5 eCommerce marketing tips for a profitable holiday season

We’re officially on the clock – the holiday shopping season is just around the corner, as evidenced by retailers already announcing their Black Friday hours. They have good reason, too: with 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas this year, the 2014 holiday shopping window is one day longer than last year but still five fewer than 2012.

In order to make up for the shorter period (and in an effort to gain even an incremental advantage), companies are rolling out holiday promotions earlier than ever this year. With fierce competition and an already-noisy market, retailers must plan ahead to ensure a successful holiday shopping season.

Here are 5 tips to stay ahead of the curve and get ready for the holiday shopping season now:

1. Look at last year’s data

While time is of the essence, make sure to do your homework, first. Effective planning for the holiday shopping season means a targeted approach, and that means knowing where and how to aim. Analyze last year’s holiday shopping data to see which channels had the most impact, and what tactics consumers responded to the most. Conversely, evaluate why certain tactics had lower results – this will help you decide how you can adjust for this year or if it’s time to let go.

2. Identify your high- and low-CLV customers

Put your data to good use by identifying your high- and low-Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) customers. As we’ve covered previously, doing so will enable you to segment your customer list to send more personalized and targeted promotions – and widen your profit margin in the process. Analyze your customers’ social, behavioral, transactional, and demographic data to understand their shopping tendencies and predict their likelihood to purchase. For example, Apple iPhone users accounted for 75% of smartphone purchases against Android’s 25% in a study conducted in May 2014. This indicates that Apple users are more likely to be high-CLV customers, which marketers can then use to determine what incentive will drive the best results.

3. Focus on content marketing

Most retailers focus on Black Friday or other promotional, product-focused advertisements this time of year, but one way to get ahead in the holiday season is by ramping up your content marketing. Release a “hottest toys” list for this year or gift guides for different family members. Create blog posts about holiday shopping tips or decorating ideas. Creating SEO-ready content is a great way to direct traffic to your site – position yourself as a knowledgeable source of information for holiday shopping, and shoppers will come to you.

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Williams-Sonoma shares a recipe for holiday treats in their email to encourage shoppers to visit their site.

4. Go mobile or go home

Mobile is now one of the most important components of your holiday shopping season tactics. IBM reported in their annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report¬†that US sales over mobile devices on Black Friday 2013 leapt nearly 43% in the last few years to equal 21.8% of all site sales. Cyber Monday saw similar results, with mobile sales up more than 55% from 2012 to account for 17.2% of total online spending. Shoppers use their smartphones and tablets more than ever to research products, compare prices, and complete purchases. Make sure you’re ready by optimizing your website and tactics for mobile. Work on making the customer experience on mobile devices as smooth as possible.

5. Send better emails (and remember to think omnichannel)

Consumers expect more email communication from retailers around the holiday shopping season, so use this opportunity wisely. Don’t forget, your competitors are sending more emails, too:¬†according to a study by Experian, email volume during last year’s holiday season went up 13% from 2012. Rise above the crowd by making sure your emails are relevant and targeted to your customers. Focus on an omnichannel approach: keep the messaging and aesthetic consistent across channels for a more cohesive experience for the customer.