October 25, 2012, 10:57 AM

The procrastinator's guide to holiday marketing

A new report offers quick tricks to help not-quite-ready e-retailers maximize holiday sales.

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The holiday sales season is approaching. Fast.  E-retailers who feel they could still benefit from a few more strategies to beef up their seasonal sales can implement several quick tricks even now, with just a couple of weeks until online holiday sales get into full swing, according to a new report from e-commerce platform provider MarketLive Inc.

MarketLive based its report on an online survey in September that asked 1,136 shoppers about their online shopping plans and preferences for the holidays. All participants had shopped online at least four times over the past year, spending at least $250 in total on those purchases. The survey finds the main reasons shoppers say they buy online are to save money cited by 82% of consumers), access a broader selection of products (80%) and save time (78%), says MarketLive.

Many merchants will highlight how they will save shoppers money, so to stand out MarketLive suggests emphasizing how an e-retailer can save consumers time. That requires finding a creative message the sticks in shoppers’ minds, because harried shoppers will be seeing a slew of marketing messages over the holidays.
The report points to one such creative message in an ad from last year’s holiday season in which sports and outdoor apparel and gear retailer Moosejaw aimed to help the “Lazy Shopper” buy gifts.

“Spell out the choices to save those Lazy Shoppers time as Moosejaw did in one of our favorite holiday e-mails,” the report notes. The e-mail displays shopping categories as tabs at the top of the e-mail message to show shoppers what it sells, and also offers gifts at various price points such as under $10, under $25, all the way up to under $200. The e-mail also noted that Moosejaw.com, No. 276 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, offers free two-day shipping on orders over $75.

It isn’t enough just to offer free shipping and other incentives, retailers have to point them out to consumers, says the report.  It points to baby gear retailer Giggle, whose promotions last year highlighted its free gift wrapping.

MarketLive also recommends retailers craft a dynamic area of their sites focused on gifts. For instance, retailers like the Container Store, No. 299 in the Top 500 Guide, publicize their employees’ top picks, while others like gift retailer Harry and David, No. 108, point out top-rated gifts from consumers who live close to the shopper.

Other tips include:

  • Highlight freebies: Find as many places as possible to incorporate the word “free,” MarketLive suggests. Gift retailer Things Remembered, No. 336, highlights free shipping, free engraving and a buy one, get one free offer on a single page.
  • Upgrade confirmations: Use the order confirmation e-mail as a way to market to the gift buyer. For example, American Eagle Outfitters, No. 65, asks shoppers who have made a purchase to visit its site and update or create a wish list for a chance to win a $1000 gift card.
  • Mobile matters: Having a mobile-optimized site or app does little if consumers don’t know about it, says the report. Retailers should highlight their mobile offerings on their e-commerce sites and e-mails.
  • Don’t neglect your stores (if you have them): The holiday season is a good time to cross-promote store locations on web sites, mobile sites and apps, and in e-mails, MarketLive says. Retailers can encourage shoppers to use their online store tools such as store locators, shipping to stores and checking store product availability.
  • Publicize delivery dates: Make clear the cut-off dates for free shipping and the last day a shopper can order to get a gift delivered by Christmas Eve, MarketLive says. That can help prod consumers to buy, and perhaps, buy earlier.
  • Think beyond December: Market to consumers with a Happy New Year e-mail or home page message, and accompany it with markdowns, MarketLive suggests.
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