While integrating lessons learned during each holiday selling period is a year-round process to optimize sales, getting the most out of the holiday countdown requires additional focus. Whether you are raking in end-of-year profits or scrambling for ways to increase last-minute sales, eToys Direct Inc. Vice President of Marketing Gary Lindsey offers ideas for maximizing the last three weeks of holiday buying. The Denver-based online retailer owns eToys.com and MyTwinn.com, and operates KBtoys.com.
Target Marketing: What is your company doing to boost last-minute holiday sales?
Gary Lindsey: We have been optimizing our online and e-mail marketing throughout the year in preparation for the holiday season. This includes substantially growing our keyword coverage for paid search programs, using optimization tools to weed out inefficient paid search spending, building stronger relationships with affiliate partners and adding more technology behind our e-mail platform to ensure better inbox deliverability to our best customers. Our sales initiatives include site-wide promotion, more frequent short-term offers than usual, free shipping offers, more aggressive short-term promotions, prominent features of hot holiday toys and early-bird specials.
In addition, our marketing efforts include e-mail campaigns and weekly e-mail frequency increases. In order to boost SEM efforts, we customized ad copy to reach holiday-focused shoppers, wrote time-sensitive ad copy for holiday promotions and created specific product keywords based on top-selling products for the holiday. We are also working on an affiliate program using LinkShare network to develop quarter four marketing plans and initiatives for affiliates. In that vein, we plan to distribute weekly promotions as text links and create weekly affiliate newsletters with affiliate marketing tips and top products.
TM: What channels have you found effective when sending last-minute promotions?
GL: E-mail marketing via newsletter is our primary customer retention vehicle. We’ve found that the right message combined with a unique promotion or value proposition can be a powerful retention strategy.
TM: What lessons did you glean from working to boost last-minute holiday sales in 2006?
GL: Holiday e-mails need not only to be compelling, but also relevant. We’ve combined unique offers such as weekend-only deals and free shipping on thousands of items with list customer segmentation to communicate our unique offers to the most appropriate audience. [For example,] our video game buyers aren’t very interested in a sale on dolls, so we create offers that speak to that audience.
TM: How are you applying those lessons to your marketing campaign for the last quarter of 2007?
GL: We hope to do even more segmentation with customer lists and not only deliver a relevant message and offer, but also deliver it at the appropriate time. We are looking at database marketing efforts using RFM [recency, frequency and monetary value], as well as Web analytics.
TM: How do you integrate e-mail with online efforts?
GL: Our e-mail marketing is more integrated with our direct mail catalog marketing. We send e-mails to coincide with catalog drop dates, reminding customers to keep an eye out for the new catalog. We’ve seen this help with response rates.
TM: Are integrated marketing efforts pushing the needle in the last few weeks, or are your results largely driven by your e-mail campaigns?
GL: All marketing efforts help to drive revenue over the weeks leading up to holiday season. The cumulative effect of both customer acquisition and retention efforts, whether it be through online, direct mail or e-mail, all contribute to a successful Q4.