Batten down the hatches. It’s a little over one month until Christmas, and it’s time to make those final last touches to your digital marketing campaigns. Your online sales are probably picking up nicely, but how do you know you’re ready for the final four week push? We’ve put together a list of hints and tips to make sure your SEO, Paid Search and Social Media strategies are all set for the 2013 festive season.
Many retail experts are predicting 2013 will be the best consumer spending Christmas since 2007, as online takings in December are set to soar above £10 billion for first time, as internet shopping accounts for largest ever share of all sales in the festive period.
With customers willing to spend more online than any other time of the year, it is essential that as a retailer your ecommerce strategy is ready to cope with the increased demand placed across all of your owned media platforms.
‘Cyber Monday’ is always a good litmus test for your ecommerce platform, as you will be able to see which products will be big sellers over the following three and a half weeks. This year Cyber Monday falls on 2nd December, so keep an eye on retail trends the few days after. Cyber Monday is expected to be the busiest day overall in terms of sales volume, although the peak day does vary by retailer.
The huge increase in mobile shopping over the few years promises to be one of the defining characteristics Christmas 2013 for UK retailers. The launch of smartphones and tablets has effectively sparked a second digital revolution in retail.
Click and collect is one of the driving forces behind that revolution. M&S recently said that its multichannel sales increased by 28.5%, notably with a 70% rise in mobile sales, and that over 50% of its orders are collected in stores.
Adobe has predicted that smartphone shopping will grow by 97% across the Christmas period in comparison with 2012, with tablets growing 60%.
This continued growth in mobile and tablet consumption has led John Lewis to predict that mobile traffic will overtake web traffic on their site on Christmas Day, for the first time. Online director Mark Lewis:
“Mobile is set to be the shining star of Christmas 2013. Shopping is becoming much more of a social experience with people browsing, purchasing and sharing ideas with others using their mobile phones and tablets. We expect this to increase dramatically during the festive period as customers shop on the go and we anticipate that Christmas Day will be the tipping point for mobile.”
One takeaway from Mark’s comment is that shopping is becoming ‘more of a social experience’. People are sharing more, commenting more and talking directly to brands through social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. As such, there’s no better place to start, than our Social Media tips for Christmas.
- Images, images, images – engagement, emotion and relationships are key in any social media strategy. Images – especially Christmas ones – are a great tool to build both. Tweets, Facebook updates and Google+ posts with pictures typically generate the best response. Try product images, picture collages, lifestyle images or a combination of all three. HOT TIP – try images that fit into the 843 x 403 pixel space on Facebook. Also consider doubling images to 1686 x 806 because if someone clicks on it, Facebook will display the image in a lightbox, which increases the size. Need inspiration? Check out Burberry’s recent Facebook image posts – products with a simple snowy background;
- Campaigns – Do you have a Christmas social media campaign planned? Is it targeting one platform or multiple? Don’t try and go all guns blazing if budgets and resource are tight.
- Focus on being helpful – This is the important one. Christmas sales will come naturally if you provide good products, along with good customer service. Focus on posts that are helpful, not on posts aimed at making a sale.
- Online customer service hours – Be transparent early. Create a post on each social platform (as well as your main site) clearly stating when customers can expect a response between Christmas Eve and the 2nd January. Managing expectations early will be extremely beneficial over the festive period. Make sure those managing your social media presence have those links saved in the bookmarks and sellotaped to their desktop screens. British Airways got tripped up a few months ago for stating their ‘twitter feed is open 09:00-17:00 GMT‘ during normal hours. Be open, honest and upfront with hours, and try and spot and rectify any complaints as quickly as possible.
- Remember omnichannel – Interact with people. Join in conversations. Customers often have questions or start conversations in-store, and social media platforms should be no different. Be as helpful as possible.
- Schedule posts – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day will be very busy on social media, as people share, tweet and Instagram their presents. Schedule updates wishing everyone a lovely Christmas (with a nice 843×403 image on Facebook), and similarly wishing everyone got what they wanted from the fat man in red on Boxing Day.
- Try a funny video or image – Generally everyone is in a relaxed, jolly good mood around Christmas. More time is spent on social media, so it’s a great time to try out a new platform or media asset. Remember, the best brands are those that appear authentic and human, and nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ more than a corporate Elf Yourself.
- Think about helpful content – a video with commonly asked questions during the festive period, a set of gift ideas blog posts, or a delivery times / dates cut off visual are great additions to your social assets at this time of year.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast – If the forecast is looking snowy, icy and generally bleak, post updates and let customers know that they should get their orders in earlier to ensure there aren’t nasty surprises with delivery problems.
- Optimise for mobile devices – as mentioned at the top of this post, mobile and tablet traffic to retail sites over the festive period is expected to boom. Ensure your products can be found, selected and purchased on mobiles and tablets.
- Opening times – despite having plenty of time to buy Christmas products, us Brits often leave it until the last minute. We’ll be dashing around the shops, searching Google for ‘next opening hours oxford street‘ and ‘waitrose opening times christmas eve‘. Especially us men. Nearly 12.75m British men still hadn’t started their present buying by 17 December 2012, with one in ten saying they would leave it until Christmas Eve. Make sure your festive opening hours are clearly visible on your homepage, test different Google searches on desktop and mobile, and make sure your contact details are available.
- Check Google Map locations – People will be driving to pick up presents and do last minute food and present shopping. Having the wrong postcode and location on Google Maps simply adds to the stress. Check all your locations have the right postcode, and swear at your web and IT team if anything is wrong.
- Use reviews – there are going to be A LOT more eyes on your site during the festive period, and users will be weighing up whether to purchase from you, or one of your competitors. To help swing them in your favour, consider implementing review rich snippets. This will help your product listings stand out in the SERPs. If you have a large product range, this may not be possible for all products, so prioritise your top selling products, and/or those with the biggest revenue / margin. As mentioned in our white paper, John Lewis use this technique well.
- Check last years data – Did your server load buckle? How many 404 errors were there? Is there any way to improve your page loading time? What were your best performing keywords and landing pages? You’ll have lots of data at your disposal from last years Christmas performance. Check for trends, and try and make sure any major errors are not repeated during the 2013 festive period.
- Site loading speed – every nano-second counts at this time of year, so make sure your site pages are loading as quickly as possible. At the very least, check that all bulky images are compressed and optimised for the web as much as possible.
- Google Shopping / PLA optimisation – More competitors will enter the market over Christmas, and they will all have the same idea in mind – optimising product data feeds. Ensure that shoppers have a positive customer experience and can get all the information they need. Check out the FusePump white paper on Google Shopping for more information.
- Look at the bigger picture – more traffic from SEO, means more sales, and more customer data. Don’t think about Christmas as a single sales period – think about how you can turn one-off customers into repeat customers throughout the year.
- Prepare seasonal campaigns in advance – Sure, this is stating the obvious, but there’s still time to set up your Christmas campaigns if you haven’t already. Build campaigns that align with promotional calendars, and remember customer service is just as important as selling at this time of year.
- Adjust budgets – CPC prices will inevitably increase during the festive period. Be sure to adjust daily budgets to accommodate the expected increase in spend.
- Refine negative keywords – Christmas is a very important time for reducing unwanted impressions and unqualified clicks.
- Hone your mobile strategy – ensure brand campaign ads contain information about last delivery dates, Christmas and New Year opening hours, and contact phone numbers.
- Search Query Reports – check search query reports for new seasonal keywords that are triggering your ads. Add these to your campaigns if relevant, or add as negatives to minimise wastage.
- Product Listing Ads – if you’re using PLAs, ensure you keep your product feed up to date, especially any products that are likely to be popular at this time of year.
- Out of stock – using data feeds to align your PPC activity with stock levels is very important during the festive period. Ensure you set appropriate bids depending on your product availability and pause keywords related to any products that are out of stock. Those last minute stress levels will rise if customers click through on a product and are not able to purchase it.
- Seasonal deadlines – ensure you reflect order and delivery deadlines in your ad copy to pre-qualify clicks.
- Competitor monitoring – look at your competitors’ ad copy to ensure that your copy stands out and reflects any USPs. Can you offer better delivery deals? Gift wrapping? A price match? Or maybe a click and collect service after your delivery deadline?
- Plan your festive budgets – if your sale starts on Boxing Day and you have monthly budgets, ensure you allow sufficient budget for the end of the month when traffic may spike. Also consider revising your day-parting and time-based-bidding settings to ensure that budget is available at peak Christmas shopping hours.
- Sale ads – if you have a sale starting on Boxing Day and you won’t be in the office to change your ads, make sure you set up automated rules to pause your pre-Christmas ads and launch your sale ads.
We’ve created a handy Slideshare presentation of all the hints and tips above, available to download here.