November 16, 2011
Marketing Your Way to Good Retail Tidings — Six e-Commerce Strategies For the Holidays
By Sherry Ng, Lead Strategist, Lucid Fusion
It's the holidays and bells are a-jingling, are you listening? If you run an e-commerce business, you absolutely should be — those bells can easily represent the sales your company or client could be ringing up this holiday season. In the last three months of 2011, online consumers are projected to spend over $45 billion, with cumulative holiday spending totaling more than $877 billion.
With these projected numbers, many retailers are counting on the holiday season to bring in a substantial share of their annual revenue. But if the optimal marketing tactics are not taken, price-savvy consumer can easily find seasonal incentives elsewhere. Consequently, e-commerce retailers must present unique shopping experiences for the season's major events — such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday — in order to get an upper hand on the competition.
To get those bells a-ringing, follow these six holiday marketing strategies:
1. Plan in advance and execute early
It's never too early to plan for the holiday shopping season. In fact, if your business is preparing its holiday strategy any time after November 1st, it's probably a day too late. With trends to track, prospective customer groups to target, and seasonal campaigns to plan, the holiday season is an extremely hectic and active time of year. Amazon, for example, launched its Black Friday Storefront the first week of November — about four weeks early. Plan your strategy as early as possible and implement it earlier than you think you should. You can count on your competitors doing the same.
With that being said, it's not entirely too late to strategize now. Develop creative marketing messages that will carry you through the holidays, reach out to your existing consumer audience with exclusive, early bird email promotions, increase your customer service and fulfillment teams with part-time employees and, most importantly, make sure your suppliers have provided you with the most in-demand inventory to satisfy your customers.
2. Push your promotions
Consumers are looking to buy at this time of year, but they also expect seasonal promotions and incentives. How will your business offer holiday goodies without breaking the bank? Simply leverage second-tier products as promotional pieces or value-adds to encourage customers to make their purchases. This will lead to an increase in core sales with existing customers and also entice new customers to do business with you. Bottom line: offering a low-cost incentive to your consumers will achieve the same gratification as a giveaway while also keeping your customers coming back for seconds.
3. Glamorize your brand for the holidays
Outside of the traditional Christmas tree and ornaments, there are countless other ways to be festive and ensure you maintain a strong online presence for the holidays. In fact, many businesses have become too passé with their decorations. Old Saint Nick is exactly that - old. Instead of having your site look like a misguided holiday project gone wrong, create a cheerful and welcoming online aura that is wholly integrated with your core branding. A simple holiday twist to your branding is a great option, with Google's constantly-changing homepage logo serving as a perfect example for how to implement a strategy like this successfully. Extend that aesthetic to your social media presence, too. This will show consumers that you are in the holiday spirit, while also allowing your messaging and promotions to speak for themselves.
4. Holiday cheer through social media: let's talk!
Social media allows you to interact with your consumers on one of the most dynamic platforms available. Your most ardent fans, brand opponents and casual observers all share this interesting space. Your voice should not be missing from that group. During the holidays your business should be creating consistently interesting content and promotions for your Facebook and Twitter (amongst others) pages. You should also leverage these platforms for your customer service needs, especially during this hectic season when many customers are stressed from the general madness of holiday shopping. Finally, be sure to spoil your brand supporters and existing consumers regularly with a consistent and proactive presence online as it will serve to promote more good cheer amongst their social circles. This will motivate those happy elves to tirelessly spread your positive brand image.
5. Make your brand internationally festive
For some U.S. e-commerce businesses, international consumers may not make up the bulk of their core sales, but they do provide a substantive jump in revenue during the holidays. Consumer's perceptions of cross-barrier e-commerce have drastically improved in the last few years, and the millions of international consumers now represent power buyers in the U.S. markets. In fact, international orders are often not only high volume with high AOV, but also result in fewer returns. The eight percent return rate of Canadians represents the highest of all international countries today [ii].
To ensure that your business is ready for the global marketplace, review your technology and services platforms to guarantee that you don't run into any logistical challenges during this busy season. Ensure that the customer service team is prepared to address international shoppers for any issues regarding returns, shipping inquires, payment options and potential custom surcharges. If you have the time, reach out to global e-commerce solution providers who can extend your online infrastructure to accommodate international operations with language localization and delivery features. After all, Santa delivers globally — so why shouldn't your business?
6. Mobilize the consumer base with mobile
Last year, more than half of smartphone owners utilized their mobile devices to review products, take advantage of promotions and make purchases during the holiday season[iii]. This number will only increase in 2011. To stay in front of your consumers this holiday season, make sure that your e-commerce store is mobile-friendly. Simplify the purchase process with a straightforward (and secure) checkout process. Then, utilize that platform for exclusive SMS offers or mobile store promotions via emails. If you have some time, you can also create a mobile application specifically for the season, which will directly drive product interest and sales. Some suggestions are product recommendation applications, gift lists, mobile loyalty programs, and QR codes for promotions. Optimize a shopper's mobile experience and they will look to your store for impulsive mobile purchases moving forward. Calling all shoppers!
Implemented correctly and with the proper timing, these holiday tips will drastically improve your bottom-line. This time of year, that's the best gift of all!
Sherry Ng is a Lead Strategist for the LF Commerce division at Lucid Fusion, a digital agency located in Irvine, CA.