What to Expect During This Year's Holiday Selling Season

We're Almost There.

Thanksgiving's in two days, and then the madness begins. Millions of emails, millions of ads, millions of sales, millions of people crowding your stores, your phones, your web sites.

What Should You Expect?

There are a few trends you should be ready for this week, and here's what to do about them:

1) The early start. A growing list of large retailers are going to be open for part or all of the day on Thanksgiving itself. I'm not sure I like this trend; it takes people away from their families and glorifies buying new stuff on a holiday that celebrates being thankful for what we already have.

That said, you can still send a message on Wednesday, wishing your customers a happy holiday and giving them a special online sale just for them for Wednesday and Thursday. Your web site can work for you while your employees are enjoying the holiday with friends and family.

2) Comparison shopping and showrooming. If you own retail locations, expect a lot of people in your stores to be looking at their phones while shopping, using price comparison apps like RedLaser and Amazon's Price Check to help them decide whether to buy with you or not.

The best defense is a good offense. Prepare by researching your pricing and justifying it. You can offer things that larger retailers can't - like personalized service and a more flexible return policy. You can also package items together to make comparison shopping a little trickier. Consider offering price matching on some items if you notice a lot of people showrooming certain products.

3) Layaway. Layaway made a comeback a few years ago, during the recession. It's still here and services like online layaway are driving the growth of this payment method. It's a little late to set up layaway now if you don't have it already, but you should be alert for customers who might want this service and determine what portion of your shoppers might use it. You might ask people who are leaving your store empty-handed or putting back items if layaway service would change their minds, or do a survey of your email customers.

What are you doing differently this holiday season? Please share in the comments.

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Are You Ready for Cyber Monday?

I hope you've got your online promotions planned for Cyber Monday, which is coming right up on Monday, November 26.

Target Christmas Sale
In 2011, consumers spent more than $1.25 billion online during the Monday after Thanksgiving, up 22% from the $1 billion they spent in 2010. What's more, average order value was also up almost three percent, to $198.26.

Want your share? 

Of course you do. Even if you're not quite prepared for Cyber Monday, there's still time to make the most of the opportunity. Here's how:

1) Make your deals simple and shareable. Your offers should be easy to understand, redeem, and share. People do a LOT of comparison shopping on Cyber Monday and you don't want your deals to get lost by being too complicated. Also, easy-to-share deals mean customers can get you other customers. Make sure there are share buttons on every page, and include an "I got a great deal" sharable message with your purchase confirmations so folks can tell their friends what they bought.

2) Tell them about it! Announce deals for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the weekend, and Cyber Monday on all of your channels. Customers expect consistent experiences on email, social media, and your web site, so make sure everything's updated.

3) Don't forget about SEO. Make sure you're using keywords like "Cyber Monday," product terms, and deal-related messaging in your web copy, so that search engines can find your work.

4) Update your ads. If you're running online ads, update your creative to reflect your Cyber Monday offers. Outdated ads will confuse your customers.

5) Is your operational house in order? Do you have what you need to keep your inventory status current, ship out extra orders, deal with special requests, handle complaints, send out additional promotions, and update your web site? If not, now's the time to act.

Need help getting ready for your best Cyber Monday ever? Let me know - I can help.