Thorough online retail business planning will lead to better sales and more time at the beach this Christmas, writes Roland Irwin.
The holiday shopping season has always been the most profitable time of the year for online retailers.
Search, display, social and mobile have shown tremendous growth year over year and continue to be vital programs for acquiring more revenue during the holiday season. Retailers going into the holiday season should have a plan for success, but maintain the ability to stay flexible in the face of changing conditions.
Once the holiday season begins, retailers are often consumed by continuous campaign optimisation based on recent performance. This leaves little time to launch new campaigns with targeted keywords and relevant creative that are carefully tuned to key promotions. In advance of the holidays, be sure to build campaigns that align with promotional calendars. To help prioritise online marketing strategies for the upcoming holiday season, Marin Software evaluated five best practices across its client base and highlighted them below:
- Adjust Daily Budgets: With search volumes and clicks increasing year over year, paid search costs will inevitably increase from October through December. As a result, be sure to adjust campaign daily budgets to accommodate this expected increase in spend. Revisit 2012 spend levels to determine a starting point for 2013 daily budgets. If any campaigns are expected to be ‘limited by budget’, be sure to day-part or change the campaign’s delivery method from ‘Accelerated’ to ‘Standard’. Delivering ads during top converting hours of the day or ensuring that budgets are not exhausted early in the day are effective techniques for spending a limited budget.
- Develop a Mobile Strategy: Shoppers are increasingly using mobile phones and tablets to find deals and compare prices on-the-go during the holiday season. An effective mobile strategy starts by separating out mobile and tablet from desktop-targeted campaigns; resulting in two significant advantages. First, ad position is far more critical on mobile devices where real estate is limited, than compared to their desktop counterparts. To increase mobile traffic and conversions during the holiday season, leverage position-based bidding to ensure that ads are delivered within the top three positions. Second, include location ad extensions to quickly point on-the-go mobile shoppers to the nearest store location. This can mean the difference between a shopper purchasing in-store and abandoning the search in favor of a competitor around the corner.
- Engage Social Shoppers: With Facebook starting to exhibit search-like holiday seasonality, it becomes crucial that businesses embrace the power of an integrated social marketing program. Shoppers who once turned to search engines for information are increasingly relying on social connections for the latest news, product information, special offers, and brand suggestions. Ensure that social media initiatives stay focused on measurable, revenue acquiring activities by using techniques like Facebook fan-only specials and coupons. Strengthen relationships and increase the likelihood of a purchase by responding to posts and tweets made by shoppers. Additionally, combine Facebook Offers with Facebook Sponsored Stories (for targeting friends of fans) to acquire more fans, appeal to deal-seeking social shoppers, and amplify holiday messaging and promotions across a larger, more engaged audience.
- Implement Product Listing Ads (PLA): To engage more shoppers during the holiday season, search marketers should consider implementing PLAs. These highly visible and content rich search ads make it easier for Google shoppers to find and compare different products. PLAs include a product image, price, and business name to better engage and inform shoppers. As a result, many retailers experience significantly higher click-through-rates for PLAs than standard text ads. To get started, set up a product feed through a Google Merchant Center account and link it into AdWords.
- Establish Retargeting Lists and Buyer Profiles: Display advertising continues to grow—accounting for a larger share of online marketing spend and revenue than ever before. To effectively reach and influence shoppers this holiday season, take advantage of more sophisticated retargeting options and develop a competitive bidding strategy for display campaigns. Prior to the holiday season, build retargeting audience lists based on website behavior and establish buyer profiles based on interests and topics. Identifying visitors that abandoned their shopping cart or focusing on websites that shoppers frequently visit prior to purchase are effective targeting techniques. Understanding this purchase behavior now allows for the highly targeted and timely delivery of display ads to eager shoppers during the holiday season.
Our final recommendation is for online marketers to record their 2013 holiday results and findings as quickly as possible. Capturing this data sooner rather than later will make the analysis of holiday performance much easier. Furthermore, accurate and insightful reports of holiday campaign performance will become invaluable assets during the planning of the 2014 holiday season.