One strategy for increasing your website traffic and sales is to run integrated campaigns on seasonal merchandise. Almost any type of business-to-consumer — and even many business-to-business — stores sell items that are more appropriate for various seasons or holidays.
This article examines the benefits of planning an integrated marketing campaign well in advance by analyzing your target market, your goals for the campaign, and all the preparation required to make it successful.
Let’s start with the items you are planning to sell. Let’s say you sell fashion accessories like scarves, hats, bags, shoes, and jewelry. As the seasons change, your customers may be thinking about staying warm, and protecting themselves from rain and snow. They may shift their color palette to brown, gold, and orange. Sandals are out, closed toe shoes and boots are in.
First, you must determine what you will purchase. What items will be in fashion? What’s the lead time for you to receive those items? Can you get samples ahead of time to take pictures and create detailed descriptions? Do you have the cash reserves to make a large bulk purchase or are you going to spread your spending out, at the risk of your suppliers running out of stock when you have a hot item?
The point is to do this thinking and planning several months ahead of time. If you want to run a seasonal campaign starting in August, you should likely start planning in April — for inventory shipments to be arriving in late July.
As you order the merchandise, think about the impact that an integrated marketing campaign may have on your demand. If you are planning to feature certain items, or you have a history of success with a set of products, be sure to order enough in advance.
One thing that large ecommerce stores do well, and that many smaller stores do poorly, is marketing campaigns. As a past owner of a smaller store, I understand why. It’s time consuming. It’s difficult to plan and execute a campaign across multiple media platforms. It can be hard enough just to execute on your own website.
A 'Normal' Marketing Campaign
Let’s start with what most small business owners do successfully. Most will buy the fall fashion accessories, create a category on their websites for the new fall items, blog about them, post the arrival on Facebook, and do an email campaign or two about the new items. You will likely focus your energy on letting everyone know in early August with a reminder or two in September. Finally, you may run a clearance sale on selected items just before you are about to introduce your fall fashion accessories. Thus, you will likely get a big boost on your sales in August and again in October.
A Better Marketing Campaign
Now let’s examine an integrated marketing campaign. This involves creating a promotional theme, and then executing branding, messaging, ads, and product promotions on multiple platforms over an extended period of time. At first glance, it may appear expensive. But instead of getting an early and late boost on your sales, you will likely see a more steady revenue stream that actually builds with repeat sales. You may also help reinforce your brand and image with your target customers by staying with something and modifying it enough over time to keep it interesting to them.
Here are some elements that I would include in an integrated campaign along with notes on when and how you might include them. Create an actual campaign plan with target dates and deliverables. Be sure to keep your campaign “fresh” with new concepts and products featured.
- Create your theme and its messaging. A theme could be a fashion style, a specific designer, value, and colors. Plan for ways to slightly shift it. Maybe you introduce a Halloween or back-to-school variation.
- Create promotional banners in a variety of sizes to reinforce your themes. Include product images — or a placeholder for several rotating product images — branding, and some type of message. These are not sale banners; they reinforce your theme.
- Create specific sale banners. Use for special items or discounts for the campaign.
- Create category pages on your website. This may be a single large category, or a new "fall Items" category, with subcategories depending on the number of items included.
- Create landing pages for email campaigns and pay-per-click campaigns. This may be one or many. I suggest many so you can test various landing pages for effectiveness, at a minimum.
- Create pay-per-click campaigns. Consumers love new items, and they love a clever campaign. Create intro ads, sale ads, ads on specific products, and clearance ads. Make sure to land them on appropriate pages that match the keywords and ads that you are using.
- Create email campaigns. Start with an introductory email to determine what products are popular. Then, go back with a promotion or two on those hot items. Mix in your clearance items. Create a special offer for repeat customers.
- Add a clearance sale event. Do this on the new items, or the new items combined with other items. It could be on the slow sellers, or not. Stay with the same theme - just introduce a one time savings or free shipping.
- Rotate your promotional banners. Do this on your website, from general to specific products that are selling.
- Run social media campaigns. Post an introduction to the new campaign. Post its progress. Post images of best sellers on your Facebook wall. Run ads on Facebook targeting specific customers. Tweet the various promotional events. Blog about your progress.
- Target other content rich websites. If your industry has content-rich media sites, run some banners there. In short, get your branding and messaging out everywhere you can.
- Measure your progress. Check your analytics to see where traffic and sales are coming from — and double down. Increase your budgets on those traffic and sales generators; cut the budgets elsewhere.
These ideas are really just the tip of the iceberg. The key is to leverage the same branding and messaging on many platforms and keep at it. Manage your marketing investment and limit it to things that actually work. By stretching your campaign out on different platforms, you’ll help keep the sales coming. You don’t have to run everything concurrently. Spread the campaign out a bit. Consumers do not wake up one day in unison and decide it's fall. For someone in Maine, fall comes a lot earlier than for someone in southern California.
The resources needed for an integrated campaign are what prevent more small businesses from launching one. First and foremost, you need a graphic designer to help create a variety of banners. If you outsource your pay-per-click campaigns, you’ll need to work with your agency to develop supporting campaigns. You will likely need to budget more money to run an extended PPC campaign on Google or other search engines.
If you can’t invest heavily, try it slowly. Start by investing in landing pages to support your promotion. We found a much higher conversion rate on campaigns when we started directing consumers to a supporting landing page. Second, invest in some PPC ads. Buyers are always looking for “new,” “on sale,” and “free shipping.” Make sure you reinforce your PPC ad message in the landing page. Don’t just dump shoppers on your home page that has no relationship to the promotion itself.