Winter of Your Content

Marketing & Promotions

Smart e-tailers are also spending money on marketing, but they're making an effort to spend their marketing dollars more efficiently. The key is to go after those valuable customers that buy from you regularly.

"This year, we're doing more marketing to existing customers, instead of doing prospecting," says Apfel. "We're concentrating on continuing to be a profitable e-tailer, and the best way to do that, I believe, is to focus on existing customers."

Another savvy holiday strategy is to tweak the popular promotions you used to attract a broad spectrum of customers last year in an effort to get better results from them this year. "Last year, we saw many retailers using promotions like free shipping or price-reduction coupons that could only be used when accompanied by a minimum purchase," says Dougherty. "This year, promotions will probably be more targeted to driving up the average order size, where consumers have to buy at least $50 for free shipping."

Competitive pricing is yet another marketing strategy employed by savvy e-tailers. Even with the soft economy, that's still a priority for Toyopia, says Reed. "We're not cutting our budget or scaling back in any way," he says. "In fact, we're looking into increasing our budget." Reed hopes continuing to market aggressively despite an uncertain economy will keep his company afloat and help him eventually gain a larger share of the online toy pie.

With the holidays fast approaching, Reed keeps a positive outlook. "We believe we will experience significant growth by the end of the year," he explains. "We're not sure yet how the recent events will impact us, but even if our growth is less than we originally expected, we are committed to our marketing strategy and our customers."

The bottom line for e-tailers: Aggressively marketing your goods this holiday season is more of a necessity than a choice. "You have to be realistic," Reed says. "If you don't do anything different or exceptional in terms of marketing this holiday season, you are going to lose out."

Melissa Campanelli is a marketing and technology writer in Brooklyn, New York.

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at

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This article was originally published in the December 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Winter of Your Content.

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