s report for 2010, “Online Holiday Shopping Preview: What Retailers Need to Know,” found almost 43 percent of consumers say they would only buy gifts that were on sale. They are also prone to shop around, with 36 percent saying they plan to comparison shop. For these customers, “free shipping” or “special holiday discount” motivates them to purchase.
The good news is that according to Deloitte, online sales are still growing. Deloitte projects overall holiday sales will increase just 2 percent over last year. Non-store sales, which include catalog, online and buying from TV, will jump 15 percent.
Marketing during the holidays needs a strategy of its own. As paid search strategist Natalie Landrey of OrangeSoda advises, “Don’t assume that what has worked for you the rest of the year will work the same during the holidays.”
Ten tips to increasing holiday sales online:
1. Integrate marketing messages across all online properties.
That means using the same message across apps, Facebook pages, on Twitter, in online ads, on your website, and in your store.
2. Actively share promotions and gift ideas on social media web sites.
Last year, Internet Retailer emphasized social and mobile and this year will likely continue the trend. Customers who utilize social media are looking for two things: special offers and gift ideas. A Deloitte survey found 53 percent planned to use social networks, blogs and forums to research gift ideas. So be sure to schedule tweets and Facebook posts about holiday sales, gift ideas and promotions.
3. Run holiday-themed PPC ads.
Prepare holiday-themed landing pages for your paid search ads and promote your best-selling products as gifts. Landrey suggests testing ads now because prices per click start to rise from September to December. She also recommends that you take your best performing keywords and add words like “holiday,” “Christmas,” “Hannukkah,” etc.
4. SEO your holiday content.
Create holiday content on your website and optimize it for search engines. For example, if you put up a gift guide, optimize it with holiday keywords in the meta and title tags. I always consult Google Insights for Search to see which keywords are getting the most buzz online right now and use them to my SEO advantage. Start with words like “gift” or “gift idea” and see what comes up.
5. Clearly state when items will be shipped.
Holiday shoppers procrastinate. As it gets closer to Christmas, shoppers will care even more about when their orders will arrive. Give them that information up-front.
6. Offer free shipping – and let people know about it.
The website Freeshipping.org will include your logo on a list of websites that offer free shipping for a day on December 17th. It’s a strategy that’s worked well for small businesses. Internet Retailer says: “Though last year’s participants included Macy’s, Kohl’s, Toys ‘R’ Us and other top retailers looking to leverage the traffic to Freeshippingday.com, some of the event’s greatest impact was on smaller retailers without the marketing budget to spread news of their of their holiday offers across the web.”
7. Offer a group coupon.
Take advantage of social coupon sites like Groupon or a local version by running a specially priced holiday package. The beauty of these sites for small business owners is that people pay up front and you can set the expiration date of the coupon. Sharing is encouraged, so you reach new people and can track sales. There’s no out-of-pocket cost (they take a profit share on the back end). Just be sure your staff is happy – this study says that’s one of the biggest indicators of the success of a Groupon campaign.
8. Offer gift cards and coupons on your own web site and in E-mail campaigns.
Email service provider CheetahMail notes that offering a gift card can TRIPLE conversion rates (as referenced in their Annual Holiday Benchmark Report.)
9. Get your website optimized for mobile.
Get your site ready for mobile customers. Customers are using mobile to research and make purchases. They are also willing to buy big ticket items through their phones, as evidenced by Sears. They sold two $3,000 tractors on their Sears2go mobile app last year. Not all sales happen on the spot. Instead, people research potential purchases online, but then go to a store when they’re ready to buy.
10. Trade tweets or Facebook updates.
One of my favorite tools to help expand your reach online with a tweet or Facebook update is Swap from GroSocial. You find people with a network you hope to reach. You then exchange tweets or a wall post. The site facilitates the transactions and it doesn’t cost a thing during beta. Just be sure to check your spam folder or you might miss their messages.
Now you know all my secrets. Please share yours. What tips would you share or success stories have you had promoting your web site during the holidays?
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Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is Newspapergrl.com (and Twitter account @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.