The holidays are quickly approaching, and businesses are searching for the best ways to spend the last of their marketing budget in order to maximize their profits this year. With the holiday shopping season becoming increasingly competitive, we asked a few digital marketing experts to share their tips on how businesses and retailers can maximize their marketing strategies before the end of 2015, and especially during the code freeze.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Tim Ash Chris Makara Jordie Van Rijn Brian Massey Jim Belosic
Mari Smith Brian Honigman Jordan Elkind Bryan Eisenberg Scott Sorochak

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Tim Ash
Tim Ash
CEO, Site Tuners
Tip: De-clutter your websiteTwitter Button

The key to achieving higher ecommerce conversion rates this holiday is to de-clutter your website.

Here are some specific tips that should immediately lead to higher conversions:

Make your page backgrounds boring – remove any images (especially photographic ones) from the background and edges of your page. Replace them with slightly darker solid color blocks in neutral colors. This will focus attention on the body of your page.

Get rid of the banner slider on your home page – You are currently taking up the most valuable screen real-estate on your site with an attention-sapping motion-triggered series of commercials. They distract from the visitor experience and are costing you money. Just say “no” to homepage banners and sliders.

Don’t show products on your homepage – If you carry a large inventory, then featured products on the home page (no matter how popular) are just guesses at what a visitor might want. Replace products with tiled category-level cards. Get the visitors off of your homepage and closer to their goal on the category page.

Tim Ash is the CEO of Site Tuners, bestselling author of the book Landing Page Optimization, and the chair of the international Conversion Conference event series

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Chris Makara
Chris Makara
Digital Strategist, chrismakara.com
Tip: Remarket to past visitorsTwitter Button

The holidays are definitely the time of the year where consumers are more willing to make purchases. However, competition from other online retailers will make it difficult to make the sale. Chances are that most buyers will look at multiple retailers to find the best deal.

Whether these potential buyers find your site through organic search or through an increase spend of PPC dollars during the holidays, how can you make sure that you stay top of mind during this process?

With remarketing!

Using remarketing, you can easily target visitors to your website that have not made a purchase. This is done by implementing a tracking pixel across your site. You can then segment your audience based on certain pages/products they viewed and advertise to them with targeted ads to drive them back to your site to make a purchase.

One important remarketing tip to note is that you might want to exclude customers who made a purchase so that you are not spending your remarketing dollars on them.

Remarketing is typically a cost effective approach to standard PPC advertising. Spending the last of your marketing budget on remarketing can help your business with an unexpected bump in sales to close out the year.

Chris Makara is an interactive marketing & digital strategist with 12+ years of experience. He is the founder of Ciked, a digital marketing agency for small businesses. Whether if it is coming up with SEO or social media strategies, developing websites, managing team members, or compiling multiple data sets into Excel or Google Docs, Chris loves being immersed in all aspects of the digital world.

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Jordie Van Rijn
Jordie Van Rijn
Email Marketing Consultant, Email Monday
Tip: Learn about subscribersTwitter Button

The holidays are a special period in retail it is “make it or break it” time for many e-retailers. Of course the normal rules of email marketing also apply during the holidays. Especially in this period even more people will see your email and site on the small screen. Be tap-to-click ready, making sure your emails and landing pages are optimized for mobile.

I believe that it pays off to make your marketing smarter. Use the pre-holiday period to learn more about your subscribers. By asking them in which products, categories they are interested in, you can send the right offer this season. You can use these preferences to enrich their profiles and better tune your messaging in the following period.

Shopping behaviour, what hints and data can you use to segment and tailor your offers this year’s season? Do they have a brand preference, possibly the products show you about their wishes this year. All of these are micro-conversions that can very well lead up to a sale.

Jordie van Rijn has more than 13 years of hands-on experience as an independent email marketing consultant. Next to helping companies improve their email marketing results he gives email marketing training and is a writer and speaker in the field of online marketing.

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Brian Massey
Brian Massey
Conversion Scientist, Conversion Sciences
Tip: Start optimizing for 2016Twitter Button

Now is the time to start optimizing for the 2016 selling season. Brands can do testing between now and the holidays, but shouldn’t expect to find substantial increases in such a short time. Plus, holiday traffic acts very different. What increases revenue per visit (RPV) now may not have the same impact during the holidays.

Instead, we’d recommend using the up-coming holiday to experiment for next year.

The holidays are a good time for testing because the traffic is higher. By setting aside a portion for testing, brands can learn something about what makes more visitors buy without putting sales at risk during this peak time.

There’s no reason to go all in on one creative. Variations in value proposition, layout, images, credibility builders and social proof can tell a brand what holiday shoppers are looking for from the online experience.

Setting up the digital lab and doing some pre-tests can be done within a month of the peak season. Then, when the holidays are over, we would recommend re-testing winning combinations to see if the off-peak visitors respond similarly.

After that, the best-in-class brands won’t stop testing. Ever. By the time the 2016 holiday season rolls back around, these companies will be primed going into the holidays, with a significantly higher conversion rate and important intel on what makes their holiday shoppers buy.

In summary, if you’re not testing. It’s time to start.

Brian Massey is the founder and a Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences (www.ConversionSciences.com). He is the author of the Amazon Marketing Best Selling Book “Your Customer Creation Equation.” He is available to teach and speak at conferences and businesses worldwide.

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Jim Belosic
Jim Belosic
CEO, Short Stack
Tip: Focus on lead generationTwitter Button

I recommend spending dollars on lead-generating campaigns. This means promotions, giveaways or landing pages for valuable materials, infographics, and eBooks. Campaigns during the holidays are the most effective way to get your 2016 off to a fast start. Gathering leads during the holidays when people are most actively looking for deals, promotions etc can help you market to them in Q1/Q2 when they are more spending-conscience. By building your customer base now and you can tap into it later when you need it most.

Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-service platform used to build engaging campaigns for social, web, and mobile. ShortStack contains 40+ widgets and applications where users can integrate contests, sweepstakes, RSS feeds, Twitter, YouTube, MailChimp, and Aweber newsletter signups that maximize their online presence and potential.

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Mari Smith
Mari Smith
Social Media Thought Leader, marismith.com
Tip: Craft social media messagesTwitter Button

First, it’s never too early to start talking about the holidays, but just be mindful about your messaging! Start early, but think outside the box and put yourself in your customers’ shoes. For most people, as soon as we see a message such as, “Hurry, only 57 shopping days until Christmas,” we actually start to feel panicked. We fret over all the prep, planning, gift-giving and stress associated with the Holidays.

Instead, what if you could be the one business that actually empathizes with your audience and helps to alleviate that stress? Carefully craft your social media marketing messages with creative visuals, video and copy that communicate how much you genuinely care about and understand your customers.

Ideas might include:

“We’ve got your back. We did all the preparation so you don’t have to. Just show up, relax and enjoy.”

“Send us your gift list and we’ll do the shopping for you, delivered to your door, beautifully gift-wrapped. What could be easier?”

“Running out of Holiday gift ideas for that one quirky relative who’s oh-so difficult to please? Your search is over. Here’s our best suggestions. We know she’ll love it, guaranteed!”

By placing Facebook ads carefully targeted to the right demographics and interests, marketers can reach the exact audience with the perfect messaging. The key is for your paid content to be as timely and relevant as the content users see from their friends and family.

Mari Smith is one of the world’s leading social media thought leaders with deep expertise in Facebook marketing. Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media marketing. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer (currently #4 of 100), author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day.

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Brian Honigman
Brian Honigman
CEO, brianhonigman.com
Tip: Email is priorityTwitter Button

The most wonderful time of the year for digital marketers is rapidly approaching. I’m talking, of course, about the holiday season.

Marketers (especially those at larger companies) tend to freak out because it’s time to allocate your unspent marketing dollars.

Don’t worry though. If you follow a few simple guidelines, you’ll have no trouble unleashing the rest of your marketing budget and leveraging the huge wins to be had in the frenzy of the holiday rush.

1. Make Email Your Top Priority!

There’s not a ton of runway between now and November to work on building an email list, but you can definitely train your existing customers.

Start to slowly build up a more promotional, value-driven tone in the weeks leading to holiday.

This will teach your customers to seek out your emails so that when its time for the real promoting they’ll be much more attentive than if you had just sold them cold.

2. Pair with Affiliates

Having great deals during the holidays won’t do you much good if nobody knows about them.

This time of year even the speediest customers become bargain hunters and people typically search for deals on affiliate sites.

During my time at Ecko we saw amazing traction partnering with sites like Slickdeals.com. However, if sites like these don’t align with your brand you can just as easily pursue smaller partnerships with bloggers in your industry.

3. Leverage Retargeting

Programmatic and retargeted advertising have recently suffered from irresponsible levels of overuse. That’s why I always recommend clients to tread carefully and to not rely too much on the technology without adding a human touch.

Holiday is an exception. Retargeting is incredibly suited to the task of getting the word out about your promotions and holiday marketing efforts. Think about it: these people already know your brand, they’ve been to your site, and now all they need is a reminder about why NOW is the time to go back and buy.

Shying away from purely branded retargeting and shifting over to promotional toned messaging and creative will help maximize the pull of all of these various efforts.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but even these three tactics can help guide your end-of-year spend and maximize the results of your digital holiday campaigns.

Brian Honigman is the CEO of Honigman Media, a content marketing consultancy that provides strategy on content distribution and content production. As a content marketing and social media consultant, Brian is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur and others.

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Jordan Elkind
Jordan Elkind
Product Team, Custora
Tip: Plan for after the holidaysTwitter Button

Go beyond Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Purple Tuesday: The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. The Custora E-Commerce Pulse, based on data from 500 million anonymized shoppers, $80B in e-commerce revenue, and 100+ online retailers, shows that while Cyber Monday and Black Friday are the biggest shopping days of the year, there’s more to the season than these two days.

Compete on shipping – the right way: Fast shipping is going to be a prime differentiator this holiday season. Pick up in store, same-day or 2-hour delivery options were all becoming prominent in 2015. Smart retailers will use different shipping promotions for different customers – a loyal VIP shopper may be worthy of a same-day shipping promotion, while a lapsing, coupon-loving customer might not.

Start planning for after the holidays: Data indicates that holiday shoppers spend less in the long run than the average shopper. Don’t neglect planning the 2016 conversion & nurture marketing campaigns targeting these shoppers.

Jordan Elkind works on the product team at Custora, a customer-centric marketing platform for e-commerce retailers, where he previously led the company’s customer success efforts. Prior to joining Custora, he earned an MBA from Wharton and worked in marketing analytics at Citi Cards.

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Bryan Eisenberg
Bryan Eisenberg
Co-founder & CMO,
bryaneisenberg.com
Tip: Sell to past customersTwitter Button

There are several key things businesses can do to increase their holiday conversions.

1. Leverage the #1 secret to increased conversions.

Sell to customers who already have purchased from you. Deliver a positive experience to those customers and they will likely become a repeat customer. This is why Amazon Prime members convert 74% of the time on Amazon.com. Compare that to 13% for non-prime members. That is according to a 2015 study from Millward Brown Digital.

2. Realize that a prime driver for today’s customers is to save time.

Help them easily find and prepare their holiday gifts in a way that makes them proud to give it to their friends and family. Communicate that well on the site and they will gladly give you their holiday spending dollars.

3. Have a clear holiday return policy on the website.

Not enough companies focus on messaging around customers’ shopping early but returning late for holiday gifting purposes. Most companies are set on their traditional return policies, but they can benefit from having a unique holiday season policy.

4. If you have physical stores, leverage them to create terrific holiday omni-channel experiences.

Make it easy for returns, exchanges, and ship to store options. Create events in store to inspire gift giving ideas. There are hundreds of opportunities here if companies can execute.

Bryan Eisenberg is the co-founder and CMO of IdealSpot. He is the co-author of the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, USA Today and New York Times bestselling books “Call to Action”, “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?” and “Always Be Testing”. Bryan is a professional marketing keynote speaker who has been the keynote speaker for various corporate events and conferences.

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Scott Sorochak
Scott Sorochak
SVP Sales & Marketing,
Sellpoints
Tip: Make interactive pagesTwitter Button

Usually 30 days before Thanksgiving weekend, E-Commerce businesses freeze their website code, enabling little to no changes to their applications and websites to minimize development mistakes which could result in catastrophic downtime of their websites. Mistakes that can send even your most loyal customer right into the arms of your competitor. For most consumers it’s the most wonderful time of the year, buying gifts for friends and family, and packages arriving non-stop to the house and office makes it feel like Christmas everyday…but for retailers and brands it’s typically the most hectic and craziest non-stop time of the year.

They hit the button, freeze the code, grab a bottle, hunker down, and pray for daylight—with the hopes that the content and marketing strategies they have in place on those applications and websites are “enough.”

Fortunately for businesses, brands, retailers—they all can take proper steps to ensure that when they freeze their code, it’s with confidence. You do this by providing the most useful, interactive content for each of your top selling products—and if you can, for all your products.

Implementing features like Shoppable Images, retailers are able to showcase a variety of complementary brands at the same time in a space saving and enticing way for shoppers. Using interactive callouts directly on the retailer’s image, brands can serve the most relevant content regarding not only specific products, but also about their entire brand, practically introducing shoppers to not just one, but many products, with the option to buy right on the image—this helps reduce your drop off rate because shoppers never have to leave the page.

shoppable

Along the same lines, Interactive Hero Banners help Brands turn their ads into an interactive image where shoppers can get product, brand, and pricing information without even leaving the page. Especially for smaller brands, that is great way to gain visibility and compete against the big name brands.

interactive

interactive

But whatever you decide to do this holiday code freeze season, just make sure it’s effective, interactive, and maximizes the “WOW” factor, which will undoubtedly translate into increased visitors and higher online transactions.

Scott Sorochak is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Sellpoints, with over 25 years of Executive Sales, Marketing and Operational leadership experience in Consumer Internet, Mobile and Enterprise SaaS Global organizations.

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