Ten Tips to Maximize Holiday Readiness With Searchandising
The holiday shopping season is here. Have you done enough to ensure that your business is truly ready? What can you do now?
Most retailers depend heavily -- almost exclusively -- on December sales to make their yearly numbers. Many online retailers do more business in the 12 days before Christmas than during the previous 50 weeks combined. This year, there will be more online shoppers than ever, which is great news. But at the same time, the number of businesses selling online is increasing every day -- making e-commerce the most competitive sales channel.
So besides ensuring that shoppers find your site (among the thousands of retail sites available to them on the Web), what else can you do? Many retailers monitor what their customers are searching for -- both on their sites and on the Web in general -- and then act on that insight, changing their inventory mix and adding last-minute promotions and sales, sometimes even right into the holiday season. By staying nimble and responsive to what customers are looking for, you can help maximize your holiday sales.
History Repeats Itself
The best way to ensure a successful holiday selling season is to learn from last year's successes -- and mistakes. What worked and what didn't? When helping retailers prepare for the holidays, I spend some time analyzing last year's search reports to figure out this year's merchandising strategy. Site search and merchandising (also known as searchandising) play a critical role in holiday readiness. Even after you've tweaked your site and ramped it up up for the busy holiday season -- which you probably did in September or October -- there are strategies you can continue to execute well into the holiday shopping season.
What follows is not rocket science. With the right searchandising platform, all of these tips easily can be executed and help you have a profitable holiday sales season.
- 1. Set up a separate merchandising staging environment. Here, you can add special winter catalog items and test different merchandising strategies and promotions.
- 2. Pull last year's top searches. There's a good chance that many of last year's top searches will be this year's. Remember: Shoppers who search are three times more likely to purchase than non-searchers. How well did searches convert shoppers last year, and what merchandising rules can you use this year to turn more searches into purchases? Examining last year's top searches also can help you build new merchandising rules, test them and tune them, as well as create search strategies and on-the-fly promotions as necessary.
- 3. Pull last year's "No Results" searches and do the same. These can tell you a lot. If you pay attention to what shoppers weren't finding on your site, you can respond to fill the void.
- 4. Review the promotions and strategies that were successful during last holiday season.
- 5. Pull the top natural search terms that drove business to your site and test them. Then, create landing pages with search engine optimization content banners to improve ranking.
- 6. Pull the top search engine marketing paid terms and test them. With this information, create relevant landing pages that sell the product that brought shoppers to your site.
- 7. Pull out and dust off last year's successful e-mail marketing campaigns. Then, create new landing pages and, of course, test and tune.
- 8. Plan new strategies. For example, create custom banners and promotions, and schedule them to deploy at the right point in the season.
- 9. Create and schedule time-sensitive winter sales promotions. For instance, offer a "10 shopping days left until Christmas" or, later in the season, even more special offers for last-minute shoppers.
- 10. Finally, ensure that you're continually adjusting your merchandising strategies based on what's selling, what's not, what's new and what's hot -- based on customer reviews.
I recommend using your software's auto-ranking feature, which automatically places your listing in the highest possible spot on the page in a listing category in relation to other featured listings. This enables your site to adjust itself based on what's happening in your business and where you are in the holiday shopping cycle. For example, it allows you to move "new arrivals" to the top and demote low inventory items.
Sue Chapman is the director of merchandising solutions at Mercado Software, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based provider of e-commerce site search, navigation and merchandising software. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.