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July 30, 2012

Ecommerce Holiday Checklist – Santa Has A List, So Should You

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Amazon Web Services

Cool Sant's Holiday Ecommerce Checklist
Marty’s Ecommerce Holiday Checklist

As we enter the Dog Days of Summer ecommerce teams are making a list and checking it twice. After more than 12 years in the trenches and over $30M in online revenue I enjoyed this quiet before the storm time of year. If you think of the holiday selling season as starting with Back-To-School and ending with Valentine’s then the starter’s gun is up and we are about to race again. Here is a quick list of holiday ecommerce tips you can check before the jolly man in the red suit gets off the beach and onto his sleigh.

Free Shipping During Holidays

If you don’t have free shipping promotions you are nuts, but you don’t have to do all orders all shipments all the time. Our ecommerce team liked to go out aggressive and early and then begin to tapper by using trigger points and other tactics to compete but not give away the farm. Tactics such as:

  • Start early with All Orders & All Shipments for a weekend.
  • Start on an “Early Bird” weekend right after Halloween.
  • Create and use shipping offer deadlines.
  • Create triggers in the middle of your AOV (Average Order Value you will exceed triggers by 40%).
  • Get your shipping table up early and test to make sure it is clear.

Holiday Email Marketing

The Internet is going to be awash in email marketing this season. Be smart about these email-marketing trends:

  • Relevant emails sell and don’t get unsubscribed from.
  • Tell a story over time.
  • Support with social and curate in customer feedback and ideas.
  • People curate emails with mobile, so look good on a phone.

List health is important, but we never saw more than .05% churn even as we ramped our frequency in 4Q. That is good, but it could have been better.

  • You want your unsubscribe percentages to go DOWN as you increase frequency or you will take a chunk out of your list. Even .05% loss at 4x your normal email marketing frequency can hurt list health.
  • If you don’t know how to segment or create personas read David Rose’s Managing Content Marketing book and learn fast. Personas and segmentation is key to email relevancy and relevant emails are the key to money.

Holiday Checkout Review

Now is no time to undertake a major checkout revision since you want code that WORKS, but testing your checkout’s response time across a CDN network (where you get different checkout load reads from California, New York and Texas just to name 3) is a good idea. Focus on states where you do a lot of business. If you haven’t moved images to Akamai or a similar “edge network” think about doing so if your cart is slow in far-flung places, far-flung places that are important to your business.

Your site MUST FLY or it will lose conversions. If your checkout is either slow, has too many steps or is hard to understand you will lose a lot of money. You are at the holiday dance now since major checkout revisions can take months, so review what can be easily changed such as:

  • Addition of trust marks.
  • Coupon Code Popups (so customers don’t LEAVE to find a code).
  • Smaller images (in weight not necessarily size).
  • Clear stepped checkout status bar ( for clear chekout flow).
  • Return popup called “easy returns” (better to answer objection/questions inside the checkout never move a customer OUT of the checkout to get answers).

Winning Hearts, Minds and Loyalty With Gamification

Uninterrupted deal flow is over. When all else is equal we buy from people we love. People we love never just ask for stuff, they give things too. Create fun ideas, ask your customers for feedback and be sure to do some of what they share with you and let them know THEY created that idea. Entertain, enchant and have fun and “customers” become advocates and life is good.

Be sure to know WHEN to play and create games. After Halloween is riskier than before, but whether a game helps or hurts depends on the game and about 100 other things. If you’ve figured out how to gamify Christmas have at it.

Your customers will appreciate a new voice, idea and tone other than BUY NOW being shouted from every rooftop. We are about to revise my white paper this week, but if you are in a big hurry here is the “trade a tweet” link:

Gamification:Winning Hearts, Minds and Loyalty Online

Create A Merchandising & Promotion Plan

We used to War Room 12 to 16 weeks of holiday promotions and our merchandise mix. You can’t do it the way we did because times have changed. Social networks changed the game. Outline what you want to accomplish and react to what happens the rest of the time. Figure a 50% create ideas and 50% respond to ideas split and see how close your year follows. I would error on the side of MORE curation and LESS unidirectional deal flow since that is the trend.

Unidirectional deal flow is when YOU think of a deal and put it out there for THEM to buy (read Social Media’s Magic Feedback Loops to know why distinctions between US and THEM are breaking down fast). We created polls asking what our customers wanted to be on sale and by how much. That poll was in an email, but would play great now on Facebook supported by StumbleUpon (see data on which social net drives the most traffic on Thank You Revolution) and Twitter.

Hope these tips help. Time to batten down hatches and get ready for some FUN as we enter the first truly MOBILE Holidays.

Writing more articles for Atlanticbt’s Holiday Ecommerce series:

Christmas Is A Game, Here Is How To Play

Does Santa HATE Your Ecommerce Site? Find Out Why

Your Online Store Eaten By a Panda? Emergency Tips For Christmas 2012

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