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It’s almost that time, when merchants are anxious, buyers are stressed out, kids are ecstatic and everyone is running out of time. If you’re a merchant, it may be too late to re-do your website, rethink your advertising strategy or stock more inventory. But there are some simpler things that you can still do to juice up your holiday shopping season.

1. It’s never too late for an email campaign

At least 50% of US retailers send an email on Thanksgiving and 70% send one on CyberMonday. The high volume of marketing emails is also matched by the amount of eyeballs looking for deals online. So you can’t afford to sit it out. but you can be strategic in timing your emails.

If you sell products that are in high demand (like the new iPod Touch), at unbeatable prices you will want to ensure your emails are seen between Black Thursday and Cyber Monday. On the other hand, gift-baskets and other “procrastinator gifts” might be best marketed during the last few days leading up to Christmas when there are fewer emails competing for attention.

2. Provide a gift-card option

Spending on gift cards will increase this year for the first time in three years, accoding to the TowerGroup to $91B. Services such as www.plastek.com or Deluxe, now allow even smaller retailers to offer their own customized gift cards.

Other services also let you offer a virtual gift card that can be redeemed on your site.

3. Maximize your reach – syndicate everywhere!

Beyond your online storefront, you need to reach your customers where they are searching. Increasingly that’s happening on shopping portals thanks to the high search-ranks that they command. Use syndication features within your cart software to publish your products to as many portals as you can. There are many of these, so refer to a catalog such as this

4. Optimize site-search, and monitor empty search results

Holiday searchers are ready-to-buy and usually stressed out. Ensure that your site searches are functioning properly. And if your e-commerce tool provides this feature, monitor the empty-searches. This tells you what is NOT being found – which is more important than knowing what IS. Sometimes slight tweaking to the wording of product listings is all it takes.

5. Provide assurance to buyers

Thanks to extensive media coverage about scams and fraudulent websites, consumers are likely to be more wary than usual. Assuage their concerns by displaying your “flairs” – the usual bevy of badges that signify that you’re a reputable merchant. Tests have proven that more seals, however gaudy, improve conversion. There are many kinds…

  • Security & Assurance – these can be privacy seals, SSL certificates
  • Reputation – Better Business Bureau seals etc
  • Payment Mechanisms
  • Transactional assurance – services such as buySafe provide additional assurance on the transaction such as a lowest-price guarantee.

6. Use Product-Ads to sell products in high-demand

Are you selling one of the hottest products of this holiday season? Take advantage of Google’s new Product Ads. It lets you list prices and photos of the product in the ad, and commission is paid based on a Cost per Action (CPA) model not click (CPC).

It won’t come cheap, but the investment might be worth it if you have great pricing on exactly the product that hurried shoppers are looking for it. Google reports a 5-10% higher conversion rate on these ads relative to traditional ads.

7. Ensure your emails are mobile friendly

Customers are likely to be on the road more often usual during the holiday season, on trips or shuttling between malls, and more likely to be reading email offers from a phone. So make sure your marketing emails are finely hoined for the mobile user – consider these great tips from Constant Contact.

8. Make the most of your facebook page

Use services such as WildFire or North Social to spruce up your facebook business page and create a contest or giveaway. Most important, keep updating your page with fresh updates, profiling new products etc..

Image of email button by Flickr user Fletcher Prince (Creative Commons)

Image of gift card by Flickr user McCheek (Creative Commons)

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