Your eCommerce Marketing Checklist for a Strong Finish to the Holiday Shopping Season

The seasonal shopping season has become a two-month long chain of promotions and sales. Black Friday used to be a day when people would rush to brick-and-mortar stores, hoping to secure the best deal of the season on a new television or fancy technology gadget.

When eCommerce sites began attracting more attention, Cyber Monday was created as a day for online-only retailers to offer the same type of promotions without requiring people to stand outside in the cold for hours before accessing these unprecedented deals. Now, as the holiday shopping season continues to evolve, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have merged into a four-day event filled with discounts and promotions.

Now, the trend is start holiday shopping even before that; with consumers beginning to buy in October. This means that retailers need to start their holiday promotions around then as well if they want to begin making their holiday revenue.

But SMB merchants aren’t always able to compete with the strategy and promotions of bigger retailers, which is why we put together two checklists smaller businesses can utilize to finish out the holiday season on a good note.

But First, Build a Plan

Before developing any eCommerce marketing strategies, review your data from the previous year to analyze which sales brought in the most revenue and engagement. Based on this information, you can either develop new promotions to increase revenue or relaunch initiatives that were very successful from previous years.

Before building and implementing holiday sales, create a marketing calendar to map each promotion, including the individual offer, the length of the sale and all the details – like free shipping, gifts with purchase or a specific discount. This way you won’t have to play keep-up as you finish out the year.

Your Email Checklist

For eCommerce retailers, email is going to be key in driving sales. This checklist will help you set yourself up for success as you to convert your subscribers into customers.

Ensure that Personalized and Segmented Campaigns Are Ready to Deploy

Prior to developing your holiday shopping season campaigns, hopefully you created buyer personas for your target audience based on user data. This type of segmentation is very beneficial for email campaigns to hone-in on a specific group of shoppers based on their interests. This strategy is great not only for email campaigns, but social media as well.

If your data shows that your largest demographic is females between the ages of 18 and 25, you can create a campaign specifically targeting this group. With a tool like Audience Expander, you can market to similar demographic profiles to broaden your reach and maximize your returns.

Though segmentation and personalization are similar, these two types of campaigns are executed in a slightly different way. Segmentation targets groups of people with similar interests, making it a great method to promote gift guides; personalization focuses more on the individual than the group. Personalization campaigns can be as simple as including the customer’s name in an email, a tactic that eCommerce sites use often to make shoppers feel special and provide them with exclusive discounts.

Test Automated Messaging

Before the holiday madness hits, it is absolutely vital for you to test all automated email campaigns. By reviewing all messaging you plan to promote during the holidays, you can ensure that everything is working properly.

You also have the chance to double- and triple-check for mistakes, including spelling errors, missing words, missing links to products or coupon codes and more. If you’re running several different holiday specials, it’s particularly important to review all these campaigns to verify that you haven’t accidentally incorporated aspects of one sale into the promotion for another.

Review All Messaging for Consistent Customer Experience

After you’ve evaluated your automated messaging, you should take the time to review the content and design you’ve created for the holiday season. When customers visit your site, especially first-time customers, you want them to have the best possible shopping experience possible, so they make a purchase and become a returning customer.

One of the most helpful ways to ensure a great customer experience is through consistency. If you’re running a content marketing campaign through the holidays, make sure the theme is clear and constant across all platforms.

While reviewing your messaging, whether it’s emails, website copy, new product descriptions or your blog page, check that the copy is properly lined up and fits with your chosen themes. Also, take the time to look over your store policies as well. If someone is purchasing a gift from your site, they will want to review your return policy. Check that your guidelines are written clearly and prominently displayed across the entire site. You may even want to consider adding a small blurb about returns to each product page.

A/B Test Email Subject Lines

If you’re not familiar with A/B testing, it’s a method that compares two different versions of the same email, website copy, product description, etc. Subject lines are one of the most important factors in converting consumers through email campaigns. The catchier and more attractive the subject line, the higher the open rate.

To A/B test your email subject lines, send subject line A to 25 percent of your email list and subject line B to another 25 percent. Whichever version is opened by more people will then be sent to the rest of your email list. This eCommerce marketing strategy will uncover valuable data that can positively influence future email campaigns.

Your Housekeeping Checklist

Once your email promotional strategy is tidied up, it’s important to make sure that other aspects of your brand are in good shape so that you can best handle holiday shoppers.

Check and Double-Check Mobile Optimization

The importance of mobile optimization cannot be stressed enough when it comes to eCommerce, especially during the holidays. Mobile sales are beginning to make up a large chunk of the eCommerce industry, and experts predict that it will dominate the world of online shopping within the next five years. Industry projections for mcommerce are expected to exceed $50 billion this holiday season.

People love to browse the internet on the go; during the holidays, more people than ever are scrolling, clicking and searching for the perfect gifts on their cell phones. Be sure to review your mobile site and fix any issues to provide customers with the best possible experience.

Slow loading pages are one of the most frustrating issues with mobile sites. Try incorporating Accelerated Mobile Pages through Google to improve site speed and user experience. If you don’t already have a responsive design site, you can integrate several website plugins that will alter site images to ensure they appear at the correct size, no matter what device consumers are using to shop.

The other most common mobile site issue involves the checkout process. Mobile users expect eCommerce checkouts to be even shorter and easier on a mobile device. Review your process to make sure you are only asking customers for the minimum amount of information required and provide an option that does not require registration.

Create a Post-Holiday Plan

With so much emphasis on the holiday shopping season, your post-holiday strategy may have fallen to the wayside. Don’t let yourself be caught off guard once the shopping season has passed — make a plan for the post-holiday rush! Devise a plan that focuses on how to retain the new customers you gained during the holidays and begin to focus on replenishing your products for the new year.

Develop and Rehearse Customer Service Protocol

During the holidays, your company will experience a surge in customer service inquiries as people seek out items to give as gifts — they may want to know more about return policies, sizing and other product details. Your customer service reps will stay busy during the holidays, and it will remain intense after the season ends.

As the holidays draw to a close, the mad rush of returns and exchanges will begin. Make sure that your return and exchange policy is very clear, and all your customer service reps are well-versed to handle any questions, including any exceptions to the policy. Then, you can develop a clear chain of steps for representatives to follow to provide a great customer experience.

The nature of customer service often means having to deal with people who are upset, even though the cause of their issue may have nothing to do with the rep themselves. In these situations, train your staff to remain calm and friendly while gathering the information they need to resolve the issue.

If a customer becomes unreasonably upset and stops cooperating with the rep, it’s helpful to have an escalation plan to neutralize the situation and satisfy the customer. It’s an excellent idea to prepare your service team for tough situations so if a misunderstanding occurs, they will have a well thought-out plan to follow.

Update Your SEO

Boosting your site’s organic traffic is an excellent method for gaining new customers, exposing your brand to a wider audience and decreasing the dollar amount spent on paid advertisements. SEO is the most widely accepted and successful eCommerce marketing method for increasing organic traffic through strategies that include building content around specific keywords and phrases that internet users search most often. This year, you can attract more people to your eCommerce site by developing themed content.

Begin by researching keywords that are particularly popular around the holidays — for example, “holiday gift guide,” “gifts for her” or “holiday shopping sales.” Depending on the search volume of each phrase and which websites are currently ranking for those terms, you can potentially use these keywords to appear on Google’s first search results page.

Though this is an eCommerce marketing strategy you can (and should) use year-round, it can be incredibly beneficial at the holidays when people are searching for specific, seasonal products. Create a gift guide and use keywords to direct traffic or develop an editorial calendar for your blog that includes holiday-related topics.

To make your messaging consistent, you can also incorporate holiday themes into your emails and landing pages, making them more appealing and fun. Though this does not necessarily add SEO value, it gives your site a comprehensive focus for the holidays, and it adds visual appeal.

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With the holiday season well underway, it’s important that eCommerce stores execute a thorough marketing plan and provide a great user experience to capture vital revenue. With $986.8 billion in retail sales up for grabs, it’s time to ensure that your online store is set up for success.