How's Your Week Going So Far?

It's been a big week so far...

According to the National Retail Federation, 226 million shoppers spent $52.5 billion on Black Friday, an average of $398 per person. This is up 14 million shoppers, $7.5 billion overall, and $33 per shopper compared to last year. The stock market has been feeling optimistic all week.

From Flickr user storebukkebruse.
So far, the word on Cyber Monday is positive, too, with Multichannel Merchant reporting a 33% increase in sales over 2010 numbers. Average order value was also up - about $5 over last year to $198.  See this article for other important points - like the mobile device/tablet factor, and the effect of social media on shopping.

So, is it time to celebrate yet?

Sure, but you're not done yet, unless you're 100% sold out of merchandise and you've surpassed all of your annual goals. Sometimes early good news means bad news later - we won't really know how the 2011 holiday season is really doing until the after-Christmas sales are over.

Still, this seems like an auspicious beginning to me - customers are feeling more optimistic than last year,  merchants are offering lots of deals and options, and people may have a bit more cash for gifts, having paid down record amounts of consumer debt over the past few years.

What's next?

Keep going - your customers are still looking for gift ideas, new packages, and great deals. Shopping may slacken a bit later this week, but it will swell again the week of December 11th as shipping deadlines loom with major retailers. Make sure you're staying in touch with customers who've bought once - if they've had a good experience buying Mom's gift from you, they may come back things to give Dad, Sis, or Aunt May.

How's your week going? Drop me a line and let me know.

Last Minute Thanksgiving Preparations

And I don't mean the cranberry sauce.

From Flickr user Christina Rutz.
Your biggest sales days of the year are most likely in the next week - Black Friday, Super Saturday and Sunday, and Cyber Monday will be some of your biggest days this year. While you still have a minute to breathe, let's make sure you're ready. Have you....

1) Checked and double checked your email promotions? You may be sending them already. In any case, do one more check to make sure the links work, everything's spelled correctly, and your prices are right.

2) Done your keyword research? Thanksgiving sales are search intensive, so it's a good idea to make sure your metadata is in place. A little SEO now can generate a lot of sales this week.

3) Gotten your IT in order? Make sure your web server has extra capacity set up, and that you have an emergency contact in place - someone who is available over the weekend if your servers go down.

4) Pumped up your customer service staff? Do you have enough people working in your stores, answering your phones, dealing with your web chat, and answering emails? You risk losing orders (and next year's customers) by not being 100% responsive.

5) Lined up your logistics? Is your warehouse ready to ship a higher volume of orders than usual? Do you have enough stock of all of your sale items? Have you set up the infrastructure to support all of your package deals?

Sounds like you're all set and ready to go! Have a prosperous holiday season!

How's your busy season? Drop me a line and let me know.

Related posts

The Procrastinator's Guide to Cyber Monday

Get Your Holiday Sales On

News this Week: Yelp, Google, Cyber Monday

What should you be paying attention to this week?

Yelp users in Corvallis, OR have their own logo.
First, online review site Yelp has filed for an IPO in hopes of raising about $100 million. Yelp generates income from local advertising, and though it made $58.4 million from January - September of this year, it still isn't profitable. (Mashable)

What's Next: Watch for news from analysts who are looking at the volatile and competitive marketplace, and where Yelp fits in with brands like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Angie's List. Will be interesting to see where this one goes.

Google Checkout is over, replaced by Google Wallet. Wallet's ease of use means that consumers are adopting it at a far faster rate than they ever used Google Checkout. (Search Engine Land)

Your takeaway: It's always a good idea to make sure that consumers can buy from you using as many options as possible. You don't want to miss sales because you're not available.

Cyber Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year, and it's 10 days away. If you're not 100% solid on what you're doing to drive customers to your brand, here's a procrastinators guide to Cyber Monday.

Don't mess this up: If you think you can sit this one out, don't. Last year, consumers spent more than $1 billion on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Need help with holiday strategy and business planning? Let me know

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.

The Procrastinator's Guide to Cyber Monday

It's only a few weeks to Cyber Monday, and I really hope you have your online promotions already planned. 

Target's dashboard helps shoppers find things quickly.

Why? According to ComScore, the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2010 was the highest spending day of the year - consumers spent more than $1 billion online, up 16% over the year before.

Even if you're the CEO of procrastination, it's time to stop living in denial and understand that you can't pass up this opportunity. Your customers are expecting deals and you need to provide them. Here's how to make the most of the biggest shopping day of the year:

1) Make your deals easy to understand  - is it $10 toys, 50 gifts under $50, 100 ten dollar ties? Whatever you can do to group products or make them easier to find gives you an edge. Make your pricing prominent- people do a LOT of comparison shopping on Cyber Monday, so your price is important. Don't be fooled into too much discounting, though - consumers don't always buy the cheapest thing.

2) SEO is key for Cyber Monday - make sure you're using the "Cyber Monday" keyword and you're using strong title tags and metadata. Time now on keyword research will drive great organic search results later. Think about how you would search if you were really in a hurry, validate those assumptions using the Google Adwords Keywords tool, and tag away.

3) Don't forget to advertise, but remember that all of your customers are expecting you to have a Cyber Monday sale. Ads are more expensive this time of year (and at this late date), but it can't hurt to check pricing on popular shopping sites like to see what you can do. That said, the best people to message are those that already like your brand - make sure your current email subscribers know that you're having a sale and do some deals just for them.

4) Don't ignore logistics. You can package 10 toys for $100, but it'll all blow up in your face if you don't have the stock to support a higher volume of orders than you're used to. Make sure your supply chain, your web server, and your shipping department are ready for an increase in sales. If there are products you don't have very many of that are difficult to re-stock, don't put them on sale. Promote items that are profitable, that you can turn around quickly, and for which you have adequate supplies.

Need help preparing for a big Cyber Monday? Let me know. I can help.

News This Week: Smartphone Use, Google+ and You

What should you be paying attention to this week?

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. Photo: Flickr user Abhikrama.

First, for all of us thinking about mobile, it's important to remember that only 37.4% of US mobile users have a smartphone. (This blog, and Business Insider)

Your takeaway: This is good to consider as you invest in mobile apps and marketing. A simple text messaging campaign has the potential to do far more than an expensive app, depending on who is in your core audience.

Second, Google+ has opened up company pages. These look the same as people pages, but there's a little icon to indicate that they are branded pages. More on this from Mashable, including instructions on making your own company page.

Your takeaway: This is going to make Google+ a true competitor and possible game changer in the social world - now business can really be done on Google+. I'd recommend that you try to spend a few minutes with Google+ sometime in the next few weeks to determine if you need a presence and how much time it might take to maintain it. By some reports, most people on Google+ are either involved in the tech or social media world, but when brands like Coke and Target start doing promotions on there, more people will follow. Also, content like the Dalai Lama - Desmond Tutu birthday hangout will bring more people to Google+ to see what's possible.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

The Facts About Mobile Marketing

I've been talking a lot about mobile marketing on this blog lately - ruminating about the wisdom behind investing in mobile apps, thinking about how customers use their mobile phones while they engage with your brand, and reporting on current mobile news.

That's all fine and good, but it's important to take all of this with a grain of salt.

Chart from Business Insider/Asymco.
Why? Check out this chart, from the folks at Business Insider and Asymco. I'm reposting it here, because it's really, really important. 

What stands out? While the US still has the largest smartphone market (China is catching up), only 37.4% of mobile phone users have a smartphone. Android is the most common, with 39 million users. Apple smartphones have about 24 million users.

So, what does that mean? 

Although smartphone adoption is continuing to rise, the vast majority - 62.6% - are not on a smartphone. That means many of your customers can't use all those fancy apps - they can't use your special app, they can't find you on Yelp or RedLaser or anything else, they can't download coupons or reviews or anything else.

So, how do you reach them?

This is why you have multiple channels - you'll need to keep paying attention to your web site, support a robust email program, and (gasp!) answer the phone to make sure you're reaching everyone, unless all of your customers are urban, high-income people between the ages of 25 and 39. And don't forget good, old fashioned text messaging. One of my favorite local bars handles free dessert coupons via text - that's right - no fancy app, no downloads- just a text and a free dessert.

Need help reaching a diverse customer population? Let me know - I can help.

News This Week: Women, Siri, Real Time

What should you be paying attention to this week?

The world's women are now responsible for more of the world's economy than men, controlling $20 trillion in yearly consumer spending in 2009, a figure that will continue to rise in the next five years. (Harvard Business Review)

Your takeaway: Don't ignore your female customers, but don't patronize them either. It's not about "making it pink" - women don't  need pink web sites or pink merchandise to embrace your brand. We need quality products, easy access to reviews and other product data, and a way to talk to our friends about it.

To the women's only train cars in India. Photo: Flickr user Zoonabar.

The iPhone 4S's new digital assistant, Siri, is down. According to this article, Apple was unable to be reached for comment. (Business Insider)

Your takeaway: Bugs happen, seemingly no  matter how much you test. Don't ignore them and get them resolved as quickly as you can. Communicate progress via all possible channels and make it right. Customers become more loyal when you prove that you stand behind what you do.

Google Analytics Real Time tells you what's happening on your site right now, and is now available to people with the new version of the Analytics software. (Google)

Your takeaway: Real Time can be really useful to determine the immediate impact of social media posts - on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or on other networks. Even more useful, you'll be able to see when  your social media stops working - how long does a Facebook post last, or a Tweet?

Have a good weekend, and thanks for reading!

Your Business and Mobile Users

So you're feeling pretty good about your multi-channel strategy - you're using a good mix of social, PR, advertising, online, mail, and whatever else you can think of.

Then, like lots of people, you find out from the nice folks at Pew Internet that half of adult cell phone users have apps on their phones. That rate has doubled in the past two years and will likely continue to increase as people trade in their old phones for new smartphone devices.

Android. Flickr user osde8info.

Crap, you say. Another channel to manage? But I'm already customizing content for so many channels. I just can't take on anything else!

Not to worry, you're going to be OK. Here's what to do:

1) Just because people are using apps, doesn't mean you have to invest in your own mobile app. Just make sure you're available to mobile users in a variety of ways, like, for example:

2) Be available on popular check-in apps, like Foursquare. You want to be findable and sharable.

3) People do a lot of comparison shopping on their smartphones while they are shopping in your store, so make sure your prices are available on comparison shopping apps like Price Check and RedLaser.

4) People also look for restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other hangouts using their phones, and check reviews on the way, so if you have this kind of venue, make sure you're findable on Yelp and Urban Spoon.

5) Last but not least, make sure your site is optimized for mobile. If you're going to invest in mobile, this is where your dollars should go, long  before you develop your own app, which you might not even need.

Still going crazy with too many channels? Drop me a line. I can help.