Written by AJ Leale, Sr. Director eCommerce
Black Friday sales found you unprepared, websites crashed, customers were fuming, and you failed to secure the revenue you aimed for.
Story of your life? It happens to the best — but not twice in a row!
In this article, we provide you with a step-by-step gameplan, a calendar of activities, and tips to help you ace the next holiday season.
Analyze the previous holiday season
Everybody makes mistakes from time to time, but successful marketers actually make them pay off in the future.
What went well, what went bad, what took an unexpected turn? Provided that you’ve tracked the past holiday season diligently, you now have valuable experiences to learn from. You don’t have to start from scratch each year, just fill in the gaps and weed out the stuff that didn’t work.
You can also learn from some of the most common mistakes we see each year, such as:
- Websites crashing due to sudden visitor increase
- Culturally insensitive, sometimes even offensive campaigns
- Failing to hit home with emotional marketing
Celebrate your success stories as well, and use them as a foundation to build future campaigns.
For example, if you’ve launched an awareness campaign and gifted a percent of purchases to an NGO or to a humanitarian or environmental cause and it resonated with your target audience, why not make it a tradition?
This way, you grow your business on several fronts: improving brand image and corporate social responsibility, increasing your conversion rates, and becoming viral in a way that attracts media outlets to reach out to your company.
You can also publish a case study or a whitepaper explaining how (or why) you did it — and use it as a lead magnet to create a hefty list that will come in handy for email marketing. Additionally, include social proof wherever possible, convince potential customers that they’re going in the right direction.
Research the competition and market
Find out what the others are doing. Thorough research can reveal true gems, inspire you, or show you what to steer clear from. These valuable lessons are tried out and tested in practice — and free of charge, so use their potential to the max.
Facebook’s ad transparency policy allows people to see the ads that companies and brands are running at all times, so look into these and determine the main takeaways. What types of ads, for what audience, when, and where — this info can reveal a successful strategy for you to emulate or direct you to the right advertising cadence that helps you beat the competitors.
As far as market research is concerned — answer these questions before going any further with investing in your marketing strategy:
- What are we selling?
- Who needs what we sell?
- How to reach our target customers?
- What will capture their attention?
- Why would they choose us over competitors?
In addition to safe bets, try reaching out to audiences you didn’t think you could connect with before.
For example, if you think you cannot reach out to corporate structures with your funky merch, think again. Ugly sweater parties are more popular than ever, and a nice idea for team buildings. A well-written blog about team-building party ideas will give you a chance to reach out to an entirely new audience, such as HR officers and office managers.
Determine practical, sensible goals, including a set of “reach” goals
A goal-oriented approach with realistic targets in mind is the way to go. A jack-of-all-trades is the master of none — and you won’t master your sales unless you opt for a set of specific, coherent goals that go hand in hand with each other.
Increasing brand awareness, improving your digital reputation, raising sales — whatever you choose to focus on, your set marketing budget will dictate how you achieve your goals.
And before you start worrying about being short on money, remember that a good idea often wins over expensive production. With creativity, your tight budget becomes a challenge, rather than an obstacle.
Sketch out a comprehensive yearly business plan
Now that you know what to do, it’s time to determine when and how to go about it. Craft your yearly plan and quarterly activities, and keep seasonal trends, awareness campaigns, and the variety of holidays worldwide in mind. In the following list, we’ve put the more commercial holidays in bold — while those in plain letters are there as additional opportunities for creative marketing, especially for awareness campaigns.
Q1: January, February, and March
With these holidays and events, it’s time to start off strong:
- Chinese New Year
- Super Bowl
- Valentines Day
- International Women’s Day
Q2: April, May, and June
Not a lot happens during Q2, but that’s no excuse to forget about the marketing department. Keep these holidays in mind:
- International Workers’ Day
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Memorial Day, the start of summer
Moreover, this is the best time to push holiday ads for summer, for consumers that didn’t manage to find the early-bird offers during the winter.
Q3: July, August, and September
For these three months, the main focus are:
- Independence Day celebrations
- Bank holidays
- Back to school sales
- Labor Day offers
Additionally, this is the ideal moment to tighten up and revise the plans for Q4, as it’s the hottest season for marketers.
Q4: October, November, and December
This is a very important holiday quarter — time to put your carefully made plans to work. There are plenty of opportunities to get active and increase sales:
- Black Friday
- Cyber Monday
- New Year’s Eve
Marketing and advertising action plan for various channels
According to these stats, social media is the channel most used when it comes to reaching out to holiday shoppers, even outside the holiday season.
Facebook and Instagram are the heavy hitters, with a huge following among adults in the 18 — 34 age group. A positive experience and social media engagement with a brand means a lot to customers — and with little or no prompting they will provide social proof.
Leverage influencer marketing as well. Instagram and YouTube are extremely popular for showcasing and reviewing products — target your audience and form a partnership with their favorite influencer. They will increase your reach and ROI and get around the adblockers!
Email marketing should not be forgotten, as it takes second place when it comes to bringing high ROI! It is an opportunity to speak directly to your target demographics with bespoke emails that provide them with really good deals, tailored to suit their wants and needs.
Bold and out-of-the-box subject lines (but avoid clickbait or false urgency, which people can smell from miles away), compelling offers, a tip-top landing page with a clear, simple CTA — with these elements in place, you can be sure cart abandonment rate is going to go down.
Pay-per-click ads will appear in the “sponsored” section when customers search the keywords you included, and for each click, you pay the search engine a fee.
These are excellent for local searches and provide you with fast, measurable results. Use them to compete for more specific keywords as you strike a balance between cheaper PPCs and targeting specific crowds.
The key thing is timing. People start researching holiday gift ideas as much as two months in advance, so have your ads and remarketing lists ready early on.
Website SEO: a content-driven approach for organic traffic
Having an exceptional search engine optimized online presence is like eating vegetables regularly; you may think of it as a long-term strategy too dull for a fast-paced world, but you will certainly notice how things go downhill if you neglect it!
We previously wrote about holiday SEO in this article — here are the main takeaways:
- Use engaging language and “power words” in your content, and make it relevant
- Do a thorough check-up of your website’s SEO capabilities: optimize images, code, content, caching, and redirects
- Improve your mobile SEO
Don’t Forget Mobile!
More than half of shoppers start their holiday gift search on their phones, so make sure your mobile marketing is on point. This means going further than just ad within apps:
- Mobile-friendly website
- Verifying and updating My Business on Google
- Opt-in messaging campaigns
Track progress and constantly adapt — don’t “set it and forget it”
Holiday marketing campaigns must be closely monitored each day. These are erratic periods prone to sudden shifts and considerable customer influx, so you need to react and adapt quickly.
If certain campaigns and advertising channels drain your resources but bring low conversion rates, cut back on them and focus your budget on campaigns and methods that generate more sales.
This goes for every aspect of your eCommerce — from content and SEO to shipping, customer service, and payments. Don’t forget to anticipate technical problems caused by increased traffic, a problem that impacts even industry leaders. Black Friday and similar limited-time sales can cause website crashes that will make customers look for alternatives and leave your store — so make sure you are the alternative to the ones that didn’t get ready in time!
In order to optimize tracking, harness AI to take the tedious labor off your hands, while you get creative about your holiday strategy and tactics that truly speak to customers.
Holiday marketing strategy is seasonal — but only in the sense that planning, adjusting, and working should happen through the four seasons of the year. To stay on top of these cycles, we recommend that you partner with a highly-skilled, dedicated professional team.
Our experts can create a unique plan for your eCommerce needs, covering the whole spectrum. Contact us and together, we can get started early, boost your sales, and make 2020 the best year for your business!