Your Holiday Plan – Time to “Turn the Crank”

Ah, the holidays…   time with the family, good cheer, snowflakes on kittens and the crush of eCommerce retailing.

For many eCommerce retailers, this is the sales performance Super Bowl.   This post is to designed to give a few quick marketing tips to help you “get yourself right” for gameday.

 

CPC

 

If you did CPC last year, look at the corresponding keyterm performance reports for comparable periods of time last year.   It’s always interesting to me that different parts of the product selection seem to have different curves during the holiday season.   Some items peak earlier than others. Some items tend to be more for last minute shopping.   Peak season is the time to pay special attention to these trends. There are a lot of companies that don’t play the CPC game aggressively until the peak season.   You’ll see an influx of competition and price pressure to maintain position. You want to maintain your position on the terms that you are profitable on.  You need to have clarity on which terms those are. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of smaller retailers give away a lot of profit by being overly aggressive on their terms during the holiday because the prices went beyond where good ROI could be had. Conversely, you leave money on the table by not bidding aggressively on your best terms during the buying frenzy.

Consider testing a discount as a way to differentiate from the competition. For example, you might try a 10% off offer in your ad text or landing page. Run it as an A/B test with two different ads with two different tracking urls.

Lastly, double down on the holiday blitz by using Microsoft AdCenter. I’ve been impressed with the volume coming from Bing and Yahoo and you might find different veins of opportunity in the bidding environment in the AdCenter. Again, now is the time to try. There is volume and opportunity.

Email

 

Turn the crank!   Have you a had a meeting to talk about ramping up your email strategy for the peak season? Whoever is in charge of email should be at the top of their game right now. This is the peak season! If ever there is a time to be aggressive, it is now. How aggressive? Short answer is “VERY”. Do you have data from last year? Use it! Unless you saw some real blowback from over mailing – ADD SOME MAILINGS. You really don’t know where the line is, until you push up against it.

Also, this is the time where you have the best chance to do some testing. Segment your list. Try 3 messages per week vs 2 messages per week and compare results.   You are trying to maximize your ROI for this year and learn for the future. The peak season is a great time to run statistically significant tests.

Testing ideas:
Try an A/B/A test. Break your list into three parts. Depending on your list size this could be 33%, 33%, 33% or 10%, 10%, 80%.  Test an offer on two of the parts and roll the winner to the remainder. This allows you to optimize your offers for more than half of your audience.

Abandoned Cart Emails

Do you have them in place?  There are incremental sales to be had here at no additional cost. Peak season is the time when you have the most abandons. If you don’t have abandoned cart emails in place there is no quicker route to ROI than to implement them now.

Likewise, Product Reviews and Review request emails. The holiday season is the time for you to get a good volume of these to build up the quantity of reviews on your site. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an abundance of fresh content for search engines and site visitors in Q1 2012?

 

Shopping Engines

 

Just make a point to revisit your feeds and tweak your listings before Thanksgiving.  Make sure your listed products are up to date and in stock.

 

Your Webstore

 

Freshen up your category list. Does it make sense to make a “Gifts” category or “Holiday” category? Consider some seasonal “Hero Images” for your homepage or category pages. If you don’t have any, there still might be time. Circle the wagons and schedule a photo shoot.

 

SEO

 

Not much to talk about here.   SEO is not something you can change quickly.  Hopefully the peak season is the time when you can reap the benefits from your natural listings (and the work you’ve done to make your site search friendly, fresh and content rich all year).

Godspeed!

Eric Winter is VP of Internet Strategy at Timberline Interactive. Eric is a 15 year Internet Marketing veteran with deep experience in SEO, Paid Search, Affiliate Programs, Email Marketing, Website Testing and Analytics.

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