Across the globe, retailers are bracing for a challenging holiday shopping season. If you run an ecommerce site, what can you do to be sure to get the most out of “Cyber Monday” (the ceremonial kick-off of the holiday online shopping season in the United States which falls on Dec. 1 this year) and beyond? At Agency.com we have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s strongest online retail brands, all of which are as concerned as mom-and-pop retailers about how they will fare during this holiday shopping season.
In anticipation of Cyber Monday and in preparation for the few weeks of consumer frenzy that follow, here are some of the global brand marketers strategies for making sure that ecommerce environments are ready to make the most out of the smaller opportunities that this season will inevitably afford.
Holiday specials content: launch it now. Although I cringe every time I get hit before Halloween by an ad for holiday shopping, now is the time to be launching your seasonal content. It is important to get your calls to action properly indexed and ranking in search results in anticipation of the interests of potential shoppers. Look back over last year’s analytics to see the seasonal search phrases that were driving high-conversion traffic to the site and build content to target that behavior. Get ready with your “holiday gift ideas” and plan ahead for people seeking “last minute holiday gifts” or looking for “gift ideas for mom.” Get this content featured on your home page so that you can contribute maximum link popularity to these specials as quickly as you can.
Offer free anything. Regardless of the economy, shoppers love to get something for free. Adjust your pricing, messaging and infrastructure now to put a little free shipping or holiday perk into the mix to sweeten the deal. Online shoppers are not just price sensitive, they are total-cost sensitive. If you can put together a better total deal than the competitor a notch down in the search results, you will have a better opportunity to make the sale.
Get ready to pay more for search marketing. Seems a bit of a no-brainer, but it is important to understand that from this point forward this year you will need to be paying more for search. For even the largest retailers, holiday shopping time is when they earn their bread, so it makes sense for online marketers to spend more in the hopes of making more. Just be sure that you are not spending blindly, and that your paid campaigns are tied into your ecommerce back end so that you can see what spending makes sense.
Optimize XML for feed-based shopping engines. If you have not jumped into comparison shopping, now is the time. Using your data feed (unfortunately only a few of the engines accept XML feeds) get into comparison shopping engines to compete for the cost-conscious consumer. As household budgets shrink, people are looking for the best deal they can find, and comparison shopping is projected to be one of the bright spots in the ecommerce mix this year.
And don’t forget the flavor of the month: social shopping. Although it accounts for a very small percentage of total ecommerce revenue, social shopping is emerging as a way for certain kinds of consumer products to accelerate into high-touch communities of influencers.
Take fullest advantage of that XML feed by creating a seasonal shopping widget or Facebook application or other externalization of your catalog so that you can give your customers and advocates the best possible opportunity to carry your proposition into their communities.
Do a thorough analytics review. Make sure that your site is ready to handle the increased number of visitors. Check your shopping cart and conversion funnels for holes and work to be sure that you get the most out of every customer. Remove barriers to transactions and increase the visibility of the calls to action.
Tweak your merchandising and cross-selling. If you are selling a printer, include an offer to buy replacement cartridges. If you are selling running shoes, why not merchandise a warm-up jacket in the same color? Perhaps the purchaser of that particular fragrance will also like to buy a scented candle? You have them in your shopping aisle, why not try to get another item or two into their shopping cart! Embed a layer of social shopping into your cart so that you can cross-sell by showing the other items that people have purchased in conjunction with the item that is currently being viewed.
Optimize for promo codes and coupons. Any large brand has a segment of their customer base searching for promo codes for use in an online store or for coupons to be transacted offline. Build a page specifically targeted to this search behavior and extend your ability to connect with brand loyalists that are just looking for a bit of a discount.
Santa has already taken the reindeer out on some training flights, and you too should be tuning up your ecommerce strategy to make the most out of the holiday shopping period. This year, more shoppers will be looking online for better deals and for ways to save the incremental costs like the fuel it takes to drive from mall to mall. Advance preparation will ensure you get the most out of this holiday shopping season.
Jonathan Ashton is the VP of SEO and Web Analytics for Agency.com a global interactive marketing firm based in New York with offices worldwide. He runs the company’s SEO practice which is centered in Chicago. Contact Jonathan and share networks through LinkedIn. The Industrial Strength column appears Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.