3 Must Read Marketing Strategies to Prepare for the Holiday Season

As we approach the end of summer and enter fall, it is time to gear up for the end-of-year holiday season.

Last year, US retail e-commerce holiday sales increased from $94.4 billion to $108.2 billion (Statista). This year it’s predicted to jump even further to $119 billion. With 89% of consumers shopping online for the holidays, 56% of them buying more than half of gifts digitally, it’s no brainer that the holiday season presents a huge opportunity for e-commerce retailers (eMarketer) .

So when should you start planning? The months of November and December are important in E-commerce, but even more so to start preparing for the holidays now. A statista study showed that 35.5% of digital shoppers said they will start shopping before Thanksgiving, with 32% starting in December. According to a RetailMeNot survey on holiday shopping, 25% of respondents said they planned to start shopping by October.

Preparing for the holiday season is huge for e-commerce brands. There are many details to plan ahead such as which products to feature, plan marketing emails, design creatives, and create social media posts. In a study published by BigCommerce, 53% of brands reported they began holiday campaign planning for the 2017 season in the third quarter of the year with the highest number (21%) in September. So it’s essential you begin now!

When is a good time to start your holiday sales?

In retail, getting in too late or too early can have big consequences. Brands must consider various factors when deciding the right time to launch holiday sales.

Look at affordability and weight of the decision required to purchase your products.

  • Are the products you sell relatively inexpensive and an impulse buy? or;

  • Expensive and require months of planning and budgeting?

  • Do customers need to research long ahead in advance and shop around?

The rule of thumb is: start early if your products require quite a bit of decision-making. You will want to launch your holiday sales by October. People will start their research early and shop around. You want your brand to capture their mindshare, and a product offer might encourage them to purchase from you.

Use Plannista’s smart and collaborative calendar to plan, organize and execute your holiday campaigns. No idea where to start? Fret not, our time machine has emails and homepages from 600+ brands so you never run out of creative ideas for the holidays.

So how can you capitalize on this holiday season and capture a portion of the gigantic pie? We share 3 must read strategies to help you prepare for this year’s holiday season.

  1. Personalized Marketing

Personalization in marketing is here to stay. Retailers who aren’t keeping up will get left behind. According to Trustpilot, 75% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name and makes product recommendations based on their purchase history.

Personalization builds brand loyalty, improves the customer-retailer relationship and drives revenue growth of 10 to 30% (McKinsey).

It’s clearly good for business.

You need to understand your customer in order to personalize. The use of insight data is important here. Look at your customers’ browsing history, past purchases, age, gender and location to curate targeted marketing material.

Retailers can employ a number of tactics to personalize their marketing efforts such as through personalized messaging, targeted content, exclusive offers and events.

Product Recommendations

Another popular tactic with marketers is product recommendations. One mistake retailers tend to make is recommending the same type of product. But if someone has just purchased a winter jacket, they probably aren’t looking for another. Instead, look to recommend complementary products. For example, if someone has purchased a cocktail dress, recommend heels to go with it. You will probably need a sophisticated recommendation algorithm. However it is a highly effective tactic and worth looking into.

Forever21 is good at doing this. When you select a product, the system recommends similar products as well as other items commonly bought along with it. So if you were to pick denim jeans, you will see other types of pants as well as tops to complete the look.

Targeted Emails

Sending targeted emails is popular. In fact, 40% of holiday shoppers prefer to be reached via email (statista). Marketers can create and send individualized emails to a specific group with certain needs based on data. For example, if a customer was browsing dresses but abandoned the page, send them an email featuring your top dresses and a 20% off coupon. Product recommendations can be sent via email as well.

It is also good practice to remind your customers of an abandoned cart. Lulus does this pretty well. 45% of cart abandonment emails are opened, out of which half click on the emails and another half proceed to make a purchase (Moosend). You can capture sales that will otherwise be lost by sending out these cart abandonment emails. Marketo recommends sending emails within an hour of the cart abandonment. Ideally, before the shopper stops browsing online.

2. Optimize Your Website

We often read about customer complaints that they were disappointed they could not get the product they were looking for because the website was down or too slow. Holidays tend to bring about a huge surge in online traffic. This often causes websites to crash or slow down if they weren’t prepared to deal with the traffic. According to ChannelAdvisor, a retailer could lose roughly 8 percent of the day's digital sales for each hour the website is down.

Think about all the lost sales and strained customer relationships this could potentially bring about. It’s important to optimize your website to prevent site crashes. Firstly, invest in a dedicated server. Shared servers tend to be overcrowded. Any issues that pop up with other sites can impact yours. Furthermore, many shared hosts limit your website by CPU usage, processes and connections. There was 207% increase in online traffic as compared to normal at 11 AM ET on Black Friday 2017 (Fastly). If you experience a surge in traffic during holiday seasons that causes you to exceed the limits imposed by the shared hosts, your site might be moved offline in order to protect everyone else on the shared server.  So it is worth investing in a dedicated server to ensure external players do not affect your website. Next, avoid any major updates during the holiday season. Make necessary updates before you launch your holiday store and carry out server load testing well in advance to ensure the updated website can withstand the upcoming surge in traffic.

It is also equally important to create a good user experience. The top 2 reasons for cart abandonment are having to create an account before checking out and an unexpected shipping charge.

Don’t risk losing website visitors who are already toward the end of the sales funnel. Make improvements to your checkout process to increase conversion rates. Offer a guest checkout function and free shipping with a minimum spend. It is also good practice to provide multiple payment and shipping options. Keep it simple and intuitive. The shorter the checkout process, the higher your conversion rate will be. If you need to spread the checkout process over a few pages, add a visual indicator of how far there is to go.

3. Holiday messaging

Holiday marketing is more than just about adding “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to everything. It is important that your holiday offers are featured prominently on your home page. Update your website messaging with the relevant keywords to help shoppers find your business in search results. This is highly important as 42% of shoppers research online and buy the products online (Statista).

To make for a pleasant shopping experience, retailers should use encouraging, upbeat content for the holidays. Shoppers respond best to content that showcases the products, and ultimately gives them a sense of why the recipient will be delighted to receive the product (Business News Daily). It is important to also do this on social media and emails. Have clear call-to-action buttons, linking posts and emails back to your website that has been optimized.

So now that you’re armed with these 3 marketing strategies, get going with the holiday campaign planning! You can view homepages and emails for holiday inspiration on Plannista’s Time Machine. With a collection of over 600 brands, you’re bound to find ideas to create amazing holiday content from 2017.

By: Tara Diong

Tara Diong