More than eight out of ten Christmas-season shoppers will look for gifts and gift ideas online before making a purchase, creating a significant opportunity for Internet retailers. But to cash in on Christmas sales, many merchants need to begin executing coordinated marketing campaigns now.
It is not too early to start preparing for the Christmas shopping season that begins in late October and, in some cases, goes even beyond December 25. As an example, ratings and reviews solution provider Bazaarvoice, which was the source of the eight-out-of-ten (84 percent) data above, has already begun encouraging its clients to start planning and executing holiday marketing campaigns now with a new PDF report focused on producing social content and building pre-Christmas trust.
As Bazaarvoice seems to understand, it is one thing for a retailer to recognize the need to plan for the Christmas season, and something completely different to know which marketing strategies and tactics to employ.
Similarly, Contributing Editor Dale Traxler also recently encouraged online merchants to begin preparing for the Christmas-powered holiday shopping season, in “Prepare in August for Holiday Ecommerce Sales.” Traxler’s encouragement should lead ecommerce entrepreneurs and marketers to recognize the need to start working on holiday promotions, and the next logical step would be to seek out marketing tips, ideas, and suggestions about how to market for Christmas 2013.
How Should You Market for Christmas 2013
Although there are certainly dozens of viable ways to attract new customers and make holiday sales this year, three particular strategies may have the most promise for small and mid-sized online retailers:
- Marketing to known customers;
- Inbound marketing;
- Pay-per-click advertising.
These strategies are either relatively inexpensive or can be held to a budget. Each should encourage site traffic, and each can be a source of timely sales.
Marketing to Known Customers
Loyal, repeat, known customers are usually a retailer’s best revenue source. In the United States, for example, some 41 percent of retail ecommerce revenue comes from returning or repeat shoppers. And these returning shoppers typically only represent about 8 percent of site visitors, according to Adobe’s Digital Index Report, “The ROI from Marketing to Existing Online Customers.”
Adobe also found that returning shoppers will spend between three and five times as much per visit as new customers.
To address known customers, aim marketing efforts at email, social media, and, if you have subscribers, text messaging.
For email, plan a series of emails starting now that seek to achieve one of three goals: (1) Encourage shoppers to look for pre-holiday clearance; (2) Introduce or preview new or featured products; and (3) Encourage engagement with blogs and social media content that will be a hub of holiday suggestions.
Email service provider Exact Target produced a holiday email calendar that can provide more specific email ideas.
For blogs and social media, ask known customers that use Facebook or Pinterest to start creating wish lists of products they would like to receive as gifts this Christmas. Also ask them to offer gift ideas and suggestions. Aggregate the best wish lists and gift suggestions into blog posts.
Text messaging is a significant opportunity for retailers — see “Text Messaging Effective for Retailers.” Shoppers will typically respond to a text message in about 90 seconds. Imagine what that might mean for a retailer communicating exclusive Black Friday or Cyber Monday offers? If you have a text list, plan a weekly, exclusive holiday offer in the second half of November and early part of December. If you don’t have an opt-in text-messaging list, you might start building one.
Inbound marketing seeks to attract new customers with content like blog posts, videos, or other helpful material.
The concept is simple, add content to your ecommerce site that will attract shoppers from search engines and word of mouth. The idea is that a significant number of your potential customers are going to use search engines or recommendations from friends to find gift ideas or even a fruit cake recipe.
For example, a retailer could publish a blog post about the five times when it is appropriate to give fruit cake as a Christmas present, or a video about how to select gear for the fisherman on your holiday shopping list. This content, published in August or September, would turn up in search results in November or December.
The final method that online retailers will certainly want to employ is pay-per-click advertising.
This form of promotion may cost relatively more and have relatively lower conversion rates that email or inbound marketing, but for the Christmas season it really should be part of the mix.
Consider beginning small, keyword testing PPC campaigns now. Pay-per-click marketing requires a significant amount of monitoring, as you modify keywords, experiment with ad text and images, and refocus customer targets.
Although, you’re almost certainly going to want to include Google AdWords in the mix, look for alternative networks too. For example, Facebook promoted posts can be great converters and tend to have the residual effect of increasing the number of Facebook followers.