Each year, more and more shoppers are making their holiday purchases online. According to digital marketing experts eMarketer, online holiday shopping is undoubtedly trending upwards with nearly a third of all consumers preferring Internet shopping over brick-and-mortar stores. There will be a 17% increase in retail e-commerce sales this holiday season over last year predicts eMarketer, and end of the year sales are anticipated to reach almost $55 billion.
Furthermore, Deloitte predicts that e-retailer sales over the holidays will increase 15 to 17 percent from last year’s holiday sales. Online stores are progressively enhancing consumers’ shopping experience and reducing the need for consumers to make trips to actual stores since the Internet offers convenience and often increased savings.
How can your small business take advantage of the growing number of online consumers and online sales this holiday season? We’ve asked some outside experts to share their top three tips for kick starting your holiday season preparations now.
- What Products Do Your Customers Love?Don’t just blindly stock inventory across the board for every one of your products. Find your most popular and best selling products from last year’s holiday season and so far this year, and calculate much stock you should have on hand before holiday shoppers come rushing in. Dydacomp CEO Fred Lizza emphasizes that the best way to analyze your past buying patterns and streamline business processes is “to implement an order management system that integrates with your online store, accounting system and other business-critical applications. This will enable you to efficiently track inventory throughout your business channels, eliminate double entry of data, find the lowest shipping costs, and effectively manage the order fulfillment process.” Fred also recommends using QuickBooks as an effective way to manage financial information, but also stresses that “accounting and order management systems should be integrated together.”Amy Shoaff, Director of Marketing at Dazadi, suggests using Google Analytics to help your small business be more efficient with your spending – “Google Analytics and sales reports are key to identifying trends in traffic, where its coming from and what traffic is converting so you can spend against those mediums.” Once you know what your customers love, build a strategy to stock more inventory of those products.
- Social Media is Your FriendStart now to gather fans on all the social media outlets and maintain their interest throughout the holiday season. Social media is a great way to keep your customers updated and interested in your new or current products. How do you maximize your web presence and keep up with trends? Try combining all your social media profiles into one easy tool. Liz Cies, Public Relations Specialist at AWeber, a leading email marketing software for small businesses, says, “setting up a social media management system, such as Hootsuite, will allow businesses to interact with customers and schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (among others) all within one panel… It’s a great timesaver, and I like the ability to schedule posts in advance.”Why is it important to keep up with your store’s trends? David M. Burrows, VP of Corporate Marketing & PR for Cinsay, discovered that “over 50% of customers prefer finding and interacting with small businesses via social media. Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter are all free and easy to use social media platforms. These provide you a great way to promote your specials, new products, product reviews and contests. They also allow you to use these sites as an inexpensive form of customer service to answer questions and solve any order issues.”
More people than ever are using social media to learn what’s popular with their friends. Pinterest isn’t just a collection of virtual inspiration boards – it’s also a powerful free marketing tool if used properly. Social Media and Internet Analyst Brad Hines shares his expertise on tapping the power of Pinterest – “The site is a huge driver of traffic and a huge producer of images. If you aren’t making keyword relevant boards, and tagging beautifully hashtagged and key word rich descriptive phrases, then no one can see your cool product and get it in their head as an idea for an Xmas gift. Pinterest is a free way to market by letting people know about something they didn’t even have in mind as a gift idea.”
- Optimize for Search Engines EarlyLearn more about search engine optimization (SEO) and optimize your online store so your products and keywords will rank higher in search engines than your competitors. Lizza offers more expert advice on this topic – “The first step in effectively promoting an online store is to make sure the site has been optimized for search engines. A thorough review of the metatags, keywords and content used throughout the pages should have been completed during the store’s launch. Assuming an SEO plan is already in place, launching a search engine marketing campaign on Google will ensure that your store appears in the paid results.” Also, Catherine Simms who does Website Design and Marketing for Seo Primo can’t stress enough the importance of optimizing your website now. She advises, “Use a Marketing Service to optimize your website just for the Holiday Season” so small businesses should optimize “early so search engines pick up your website pages before the Holiday Rush.”
Now is the best time for e-retailers to prepare for holiday shoppers since they’re just starting to think about their holiday shopping plans. Less than 15% of holiday shoppers wait until Cyber Monday to start their holiday shopping. Definitely plan on offering coupons and discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping days for online consumers. Stay ahead of your competition by preparing early and wisely for the biggest online shopping season of the year.
Stay tuned for more tips on preparing for the holiday season over the next few weeks. Share your own holiday prep tips below.
Holiday Ornaments – Original image from Shutterstock