Eleven Tips to Prepare for the 2011 Holiday Season

Some of the tips here were first revealed in Retail Online Integration Magazine. Originally we came up with 11 tips and although we consolidated the tips to 10 in the Magazine we decided it would be nice to leave it as 11 tips on the Sasson Collection Blog As 11 Tips for the 2011 Holiday Shopping Season.

GET READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS!The holiday season is the best time of year for almost all retailers and e-commerce retailers specifically need to gear up in order to make sure they capitalize on the Season of Joy! In many cases retailers make the majority of their profits during these months and if a retailer is unprepared this may mean a sub-par season leading to a bad year that might bring on the demise of the company.

Therefore, it is worth spending time planning for the season. So what are the most important aspects to plan for? Here is a list which outlines eleven points we at overstockArt.com focus on towards the holidays:

  1. Brainstorming sessions – We like to start with a brainstorming session. We include employees from all parts of the company, including customer service, sales, production, marketing and administration. This session focuses on what we did well in past holidays, where did we fall short, and areas of improvement we should focus on for this year. in addition, every employee is challenged to provide a creative idea that could be implemented during the holidays. This is a great way to get the entire company thinking about the holiday season and to get everyone on board with the needed preparations.
  2. Website Improvements – Do a thorough review of your website and see what improvements are needed towards the holiday traffic. It is also a good idea to hold focus group sessions with your target demographic. Once all improvements are listed build a calender together with your web development vendors or internal team. Make sure you have a hard date for code freeze. It is not recommended to do any improvement during the holiday season as any mistake can be very costly.
  3. Plan a seasonal redesign for your homepage or logo that will carry on the holiday spirit. This helps buyers get into the holiday shopping mood which inspires purchases and alleviates consumer FUDs (Fears Uncertainties and Doubts) to shop your brand.
  4. Inventory – Make sure that you have the inventory availability or enough inventory on hand to attain your sales goals. If you do not have the inventory you can’t deliver on time to your customers. Inventory is a delicate balance involving cash, sales, space, and projection of which items will sell. It is not easy and not an accurate science, but could mean the difference between success or failure in the coming holidays.

Operations: Make sure you have a well oiled machine – This area involves all of the behind the scenes aspects of your business. Imagine that your business is a machine that has inputs such as products and labor and outputs cash on the other side. In the holiday season there is a much greater demand on this machine so it must be well oiled and ready to function at top shape or it will not handle the volume.

  1. Consider having the right employees in place and well trained. There are many areas in your organization that will be impacted, but the main ones are shipping and customer service. These areas must be covered properly. make sure that you are staffed properly especially on the extreme selling days, such as Cyber Monday.
  2. Make sure your internal systems are stress tested, such as having enough phone lines to handle the additional volume, the manual order entry systems must work flawlessly, and the production and warehouse operations must be ready and efficient.

Advertising and Promotions for the holiday:

  1. Advertising and Promotion are the heart of online retail. You must have a detailed ramp up plan for your entire advertising mix! Any productive dollar spent during the year will become more productive during the season. But your competition is also ramping up so this needs to be done wisely. Specifically this is true in cost per click advertising. If you are using a firm to mange your CPC account have them come up with a scheduled increase of your spend. This will allow you to monitor and fine tune the increases and make sure that your investing in the right keywords.
  2. Plan direct mail and catalog drops to be done on time for consumers to make holiday purchases. When planing direct mail campaigns you must consider timing as it relates to specific days during the holiday season, time for consumers to decide and make a purchase and still having the items arrive prior to the Holiday.
  3. Email deliverability should be a major consideration. Spend time together with your email vendor to make sure you are doing everything possible to make sure your customers are receiving your emails. Also review open rates, click through, and profitability matrices such as close ratio and dollar per visitor. this will help in the detail planing of the holiday email campaigns and assuring the profitability of your email campaign.
  4. Most importantly schedule promotions across the entire two months of the holiday season. This includes email promotions to your subscribers, facebook promotions and sweepstakes, twitter specials, and a schedule of daily deals partnerships such as groupon.
  5. Finally review your shipping cutoff and return policy and have them posted on your website early in the season. Customers want to know that the gift they are buying will be there before the holiday. Also customers want their loved ones to be able to return the gifts, so an extended return policy is a good idea.

Admittedly this is not an exhaustive list, but we believe that these are the most important areas for an online retailer to focus on so that you are prepared to capitalize on the season of giving.

Enjoy the season and happy selling.

David Sasson and Amitai Sasson
overstockArt.com

Author: Amitai Sasson

Amitai Sasson is the Online Marketing Director at overstockArt.com. With a Masters Degree in Computer Science and an MBA from Tel Aviv University, he has a unique perspective on the explosion of data mining capabilities and the e-commerce realm.

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