11 Jul Preparing for the Holidays: It’s Not Too Early!
The holidays can be a cash cow if you begin planning early. Of course, it’s hard to transition your mind from the summer heat to winter-time festivities, but failure to do so will cost your business untold thousands in lost opportunities. Whether yours is a brick & mortar or an eCommerce driven business is irrelevant. The bottom line is that it’s critical you position your brand where people are searching for your products & services. Begin preparing now, and there are tremendous opportunities in store. If you’re not yet convinced, consider the following.
1. The Holiday Season Is Very Profitable
According to the National Retail Federation, the retail holiday sales in November and December of 2016 were $658.3 billions, up four percent from the same holiday period in 2015. It’s also interesting to note that more than one-fifth of these retail sales, $122.9 billion to be more exact, actually came from the retailers’ online properties. Thus, all brick and mortar businesses should have a website and make sure it is well indexed in Google and elsewhere.
Online holiday sales were equally impressive and they keep getting better every year. CNN reported that $9.36 billion was spent by holiday shoppers online during the four day Thanksgiving holiday in 2016. Holiday shoppers spent $3.39 billion on Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Forrester Research is predicting that 270 million holiday shoppers will browse or buy online by 2020, in large part due to the practicality of mobile devices.
2. It Takes Several Months For Some of the Best Strategies To Kick In
Your goal should be to maximize your take of the holiday profits by starting extra early. If you do so, you’ll be able to take advantage of many profit producing tactics that won’t work at all, or won’t work nearly as well, if you wait until the last minute. You should start your holiday preparations at least three months in advance but five to six months is even better. In fact, while you plan your marketing strategies for this upcoming holiday season, you can also be looking ahead to the 2018 holiday season! Many of the techniques you put in place for the 2017 holiday season will be even more fruitful in the 2018 holiday season.
Do You Have a Website?
If you don’t already have a website, you need to get one immediately as it will be critical to your holiday success. This includes retail businesses as there are any online tactics, which require a website, that you can use to drive more buyers into your retail establishment. Keep in mind that it takes at least a few months for a website to “incubate” and grow into a lead generating machine and or a profitable venture. You might believe you’ve checked this box by creating a DIY site on a platform such as Squarespace or Wix. However, the truth is, your audience knows they’re looking at a DIY job, in the same way you’re able to tell the difference between your site and Amazon, for example. Your website is the first impression people have of your business, so make the investment and hire a professional.
Does Your Website Need Updating?
If you have a website, you would most likely benefit from updating your website in various ways to maximize its profit potential. At minimum, you should consult with a knowledgeable SEO expert. There are other things you can do improve the effectiveness of your website as well. For example, if you have not already optimized your website for mobile devices, i.e. created a responsive website that looks good and functions well on mobile devices, you are missing out on a ton of traffic. As reported by Forbes Magazine, approximately seventy-six percent of all holiday shoppers in 2016 did at least some of their shopping using their mobile devices. This is up from fifty-eight percent in 2015. What’s even more impressive is that about eighty percent of those who use mobile devices to shop at retail stores’ websites end up actually buying something in the physical store.
Now, let’s talk about some specific ideas to illustrate why it is so important to start early on your holiday preparations.
One of the best ways to use a website to generate leads and sales it to build a big and responsive list. This is where a user gives you their email in exchange for information of some kind. In some cases, it makes sense to publish a monthly newsletter. For example, if you sell holistic products, you may want to start a newsletter that covers the health benefits of your natural products. You could also build a list by giving away a free ebook on a subject that is simply irresistible to your target audience. To get the ebook, a visitor would have to give you their email and verify they requested the ebook. Either way, once you start building a list, you can develop a captive and loyal audience to whom you can occasionally send special offers and announcements. If you run a retail store, you can tell them about an amazing sale or a special event you are having in your store to get them to stop by. If you run an online store, you can give them a special code to get a special discount only offered to list members or simply tell them about your new products. If you do this early enough before the holidays, you can capitalize on your list members’ mood to shop around the holidays and even offer gift ideas. As good as this method is, it takes time to grow a big and responsive list so you need to start early.
SEO of Page Titles, Headers, and Content
In order to drive traffic to get people to sign up for your list, you’ll need to have your websites optimized for search engines, i.e. you’ll need a good SEO expert to analyze them and help you make the necessary changes. You’ll also need good SEO in order to draw organic traffic to your website so you can increase your holiday sales. You’ll need to pay particular attention to the SEO of your page titles and headers but you’ll also need to think about the SEO of all your content. This includes a smart strategy for your internal linking structure.
There’s both a science and an art to doing SEO in a way that will increase your bottom line, i.e. your profit. While keyword research is critical, it is not the only consideration, or even the most important one. You have to think about the responsive rate of someone reading your titles and headers! Get inside your target customer’s head and ask yourself, “If I saw this title in a search engine, would I click on it?” You also have to think about who your target audience really is and if the keywords you are using is attracting buyers or just lookers. To really make this all work well, it takes planning and then testing over time. You want to give yourself enough time to fine tune your SEO for best results. You may even want to do some A/B testing. This is great tactic if you have the time needed to do it right.
Review Your Product Descriptions, About Us Page, and Other Website Information
People shopping online are research oriented. They scan the product descriptions and make comparisons. They look at photos and sometimes study enlarged photos. In order to generate more holiday sales, you’ll need to review your product descriptions and make sure they are enticing to your target buyers. You may need to hire a writer who is knowledgable in SEO to rewrite them for you. Furthermore, many businesses don’t realize this but their About Us page is often the very first page a new customer looks at. However, many businesses don’t give this page very much thought. You’ll want to spend some quality time on this page, tell your story in an engaging way, and maybe even develop a special message for the holiday season. After all, sales are often dependent on personal relationships and this is one page where you can captivate a potential customer in a highly personal way.
Building Online Reviews and Social Media Trust Takes Time
You’ll want to review your online reviews and work on getting more positive reviews in time for the holiday rush. Most online shoppers read reviews before purchasing online. Furthermore, many people read online reviews of retail stores as well before deciding whether or not to go to the physical store. Social media pages should be SEO optimized just like your webpages to draw new people to these pages. It also takes at least several months to build a serious following on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and to build trust and enthusiasm with the people who follow you. You’ll need this following during the holidays so you can post holiday specials to a group of people who will already be familiar with your products and have a good impression of your business.
In order to maximize your holiday profits, you’ll need to plan at least several months in advance. In fact, the more time you give yourself, the more chance you’ll have to employ the best techniques increasing profits, including the ones discussed above. Oh, and by the way, all the things that will lead to a successful holiday season also work throughout the year, so don’t hesitate to get serious about this now, rather than allowing another year to go by without tending to this critical step in growing your business.