Growing your e-commerce and digital presence is as essential for the holiday season as Rudolph's glowing nose is to Santa Claus on a cloudy December 24th eve. If executed correctly, your web presence can be a beacon to consumers, guiding them to checkout online and in store, depositing gifts to your bottom line.
Retailers know that November and December can make or break their annual sales. This year, a projected $54.5 billion in online holiday sales for November and December could account for 24.3% of the total $224.2 expected e-commerce sales, according to eMarketer – nearly 25% of an online retailer's sales could be closed in the last two months of the calendar year.
Retailers should already be preparing for the onslaught. Being prepared entails increasing inventory levels, adding warehousing resources and adjusting your product catalog.
In October, you'll want to start building holiday content into your e-commerce store. By November, you'll want to launch overall holiday marketing. For December, you'll need to focus on delivering a superior customer experience. The “Cyber 5,” the Thursday-through-Monday window that includes Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is a key stretch for businesses whose strategy includes hefty discounting and significant sales. From 2010 to 2011, online Black Friday sales leapt 24.3% from 2010, while Cyber Monday sales were up 33%, according to Forrester Research.
With all this in mind, we at Blueport Commerce, the only e-commerce technology and services company that localizes big-ticket retail online, have several tips to get big-ticket retailers locked and loaded for a joyous 2012 holiday season. This is an essential time to make sure you’re doing everything right, beginning with the basics.
1. Review Your Transactional and Triggered Email Messages
Ensure all text, such as contact information and return policies, is up to date. Make sure the sending information, such as from name and from address, match your non-triggered messages. Send tests to be sure the message renders properly and all links are functional. Bronto Software recommends a general rule that 80% of the message must relate to the transaction and 20% can be used for marketing purposes. Per Forrester Research, marketing effectiveness in driving site visits is on the upswing. The percentage of site traffic driven by overall marketing—including email, paid search and display ads—reached a new high of 32% during the November/December 2011 holiday period, up from 29% about a year earlier. So get your holiday marketing set before Black Friday and Cyber Monday to ensure increased site traffic for the holidays.
2. Merchandise Your Products for the Holidays
Think about what big-ticket retail items become more in-demand according to the season. For example, dining tables become more popular around the late October and early November with the onset of Thanksgiving, followed by Hanukkah and Christmas in the US. The highly anticipated holiday season could bring sales and promotions on dining rooms and dinettes. Big-screen TVs remain popular gifts in November and December, so inventory and merchandising around these items should reflect this, as well as marketing and discounting. You may even want to pair a popular December item, such as a big-screen TV, with a year-round purchase such as a sofa, and offer a package deal in order to move more inventory.
3. Lure Customers Back with Holiday Marketing
Target your existing customers first. Per Amazon, existing customers can be up to 80% more likely to purchase from your business than new customers. A nicely targeted email campaign can make sure your most loyal fans are shopping with you again. Social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, are good places to reach them with holiday messaging, too. For big-ticket retailers, social media can be a great way to drive in-store traffic with holiday-themed events that allow followers to come into your brick-and-mortar store to touch and feel the furniture.
Remember to add a little joy into your brand image. Absorb this upbeat vibe in your e-commerce store's copy and promotional materials to enliven your brand and get site visitors in the mood to make holiday purchases. Additionally, make the shipping policy and details clear and prominent on your e-commerce site. How long will shipping take, and how much does it cost? And most critical to the holiday season: when is the last day a consumer can submit an order, and still be guaranteed to get their item by the holiday?
4. Narrow Your Marketing
Avoid broad messaging and targeting. The narrower you can focus on your target market, the better. For example, instead of creating a guide of the “best holiday dining room tables,” consider something as focused as the “best dining room tables for Thanksgiving.” The search volume for such niche-specific terms will be lower, but you can concentrate on driving better qualified (aka higher converting) traffic instead. Use this as a seasonal opportunity to target only your most ready-to-purchase leads for the holidays. Also tie this in with your historically best-selling products for each month.
5. Staff Up to Be Helpful
If you post a phone number or email address for customer questions, ensure you have the resources dedicated to it during the holiday season. Customers will require speedy answers to their questions, and it’s in your best business interest to answer them before they shop with your competitors.
Don't forget that January 2013 can yield valuable data and insights when retailers take stock of what worked best in the 2012 holiday season! This allows big-ticket retailers to spend the first half of the year putting together strategies for the 2013 holiday season.
Here at Blueport Commerce, we feel holiday retailing can never be done early enough. As our big-ticket retailers traditionally look to gain a significant boost in revenue from November and December, it is our goal to help our clients with their marketing efforts every step of the way to ensure they seize this opportunity for sales growth. By improving an online retailers' holiday marketing, staffing and merchandising for e-commerce, big-ticket retailers will drive qualified traffic to both the e-commerce site and in-store, thereby fueling growth.