Holiday Preparation Advice from the eCommerce Experts
It’s already September and another summer is in the books. The kids are back in the classroom and weekend home improvement projects are scheduled around football games. For most, the holiday season is still far from mind. That is, unless, you work in the online retail industry – these folks are smack dab in the middle of busy season!
The holiday shopping season is a hectic, make-or-break period in the online retail industry. A proper holiday preparation plan commences early, in June and July. (Sometimes, it never really stops). We asked a panel of industry experts for their best advice on how retailers can successfully prepare for the holidays.
Holiday Preparation Advice from the eCommerce Experts
Sam Mallikarjunan, Head of Growth for HubSpot Labs | HubSpot
“There’s already a lot of content on crushing sales goals during the holidays. Smart PPC, abandonment nurturing (both on site with modals and off site with email automation), time or usage-limited coupons, etc. But the real challenge is making sure that those users you acquire provide long-term value for your business.” “In recurring revenue models, companies are often willing to lose money on the first transaction to acquire a customer because it enables them to out-grow their competitors and invest in marketing activities to break through the noise (such as content). eCommerce traditionally hasn’t thought this way, because very little time and effort was being invested into getting customers to buy more and more often, so the likelihood that a customer would do so was very low. eCommerce companies focus so much on acquisition (PPC, SEO, affiliate programs, etc.) but so little on customer retention and nurturing.” “This holiday season, invest in gathering information about the influx of new customers you’re acquiring and using that to improve the chances that they’ll remain your customers after the season is over. If you already have good customer nurturing and retention, invest in out-growing your competitors. Not by slashing margins with coupons and specials, but by investing in content and user experiences that help people make easy decisions and accepting the higher customer acquisition costs that that sort of marketing will require.”
- Sam is a renowned eCommerce marketing expert and author of How to Sell Better than Amazon.
Susannah Morris, Emerging Verticals Marketing Manger | HubSpot
“With all of the focus on customer acquisition and meeting revenue goals during the holiday season, eCommerce companies often forget the critical step of customer retention. You’ve acquired a lot of new customers, now what are you doing to retain these customers after the holidays end?” “You need to think strategically about how to engage these customers and increase their lifetime value. If you don’t have a nurturing program in place, during the holiday season you can simply focus on collecting information from your first-time customers to drive your future nurturing campaigns. If you do have a nurturing program in place, tailor that nurturing program to holiday customers. It will make the money you’re spending on acquisition during the holidays keep working past the New Year!”
Jennifer Rademacher, Chief Information Officer | Fathead
“My main focus is to make sure that Fathead is prepared across the board for scalability and monitoring. We use many tools to monitor everything from 3rd party integrations to site performance on fathead.com. I am very confident we will be in the best position possible to give our customers an amazing holiday experience with the Fathead brand. That’s why preparation started this summer.”
Michael Layne, Director of Internet Marketing | Fathead
“An important part of Fathead working with Yottaa is the confidence it gives us as marketers to try new designs, new layouts and change things up. We’re completely redoing the front and back ends of fathead.com for a Q4 2015 launch, and it’s good to know that whatever changes we make to optimize the site, both for speed and usability, will be enhanced by Fathead partnering with Yottaa.”
- Jennifer & Michael discuss How Fathead Increased Revenue For Its Mobile Presence (webinar)
Elizabeth Scott, Vice President of Service Delivery | Tenzing
“As an eCommerce infrastructure and performance specialist we start planning for the holidays in July. We work with our clients to make sure they are ready for peak season and we cannot stress enough the importance of proper planning for holiday success. Our motto for the holiday season is ‘always be prepared’ and there are two things that are integral to this; testing and communication.” “Make sure you test your environment to make sure it can handle what you’re about to throw at it. Do a load test and you’ll likely find out some things that can improve your performance. Once you do that, test again to make sure it worked (and do it in production). Our motto for the holiday season is ‘always be prepared’ and there are two things that are integral to this; testing and communication.” “Second is communicate. Make sure your holiday plans are communicated to all stakeholders. Make sure your IT knows the dates of big campaigns so that a massive surge in traffic isn’t mistakenly flagged as a DDoS attack (it happens). You should also make sure that marketing knows your code freeze date as they’ll be making changes up to the last minute. It’s also really important to develop emergency plans in case something goes wrong – that way your teams and vendors know how to respond, making resolution quicker.”
Chris Tanner, Director of eCommerce | Hats.com
“We first check the major shopping days and note the exact dates and our team builds holiday promotions starting with those days. At this point, we create a comprehensive buyer’s guide that focuses on the most important target groups by clearly categorizing products (Men’s and Women’s, as well as other specific categories that will help customers buy gifts). The guide is aligned to e-mail marketing, blog posts, and website imagery for promotion.” “Early on, we like to buy inventory of any ‘gift with purchase’ type items so stock is available long before plans are finalized. This allows the freedom to build creative promotions with confidence that our warehouse employees clearly understand our promotional items well in advance. Lastly, we examine our current shipping parameters. We make sure to explicitly detail shipping deadlines on the website so customers know exactly when they should order to get on-time delivery.”
Ben Trafton, Vice President of Client Services | Yottaa
“At Yottaa, we advise eCommerce companies to start early with holiday preparation. Holiday preparation involves obvious elements, like marketing, sales and distribution planning; however, equally important are preparation in the areas of website scalability, site performance and web security.” “Without a scalable, performant and secure website, holiday success can quickly turn into disaster. Right now, we are working with customers to make sure only the right traffic is accessing their site and they have the real time visibility as that traffic changes to take action. Additionally, many Yottaa customers re-platformed this year to new eCommerce providers and/or added responsive frameworks to their sites, so my team is helping with optimizations to make mobile and tablet as fast as possible for the upcoming email campaign blasts and holiday promotions.” We hope the holiday preparation advice from our expert panel will help lead you towards eCommerce success this 2015 holiday season. Of course, we would love to hear your advice, opinions and comments on the matter too! Please feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section.