Timing is Everything

With the kids back in school and the leaves starting to turn, online merchants are obsessing about Holiday readiness. It’s the time of year when we carefully schedule all our email campaigns for the next three all-important months. Merchants are coordinating online and social-media campaigns, catalog drops, and in-store events. Time is of the essence.

But timing isn’t just a Q4 priority. In June I was lucky to speak alongside Steve Elkins, coowner of WEBS Yarn.com on an Internet Retailer panel. Steve spoke convincingly about the importance of being the first on Adwords, all year long, with each season’s product-specific yarns. They’re one of the country’s top sellers of knitting yarns, and it’s crazy long-tail search terms like “Viking of Norway Balder Chunky” (dude, I couldn’t make this stuff up!) which spike with high search volume and excellent conversion the very moment they’re released.

Also on our IR panel was Jeff Pape, owner of Wrestlinggear.com, who had another take on timing. WrestlingGear.com specializes in headgear, singlets, shoes and other stuff for high school and college wrestlers. Jeff studied the day-of-week and time-of-day reports for all his sales on Adwords, and found that a large portion of his transactions occur after normal business hours. That’s because many of his customers are kids waiting for after-dinner hour to get Mom and Dad’s permission — and credit card! — to snap up the latest cool custom shoes.

Jeff targeted some of his budget to those off-peak hours. Ironically, many of his rivals have already exhausted their daily spend by that time — so Jeff had the place to himself.

Dinn Brothers in West Springfield, Massacusetts is America’s largest maker of trophies and awards. A multi-generation family business, their focus changes with the sports seasons: In Fall, it’s all about football trophies and soccer trophies. When the season turns, it’s all about the current sports and activities. Even non-sports awards like academic plaques and debating trophies have their day.

Every retailer has her busy season: gardening seed and supply companies, gift companies, apparel retailers. The trick is to plan ahead for season-specific campaigns:

  • Website design and merchandise refreshes. Every site needs a “new” section!
  • SEO pushes: SEO is a slow-acting process, so DON’T take your out-of-season pages offline if you can avoid it! You want these to rank well and be ready ahead of time for seasonal searches when they emerge
  • Paid search campaigns: Don’t get caught with last-year’s bid when this season (and its inevitable click-price inflation) hits
Tom Funk is a Senior Ecommerce Manager at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. His book Social Media Playbook for Business was published February 2011. His first book, Web 2.0 and Beyond is now in its 3rd printing.

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