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Christmas in July: 3 strategies to plan now for big holiday results

By: Brad LaRock
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It may be warm and sunny outside, but smart ecommerce executives are already planning for Santa and Singles Day. Starting holiday planning now can have massive payoffs when the season of giving — and the biggest shopping days of the year — roll around.

The National Retail Federation reported that 2015 online holiday sales grew 9% over 2014 numbers, and sales on Cyber Monday are now outpacing Black Friday. Compared to the nominal 3% growth for all 2015 holiday sales, it is clear online shopping is gaining popularity, a trend we fully expect to continue this holiday season.

Here are 3 ecommerce strategies your team should start planning now:

Think globally: As the retail world becomes more connected, digital marketers’ promotional schedules need to be a melting pot of global holidays.

The single biggest online shopping day happens two weeks before Black Friday, when — based off last year’s numbers — Chinese shoppers spend a staggering $14.3 billion on Singles Day. This new world record put an even bigger spotlight on the global online shopping opportunity and the importance of cross-border commerce. European shoppers now expect promotions during the U.S.’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, while American shoppers seek deals on Singles Day.

Companies need to start planning their holiday promotional schedules now, taking into account preferences and desires for customers in each country in which they sell.

Increase personalization: Retailers must leverage data to personalize the shopping experience and build customer loyalty.

Approximately 78% of consumers will give marketers data during their in-store purchase in exchange for a personalized ecommerce shopping experience. By gathering and analyzing data, and then taking time to understand the user journey across shopping experiences, marketers are able to tailor promotions, offers and outreach to draw more consumers online.

For example, tailoring your promotional offers for new vs. returning customers can be extremely effective. Designating offers to exclusive channels rewards the most valued customers — deepening the relationship and building brand loyalty. Another personalization strategy is to determine which customers value live chat and offer that option only to this group. Not only will this save valuable personnel resources, but offering live chat to customers who see it as an interruption can lead to cart abandonment.

With increased expectations that ecommerce sites will provide rich, satisfying customer experiences across devices, browsers, platforms and networks, merchants that fail to deliver this customized experience risk jeopardizing not only their Black Friday sales, but future revenue sources as well.

Win on experience: Brands don’t need to win on price if they can enhance the buying experience.

Not all customers are price sensitive shoppers, searching for the least expensive product in a category and often buying through a third-party reseller like Amazon. There also are brand loyal and experience driven shoppers who are willing to pay a little more for value added services and a direct relationship with the manufacturer. Take HTC’s “Uh-oh” protection policy, for example. Shoppers who buy a phone direct from HTC can replace it for free if they break it, drop it in water or want to switch service providers. Not only does this program encourage customers to buy direct, but it provides HTC with opportunities to have on-going conversations with their customers and develop long-term relationships.

Another way companies can win on brand experience is by ensuring seamless in-store/online interactions. Although, the buzz right now may be all about mobile, the truth is, shoppers browse, research and buy in a wide variety of ways. While mobile browsing is gaining popularity — this past season 54% of traffic to North American retail ecommerce sites came from mobile devices — a lot of that traffic is generated while shoppers are in-store. And while shopping on smart phones and tablets continues to gain in popularity, nearly three out of four online purchases are being made from desktop computers. The key take away? Regardless of whether a shopper is browsing in-store or online or whether they choose to buy using a PC or mobile device, it’s important for companies to understand their customers’ shopping journeys, and then create a consistent brand experience from beginning to end. Your shoppers are expecting this cohesive experience and your brand has the unique opportunity to provide it, driving incremental sales and creating a new extended relationships with shoppers.

Learn more about how retailers can drive ecommerce growth and retain valuable customers using advanced marketing techniques.