Ho Ho Hurry Up!

Ho Ho Hurry Up!

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It's hot, it's sticky and one of your major concerns right now might be making sure the air conditioning in your store stays on, but the next item on your “To Do” list for August should really be planning for your holiday selling season.

That's right, even as the beach sand continues to accumulate in the trunk of your car, now is the time to start thinking about that all-important fourth quarter and how you're going to maximize your holiday profits.

While your in-store marketing efforts can wait til the first leaves begin falling from the trees, your e-commerce plans should be put in place right now.

OK, yeah, we know, the flexibility of all your e-communication marketing efforts has probably spoiled you as you know you can execute campaigns at the last minute. Think again. Coordinating e-mail, mobile messaging and other cyber communications for the most important quarter of the year requires solid planning. Statistics from all over the e-marketing world are showing that e-marketing for Q4 truly heats up starting in August and continues unabated until January. Today's constantly connected consumer expects this and now even looks forward to the onslaught as their holiday shopping plans are also starting earlier and earlier every year.

We'll offer up a few tips and tricks as you balance beating the heat with planning your Q4 holiday sell.

Rising Above the Clutter: We've seen a recent statistic that claims the volume of B-to-C e-mails increases approximately 62 percent between October and December every year. Add to this the deluge of marketing materials consumers receive from other media channels and it's easy to see why consumer marketing fatigue often sets in sometime after Halloween.

The key for you is to think about ways to rise above the clutter rather than simply becoming a part of it. Nothing should ever go out that isn't well thought out. Sounds obvious, but I bet you'd be surprised how much of your holiday e-communication last year was lost in the shuffle. Don't let it happen again.

Rearview Mirror: Simply put, what worked last year? Which of your e-marketing efforts resulted in the greatest return? Like the instructions on the side of the shampoo bottle: lather, rinse, repeat. Also consider some of the specific behavior that may have resulted from those –efforts—customers who purchased a DSLR might be ready for some new accessories so target past buyers with additional communications focused on items they have recently purchased from you.

Following Shopping Patterns: Many of your customers are shopping creatures of habit and in Q4 they are expecting great deals on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). Also don't overlook the fact they are now keenly aware of deals online each Monday thereafter (known as Cyber and Echo Mondays). Plan your online and mobile marketing e-mails accordingly.

Make sure you develop some kind of a master marketing calendar that speaks to the timing of all the above and coordinate this with your marketing efforts in other channels. In addition, be careful not to overdo as consumers will quickly tune out what seem like repetitive messages.

Change of Speed Delivery: Not unlike a pitcher who attempts to get by on nothing but fastballs, featuring the same content and types of offers will render your campaign ineffective. Include a wide variety of offers at different times to keep your customers interested in the wide variety of products and services you offer. The occasional curve ball is always a good idea and truly peaks interest.

Check Out the Competition: Be aware of what your competitors are offering and how they are offering it. Monitor their marketing efforts and be prepared to counter with something better. The flexibility of e-mail presents a great opportunity for a rapid response and reaction to what your competition is doing—take advantage of this fact.

Channel Surfing: Let's face it, relying on one media channel today is foolish as consumers use a wide variety of tools to find what they're after—particularly during the holidays. Mobile marketing continues to gain steam and allows a retailer the unique opportunity to contact customers while they're shopping with messages targeted specifically to them.

There's also the social media craze that is in full swing as the more media-savvy retailers are creating entertaining and informative Twitter feeds or Facebook campaigns to engage customers. The sky is the limit here and creating a buzz now about a special holiday offers you have planned later could be extremely effective.

There's myriad tools available today and some may make great sense for your location while others may not. The idea is to make those decisions now so you're not scrambling to figure out what's best for you and your customer base when you're in the thick of the holiday crush.

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