Holiday Checklist for Web Success

Santa called, and he wanted to make sure you were ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year. He decided to leave an early present for Web professionals, business owners and retailers everywhere.


As you may know, Santa's a big fan of lists. In order to help out Website Magazine readers as they prepare for the rapidly approaching holiday shopping season, he left an informative checklist that you can all use to ensure your website and marketing campaigns are ready to go when consumers come knocking on your virtual doors. And, it just so happens his checklist follows Website Magazine's content channels.


Prepare for Customer Inquiries


The biggest difference for customers who decide to shop on the Web rather than in-store, is the lack of customer service. For example, a customer who is searching for a specific blue sweater in a brick-and-mortar store can easily ask a sales associate for assistance, however, this is not the case on the Web. Merchants can combat this problem by adding customer service solutions, such as live chat or virtual assistants, to their websites. These solutions not only provide consumers with a better shopping experience, but can also improve conversion and engagement rates. Learn more about bringing your company's sales team to the 'Net here.


Advertise Everywhere


Nowadays, there are many avenues where brands can spend their advertising dollars on the 'Net, including within search, social and mobile channels. This is why marketers should analyze online advertising campaigns from holidays past to determine which campaigns generated the best return on investment. By doing this, marketers can also review which keywords from the 2011 holiday season sent the most and highest converting traffic. Once the best-performing keywords have been discovered, marketers should also add a few more for the 2012 season and then select which words will be added to their holiday-specific paid search campaigns.


However, marketers should also consider spending their advertising dollars on social and mobile marketing as well. This is because a recent study from Marin Software reveals that many consumers turn to Facebook during their hunt for deals around Thanksgiving time. Furthermore, a separate study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau reveals that consumers are very likely to take an action, such as investigate a product or local business, once they have engaged with a mobile ad.


Be Mobile Ready


Mobile shopping has reached $20 billion in 2012, with that number set to grow with tablet shopping, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. The company's Strategy & Research EVP and Research Director, Mary Monahan, counts tablets as the ideal channel to transform PC-based online shoppers into mobile shoppers because of the large-screen real estate and mobile capabilities.


"Increasingly mobile devices like tablets are being used as shopping tools but the mobile buying experience is not keeping pace with consumer activity," said Monahan. "Apps engage consumers to make purchases. With the upcoming holidays, retailers must prepare for the mobile shopping trend or lose out on the opportunity to convert browsers into buyers."


Companies like Usablenet, which are behind the mobile experiences of some of the world's top brands (Hilton, FedEx, Mercedes-Benz USA - to name a few) can help retailers create a mobile experience, quickly and at a low cost. The Usablenet platform requires no client IT resources, no systems integration and no Web development.


Create a Savvy Social Campaign


Retailers not leveraging social media's prowess this holiday season - and in general - stand to lose out on revenue that is often unexpected. For brands looking to sell on Facebook, Website Magazine has compiled a how-to list of sorts, found here. However, Pinterest is the real standout network of the season. Its potential and popularity is in its simplicity. It takes very little to get started. Any retailer, of any size, can create a Holiday Gift Board.


In turn, users will like and re-pin these products. And, the real beauty of Pinterest is that a retailer's products aren't only limited to who is following that brand and who, among their followers, is friends with. For the most part, Pinterest users view boards and pins outside of their network. Capitalizing on this free channel is a slam dunk this season. Additionally, retailers can integrate Pinterest with email, to see how, click here


Engage with Email


One of the best ways to encourage audience engagement with your brand during the holiday season is with email. In fact, a recent study from Listrak and Harris Interactive reveals that 41 percent of Americans who receive emails from retailers have made a purchase in the past six months as a direct result of receiving the retailer's email.


This channel definitely shouldn't be overlooked; instead, it should be in the forefront of your holiday marketing strategies. Holiday email campaigns should include frequent sending at optimal times and days of the week, as well as contain promotional offers and gift idea suggestions. Additionally, email can be a valuable tool for creating repeat customers during the holiday season.


For example, after a consumer makes an online purchase, marketers can automatically send a follow-up email that thanks the consumer for their purchase and offers a coupon to bring the consumer back - either in stores, online or after the holidays.


Be Search Friendly


Consumers do a lot of searching during the holidays on their quest to find the perfect gift for someone special. In the online world, much of that searching is done through Google, whose search engine just happens to feature product listing ads, as well as a wholly re-imagined product search service called Google Shopping that essentially works as a separate retail-focused search engine. Prepare yourself by creating a product feed and linking it to AdWords.


Your product rankings are based on four factors: data quality, bid management, quality score and enrollment in the Trusted Stores Program. So jam-pack product listings with as many extra attributes as you can, carefully organize your ad groups and set (accurate and appropriate) ad group level bids. Then, just write a promotional messaging, make sure your product listings have images and you're off to the races. It's far more effective than dressing up mannequins in a window.


Pick Up the Speed, Developmentally Speaking


The holiday season will inevitably bring about holiday traffic, and if your site isn't adequately prepared, it could be costly. After all, most ecommerce sites are notorious for having slow site speeds to begin with, so you don't want to be chasing away more customers (and losing more revenue) than you have to. In fact, optimizing your site and providing faster load times than your competitors will probably make you a more desirable destination for shoppers looking to research or purchase products online. You can use Google's Page Speed Online website to quickly test the speed and performance of your website. But hurry, because there's not a lot of time left; early bird holiday shoppers will be visiting your website before you know it, if they're not already.