NRF Predicts Holiday Sales Drop: What Can You Do to Boost Sales?

Posted by Dan Malachowski, Product Marketing Manager

The National Retail Federation recently projected 2009 holiday sales to fall 1% this year to $437.6 billion.  Average year over year holiday retail growth is 3.39%, although sales dropped 3.4% last year.  A 1% drop may not come as a surprise to many online retailers, but it’s not too late to set your search program up to capture the most demand possible this holiday season.  Here are a few things you should be focusing on through the holiday:

1.       Understand Your Consumer:  Knowing who your target consumer is, where they are shopping online, what messages appeal to them and when they shop puts you in the best position to create a search program around the keywords, copy and landing pages most likely to engage that customer.  Build personas and consumer search journeys to discover the search terms your customers use at each phase of the purchase funnel, from awareness to consideration to intent to purchase.  Maximize paid search efficiency by understanding your target market and creating relevant and compelling paid search experiences specifically for them.


2.       Understand Your Company Goals:  As a search marketer, it’s your goal to bridge the gap between your consumer and your company.  Sit down with your finance, marketing and merchandising teams to understand what products have the highest margins and what products are likely to sell best, as well as inventory levels of key products.


3.       Organize Your Paid Search Campaign:  Build a campaign structure that allows you to be nimble and flexible to quickly execute during the holiday rush.  You may need to quickly promote a product to clear out warehouse space or adjust bid strategies in light of high holiday CPC fluctuations.  You also need to make speedy copy adjustments to respond to your competitors’ offers.  The tighter your campaigns and ad groups, the easier it is for you to quickly make these adjustments.  Segment mission critical holiday keywords into a separate campaign for optimal manageability.


4.       Monitor Your Competitors’ Offers: Monitor your key competitors’ paid search copy offers by the minute.  Then determine if you can do better than their offer, and quickly swap out your copy via your flexible campaign structure.  Reaction time is key; you’ll have no chance to capture clicks if you’re running “10% off” copy while your competitor is running “50% off” for the same product.


5.       Monitor Your Competitors’ Bids: Bids for mission critical keywords should be monitored by the minute during holiday, as a change in position can mean thousands of dollars in sales.  Knowing exactly where you stand versus your competitors at all times helps you make quick decisions on whether to maintain/rise your position, or whether to ease back because the top positions are too expensive, thus preserving budget. 


6.       Optimize Your Landing Pages for Conversion:  It’s not enough to simply drop a consumer on an existing landing page and hope for the best.  Develop custom pages and paths specifically tailored to address a searcher’s query or point them down the most relevant conversion path.  The keys to building successful landing pages are knowing your audience and continually testing multiple versions of the page to see which version drives the most conversions.  Analyze test performance data to develop new hypothesis.  Then refine your test plan.


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