Holiday 2016.
Planning your 2016 Holiday eCommerce Strategy: Should I be stressed out for you?

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It’s that time again, friends. The kids are finally going back to school, the family vacations are over, and the Halloween pop-up stores are already up and running in thousands of otherwise empty brick-and-mortars throughout the country. Soon the autumn leaves will blanket whatever’s left of our lawns, serving as a true sign that the holidays are almost here…unless of course you live in a warmer climate in which case you’re just going to have to play along and use your imagination.

Yes, the summer is over. So post the last of your vacation photos on Facebook and Instagram, get that last ice cream with the kids, and most importantly, get your butt in gear and start planning your digital business for the most important two months of the year.

There’s a lot to consider this year, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. With US online sales expected to reach $327 billion in 2016, now is the to figure out about how your business is going to get that extra piece of the holiday pie.

It's September:
Get Up and Going

It’s early September, which means Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a mere 11 weeks away. But don’t rest on your laurels, friends. Most brands launch their first holiday campaign before the end of October. That’s because 40% of consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween. Seriously.

So while Black Friday is a critical target date, you really want to have your marketing plan buttoned-up and ready to go before mid-October. To make sure you get there, and to ensure your digital strategies are aligned with your marketing programs, September is the time to start your planning.

But if you don’t already have your Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals established (i.e. what goes on sale and when), you’re already behind. In fact, you’re so far behind that I’m starting to feel stressed out for you. So stop reading this article right now and go take care of that. After all, there’s so much that has to happen from a marketing and operations perspective to ensure your deals are properly messaged and displayed on your site by November.

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Planning a Holiday Marketing Strategy Takes Time

Planning and executing a holiday marketing strategy takes time, friends. Think about it. If you’re not using an outside agency (which you probably should be), your Marketing department will need to plan and document a calendar to promote Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday deals, Free Shipping Day deals, Last Minute deals, and even Post-holiday deals.

They’ll also need to create social media and content calendars to announce all of these deals, and holiday-themed copy and imagery to go along with them on websites, landing pages, microsites, emails, paid ads, etc. Then there’s everything that has to happen from an online
merchandising and product marketing perspective. Oh, and don’t forget everything that goes into Retargeting, SEO, and Paid Search programs.

Are you catching my drift here? Marketing is critical to the success of your holiday sales push, and they have a lot of planning to do. So make sure you give them time to do what they do best.

Holiday Paid Search:
Not a Game for the Unprepared

Trying to compete in the PPC ad game during the holidays is a lot like playing in the Superbowl of digital advertising. And not in a good way. The competition is at an all-time high, new frontrunners seem to come flying at you from out of nowhere, and ultimately only the best of the best will come out victorious. Is your team ready for this type of competition? Are you sure?

Be sure your PPC team has a solid plan in place for promoting your holiday deals on the major search engines. Make sure they’re using every last drop of data at their disposal to up bid and down bid depending on a myriad of conditions, habits, and best practices.

If you’re not sure your team is making the most of your data, or if you’re just not sure they can both strategize and execute under such competitive circumstances, consider hiring an outside firm to help you do it. Even if it’s a temporary consultation just to make sure your strategy is PPC primed for the holiday season, it’s worth the investment. The stakes are just too high.

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Mobile:
No Longer the future of Commerce

The stakes are high everywhere during the holiday season. After all, the last two months of the year can account for up to 40% of annual revenue for some small and midsized retailers. So if you want to compete, you have to be prepared and ready to act on everything that the eCommerce landscape demands. And right now, that landscape is demanding a premium, easy-to-use mobile commerce experience. Is that something you offer? Again, are you sure?

By the end of 2017, 70% of all eCommerce sales will be mobile-based. So you’d better be.

But fear not. If your website isn’t already optimized for small devices, now is a good time to get started. But in order to get something done in time for holiday 2016, you have to move quickly...like now.

It’s not going to be an easy fix, and there’s no guaranteeing you can get your site up in time for Thanksgiving 2016. But even if you can’t get it done in time for this year, take this as an opportunity to step back and think about adopting a Mobile-first strategy to make sure you’re ready for 2017.

Because if you’re not optimized for mobile commerce in a time when 7 out of every 10 transactions are coming from mobile devices, you’re essentially fishing without any bait. And when you’re fishing without any bait, sooner or later someone’s going to come along and take your pole and tell you to go home. Don’t worry, though. You can always get a job at one of those Halloween pop-up stores I was talking about earlier.

This year’s holiday eCommerce returns will once again set records. The numbers will be huge, and forward-thinking eCommerce execs throughout the land will rejoice. Winter vacation will once again provide us with a brief respite before reality once again sinks in and we have to start all over again (don’t forget that 2017 is the year of 70% mobile). But for those who don’t plan ahead, the holidays will not be so joyous. Those who don’t plan ahead will be looking in the rearview this January wondering what went wrong. To avoid such an outcome, start planning for holiday 2016 now. It’s going to be a lot of work, but with $327 billion on the line, the ends will most certainly justify the means.

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