Q4 is already in full swing but it seems like many Merchants and Ecommerce sites are not actually prepared for it yet. Because many online stores rely on Q4 to make up a ton of income for the year, it is important to remember to have all of your bases covered. Because of this I wanted to list a few of the key things for Ecommerce sites and Online Merchants to remember to prep and be ready for for the Holiday Shopping season and if you have a tip or point and want to include it, please feel free to leave a comment below.
1. Last Day To Ship.
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving is over to remember to post when your last day to ship is. Talk to your delivery companies and look at your calendars and figure out when your actual last day to ship before Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, Solstice and the other winter holidays are and have your graphics person create the banner and countdown well in advance so you aren’t struggling after Cyber Monday to figure this out. You will also want to set up a reminder to let yourself know to email your Affiliates, Email Marketing Person, etc… when the last day is so that they can include it on their sites and in their campaigns.
2. Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Retail shops go crazy for Black Friday. They have tons of sales and specials because they know that people will be storming their stores all day long looking for gifts for the Holidays. What many new online retailers don’t know is that we have Cyber Monday and two following Peak Mondays right after where people come online to find everything that they either forgot to buy at the store or that the stores have sold out of and the products are only available online. You may also want to send teaser emails out the week before to get your customers ready for some of the deals that will become available for Cyber Monday and remind them that your emails are coming.
3. Email Marketing.
It is time to really fine tune your Email Marketing. Not only are people going to be sending more emails than most other times of the year, shoppers may start to ignore you when they used to open you because of the increase in newsletter and sales emails, not to mention spam. Start to fine tune your campaigns, build your lists with light boxes showing messages about receiving holiday specials and also letting your customers know what to expect and maybe even give them the dates that you will be sending the specials and sales so that they can be on the lookout and your campaigns will be opened while others will be ignored.
4. Buy your Affiliate Ad Space and Media Space Now!
Many Affiliate Sites are already selling out of holiday ad inventory. Many media companies also run out fast during the holidays so it is important to reserve and prep your space now. If you wait until Cyber Monday you may not find much available.
5. Restructure your PPC and CSEs.
Try to figure out what you are going to be pushing and trying to sell the most of. Then take your campaigns and build them so they are not only easier to manage but also so that your quality scores, etc… increase so that you can help to keep your spends at a semi reasonable level since CPCs go up during the shopping season.
6. Test your datafeed.
Datafeed Marketing is a huge part of Q4. The problem with it is that one small error in your database or one column out of order can cause a huge problem and each shopping day in Q4 does actually matter. Test your feed and test making changes now so that you can hopefully keep it in perfect shape for the entire shopping season. You may also want to make sure that you don’t let anyone new or who hasn’t worked on the database, images, etc… before mess with it before Q4 shopping starts and don’t let them have access to it until after the shopping season is over.
7. Your top ranked pages and content.
Everyone worries about the big algorithm updates with Google during Q4 and many sites make a big mistake and mess with their content, pages, designs, etc… and end up hurting themselves if/when the algorithm updates. If you have pages with great rankings and you have had them for a long time and haven’t done anything that would be against a Google best practice, leave the pages alone! Mess with ones that don’t rank but don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken. The worst thing you could do is change the layout or content and lose your rankings fixing something that wasn’t broken and then losing your rankings and the sales that would have come along with them. Focus your time on pages that don’t rank or by creating new ones which you can help to rank. There are tons of theories out there why Google may make a huge update around the holidays to up advertising spending on lost rankings, etc… but they are just theories from paranoid online marketers. The reality is that Google’s goal is to provide its end users with the best possible results in their search positions. If you keep your pages going the way they are and don’t try to out trick Google, you should be fine. If you can convince Google that your site is the best possible one to show for that particular search then you will keep your positions through the shopping season. They aren’t specifically going after you just to get you to spend more on PPC.
There is a lot more prep work to do for Q4 including getting your blog ready, setting up your online catalogs, working out pricing and coupons, etc… The 7 things I listed above are some of the most important things you’ll need to do to help prepare yourself for the Q4 shopping season. Please feel free to share anything you think I may have missed or that you do to prepare for Q4 as well.