The first few weeks of fall are the perfect time to prepare your online store for the busy holiday season. In this post, we will go over some fundamental planning tips & crucial Q4 shopping dates to ensure you have a successful season.
1) Data-driven Planning
Plan your holiday promotions in advance and take key e-commerce dates into account. Review 2018 holiday data and determine what worked, and what didn’t. Were any days particularly successful for your store? Repeat and refine the best performing promotions from last year and complement them with new and unique initiatives like bundles. Think of creative themes for these promotions that can be adopted across all digital channels for consistent and cohesive messaging.
Create a calendar outlining the duration and other key details of the promotions you decide upon (we use Google Docs for ours to make it easier to collaborate). Include all marketing channels from email and social, to display and paid search for maximum integration and consistency. Don’t forget to forecast! Ensure you have enough products in the most popular sizes for your promotions – there’s nothing worse than losing revenue due to out-of-stock products.
Need help? Reach out to your Musictoday account manager to kick off holiday planning.
2) Email Marketing Prep & Pre-Holiday Customer File Growth
As mentioned above, it is critical to have a plan going into the season. Review last year’s performance, test new promotions, and check in with the planning and buying teams to ensure new merchandise is highlighted. Don’t forget to give your creative team plenty of time to optimize campaigns based on new best practices.
Early fall is a great time for list tidying and optimization as ideally email campaigns should be sent to interested and engaged subscribers. October is ideal to run a fan sweepstakes to grow your file in anticipation of increased send frequency during the holiday season.
Be sure to segment your subscriber lists by considering what’s relevant to them. For example, identify and segment your top spending customers and offer them exclusive rewards for their loyalty, and reach out to lapsed customers to reactivate them during peak selling season.
Think ahead by conceptualizing fun and attention grabbing subject lines to cut through inbox clutter. You can also dress your subject lines up with some seasonal emojis. Personalize your subject lines and think outside of the box! Don’t forget to review last year’s subject line and creative performance.
Need help? Reach out to your Musictoday account manager to set up some time to discuss email optimization and list growth opportunities with the Email Marketing team.
3) Gift Guides
Start designing gift guides now and launch in early November. Your gift guides should have evergreen URLs so they can be stripped of holiday creatives on December 31 and used year-round. Evergreen gift guide landing pages are great for SEO so when planning your URL, use something like site.com/gift-guide.
Through our SEO research we have found that shoppers are purposefully searching for gifts for people in their lives, so launch the gift guide landing page with several curated sub-pages such as gifts for him, gifts for her, gifts for kids, gifts under $100, and even gifts for fans of a particular band member or album. The purpose of a gift guide is to assist the customer by curating your most popular and highly demanded products alongside any holiday exclusives. Once your gift guide is live, promote it across all marketing channels. Don’t forget to make sure you have ample stock!
Need help? Reach out to your Musictoday account manager to start reviewing gift guide examples and assortment for holiday.
4) Focus on “Clean” Messaging
Keeping sales and promotions simple for customers to understand is important. We recommend that marketing messaging is clear and easy to understand. Less clutter will also maximize the impact of the creative assets.
Also consider preparing branded templates and elements in advance. Calendar planning helps here so the teams creating your campaign assets know what’s coming and can approach creative more thoughtfully.
Need help? Reach out to your Musictoday account manager to brainstorm holiday promotions and messaging with the Creative team.
Ongoing retargeting campaigns using Google’s Display Network (GDN) or Facebook Ads Manager are great to have live year-round. They become even more important during the holiday season. Push visitors to convert with advertisements after they have left the store as they visit other sites across the web.
If you’re new to retargeting, a tracking pixel should be added to your site to start building audiences now. Audience rules can be based on site pages visited, you can also set audiences for specific durations. Musictoday recommends audiences of 30 days and 90 days as you’ll remarket to recent visitors who have a higher potential to convert.
With Google’s feed-based dynamic remarketing you can show customers personalized product ads featuring items they showed interest in while visiting your store. For static banners, be sure your creatives are the latest and greatest, plus feature some fun seasonal flair! Lastly, adjust budgets and bids for your campaigns leading up to and during the season to maximize revenue potential.
Need help? Reach out to your Musictoday account manager to set up some time to discuss campaigns with the Paid Marketing team.
6) Paid Search
Although auditing and clean-up should be a year-round initiative, use the first weeks of fall to review your AdWords account and add new search campaigns and keywords as needed. If you’ve added new departments to your store, or you’re getting ready to stage holiday landing pages like gift guides, now is the time to prepare.
Keywords should be refined and built around the categories and products you expect to perform well during the season. Use holiday specific terms like ‘gift ideas’, ‘Black Friday promotions’, or ‘Cyber Monday deals’ in ad copy. Additionally, ad copy should reflect offers in the store and promotional holiday themed sitelink extensions should be added and linked to holiday landing pages like gift guides or Cyber Week specials. Be sure to adjust budgets and bids as needed to get in front of more potential customers as they search for products.
Need help? Reach out to your Musictoday account manager to set up some time to learn more about this from the Search Marketing team.
7) Store Housekeeping
Early fall is the perfect time to audit your online store. Review the site thoroughly for broken links and missing opportunities. Create new department pages for recent merchandise additions and ensure your site and any new pages added are search engine optimized. Organic search traffic is a top revenue driver, so we recommend performing an analysis for hidden potential and for new pages to be built and optimized for SEO now. We also recommend steering clear of any major site redesigns and changes to layout and navigation during the season – you want returning customers to recall their prior experiences and avoid disruption.
Need help? Reach out to your Musictoday account manager to set up some time to discuss web merchandising tips and actions to take prior to the peak holiday season.
8) Key 2019 Online Shopping Dates
- October 31, Halloween: Reach shoppers planning costumes or decor, plus those gearing up for the holiday season.
- November 11, Veterans Day: Thank U.S. military veterans for their service or run a matching donation campaign for the cause.
- November 11, Singles’ Day: A Chinese holiday celebrating being single is the world’s biggest online shopping day of the year. Brands worldwide have started to follow this trend.
- November 28, Thanksgiving: Use this U.S. holiday for Black Friday sneak peeks and grab the attention of shoppers dreading the Black Friday chaos.
- November 29, Black Friday: This U.S. phenomenon started in 1952 and marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. It has been adopted by retailers around the world.
- December 2, Cyber Monday: The purely online version of Black Friday also marks the first day of Cyber Week, which ends December 8.
- December 9, Manic Monday: The name says it all. Manic Monday is when there’s a rush to order gifts in time for Christmas.
- December 13, Friday the 13th: Have some fun with a Nightmare Before Xmas sale mixing holiday and superstitious themes.
- December 14, Free Shipping Day: Consumers are offered free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
- December 26, Boxing Day: This UK national holiday with disputed origins, is now primarily known for shopping and family time. It’s also celebrated in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and more.
- December 26, Post Holiday Clearance Sales: Push through leftover seasonal merchandise to customers flush with Gift Cards and Holiday spending cash
- December 31, New Year’s Eve: Consumers continue seek end-of-season deals. Final Day Countdown to Midnight Sales are also a popular option.
Bonus Tip: Think Ahead!
Prepare for 2020 this holiday season by documenting what the competition is doing, it may come in handy next year. In January, perform a holiday season post-mortem so you can apply this year’s learnings to 2020 initiatives.
About the Author: Joey Porterfield is the Director of Marketing at Musictoday. He currently oversees all digital marketing channels and is actively working on his cold-weather beard.