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
Amazon.com 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.