From Christmas to Valentine's Day, holidays and festivities bring with them a flurry of buying activity across the UK. But seasonal marketing isn't just for the big retail chains - there are plenty of ways SMEs can capitalize on the holidays too. If you need a hand organizing your holiday marketing activity, here are eight ways to get started:
1. Experiment with dynamic adverts
With the competitive holiday periods forcing a rise in PPC ad spend, it’s crucial to create digital ads that stand out. Try experimenting with ad extensions, as these can pull in useful third-party data including ratings from reviews sites, giving the user key trust signals before they even click on your ad. This has worked effectively for clients in the past – we tested seller ratings for a gardening centre client and found that ads with seller ratings have a 41% higher CTR than normal text ads.
Structured snippet extensions allow you to showcase more information from your website. For example, a travel company may want to showcase more on their hotels or their best deals. The countdown timer extension is another great way to make ads appealing, as they create a sense of scarcity. People have a natural fear of missing out and so the countdown timer extension is great for creating a sense of urgency around your product or service.
It also goes without saying that because the market is so saturated during these period, advertisers will need to keep a close eye on campaigns for competitive keywords to ensure there’s no overspend. And as always, ensure you only advertise for products with good stock levels or services with high availability to avoid disappointment.
2. Create shopping feeds
If you’re an ecommerce company, using product feeds in the run up to a holiday season is a no brainer. These types of ads are available in paid search — including Google Shopping Campaign Ads (formerly Product Listing Ads) - and social - mainly Facebook Dynamic Product Ads which display on both Facebook and Instagram.
These ads are driven by product feeds that can contain thousands of SKUs, enabling businesses with a large product base to pull in specific brands, ranges or products into a feed, instead of manually adding them to your advert. This means advertisers can quickly generate ads of best-selling products as needed, as the correct headlines, images and descriptions are already held within the feed.
3. Invest in retargeting advertising
Retargeting is an excellent way to personalize ads and re-engage customers. Retargeting ads work by targeting online visitors who have already interacted with your product or service. You can use data from your website visitors or upload customer data to find customers who have previously purchased from you.
The beauty of this is that you can serve potential customers relevant ads. Remind a visitor who abandoned their basket what they viewed on your website – and offer them a discount to convert. Or if a visitor viewed a particular service, but didn’t make an enquiry, then serve them an ad reminding them of the heritage of your business to increase brand trust.
Retargeting not only allows brands to reach out to interested customers, but it also helps to increase brand visibility during noisy holiday periods - something that could encourage a potential customer to buy from you instead of a competitor.
Google’s display network and dynamic retargeting options offer cost effective ways to re-engage customers. Facebook’s retargeting adverts also allow brands to remain visible in the oversaturated organic space of Facebook and Instagram - try segmenting your audience and target website visitors (past 120 days), newsletter subscribers, and people who have abandoned their baskets. Facebook’s ‘lookalike audiences’ is also a stellar tool - it enables you to find similar audiences based on your website visitors or customer data, meaning you can target more relevant customers.
4. Don’t neglect customer reviews
Amidst the frenzy of holiday shopping, SMEs can sometimes throw customer service out the window. It's crucial to keep sight of how you're handling customer service during these spikes in sales. If you’re focusing on the delivery process but neglecting your customer and inbound queries, you’re going to miss out on big business.
Invest in customer service advisors that will handle the pre-buying process, not just shipping. Holidays tend to be stressful buying periods (especially Christmas), so offering good customer service is a great way to build brand loyalty. Live chat windows on your website can offer a nice personal touch and open a dialogue with a customer that might be struggling to make a decision. But as always make sure you respond in a timely manner.
Too often SMEs neglect the long-term goal and just focus on the quick win of the holidays. Remember that a positive buying experience will create return customers that will shop beyond the holiday season. Tailored landing pages and gift guides are a great way to enhance user experience and increase buying intent, as well as improve SEO rankings for seasonal terms. Consider creating landing pages for the specific terms you’d like to rank for during each holiday season, such as ‘Christmas trees’ or ‘Valentine’s Day Gifts’ to offer a curated selection for customers to shop and a targeted page for Google.
5. Celebrate delivery
Whilst free shipping is more important than fast shipping, consumers still expect to receive their order in two to four days. In fact, often, checking for free delivery is the first step consumers take before considering to purchase from a website.
Essentially, customers expect free and fast delivery. And failing to provide this - or failing to demonstrate that you provide this clearly to the consumer as soon as they enter your website - could prevent sales. So, factor delivery charges into your sales model and ensure that this service is featured clearly across your website and marketing channels.
6. Prepare for traffic spikes
Don’t let all your hard work of getting people to your site go to waste by slow site speeds and load times. Make sure you’ve check the past performance of your website against seasonal spikes in traffic.
Customers will not hang around on website that are slow or crash. So, pay attention to load times - under two-three seconds is best on desktop. Enable GZIP compression on your web server (which can save at least 50% of your bandwidth usage), compress images and minify java experience to increase load times.
7. Optimize for mobile
Whilst previous buying behaviour patterns have shown that consumers research products and brands on their mobiles and then use a desktop to convert, trends now show that consumers are purchasing on their mobile device. Consumers are increasingly confident purchasing via mobile, which means your website - and all the ads and digital marketing methods that point towards it - need to be optimized for mobile.
And again, pay attention to load times on mobile. According to SEO expert Neil Patel, 73% of mobile Internet browsers say they've visited a site that took too long to load, and 40% admitted to leaving a site if it didn’t load in 3 seconds or less. The bottom line is that if people have a negative experience on mobile, they’re less likely to purchase from you in the future - no matter how great your website is.
8. Plan early
It's crucial to plan holiday campaigns well in advance. It takes time to build SEO rankings, generate a buzz around your campaigns and prepare materials that can stand up against the competitive marketplace.
Let's look at Christmas in particular - Google’s keyword planner shows a spike in searches for ‘Christmas gifts’ during September (49,500 searches), up 75.5% from August (12,100 searches). If consumers are preparing for Christmas as early as September, then your business should be too. Plan early for each holiday season and you'll be putting your business head and shoulders above the competition.
About the Author
Amanda Walls is the Founder and Director of Cedarwood Digital, a digital marketing agency based in Manchester. Aside from offering client services in PPC, SEO and consulting, Amanda also works as a trainer for Google’s Digital Garage and has trained thousands of marketing professionals nationwide.
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