A complete ecommerce marketing checklist and calendar for the Q4 holiday shopping season

A complete ecommerce marketing checklist and calendar for the Q4 holiday shopping season

The final quarter of the year is well underway. If you haven’t yet started planning and implementing your marketing strategy to make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM), not forgetting Christmas, now is the time!

Most marketing experts agree it’s best to start as early as possible if you want to skyrocket your sales over the holiday shopping season. Why? Paid advertising gets more expensive in quarter four, plus lots of shoppers like to start early too, as this data from Facebook suggests.

Key dates for holiday shopping

Below are some important upcoming holiday shopping dates for 2019 to bear in mind when planning out your marketing activities.

  • Thanksgiving — November 28
  • Black Friday — November 29
  • Cyber Monday — December 2
  • Green Monday — December 9
  • Free Shipping Day — December 14
  • Christmas Eve and Day — December 24 and December 25
  • New Year’s Eve — December 31

So, how should you plan for these major shopping holidays? We’ve got you covered with the essential marketing checklist below. There’s still time to work on all the tasks outlined here.  So, without further ado, let’s go through the marketing checklist:

1: Review your Q4 business goals

You’ve probably already got a long-term business strategy in place, and now is a good time to revisit your objectives for the final quarter of 2019. Other than increasing your sales volume, your objectives might include reducing your overheads, profitability growth, greater brand awareness, or better customer retention. 

Being heavily focused on your goals will help you make the most of the busiest shopping periods of the year. Set some clear, measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) — three should be enough to ensure you don’t lose focus. Monitor your KPIs throughout the holiday shopping season to check you’re on track. Once the season is over, use those KPIs to review whether you met those objectives, and take learnings away for next year.

2: Choose your target products wisely

You’ll most likely be running some promotions, deals, or discounts over the holiday shopping season. It’s important to choose the right product(s) for these that will offer you the most rewards. Consider these four things when selecting the ones to target:

Demand. Look at your bestsellers or those products that are especially suited to the season. For example, which products would make nice gifts for Christmas?
Margins. Using products with a high margin allows you to offer a good discount, spend a little money on advertising, and still make a profit. 
Stock. Consider your inventory and whether you need to shift excess items.
Cross-selling. Try to find products you can use for upselling or cross-selling, or that might encourage a higher total order value from individual customers.

3. Choose your discount strategy

There are various discount strategies to choose from, so how do you pick one? First, consider your overall business goals. If you simply want to increase your sales volume, opt for percentage-off or money-off discounts. Customers recognize these types of discounts easily.

If customer retention is your focus, a VIP discount to select groups could work well. If getting rid of some of your inventory is the priority, offer free gifts or product bundles. To boost your profitability levels, try threshold discounts, where customers receive a bigger discount for adding more items to their cart.

4. Plan your marketing strategy

Although revenue generated during the holiday sales season is triple that of any other time of year, because more people are shopping, you need to consider average order value (AOV) — this typically remains the same throughout the year. 

Your marketing strategy should aim to increase customer AOV. If you can do that, you’ll make more profit without spending extra money on acquisition costs. Consider using paid advertising in the run-up to BFCM and using your exposure following that event to promote your Christmas deals too. 

Focus on winning repeat business to keep your acquisition costs low and your AOV high. Use abandoned cart reminders to recover lost sales from items left in shopping carts. For best results use an omnichannel approach and target your customers across all marketing channels (email, web push notifications, SMS, and Facebook Messenger). Check out an all-in-one remarketing app  to help you with this.

5. Make sure your website is in good shape

The last thing you want to happen during the holiday sales season is to have your website let you down by being too slow, too difficult to navigate, or not being set up for SEO.

Check your page speed by using this handy tool from Google. If your site is slow or performing poorly, an image optimization tool can help you optimize the images within your online store to make them more lightweight and faster to load. Some of these apps can also generate an SEO structure for all your images to help search engines find your products.

Before you launch your marketing campaign, be certain you have a suitable landing page and banner ads on your site promoting your holiday sales. Put together a sales funnel to help you cross-sell and upsell to buyers — this will also help your AOV.

6. Test your campaigns

If you’re using paid advertising, carry out split testing as early as possible to see which ads perform the best for you. Experiment with the copy, visuals, and calls to action. Check that your sales funnel is working as it should and that your discount codes and checkout are working properly.

Setting up automated marketing messages will save you time when your store gets busy with fulfilling orders. Double-check campaign triggers and sequences to make sure they’ll be sent out in a logical order.

7. Be ready with extra customer support

The customer service aspect of your business is likely to be more stretched over the holiday sales period, as you’ll (hopefully) have lots more shoppers and orders to deal with. Set up a Messenger bot to automate responses to frequently asked questions (the Tobi app has an excellent Messenger feature) or consider hiring extra staff to handle queries and fulfill orders.

8. Check your tax compliance

The holiday shopping season means more sales for your store, which is great, but it can also present you with a headache if you don’t pay attention to sales taxes. Getting the tax right on the products you sell, in the locations where you make those sales, can be complicated. Different states have different sales tax rules, and those rules change frequently. Avalara helps ecommerce businesses achieve compliance with taxation. Learn more.

Holiday shopping insights

Before we wrap up this article, here’s an overview of some fascinating insights relating to BFCM shopping. Using data collected from Firepush users during BFCM 2018, we now know that:

  • Bounce rates are at their lowest during the BFCM weekend.
  • In terms of push notifications, abandoned cart alerts are the most effective.
  • Push notifications and SMS messages are different beasts; they each have different strengths.
  • SMS performs the best on the Saturday following Black Friday.
  • Messenger is the best all-around marketing channel to use during BFCM.
  • Shoppers spend longer browsing during BFCM than at other times of the year.

You can read this BFCM marketing research in full, but even just as a snapshot, this information can be incredibly useful to ecommerce businesses. It’s clear that all marketing channels should be utilized during BFCM (and other shopping holidays), but in particular, Messenger marketing should feature highly in your plans.

Not only that but because bounce rates are lower during BFCM, it’s safe to say that you can send out more marketing messages than usual during this busy shopping period.

From BFCM to Christmas — and beyond!

Quarter four presents massive opportunities for ecommerce. With so many major shopping holidays coming up, you can do much to capitalize on sales. 

We hope this extensive article will help you nail down your overall objectives. It should give you food for thought when deciding on which products to promote, which discount strategies to apply, and how to target shoppers. 

Finally, we encourage you to take away the key holiday shopping dates and some interesting highlights as to how shoppers are purchasing during BFCM in particular, and which channels perform the best. All that’s left to say now is … have a prosperous few months!

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