Another holiday has come and gone, and the digital landscape did not disappoint. There was tremendous growth and opportunity -- yet just like last year, digital marketers made the same mistakes.
Observing these mistakes, I asked myself as a digital marketer what I really need to know to make my holiday season the most successful. As a result, I have boiled it down to my top three considerations for how to improve in the coming year to make the most of the 2013 holiday season.
1. Develop and implement a solid promotional strategy
As more and more online retailers increase their promotional activity during the busiest time of the year, it is essential to have a strategy in place. Know the questions, and then figure out the answers with your team.
What are your key marketing dates? When do you begin? When do you stop? Plan your calendar as soon as you can. The sooner you have your promotional calendar set, the less frantic you and your team will be during the holiday. Avoid those last-minute changes at all costs.
Consider top-line and net revenues. Consumers now expect promotional activity, but you can't create offers unless they are carefully thought out. What's the perfect percentage off for your business? Hopefully this season provided insight into what you want to change for your promotional schedule in the coming year. Is a 30 percent off discount better for revenue or is free shipping better for profit? Furthermore, is it brand appropriate? Consideration of margins is a must. Despite all the data we digest, this is often missed.
Do not fall into the trap of offering promotions too often or consumers will hold off making the purchase with the mindset that a better offer is on the horizon. This was a big mistake that many marketers fell victim to this season. Consider your brand image, find the correct balance, watch your margins and plan strategically.
2. Consumers buy and shop differently
Obviously, consumers purchase more often during the holidays, but they also shop differently, with a big chunk of research happening online. Researching begins early and persists throughout the holiday. The marketers that started their campaigns in December are now likely kicking themselves for lost opportunity. If you started running your campaigns in November, you still did not maximize your campaigns to their fullest potential, as people began researching much earlier.
Researching also skews heavier toward mobile and tablet devices. Take advantage of both. Look at all devices, through all online channels, and constantly speak to that researching consumer. Mobile and tablet traffic can be upwards of 30% of your total site traffic, yet revenue may not follow. Do not make the mistake of looking at this traffic through the traditional DR lens. What works for the desktop will not always work for mobile and tablet devices. Don't be the marketer that takes a single tactic and expects it to work universally. Tailor your message to each device, fully analyze the data and develop a more unique mobile and tablet experience.
3. Prepare for an increase in competition
With a major shift in how people are spending, competition will continue to increase for e-retailers. That premium advertising spot will come with just that -- a premium price. Each year, without fail, advertisers and agencies alike are shocked at the increase in competition and costs. The competition is not something you can control. However, taking care of the first two points can proactively help mitigate this third and final point.
Knowing that your consumers are researching and purchasing earlier each year means that you should be in the online marketplace just as early. Planning and paying early can actually lead to cheaper prices across the board. Whether it's search ads, display banners, affiliates, or CSEs and the like, preparing accordingly will lead to easier negotiations and can help maintain budgets.
Give yourself an early 2013 gift -- take the time to take a truly in-depth look at your 2012 results so you know exactly what worked and what did not. You will thank yourself when the next holiday season rolls around.