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15 Marketing Tips to Make the Most of the Holiday Season

Posted by Ryan Gilmore October 12, 2016

Topics: Marketing Advice

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The holiday season is almost here. For retailers around the world, it’s make it or break it season. This is the time to buckle down and focus on making as many sales as possible.

 

Last year, holiday season ecommerce sales topped $68 billion in the United States, according to research firm Statista. Research from eMarketer forecasts that figure to jump to $94.71 billion this year in the U.S. alone. It’s clear that the opportunity is huge for retailers both large and small.

 

To help you make the most of the season, we’ve put together 15 marketing tips and campaign ideas for driving sales from past customers and new shoppers.   

 

Start Your Marketing Early 

 

It’s likely that you’ll face stiff competition during the holidays, especially if you’re in a competitive industry like fashion or children’s toys. Everyone is vying for a limited number of holiday dollars. That’s why it’s important to get in front of your competition by starting your marketing early. 

 

By mid to late October, you should have at least your first holiday campaign out the door. It doesn’t have to be a huge blow out affair that eats up half of your marketing budget. It can be as simple as emailing your list and publishing a holiday buying guide blog post. One creative idea is to focus your marketing at this stage around the benefits of getting shopping done early. 

 

Another benefit to starting your marketing in October is that it gives you an opportunity to test several different marketing campaigns on a smaller scale to identify what’s working and what isn’t before deploying a larger campaign to a wider audience. 

 

Create a Marketing Calendar 

 

As you already know (or should at least assume if this is your first holiday season as a business owner), you’re going to be extremely busy over the holidays. From managing your inventory levels, to updating your site to launching campaigns and fulfilling orders, it’s going to be very difficult to stay on top of everything without the right tools in place. 

 

That’s why we recommend that every business owner create a marketing calendar that lists out key marketing activities like email sends, advertising campaigns, blog posts and other key marketing activities. This ensures that you’re able to plan and manage your time effectively and execute your marketing without missing anything. 

 

Be Strategic with Larger Marketing Pushes 

 

When your goal is maximizing a limited marketing budget, it literally pays to be strategic with how it’s allocated. Research from ComScore showed that 2015’s top holiday shopping days for ecommerce were Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Free Shipping Day followed by several key dates in December leading up to Christmas.

 

To take advantage of this influx of shoppers and make as many sales as possible, time larger marketing pushes to go out on these days. Let’s use Cyber Monday as an example: 

 

  • Send several marketing emails leading up to Cyber Monday promoting sales and discounts you’re running 

  • Publish several blog posts leading up to Cyber Monday that mention special promotions

  • Increase your ad spend by 15% or more leading up to Cyber Monday and increase it even further on the day itself 

  • Advertise special Cyber Monday discounts on your site with bold and captivating banners or slideshows 

 

Tailor Content Marketing Efforts to the Holidays 

 

To take full advantage of the holidays, use content marketing to amplify and support your other marketing efforts. Here are a few examples of how you might do this: 

 

  • Create buying guides that feature your products, but are still educational and valuable to a wider audience. The goal here is to educate shoppers about your products and get them excited, without turning them off with a hard sell. 

  • Create highly sharable content that drives new shoppers to your site. You can then target those visitors that don’t purchase anything with remarketing ads 

 

Offer Free Shipping 

 

While millions of people are shopping online over the holidays, there’s still a limited number of holiday dollars to go around. Smart retailers are doing everything they can to capture this finite opportunity. Because shoppers are so sensitive to shipping costs, free shipping is one of the most popular promotions to push reluctant shoppers over the line. You can be almost certain one of your competitors will offer a free shipping promotion and for that simple fact alone you should too. 

 

You don’t need to offer free shipping en masse though. One way to drive up average order value is to offer a price threshold that unlocks free shipping. For example, you might give free shipping for orders over $50 or $100.

 

Finally, don't be shy about any free shipping offer you’re running. Advertise it across your site and you can even include it in some of your email marketing. 

 

Go Responsive 

 

In 2015, Internet Retailer projected that mobile ecommerce shopping would account for 29.7% of all U.S. ecommerce sales and that number is only expected to grow in 2016. So, if you haven’t already, now’s the time to launch a responsive website. 

 

Without a responsive website, you won’t be able to effectively capture mobile sales. Not to mention that Google is likely already penalizing your site for not being responsive, meaning you will not show up as prominently in search results as any competitors that do have a responsive site. 

 

Leverage Top Converting Pages and Products 

 

With the right analytics set up, you can easily identify the products and pages that lead to the most conversions. These are your money pages. Use the various marketing channels at your disposal to drive traffic to these pages to see the best return on your marketing investment. This is an especially good tactic to use with your PPC and paid social campaigns, considering that the cost per sale is often much higher than other marketing channels. 

 

Run a Review Campaign in Advance of the Holidays 

 

According to a study from Dimensional Research, 90% of customers say buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Reviews are also a proven method for increasing your SEO, as reviews are often rich in long-tail keywords. 

 

If you haven’t invested in customer reviews up to this point, there’s still time before the holidays. Run a reviews campaign to your top customers and ask them to post a positive review on your site. Some customers may act immediately, but others may need an extra incentive like a discount before posting a review.

 

If you receive some negative reviews among the positive ones, don’t stress. Research from Capterra, found that 52% of of buyers say they trust a product more if it has a few negative reviews.

 

Run Discounts and Promotions 

 

This is a no-brainer, but promotions and discounts are going to be key to your success during the holiday shopping season. That doesn’t mean go out and start running a promotional campaign right now. Instead, use a tiered approach where you start small and gradually ramp up discounts through the end of the holidays.  

 

It’s especially important to pepper in larger discounts on key shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Today’s shopper is very savvy with comparison shopping so you almost need to do this just to keep pace with your competition.

 

To ensure your promotions are as effective as possible, display them prominently on your site with large, bold banners or in image slideshows. You should also promote them through the various marketing channels you have at your disposal. 

 

Mine Your Email List for Marketing Opportunities 

 

Depending on how much data you collect about your subscribers and customers, there are likely multiple ways you can slice and dice your email list to more effectively target customers. Here are just a few different segments that you can build campaigns around: 

 

  • Past customers who haven’t purchased in a defined time frame like the last 60, 90 or 120 days
  • Subscribers who haven’t made their first purchase yet but have engaged with your emails
  • Frequent, loyal customers  

 

You should tailor your email to each segment’s stage in the buying cycle, as well as their motivations. For example, frequent customers will need less of an incentive to make a purchase vs. a subscriber that has yet to buy from you. 

 

Set Up Cross-Sells, Up-Sells and Related Products

 

Each of these conversion tools addresses a different stage of the buying experience but they all share the same goal: increase average order value. Setting them up doesn’t take much work and they are a key way that smart retailers are able to increase revenue during the holiday season. 

 

Depending on your ecommerce platform, you can even use an app like Nosto to automate the set up and management of these elements with personalized recommendations based on past browsing and purchasing behavior. 

 

Set Up Remarketing 

 

Just as the holidays will bring an influx of shoppers to your store, they’ll also bring an influx of abandoned carts. Unfortunate, but true. Luckily, remarketing is a great tool for recouping some of the value of these abandoned carts. It’s also a great way to bring back shoppers that browsed your site, but left before buying anything. 

 

In our opinion, Facebook is the easiest platform to use for your first remarketing campaigns, but you can also work with Google or third-party remarketing platforms like AdRoll and Perfect Audience that allow you to advertise on multiple networks through one interface. 

 

If you’re already doing remarketing and seeing success, consider augmenting your existing efforts with a few holiday specific promotional campaigns. 

 

Start Selling Gift Cards 

 

Gift cards are a great way to win business from indecisive and last minute shoppers. Most ecommerce platforms offer built in tools that make generating unique gift cards very easy. Be sure to advertise this new product through your standard marketing channels and also promote it on your site, especially if it’s a new offering you’re launching just for the holidays. 

 

Do Something Charitable 

 

Yes, you’re out to make a profit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get into the holiday spirit and do something charitable. Consider participating in Giving Tuesday by donating a portion of your profits to a charitable organization. Be sure to market your participation in the event to drive as much traffic to your online store, increasing both your sales and your charitable donation. 

 

Sell on Marketplaces 

 

Marketplaces like Amazon see a tremendous amount of traffic over the holidays. To tap into this traffic, consider integrating your site with popular marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Etsy. This allows you to leverage the existing audience of major brands to your benefit. 

 

Depending on your ecommerce platform, there are likely numerous apps and services that will allow you to seamlessly connect to these services. 

 

There you have it, 15 marketing tips and campaigns to help you make the most of the upcoming holiday shopping season. If you have any tips you think we missed, Tweet them to us at @zoeycommerce.

 

If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform that has the features and flexibility to power your growth through the 2016 holidays and beyond, consider Zoey. The best way to get started is with a 14-day free trial. 

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