2017 E-Commerce Holiday Shopping Strategies + 10 Website Conversion Rate Boosters

This article is by Evan Weber, originally published in LinkedIn.

Hello there, and thanks for taking a look. Holiday shoppers are starting even earlier than ever this year than ever before with starting their online holiday shopping, so I’ve put together some information and strategies for getting ready for and maximizing the holiday shopping season for your ecommerce business. Some of the channels this article will be discussing include: website optimization, email marketing, search engine advertising, social media marketing, affiliate marketing, visitor retargeting, effective tools to use, and more.

Key 2017 Holiday Shopping Dates:

November

5 – Bonfire Night (UK)

11 – Veterans’ Day (US)

11 – Single’s Day (China)

23 – Thanksgiving

24 – Black Friday

25 – Small Business Saturday (US)

27 – Cyber Monday

December

2 – Small Business Saturday (UK)

4 – Manic Monday

11 – Green Monday

15 – Free Shipping Day

24 – Christmas Eve, Super Saturday

25 – Christmas Day

26 – Boxing day

31 – New Years Eve

Website-Oriented Holiday Marketing Strategies:

  1. Holiday themed main graphic on the homepage; frequent holiday promotions, best sales of the year. -> Free Shipping is the #1 promotion that motivates consumers to purchase online.
  2. Holiday themed company logo – Adding a little graphical flair to your company logo for the holidays like: garland, snow, pieces of a wreath, and other related touches, is a really nice look.
  3. “Pre-Holiday Deals” Page – add a page on the website that can be linked to, with a graphic on the homepage, in the header, and/or in the side column. And then promoted via email blasts, social network posts, and ads.
  4. Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals Pages – Create pages on your website for Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals that can be linked to via email, Facebook, and the home page’s main graphic. Create blog posts for “Top 10” lists for multiple product categories, such as “Top 10 Black Friday Deals on Gadgets.” By including your retargeting cookie on your article/blog pages, it can add to your re-marketing reach during the holidays.
  5. Holiday themed header/footer – Adding some ornaments, garland, or other holiday items can add a nice season touch and make visitors know you’re timely. The header and footer are good places to advertise promotions as well.
  6. Free Shipping Offer – consumers love free shipping, it’s the #1 promotion in ecommerce. Push it in your emails, website graphics, social network pages, live chat, and in the phone sales center.
  7. Server Load – Make sure your website server can handle the influx of traffic very well and is loading as quickly as possible at all times. A NO EXCUSES POLICY needs to be in effect. Nothing kills conversions like a slow loading website. Check into “load balancing” and server error reporting, to keep an eye on it. Use website monitoring alerts so you know when your site goes down.
  8. Abandoned Shopping Cart Follow-ups -Use abandoned shopping cart follow-up emails to convert more visitors. We have a couple of providers for that. It’s a must in high-volume traffic timeframes. See SaleCycle.com for shopping cart abandonment followups and on-site offers.
  9. Mobile Website – make sure you have a great mobile version of your website live. I recommend mShopper or similar tools to create an easily shop-able website for the phone, if you don’t have a true mobile website. But there are other plug and play apps if you don’t have a custom built mobile app. You absolutely need a mobile version of your site this time of year with more people shopping on their phones.
  10. Pro-Active Live Chat – I LOVE this tool!! Pops up from the footer on all visitors with a Holiday themed box stating, “Happy Holidays, can we help you with anything?” It’s an info first, promotion second chat management strategy that adds the human element to your web traffic, tracked with coupon codes. It’s a proven strategy to increase conversion rates! I really like Olark.com but there are others.

Search Engine-Related Q4 Holiday Strategies: Search is still a hugely important factor in driving targeted traffic and revenue during the holidays.

  1. SEO – Blog Posts – post about holiday deals, ex. 10 Top Holiday Gifts for Kids for 2017 (insert product category). Numerous blog posts can be written targeting people searching for the top gifts of the year for various categories. Check your Google Analytic reports from last year and see what search phrases brought people to your website during the holiday season, to guide both your SEO optimization and keyword buying. If you can see which phrases led to sales, even better to guide your content posting and keyword advertising.
  2. SEM – Paid Search (Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Shopping Engines) – making sure your paid search ads are updated with holiday offers this time of year, especially for your branded terms. Expand keyword lists into holiday gift related product and niche search phrases. Add holiday content to your product catalog, titles and descriptions. You will have to revise it back afterwards, but it could be both a way to increase targeted traffic and appear timely to visitors, which should increase conversion rates.

Affiliate Marketing Holiday Strategies:

  1. Add holiday banner ads, text links, and offers/promotions for your affiliate marketers.
  2. Push out more frequent affiliate newsletters with deals and promotions for your affiliates to promote. Affiliate marketing is promotion driven, so make sure to ramp up your sending of promotions to your affiliates. Affiliate marketers love promotions, in fact don’t expect them to promote your company without arming them with frequent, good promotions for their audience.
  3. Recruit holiday-oriented affiliates and publishers, such as gift site affiliates, shopping affiliates, cash back sites, loyalty portals, and other holiday or shopping related affiliates. Contact me if you need affiliate recruiting campaigns conducted, my agency is the best in the business at both recruiting new affiliates and managing affiliates to get them producing more revenue.

Influencer Marketing Strategies:

  1. Influencer Outreach – it’s a good idea to conduct outreach to social media influencers that reach the audiences that you want to get in front of for the holiday shopping season. We use a tool called Cision.com to target influencers, journalists, bloggers and other types of content producers on behalf of our clients.
  2. Dedicated Promotions – giving your influencers dedicated promo codes that they can market to their audience is a great way to track the results. A lot of times they are charging fees to market to their audience so it’s imperative to measure the results.

If you need Influencer outreach campaigns, contact me about it. We can create online press releases and then promote the releases to an influencer audience that we create through Cision. Cision is an expensive annual membership that we subscribe to, so you can leverage their contacts and the influencer outreach strategy by hiring my agency to run your influencer outreach campaigns. Contact me for more information.

Email Marketing Holiday Q4 Strategies:

  1. Email HTML Creatives – Launch a series of beautiful holiday-themed email offers for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then leading up to Christmas, and then Post-Holiday Deals. (My designer can whip these up in a day or 2 if you need HTML emails turned around quickly). Increasing your email sending frequency is very advisable during November and December. Also, make sure you are using pop-up boxes on the website to increase email collection from your increased holiday website traffic. You should be able to really increase your email list when your website’s holiday traffic increases, which feeds into the following year.
  2. Test Subject Lines – Refine subject lines, include first name in the subject line whenever possible. “Best deals of the holiday season, Evan!” Make sure to emphasize deep discounts and other timely promotions. Keep your subject lines as short as possible.
  3. Responsive Designed HTML Emails – these are mobile friendly emails and a must for the holiday season since more than 60% of email openers are doing it on smartphones. (We are able to design and code responsive emails, just let me know).
  4. Email Platform – Make sure you have a well-performing, well-delivering email marketing platform that segments your database and personalized offers where appropriate. If you send out to a larger size list, you might want to check out Ongage.com which helps companies maximize their email delivery by rotating the ESPs being used to send your email blasts, and keeps the deliverability at the highest possible. Just a couple of percentage points can make all the difference in the revenue from the blasts.
  5. Email Frequency – I recommend daily deal emails and weekly seasonal emails into the holiday season, so you have to plan and design numerous promotional emails to send out in succession. This is the time of year that you can get away with daily email blasts to your lists, so take advantage of it, but with a strategy.
  6. Don’t be shy – Email is the #1 revenue generator for ecommerce, so make sure not to under-do it. Make sure to increase email collection both on the website with pop-ups, sweepstakes entries, and try Facebook Lead Ads to increase email subscribers to your list (inquire with me if you would like an agency to run these campaigns for you).

Social Media Holiday Strategies:

  1. Holiday-themed Sweepstakes or Photo Contest – “Win the NEW iPhone Sweepstakes!” You can do an amazing Holiday Season Sweepstakes or Holiday Photo Contest to increase fans, email opt-ins, conversions, and viral sharing. Typical budget would range between $500-2500 for a contest, depending on how big and exciting you wanted to go with the sweepstakes. Sweepstakes should be promoted on your website, on your Facebook page with Boosted Posts, Sponsored tweets, and to your email databases. Not to mention, when the winners get their prize they can be asked to share a picture on the fan page holding their prize, which is promoted on Facebook and other social networks with ads to increase exposure. It’s great for PR and has great engagement associated with it. Press releases can also be done for the sweepstakes to further market it. You can also run Facebook and Twitter ads to promote it, and re-market website visitors to enter your sweepstakes. You can also add a “site link extension” in your Google paid search ads so it shows up in all of your search ads so people may click on the link and sign up.
  2. Holiday-themed Facebook Page Cover images – to be added in advance of all the main Holiday promotions. It’s good to keep cover images changing and fresh on your Facebook page, and Twitter as well.
  3. Holiday-themed Fan Page profile thumbnail – sure why not add a holiday-themed company logo on your Facebook and Twitter pages.
  4. Facebook Fan Ads – consider allocating budget to advertise for more targeted fans (i.e. Page likes) on Facebook before and throughout the holidays so you can market deals to more targeted people with “Boosted Posts”. Then using Facebook Offers and Facebook Boosted Posts to monetize your fans and track the ROI of your fan advertising. Make sure to track Facebook ad campaigns with dedicated coupon codes, Facebook’s tracking pixels, and dedicated toll free numbers for Facebook.
  5. Twitter Ads – Ads can be run on Twitter to boost clicks, followers, and leads. Don’t forget about Twitter Ads this holiday season. I also really like running ads to your customer databases on Twitter (custom audiences), which always has good ROI. Another winner on Twitter is to run retargeting ads to your previous website visitors. So make sure not to neglect Twitter, especially in retargeting your website traffic and your previous customer email lists, with deals and/or to enter your holiday sweepstakes to build your email list.
  6. Instagram – You MUST be on Instagram with a company page and posting pictures and links to it, with hashtags to gain followers. Ramp up your Instagram strategy now to build your followers for the holidays. Now, when you advertise through Facebook, your ads will run on Instagram automatically, which is a beautiful thing.
  7. Video – make sure to create and utilize videos in your holiday shopping strategies. Videos tend to have higher rates of engagement that static ads. Videos can be created and utilized on your social networks, in your ads, on Youtube, in Youtube ads, and other places as well. (If you need inexpensive video creation services let me know)
  8. Pinterest – Make sure you are pinning all your products from your site and blog to Pinterest in your company account. Create boards for your product categories to make it great. Sign-up for a Pinterest business account so you can run ads through Pinterest to targeted audiences for the holiday shopping season. If it’s going to work, it’s likely going to work during the holiday shopping season when your conversion rate is higher, so make sure to leverage it to the fullest.

Native Advertising / Programmatic Ads:

  1. Native Ads: these are ad campaigns that run as “recommended articles” on 3rd party web properties that typically are high traffic websites. You may have seen these blocks of 4-8 set of stories with an image and a content blurb that link to a landing page. There are a couple of ways to target these types of recommended articles, including targeting your previous website visitors known as “retargeting” ads, as well as targeting “custom audiences” which are databases such as a website’s customer database, or very targeted customers that have either show interest in that same type of product or services, or have in fact made a purchase previously with another similar website. You can run your “recommended articles” which are actually ad units that market an article and an image to these audiences, bringing the people that click on the ads to your website, or to a “landing page” that collects their contact information so they can be followed up with and sold your products or services. You can put a holiday shopping spin on your ad units and landing pages, to make them really timely and more effective. Native advertising is a very popular new form of online advertising, and represents the future of digital advertising because it essentially allows Advertisers and merchants to run ad campaigns to very targeting audiences, which allow what in the past were display ad campaigns that are much easier to generate a return on investment with this more modern and more effective way to advertise on 3rd party websites through display advertising campaigns, and drive a ton more traffic for advertisers. The other amazing aspect of Native advertising is that you can set up several different ad units and drive the traffic to a variety of landing pages, which allows for a higher degree of on the fly optimizations, which improves ad campaign performance over time. Check out Storygize.com for fully managed Native Advertising campaigns, and check out OutBrain and Taboola for self-serve Native Ad campaigns.
  2. Programmatic Ad Campaigns – The difference between Programmatic and traditional display advertising campaigns essentially is just how targeted the advertising inventory is with this new more precise form of targeting that’s used by programmatic ad networks. For instance, if you want to run ads to target women that have purchased from designer boutiques in the last 6 months, you can do that. If you want to target moms with kids in elementary school, you can do that. If you wanted to target plus sizes women that shop for clothes online, you can target just that audience. I think you get the picture. Essentially, you can leverage information on users from 3rd party “data providers,” or companies that know people’s buying behavior and other valuable data points you can utilize to target those people online with various types of ads and videos. You will pay a premium for the ability to target people based on this information, but it makes all of the difference in the world. Let’s say you want to advertise your new iPhone speaker through display advertising campaigns. You can select audiences of people that you know have recently purchased the new iPhone for instance. You can also run a variety of different types of ad units like videos and HTML5 ad units which are interactive ad units which increase the ability to get people’s contact info if they are interested so you can personally follow up and sell to them or market to them in a very targeted way. Another phenomenal aspect of programmatic, is that you can target web properties that have certain content or keywords present on the pages. For instance, you want to target web properties that are discussing hardwood flooring options in their content or blog post. You can target just these pages of content with your banner ads or video ads for a flooring company, and get them to visitor your website or your landing page to get a free estimate. You can see how paying a little bit extra for this type of data is worth the money and in fact worth it’s weight in gold. Now, you have to do a great job with your website landing page conversion rate to make it work as well as possible, but assuming you don’t do a completely horrible job, it has a very good chance of working and producing an ROI. What a great strategy to increase website traffic for the holidays, by using Native ads and Programmatic ad campaigns. (If you need an agency to help you run these campaigns, let me know. We use a phenomenal programmatic campaign platform to get the best ROI on your Native ads and programmatic ad campaigns.)

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