Practical Ecommerce

5 Holiday Marketing Ideas to Boost Sales

The holiday shopping season runs from the end of October to the end of the year, and it can represent as much as 20-to-40 percent of a retailer’s total annual sales. So even marginal improvements in marketing effectiveness can amount to significant improvements to the bottom line.

According to the National Retail Federation, 19 percent of all U.S. retail sales in 2010 occurred between November 1 and December 31. The NRF also estimated that 2011 holiday sales could rise 2.8 percent to some $465.6 billion — see my article on that topic.

While this time of year is certainly good for ecommerce businesses, it can also be very competitive as several online stores try to reach the same potential customers. In this article, you’ll find five marketing ideas that could help your business in this important shopping season.

1. Start Campaigns Now

The NRF considers November 1 to be the official start of the holiday shopping season. But you should not wait. Internet marketing firm Responsys reported that some leading retailers — think national brands like Nordstrom’s — tended to start their holiday marketing campaigns about 69 days before Christmas on October 17. By starting earlier a merchant may gain an advantage during the “gift idea” phase of the shopping season.

Consider sending your first holiday email campaign next week.

2. Advertise and Sell on Amazon is a large ecommerce marketplace featuring many sellers. As a result, millions of shoppers use the site to look for gift ideas, research particular products, compare prices, and make holiday purchases.

Online retailers have two ways to promote their businesses on Amazon. First, there is Amazon Product Ads, which allow you to place a pay-per-click ad on specific category and product pages. Essentially, shoppers see the ads when they are looking for similar products.

Amazon will also allow you to sell some products directly from its marketplace. I recommend both Product Ads and Sell on Amazon.

3. Offer Gift Cards

In 2010, the average holiday shopper spent $145.61 on gift cards, according to the NRF.

“The popularity of gift cards has grown tremendously in recent years, especially during the holiday season, as gift cards remain a favorite choice for both gift givers and receivers. More than half of holiday shoppers in 2010 said they’d like to receive gift cards – marking four years in a row that gift cards have topped consumers’ holiday wish lists,” the NRF wrote in its 2011 Holiday Survival Kit.

Gift cards help merchants in at least two ways. First, it can be a very easy transaction to manage during a very business season. Second, gift cards are often not redeemed until January or even February.

Definitely sell gift cards — many ecommerce platforms have the feature built in — and consider give customers special gift card related offers. For example, you could give a shopper a $20 gift card for free for every $120 they spend on our site.

4. Use Video

Video is an excellent ecommerce-merchandising tool. According to some published reports, video may help to increase conversions by as much as 40 percent. This boost is largely due to video excellence at presenting product features and building demand.

There is also some data that suggests that use video in product descriptions may help maintain retail pricing.

Add short explanatory videos to at least your top ten products.

5. Add a ‘Gift Ideas’ Landing Page

Many shoppers just don’t know what to get the folks on their shopping list for Christmas. Online retailers can help, by providing gift-idea landing pages. These pages might be things like “Top Ten Gift Ideas for Dad,” or “Ten Awesome Gift Ideas for Ten-Year-Olds.”

Support the landing pages with pay-per-click advertising and email marketing.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

Bio   •   RSS Feed


Sign up for our email newsletter

  1. Andrew October 13, 2011 Reply

    Great tips Armando. Regarding #2, if you list your products on the Amazon Marketplace and on Amazon Product Ads you’ll want to be careful about duplicate product listings. If you have a product on the marketplace, most likely the Amazon Product Ads will be that same product from your store if you’re using both programs.

    It can put a damper on ROI by limiting the full potential of one program. Shoppers might click your product ad, realize it’s the same but from an external source, go back to Amazon and complete the purchase.

    Just something to keep in mind. They can both be done successfully simultaneously with a watchful eye.

  2. Lisa Suttora October 17, 2011 Reply

    Good advice for boosting holiday sales! Regarding selling on Amazon – one thing that online merchants want to be aware of is that when selling products through the Amazon Marketplace, those customers belong to Amazon. Online merchants should not contact their Marketplace customers or market to them directly. (It’s against Amazon’s policies.)

    Amazon Product Ads however, can be used for customer acquisition.
    (In fact the webinar archived here at Practical Ecommerce that Armando did with Kristina Wallender of Amazon Product Ads, does a great job of outlining the details.)

    The best strategy is to look at your inventory and determine which inventory is best suited for Marketplace sales and which is a good candidate for Amazon Product Ads.

    With this approach, you can leverage the power of Amazon traffic to both boost your sales directly (through the Marketplace) and drive traffic to your website through Product Ads. A win/win combination!


  3. HelperB October 18, 2011 Reply

    Great information as usual! I really appreciate the informative newsletters and articles that Practical Ecommerce puts out. A lot of us are feeling around in the dark and it’s good to see a light at the end of the tunnel!