Typically, the month of July makes people think of sunshine, pools and fireworks. However, for ecommerce merchants, this warm summer month should bring one thing to mind - the holidays.
Although still six months away, the countdown has already begun for the year's busiest shopping season. This means that merchants need to start their preparations now, in order to stay ahead of their competition and avoid the stress of last minute planning.
So even though it's not time to dust off the ornaments and drink hot chocolate yet, it is time to think about holiday marketing strategies. Here are five tips to help merchants start preparing for Christmas in July:
In 2011, more than half of online retailers started their holiday promotions by Halloween, and that trend is expected to grow during the 2012 season. So when should you start planning? According to Diane Buzzeo, CEO of Ability Commerce, August is a good time to start planning holiday email campaigns, promotional campaigns and sales. However, this doesn't mean that merchants should start promoting Christmas in October.
"You could certainly be doing winter promotions without necessarily having Christmas graphics, because it does turn a lot of people off," says Buzzeo.
Another tip is to make sure site promotions can be seen on multiple pages. This is because many consumers don't visit a merchant's homepage when they are using search to find products. For example, if a consumer searches for the word "shoes" on Google, the search results may take them to the shoe page of a merchant's website rather then the merchant's homepage. So by not carrying a promotion, such as free shipping, throughout an entire website, merchants may actually be doing themselves a disservice.
Keywords are not only important for PPC campaigns. In fact, merchants should use keywords as a recurring theme for all aspects of their brand and website. For example, using words such as "New Arrivals" as a category header on a website is a bad idea, because consumers will rarely (if ever) search for the phrase "new arrivals" when they are surfing the Web with intent to purchase.
This is another reason why merchants should start thinking about what their holiday theme will be, so that specific keywords can strategically be placed throughout promotions, advertisements, emails, and even in some cases, throughout the website itself.
Although merchants may not be aware of the holiday season's hot products yet, it doesn't mean that they can't start planning their email marketing strategy.
"You're going to change your product selection, but you're not going to change the fact that you're going to be sending an email out," says Buzzeo.
This means that merchants should be checking the calendar to see when the best time is to send out email promotions, such as a message on the eve before Black Friday that includes information on mega deals, or a reminder for the last day to purchase products in order to receive shipments before the holidays.
From running location-based deals to incentivizing social purchases - it is clear that the marketing opportunities from social media are vast. And while it probably isn't the first time that merchants are leveraging social networks for promotions during the holidays, there is a fairly new social network that is perfect for "wishlist" season - yes, we are talking about you, Pinterest.
"Pinterest is a really great way to have wishlists," says Buzzeo. "It's also a great way to see what people are pinning to determine what you should make your promotions out of."
Additionally, many companies and social networks are providing merchants with new social tools, such as Facebook Offers, which can be leveraged in order to obtain and retain a strong social presence throughout the holiday season.
Maintaining a mobile optimized site is a must for merchants, and this is especially important for the holidays. Since more and more consumers are leveraging their mobile devices to discover products and brick-and-mortar locations while on the go, having a mobile-optimized site puts merchants a step ahead of their competition.
However, being optimized for mobile doesn't mean just creating a website that can be accessed on mobile devices. It also means having a mobile site that is fully functional on mobile devices - meaning that consumers are able to see promotions, view products and even make purchases from the palms of their hands. Furthermore, merchants should also test their promotional emails on mobile devices, especially since many consumers open their emails while on the move.
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