Marketing & Advertising

2018 Holiday Ecommerce Marketing Checklist

For many online stores, the Christmas shopping season can represent a significant percentage of total annual sales. Thus it’s important to get holiday ecommerce marketing right.

What follows is a checklist of 12 reminders for your ecommerce company to be successful this holiday season.

Holiday ecommerce marketing plans should start in September or earlier.

Holiday ecommerce marketing plans should start in September or earlier. Image: Tyler Delgado.

Develop a Marketing Plan

The buyer for a brick-and-click retail chain submitted a sales goal to her manager, the director of purchasing. She wanted to bring in $500,000 worth of new hunting canteens for Christmas. The canteens had about 40 points of margin, so she was estimating around $700,000 in Christmas sales from October through December.

“How do these canteens compare to the Hydro Flasks we sell now?” the director of purchasing asked.

“They are similar in quality, price, and margin,” the buyer said.

“Do you think the market for Hydro Flasks is larger or smaller than the market for these new hunting canteens?”

“The market for Hydro Flasks is much larger. These hunting canteens are a specialty item.”

“Last Christmas we sold $120,000 worth of Hydro Flasks. Do you really believe we are going to be able to sell $700,000 in hunting canteens this year?”

“Well, I thought we could have marketing promote them.”

This story is a fable (although there is more than a grain of truth in it). It is meant to make a point.

Your ecommerce holiday marketing will be an important factor in driving Christmas sales. But it cannot magically create demand where none exists. And promoting a product may not be sufficient for success.

Before your company decides how much to spend on marketing — and where to invest — take a look at your business, the market, and your inventory.

Here are the first three items on our holiday ecommerce marketing checklist.

Understand the opportunity. How much revenue will your ecommerce business be able to produce during the holiday season? How much would the company earn if you sold out of popular products? How much did the company sell last Christmas? Set a realistic sales goal, so that you’ll know how much you can afford to invest in holiday marketing.

Select target products. Identify the products that will be featured on your site and in your advertising. Will you promote individual items or product categories?

Set holiday marketing goals. Given your company’s total opportunity and the specific products you will be promoting, set achievable and measurable goals for your holiday marketing.

Prepare Your Website

The next set of items on our checklist focuses on having your online store ready for visitors and ensuring that those visitors can find your site.

Conduct a website audit. Use a site audit tool such as PowerMapper to locate broken links, 404 errors, and web accessibility issues. Audit your store for search engine optimization and content. Check site performance with Lighthouse or a similar tool and try to reduce load times.

Look for content marketing opportunities. The months of September and October can be a good time to develop useful, informative, or entertaining content. Think gift guides or holiday recipes, as examples. Any content you create can also be used to attract shoppers. You might try doing a little broken-link building, too.

Tune up your landing page. Your ecommerce store is probably going to use SEO and pay-per-click marketing to attract shoppers during the Christmas season. Ahead of all of that traffic, make certain you have prepared the landing pages.

Execute a Marketing Plan

Goals are set. Your online store is ready. So the next items on your 2018 holiday ecommerce marketing checklist focus on the specifics of planning and executing your campaigns.

Choose marketing tactics. Your goals should inform your choice of marketing tactics. Will you use email to encourage repeat shoppers? Will you buy ads on a search network to attract new customers? Will you give direct mail a try? Consider using results from last Christmas to help make these choices.

Plan your promotional calendar. Once your company has identified its marketing tactics, put those tactics on a promotional calendar. When will your direct mail postcard land in mailboxes? On which days will you send email marketing messages? Last year, more than a third of Christmas presents were purchased during the week of Cyber Monday. How will that fact impact your promotional calendar?

Develop your creative. The day your digital display ad starts running is not the time to design it. Likewise, if your business is using YouTube ads, make the video commercial well ahead of time. Write in advance all of your email copy, text ads, and similar.

Build email messages. Many email marketing solutions require you to upload images, paste in text, and lay out each email message and campaign. So aim to get all of your email marketing campaigns ready and scheduled no later than Halloween.

Load PPC campaigns. You can start to load and schedule PPC campaigns weeks ahead of time.

Monitor the execution. Make certain everything is running as expected. Monitor each of your holiday marketing tactics. Were your Cyber Monday sales so good that you sold out of a target product? Will you need to modify your free shipping offers as a result? Inspect what you expect.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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