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Small Businesses: 6 Digital Marketing Strategies to a Successful Holiday Season

By Dan Pratt

Sigh. It’s that time of year again. The abundance of Christmas items starting to line store shelves can only mean one thing: The holidays are sneaking up on us.

For many businesses, the holiday season represents an insanely busy time of year. So busy, in fact, that the National Retail Federation (NRF) reports the holiday season can represent as much as 30% of annual sales . . . 30 percent!

The NRF also reports that consumers begin researching their holiday purchases earlier and earlier every year. More than half of consumers start researching in October or earlier with 33% of purchases starting in November.

With so much at stake, it’s imperative that small and medium sized business owners begin planning a marketing strategy to capitalize on the onslaught of holiday interest as soon as possible. Continued delays or missteps in planning could result in the business equivalent of a lump of coal in your stocking.

Let’s dive into 6 tips to ensure a successful digital marketing effort this holiday season.

1. Pick a goal you can measure

It’s important for every business owner to think about what they want (and hope) the holiday season will bring. That means starting with goal setting is an important part of the strategic planning process. What are you hoping to accomplish this year? Is it higher sales, an increase in awareness, expansion of your existing product line, the opening of new sales channels? Understanding what you hope to see and accomplish by December 31st will help point you in the right direction.

Once you’ve selected your goals for the holiday season it’s important to understand the best ways to measure your success. For most businesses, the best first step is properly setting up Google Analytics for tracking all website related metrics. If you’re spending money advertising on Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, the most important thing you can do is make sure each conversion pixel is set up correctly and accurately reporting on your goals.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure.

2. Develop a strategy for mobile

It’s more important than ever to be where your customers are, and more often than not those customers are on their mobile phones. Comscore’s 2017 mobile phone usage report details that U.S. consumers spend 71% of their minutes online via a mobile device.  More shockingly, 2016 marked the first time mobile search outpaced desktop search as the defacto way consumers search for things online. A whopping 56% of retail related searches begin on mobile devices.

If your website is already optimized for a mobile e-commerce experience, congrats! That’s one less thing you’ll need to add to your holiday checklist. If it’s not, you should seriously consider upgrading before it’s too late.

There are a number of fantastic platforms out there that make it easy to set up a mobile e-commerce experience. Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento are three of the more well-known services, but a simple Google search for “mobile e-commerce platforms” will uncover many more for you to explore.

RELATED: 6 Mobile Marketing Tips for Beginners

3. Socialize and recreate the offline shopping experience online

If you haven’t created an online presence via Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram, it’s high time to get your social house in order. Each of these platforms should be looked at as tools in your creative toolbox that can help bring the unique and fun qualities of your business online. With the right lighting, a smartphone tripod, and background images of your most popular products, you can turn any space into your creative studio.

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4. Look back and stock up

Poor inventory management can be very, very costly. CNBC reported in 2015 that out-of-stocks, overstocks, and returns are costing retailers a whopping $1.75 trillion per year.

So whether you are using a retail POS system and have been for more than a year, or track your monthly/weekly sales in a paper journal, it’s important to look back at November and December holiday sales and stock up. Consumers want what they want when they want it and with so many other options out there lack of inventory will result in missed sales and a bad customer experiences.

eMarketer reports that for the 2017 holiday season, expect e-commerce to climb 15.8%, while total retail growth will slow to 2.0%. So be sure to adjust your inventory levels accordingly.

5. Automate and optimize

If you’re planning a digital advertising campaign on Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, look to automate your account management to stay ahead of the curve.

According to Nucleus Research, marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead. More sales and less cost = kudos from the boardroom and accolades from the C-Suite—and as a small or medium sized business owner you likely sit in both of those seats.

Both the Google AdWords and Facebook Ads platforms, as well as third-party marketing automation tools, provide most of the features business owners need to get their digital ads up and running in time for the holiday rush. So automate your ad optimization and then pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

6. Measure (again) and start planning for next year

Once all the presents have been opened and the ball in Times Square has dropped, it’s time to get back to work.

You want to make sure to measure how the goals you set today translated into success for your business. If you hit your goals, great! Make sure to write down the specific strategies that worked well so you can revisit them during the next holiday season. If you didn’t hit your goals, there is always next year. Take note of the strategies that failed so you can incorporate those learnings into your goal setting for the following year.

Remember, the sooner you start the better off you’ll be when the holiday season rolls around again.

RELATED: Holiday Staffing 101: How to Ensure a Smooth Holiday Season

About the Author

Post by: Dan Pratt

Dan Pratt is the co-founder and COO of AdHawk, a software company that provides automation and optimization tools for digital advertising campaigns. As a former Googler, Dan and his partner founded the company because they were frustrated with the state of digital advertising.

Company: AdHawk
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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