It’s that time of year again. It’s the time of the year when everyone running an eCommerce business needs to just completely overlook the pumpkins and ghosts and whatnot and get to thinking about those other holidays.
That’s right. Once again, it’s not even November yet and you need to start planning your end-year holiday campaigns now.
If you’re anything like most small businesses – or some big businesses these days – you’ll need this time to get your digital marketing house in order because the season will be here before you know it.
Let’s dive in.
The Big List Of Things You Need To Check Now
This is the part where you figure out what you’re going to put on sale, how you’re going to do it and when you’re going to start. Basically, this is the overall planning phase.
This needs to be done before you move on to the next steps because you can’t really optimize anything unless you know what you’re going to have a sale on.
- Products. What are you going to put on sale? Is there a demand for it? Will it be this year’s ‘hot’ holiday toy or product? There’s no point in advertising stuff that nobody wants so make sure you know what you’re going to put on sale and what the demand is like and probably will be.
- Discount Methods. Are you going to do a general price discount on specific items? Will people need a coupon code? How will they get the code (Social media, on site interstitial, email campaign to current customers, etc.) for your sale?
- How much are you willing to discount your items? This is a fine line here. You don’t want to put yourself in the hole by discounting stuff to where you’re taking a loss but then again, saving $10 on something that costs $600 is basically a slap in the face to your customers. Plan that out carefully.
- When will you launch your first holiday campaign? Will you do something for Black Friday and Cyber Monday on your site or in your physical location (pro tip: if you’re planning on being open on Thanksgiving, keep in mind the huge negative backlash you’re going to get on social media! I strongly recommend you DON’T do this because a. it’s a crappy thing to do to your employees, IMO, b. the public relations nightmare you’re going to face online will probably outweigh any sale revenue you’re going to bring in and c. You can actually make positive public relations by posting that your store will be closed on Thanksgiving to let your employees spend time with their families and friends.)
- CHECK YOUR TECH! Make sure you get your IT department in on this. There is absolutely, positively nothing worse than having your server go down while everyone is on holiday break. If your IT team is warning you about something that could crash your site, now is the time to fix it. DO NOT WAIT.
- How will you launch the campaign? Will you do email marketing? Social Media? Both? Neither? Everything? You need a plan, man!
OK, so if you haven’t been keeping up with your SEO on your site up to this point, it’s far too late for you to do anything about it now to get going for the holidays just because everything in SEO just takes so long to make a difference but if you have been keeping track, here are a few things to double check:
- Are any pages being blocked by your robots.txt file that shouldn’t be? If so, fix it.
- Is your site speed up to where it should be? Remember, if it takes longer than three seconds to load, people are leaving your site so make sure you’re as fast as possible
- Do you still have old holiday landing pages from years ago? If that’s the case, update those things to this year! Don’t let that link juice and page authority go to waste! Update those pages and use the same URLs from before instead of trying to create whole new pages
- Make sure your eCommerce checkout is working, fast and easy to use. Nothing says ‘cart abandonment’ like a crappy checkout process
Again, this part is relatively short because if you haven’t been maintaining good SEO practices this year, it’s a little late to start in October and hope things are going to just ‘kick in’ for you by the holidays but checking these things will help!
Content Marketing Checklist:
It’s the holidays and that means people will be buying gifts. Let’s be real, most people have no clue what to get someone for the holidays so what do they do? They Google things like ‘Christmas gifts for her/him 2017’ or ‘Hottest toys of 2017’ or even ‘Holiday gift list 2017’.
You know you’ve done it for at least ONE person on your gift list, don’t even lie.
This is where your content strategy comes in.
- Make a gift guide of the things you sell. You can make it general to cover anyone looking for things in your industry (eg: Hottest Kids’ Shoes of 2017, etc.) or drill into your customer personas (eg: Gifts for the Mom that Loves Movies, etc.) I advise that you put this year in the title because no one searches for the best gifts of last year and people usually add the current year to their queries to make sure they’re getting the newest lists out there.
- Create blog posts on holiday gift giving themes that help your customers and potential customers. Articles on gift wrapping, decor and more are hot around that time of the year so make sure you’re giving the people what they want.
- Video Content. Video content is crucial to digital marketing and even more so this time of year. You don’t have to be a Hollywood director to make a good video, just get out that camera on your phone and put something together!
- User Generated Content. Look, customers like to see other customers using the things. Unboxing videos, product action shots, video testimonials…you name it. If you’ve got it, now’s the time to be working that into your rotation and if not, it’s not that hard or too late to ask for it.
Social Media Checklist:
Here’s where you can get some good, quick wins, especially with all that content you just made in the last step. Take some time to make sure you’re ready by doing the following:
- Plan your social media budget. Look, you’re going to spend money here no matter what you do so make sure you’re not breaking the bank but also spend enough to make a difference. Don’t spend like fifty bucks in the middle of the cutthroat holiday season, get like ten impressions and no conversions and then say ‘SEE! I TOLD YOU SOCIAL ADS DON’T WORK!!!” Nah, man…Social media ads, just like AdWords, are an auction and what happens if you walk into an auction with like ten bucks and everyone else has a hundred? That’s right, you’re walking out empty handed. My recommendation? Plan for at least $100 per week on Facebook ads and $75.00 on twitter for a week if you’re a small business. That’s the absolute bare minimum. Do more if you can but anything less, you might as well just not do anything at all.
- Download your email marketing lists and upload those into Facebook! Get yourself a nice clean custom audience of people that you already email and then go ahead and make yourself a nice lookalike list based on it as well. This is going to help you immensely in terms of targeting your ads.
- Plan for your initial campaigns AND your retargeting campaigns! Don’t blow all your budget on your sales ads and leave nothing in the pot for retargeting! Don’t put all your funds to retargeting and forget to leave something for general awareness and sales notifications! Make sure your budget is agile enough to fit in everything you need for the holidays
- Check your Facebook and Twitter marketing pixels! Make sure they’re working properly and firing on events where they should and when they should. No point in spending money, especially this time of year, when you can’t track if you’re getting any sales from it.
- You really should have done this a million times before now but make sure that your social media profiles are filled out completely and accurately and updated to reflect your store’s holiday hours and customer service contacts.
- Are you making charitable donations? Are you closed on Thanksgiving to give your employees time with their families? Don’t keep that to yourself! Make sure you say so on social! It fosters goodwill and positive public relations and also to make sure customers don’t try to call or come to your store when no one is there.
Email Marketing Checklist:
Now we come to what should be your highest ROI channel (when done right!), your email campaigns. This is short and sweet:
- Check your list health. You should be doing this on a regular basis anyway so you know you’re not wasting your time but this is a great time to know exactly what your email audience is like before you launch your campaign.
- Plan your campaign carefully! Will you do a series of messages to your list over a few weeks time or will you just send a few here and there about your sales? What will you send them? An online catalog of everything? Sales notifications? Short notes to wish them happy holidays? Make sure you have everything planned out in terms of content and frequency.
- Encourage sharing! Not everyone out there is on your email list and not everyone follows you on social media so this is the perfect time to play up the ‘forward to a friend’ link in your email campaigns to your subscribers. Notice how I said the ‘forward to a friend’ link and NOT just forwarding your email? That’s because sometimes with some email providers if someone just forwards your message and that person unsubscribes, it will unsubscribe the original person from your list…so there’s that. Unless people fixed that mess, somehow.
- Set up your automatic remarketing emails if your service provider allows for this. If someone abandons your cart, it shoots an email out. That’s a good thing! This is a step that many people either forget to set up or don’t even know they have. Check your email service provider to see how to set it up. Now is a great time to start using it!
The Bottom Line
These are just a few things you can do right now to get you started on planning your campaigns and winning the holidays this year. Make sure you have your digital house in order and while I won’t say it will be easy to compete with the big guys (read: Amazon) you should be able to hold your own in your industry and get yourself quality exposure and online presence.
There are lots of great articles out there with tons of helpful advice on how to get ready for the holidays so if you’re still out of ideas, check any of those and that will help get you on the right track!