Typically, the online buying season kicks in on Cyber Monday, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving and after Black Friday, when the brick-and-mortar holiday sales season begins. Still, in recent years, shoppers have also learned to wait further into the season in order to find online bargains and even lower prices. So the biggest online holiday shopping day is typically around December 12, when many online retailers stop offering free shipping.
As with most marketing campaigns, preparation is a key element. Prepare in advance and have your seasonal online site designs and promotions ready to roll in November. In addition, make sure to reserve some appealing offers and discounts for the late-buying crowd.
With that in mind, here are some practical, time-tested ways to attract buyers, boost sales and increase profits during the online holiday selling season.
- Price strategically - As the season starts, set prices that offer some wiggle room, so you can lower prices later and still come out ahead. Promote a final-sale event.
- Reward early buyers - Send out offers through emails and/or postcards in October and offer percent discounts (or more, if you can afford it) to anyone who purchases before November 15
- Partner with other retailers - Forge an alliance with other online marketers or neighborhood retailers to offer two-for-one values or specials that bolster sales and encourage buyers. You can, for example, partner with several local complimentary retailers to send out seasonal e-mail offers across each others' email lists. You might also set up agreements with retailers for mutual promotions or website links. For example, if you sell holiday desserts, you might partner with a holiday ornament company
- Share some of your profits - Promotions that give to a charity, support the community or a cause, such as the environment, will resonate with consumers during the holidays. Many marketers donate profits from select, high-margin items to charities. If you decide on utilizing this type of cause marketing, send press releases to news media and customers to let them know about your special promotion
- Make your website holiday-friendly - Redesign the home page to focus on holiday gifts and promotions. Rework the page’s look, feel, and messages to reflect the season. Market and monitor your site. Throughout the season, fine-tune your response to Web traffic and visitor navigation patterns
- Offer perks or discounts - After retooling your website and store for the season, don’t become complacent. Instead, keep adding or swapping featured products, discounts and promotions throughout December. You might also add holiday content, such as gift-buying advice. The idea is to offer more attractive deals or different kinds of incentives than you provide at other times of the year. In addition, you can motivate repeat visits by creating a timed sequence of promotions, discounts, or frequent buyer points that continues through the season. That way you incent customers into returning over and over again
- Go the extra mile - Customer service and the personal touch are competitive advantages for smaller retailers. Make the most of that by anticipating your customers’ needs or by tailoring special offers for repeat buyers and your best customers. For example, you might send an e-mail notice that lets loyal customers know you’re available for special requests. At the end of the day, pick up the phone and call customers to thank them for their business. Likewise, you can arrange for a special expert or gift consultant to answer online or in-store questions during the final shopping days. Then, remember to promote that service in the first few weeks
All in all, you should prepare strategically and plan a series of marketing activities and tactics from Thanksgiving through New Year’s to maximize sales this holiday season.