Get Prepared for the Most Wonderful (Marketing) Time of the Year

The holidays seem to sneak up on most of us, teeming with long lists of things to do and too little time. To add to the pressure, marketers know that the holidays are integral for the success of most retailers’ fiscal year, In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates that holiday sales can represent anywhere between 20 to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales. To ease the tension and face the holiday season prepared, your 2013 holiday planning should already be underway.

There’s no denying that promotions can drive foot traffic and website visits during the holiday months. For example, in 2012 Vapour Organic Beauty’s four-day holiday sale, which lasted from Black Friday thru Cyber Monday, accounted for approximately seven percent of Vapour’s annual retail web sales. This is equal to approximately 25 days of web sales in just four days.

Whether you conduct business online, in stores, or both, now is the time to map out your online marketing and promotional plan for the upcoming season (if you haven’t already). Here are five best practices to ensure you’re prepared for the most wonderful (marketing) time of the year.

Review Historical Data.

Take a look at performance of promotions on key days from previous seasons. Make sure you understand what has worked well in the past, what has not and why. For Vapour, its four-day sale works best. “Our 4 day sale allows for us to benefit from social sharing and also reduces confusion for customers,” says co-founder Krysia Boinis. In addition, retailers should utilize this historical information to help ensure that this year’s master holiday promotions calendar will be even more effective than last year’s. Days that are highest value during the holidays typically include:

Black Friday (November 29)
Cyber Monday (December 2)
Green Monday (December 9)
National Free Shipping Day (December 16)
Christmas Eve (December 24)
Day after Christmas (December 26)

Draft a Master Marketing Calendar.

I recommend creating a cross-channel calendar starting now and extending through the holiday months with key dates for promotions, product launches and category discounts. Identifying winning holiday products is a key component to successfully marketing top gifts and having a profitable holiday season. This calendar can include in-store promotions, catalog sales, website sales, and other important/integral events for your business. Capturing all channels on one master calendar will help create consistent messaging and ensure that you’re maximizing your marketing efforts.

Online channels such as Amazon and eBay need to have the right products being sent to them; your landing pages, emails and ads need to queued up and ready to go when you know they’ll be most effective. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare these items – detail them in a calendar to ensure comprehensive marketing coordination and ensure smooth execution come November.

Align Your Promotions Across Channels.

Don’t allow your web promotions to undercut or compete with your in-store promos, and vice versa. Make sure you’re aware of your activity and content across all consumer touch-points so your company’s messaging and pricing are consistent. That’s not to say you can’t have “web-only specials” or exclusive discounts by channel, but your overall message should be consistent so consumers aren’t confused. Having a master promotions calendar and weekly team meetings will help keep all your elves informed.

Bundle Products and Create Gift Sets.

Inventory planning should typically happen five to six months in advance of the holiday season. It’s a great time to identify top performing products and bundle customer favorites into gift packages that cover various price points. “At Vapour, for example, we hand pick some of our customers’ favorite products and bundle them together into beautiful gift boxes ready for giving. This way, customers can discover new favorites or share the products with friends and loved ones. The price points tend to be under $50 and over $100, making it easy to shop and give during this busy time of year,” says Boinis.

Measure and Adjust.

Throughout the holiday season, adjust product placements and pricing daily until you’ve achieved optimal sales. The holiday season certainly isn’t the time to have a “set it and forget it” mentality – adapt and tweak on a constant basis so you’re getting the most out of the increased traffic. If you have the tools available, run multivariate tests on your website creative, email campaigns, and even online advertisements as the season ramps up. Then you’ll be able to make informed decisions during peak times based on those results.

With three months left until the Thanksgiving holiday, don’t delay creating your online holiday marketing and promotions strategy. With a comprehensive calendar, cross-channel coordination and regular measurement, you can capitalize on holiday sales and build loyal shoppers all season long.

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