The Dog Days Are Over. Holiday Time Is Here Again

It’s late August. The sun is shining. The temperature is in the comfortable 80s and consumers are getting ready for (or have already begun) the back-to-school process. But before long, they’ll be turning their attention to the holidays. Now’s the time to start thinking about your search strategy for them.

Granted, most marketers and e-commerce companies most likely have already mapped out their fourth-quarter plans, and are well into implementing their holiday campaigns. Even so, the holiday season doesn’t look like the rest of the year: Traditional high-traffic days may switch with lower-traffic days, consideration time varies, as do price thresholds for products as the season moves along. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Start Early
As e-commerce continues to grow as a retail segment, the holiday season is stretching out. Consumers are starting to begin gift and promotional searches as early as Halloween, and are only ramping up through the Black Friday/Cyber Monday time frame. 



Even Thanksgiving itself — traditionally a day that consumers have said they’ve wanted free from commerce — has seen spikes in traffic in recent years.

“The e-commerce shopper is starting earlier and earlier in the season,” said Merkle EVP of marketing solutions Ryan Gibson in a recent webinar about Q4 and the holiday countdown. “If you’re waiting for the week before cyber weekend to be in-market, you’re missing out.”

You may be missing out a lot, according to’s and Forrester Research’s 2014 State of Retailing Online study, 85% of retailers said search marketing (both SEM and SEO) was their most effective customer acquisition tactic. Now is the time to ensure content aligns with search strategies.

Plan Appropriately
Mondays remain the busiest days for e-commerce traffic. While the theory in the early days of the Internet was that consumers were taking advantage of faster Internet speeds at work, the prevailing thought is that after a weekend of shopping (and perhaps not finding or wanting to buy a gift in front of an intended receiver), consumers want to tick a few items off their lists while the ideas are still fresh. Marketers looking to capitalize should look to Mondays as a prime targeting time.

Similarly, marketers should be aggressively promoting free shipping and other offers early during the holiday season. According to UPS’ Pulse of the Online Shopper study, half of all shoppers who abandoned a shopping cart did so because of shipping costs. Highlighting shipping deals and offers — particularly among customers who are infrequent customers — can be the difference between making and leaving the sale. In the webinar, Gibson noted that as the season draws closer to its end, consideration time and average cart values drop.

Relatedly, brick-and-mortar retailers should look toward the end of the shopping season, when shipping isn’t practical or available. “It’s a great opportunity to leverage local inventory ads and driving people into the stores,” Gibson said.

Be Mobile Friendly (At The Very Least)
“We are well past the time where you could minimize your presence on mobile,” Gibson said. We live in a mobile-first world, particularly in search, and marketers need to be ready for it. Test copy to be sure its mobile-optimized. Be sure Web sites are mobile-responsive. And be aware of how cross-device traffic affects your sales.

In its 2015 holiday outlook, Deloitte estimated omnichannel shoppers expected to spent 75% more than those who only shopped in-store. Smartphone owners were expected to spend 34% more than non-smartphone owners or those who weren’t planning to use a smartphone to assist with shopping.

The increase in mobile also means the increase of voice and image search. According to Internet Retailer, 20% of searches on Android devices in May 2016 were voice searches, and that number is only expected to increase as consumers get more comfortable with the technology. While it’s unknown how this will play out over the current holiday season, it’s safe to say voice search will play a greater role this year than it ever has in the past.

So, yes, the sun is shining, the temperatures are still enjoyable and the leaves remain green on the trees. But sooner than we think, consumers will be hitting the stores (and their tablets and smartphones) to start thinking about the holidays. The time to start planning for them is now.
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