Changing Trends in Holiday E-Commerce: A List of Dos and Don'ts for 2011
The landscape for small- to medium-sized e-commerce merchants is constantly changing. To adapt, merchants must be quite nimble and able to alter their strategies at a moment's notice. Below are some tips for small- to medium-sized merchants to help identify new customers and keep them coming back:
Early bird gets the worm. According to the National Retail Federation, 40 percent of Americans start shopping for holiday gifts before Halloween. This past holiday season, those online retailers that started their holiday campaigns early (some as soon as the day after Halloween) tended to see better results. Without exception, merchants who started early had much stronger sales growth than previous years. Plus, early holiday sales tend to drive additional chatter around the water cooler. Start creating a ton of buzz on Nov. 1, then weaken discounts throughout the month to reward early shoppers.
Don't wait for Cyber Monday. More than half of Christmas sales should be finished by Thanksgiving. Those merchants who opt to hold out for Cyber Monday miss the window. Make it clear to consumers that special Christmas deals are only available while supplies last. Offer free or heavily discounted shipping on multiple-item orders before Thanksgiving and through Cyber Monday, then switch to discounts on select single-item, expedited purchases through the last possible shipping day. Evolve messaging throughout the month of December, and stay in front of consumers with fresh content.
Frequency, not size, matters most. Online retailers who communicated with consumers more frequently saw better results this past holiday season. This is no secret, but it was such a startling difference in terms of the disparateness between those who frequently communicated and those who didn't. It was the difference between a good holiday and an amazing holiday.
Merchants who were in continual contact with prospects throughout the year with special offers via email, Facebook and Twitter did far better than those who sent out a few random "Remember us?" emails at the holidays. It proves the old adage that hit-and-run marketing doesn't work — even online. If the only newsletter that was sent all year was "Black Friday Deals" or "Cyber Monday Deals," it had almost no impact.