Every year it feels like TV and radio stations, retailers and other businesses start the “holiday season” talk earlier and earlier.
Some people complain. Some people love it.
I’m usually thinking about other things — like how to stay sane.
You see, online retailers (which many of my clients are) are basically going berserk during the months of November and December.
Ever heard of Black Friday? Cyber Monday?
E-commerce booms as the holidays near, especially among women and Millennials.
Taking advantage of these search trends takes preparation, grit, timing, and even a little bit of luck.
I’m not promising an entirely stress-free season. But I can give you a few tips.
Even though those landmark sales days are still weeks away, you need to be preparing right now!
1. Know the editorial calendars
One of the first recommendations the U.S. Small Business Administration offers small businesses during the holiday season is to throw holiday parties, especially for B2B companies.
Parties and gift-giving are at the heart and on the minds of holiday shoppers, which is why it’s always a good idea to be listed on gift guides throughout the media.
Every media platform, whether television, radio, print, Internet or mobile app features gift guides throughout the holiday season, and these gift guides are often written, submitted, and planned on editorial calendars up to 6 months in advance.
Pitching your business in the summer, you’re much more likely to reach someone who cares than those people waiting until the last minute.
Andreea Ayers shares more information about how to pitch to magazine editors for holiday gift guides in the link above, which you should definitely check out when you have a chance.
2. Tips are always appreciated in your content marketing program.
One of my favorite articles is a list about lists from Wired. In it, Rachel Edidin explains the cultural phenomenon of listicles – top 10 lists and other numbered articles that made publications like Buzzfeed so popular.
Pretty much anything with a number in the title will get published in both mainstream and indie media these days.
Whether publishing a top 10 list or a how-to guide, content marketing through an internal blog is a great way to help boost your ecommerce site’s web traffic during the holiday season.
Home Depot has been celebrated by several outlets for its digital strategy, which includes a website filled with tips about how to use its products in your own DIY projects. The company’s online strategy has driven sales up over $1 billion per year since 2013.
Blogging drives organic search traffic and sustainably provides your site with sustainable lead generation.
3. You’re already too late, but it’s ok
Online sales continue to grow each year, with Forrester Research predicting by 2018 the web will account for 11 percent of total retail sales.
As pointed out by Eric Samson in Entrepreneur, the holidays provide companies with a huge boost – Ad impressions increase 50 percent, CTRs increase 100 percent, direct traffic increases 150 percent, and conversion rates increase 60 percent.
Of course, you want to be a part of it.
Competition for visibility with any keyword is stiff, though, and making enough traction in time for the holiday season is unlikely if you’re just starting now.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still get started – in fact, August and September are the deadlines for much of ecommerce inventory, staffing, and other issues, so right now is the best time to start.
4. Account for minimal staff
Everyone wants time off around the holidays, but you still need at least a skeletal crew running throughout the winter.
Here’s a basic holiday schedule for the rest of the year:
Shiftnote, a developer of employee and time management software platforms, has some great recommendations to ensure your holiday schedule goes off without problems. CEO Matt Thompson explains how employee-centric scheduling optimizes the holiday workforce.
To succeed at the holidays, make sure your staff is catered to with a fair and equitable holiday schedule. Although the show must go on, do your best to accommodate employee needs in holiday scheduling.
In short, don’t be a Scrooge.
5. Don’t jump the gun
As Natalie Henley at Volume 9 SEO points out, although planning and pregaming begins as early as July, you don’t want to jump the gun.
The actual holiday season for most businesses runs through November and December.
Because of this, nearly half of marketers (49 percent) will have created and launched a holiday campaign before the end of October.
Everyone is preparing earlier and seemingly taking time off at the end of the year.
So, while it’s understandable you want to get started on the holiday season, don’t jump the gun and start celebrating too early.
6. Research the trends
To keep ahead of the game, you want to know what searches are trending.
It’s not only important to see what people are searching, but on which device. Research shows mobile phones are increasingly used for online holiday purchases.
In fact, Google is second only to Amazon as the online service used for holiday shopping.
SEO optimization is even important during the holidays.
7. Remember the election
In 2016, the holiday season isn’t the only special occasion occurring this winter.
We also have the 2016 election happening, and with Obama at his term limit, our new President will be a first – one way or another.
Tech enthusiasts, marketers, and political analysts alike all have their eyes on this year’s election, which appears to be attributed to the Internet (or at least the Internet generation).
Over $1 billion was spent during this year’s primaries on social media marketing alone. Politicians are employing many ground-breaking online marketing strategies this year, and it’s almost made social media a better barometer than traditional polling.
Whether getting involved in politics, making your voice heard, or even mimicking politicians by using social media as a conversational platform, pay attention to this year’s election to stay in the know.
8. Bone up on pop culture
Politics isn’t the only important consideration for e-retailers in 2016. Pop culture is essential to understanding what holiday trends to expect.
This year we know Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are popular targets, and there isn’t likely to be a Halloween party on the planet that doesn’t involve Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn.
You should know at a minimum what’s hot at the box office and what’s at the top of the Billboard charts.
Doing so helps you understand which toys will be a hit with kids these days, who are into Minecraft and YouTube videos.
Virtual and augmented reality are also expected to continue growing in popularity on the backs of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift sales.
9. Ramp up your tech
Now only should you understand virtual reality, but all technology is important to prepare for this year’s online sales.
Everyone is online these days.
So what do I mean by tech?
Basic stuff. Your website — the very source of all sales and revenue!
Your website needs to be in pristine running condition to remain stable in the event of usage spikes. If you’re not sure how fast your site already is under its current load, check out Pingdom’s online tool.
Perhaps your web hosting service needs to be upgraded or even changed. Verify the traffic and bandwidth limits of your website and be sure to pay your hosting bills so your site stays up throughout the holiday season.
And seriously learn more about mixed reality if you haven’t already – it’s the future of technology and the next social web.
With an investment in advanced technology today, you’ll be prepared to handle tomorrow’s holiday server stress.
10. Black Friday and #CyberMonday
I keep referencing both Black Friday and Cyber Monday because they represent the biggest surge of sales for any business, online or offline.
Here are a few facts about Black Friday.
Lisa Petrovich at Business2Community kicked off the holiday SEO rush in August with a blog about Cyber Monday automation tools.
These are the big game days, but the entire fourth quarter is historically when sales reach their peak and every brand aims for them.
Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo release their major consoles around the holiday season, and appliance, electronic, and other consumer goods manufacturers follow suit.
B2B businesses need to be prepared even earlier in order to rank high enough for the services that will eventually need them to prepare for the holiday rush. Either way, if you’re in business, it should grow as weather gets colder.
11. Don’t forget the lesser holidays
It’s not just Christmas and Thanksgiving that you should think about this holiday season. From Labor Day in September to Valentine’s Day in February, there are a bunch of holidays to keep in mind.
Halloween is a popular holiday for sparking holiday-themed searches, as people look for costume and experience ideas to enjoy the fall.
Reader’s Digest published an interesting consumer guide for the best times of the year to shop. It’s divided into a variety of categories and covers a wide array of goods. Advertising savings during these particular “seasons” can increase your odds of generating more sales.
Here’s a European calendar of special events for those who attract co.uk traffic.
There’s always a reason to celebrate, and celebrating the right way at the right time can increase sales throughout the year, not just during the “holiday” rush.
12. It’s a holiday season for a reason
One of the big issues Arianna Huffington advocates is resting, and that’s what the holiday season is really supposed to be about.
Throughout the madness, don’t forget to take some time off for yourself to truly enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer.
Try to rest. Seriously.
You’ll think better. Perform better. Act better, and generally have a less-stressed out holiday ecommerce explosion.
Holiday searches increase every year, while more and more online and mobile shopping is taking place.
As younger generations gain spending power, smart online retailers will prepare for the holiday rush just like a traditional brick-and-mortar business.
Start preparing now, and you’ll have an easy path to success while everyone else stresses during this holiday season.
What are you looking forward to this upcoming holiday season?