For many e-tailers, holiday sales account for more than half of their year's total sales. That's great news when you consider that this year is expected to be a big one for online shopping. Gian Fulgoni, chairman and co-founder of ComScore Networks, a Reston, Virginia-based global information provider and consulting firm that tracks online sales, predicts a 24 per-cent to 25 percent increase in spending this holiday season over last year, with nontravel online spending reaching about $24 billion.
"It's been clear for a while," Fulgoni says. "The longer somebody is online, the more comfortable they become, and [as] more people switch to broadband, they spend more. And those trends continue to drive growth." He points to other growth factors as well: the fact that online merchants are designing better websites that are easier to navigate, and that multichannel retailers are focusing more on their online channels today than in the past.
Online marketing efforts during the pre-holiday months and weeks are especially critical for e-tailers who seek healthy profits this holiday season. Just ask Randall Scott, the 27-year-old president and founder of Randall Scott Cycle Company LLC, an online retailer of high-end bicycles and bike accessories. Here's how Scott, who expects sales of more than $2 million this year, plans to get his Boulder, Colorado, business in gear for the holidays.
1.Beef up inventory. Due to the seasonality of the bicycle industry, Scott says his top-selling holiday items are indoor bicycle trainers. "At the end of September, we increase our inventory of these items by more than 1,000 percent-[we] buy in bulk during this time," he says.
2.Do an e-mail blitz. In October, one month before the company's big holi-day push, "We e-mail our top 100 customers a newsletter with a number of items that we think will be bestsellers for the holiday season," Scott says. "We then track all metrics of their click streams to see what they have the most interest in and what they have purchased." Randall Scott Cycle uses those results to determine inventory levels and shape holiday sales.
3.Run pay-per-click promotions. In November, Scott's company runs aggressive, specific promotions on indoor trainers that remind customers of health and fitness benefits. The weekly promotions are strategically placed in all major search engines. As Scott explains, "The promotions will be clearly represented in the text of the pay-per-click campaign ad-showing, for example, a percentage off a particular product-and bring the customer directly to a holiday season landing page that is directly associated with the PPC text campaign."
4.Show some spirit. Also starting in November, Randall Scott Cycle's website and e-mail marketing messages reflect the season with holiday icons and other visuals. "It's a way to differentiate ourselves by [connecting] with our customers and building a community," says Scott. "It gets our customers into the shopping spirit."
Melissa Campanelliis a marketing and technology writer in New York City.