5 Ways to Use the Web Effectively This Holiday Season to Drive Sales
It's no surprise that holiday sales are expected to be weak this year. The silver lining in this tough forecast, however, is that online sales may still grow, if only slightly. Given this outlook, creating effective online marketing is more important than ever — and it's not too late to maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Here are five ways online retailers can hit consumers' minds and wallets this holiday season:
1. Identify your rivals' search engine marketing strategies. Many retailers set up their SEM campaigns well in advance, which doesn't account for changes in consumer behavior, sales trends and the economy. There's still time to impact your SEM campaign to attract the most important customers, however. Research which search terms drive traffic to your site now, and compare that with the ones driving traffic to your competitors' sites. For Wal-Mart and Target, popular search referrals have recently included video games (Nintendo's Wii, in particular) and Elmo Live, which promises to be one of this season's hottest toys.
2. Use smarter targeting to expand your online media buys without sacrificing quality. Today's advanced Web analytics solutions allow you to pinpoint segments of consumers according to income, shopping habits and lifestyle categories. In this economy, advertising at nonretail sites visited by affluent consumers can be a strategic move, since these consumers may be less impacted by the economic downturn. Your rivals may overlook this more unusual inventory. Our data indicates that affluent consumers are likely visitors at news and media Web sites such as SeekingAlpha.com, BusinessWeek.com and MarketWatch.com. Interestingly, the same segment regularly visits the Web sites of Banana Republic, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma, which means these companies pay attention to the right group.
3. Pay more attention to the post-click experience. On average, more than 95 percent of visitors that click on online ads never make a purchase. To see how well your advertisements are doing, track campaign-specific performance of both your and your competitors' advertisements. How well do these ads work, beyond just simple impressions and clickthrough metrics?
4. Minimize comparison shopping. Understanding which shoppers are still looking for more information on a particular product is critical. What type of information are they seeking? Distinguish between shoppers that are ready to buy and those who are still making up their minds about who to buy from. We saw that more than 4 percent of referrals to BestBuy.com come from CircuitCity.com and vice versa. Consumers are comparison shopping between these two rivals. What products are they comparing? Did they place items in shopping carts and then abandon? Why? Dig deeper, and leverage best practices to develop plans to convert shoppers into buyers before they leave your site.
5. Find out what's top of mind with shoppers.
Consider, for example, that the top four search terms referring to Dell.com about specific products were all related to the Wii. Four of the top 15 search terms referring traffic to CircuitCity.com are gaming console-related. It looks like home entertainment and gaming will be king this holiday season, and consumer electronics SEMs need to keep that in mind.
There's still time this holiday season to refine and execute compelling search and online campaigns that'll entice consumers to buy and maximize your share of shopper wallet.
Cynthia Stephens is director of marketing at TNS Compete, a Boston-based unit of TNS Media that helps marketers improve their marketing programs based on the online behavior of millions of consumers. Reach Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org.