Boost your Holiday Sales

Boost your Holiday Sales

by Sherry Ciurczak, October 2007
Online holiday shopping continues to grow at a rapid pace each year. In fact, according to a recent Nielsen/NetRatings survey, about 27% of holiday shopping is completed online. Last year, online holiday shopping spending exceeded $30 billion.

That's a lot of money, and whether you are a veteran internet seller or are new to the online market, it makes sense to cash in on holiday sales. With the right strategy, you can make serious cash selling goods online.

Bargain hunting early in the holiday season

Retailers depend on the holiday shopping season for a large chunk of their yearly profits. Local stores advertise hot items at rock bottom prices right after Thanksgiving and continue through Christmas Eve. This may be especially true in a season like this one, which retailers suspect will be soft. They are likely to slash prices early and often to minimize the expected shortfall.

Many people are under the impression that sales peak right after Thanksgiving and then decline as the holidays approach. But the fact is, most people buy later in the season. The savvy online seller will see the opportunity in the traffic and sales statistics: Bargains can be found early, but many shoppers wait until later in the season to buy. Therefore, it is possible for smart online sellers to take advantage of bargains early and then sell the items at a large profit later.

This may be particularly true of hard-to-find gifts. For example, in years past, must-have toys like Tickle Me Elmo or Wii video game systems were almost impossible to find in retail stores during the last few days of the shopping season. Online sellers were able to sell their stocks at an incredibly high profit. And it's not just the hottest items that can be re-sold at a huge profit. More mundane gifts, such as DVD players, can be picked up at bargain prices then re-sold at a tidy profit to consumers who prefer the convenience of shopping online.

Get noticed

If you are ready to make some serious money online this holiday season, now is the time to plan your strategy. You may have the goods, but unless potential customers can find your website, you might as well open a lemonade stand in a cornfield ø you need traffic. You also need to find a way to compel customers to buy once they reach your site. Here are a few ideas:

Consider marketing campaigns

One way to generate online traffic is to conduct an email marketing campaign. It's relatively easy and inexpensive, and it's a great way to reach customers who have bought from you in the past using the email addresses you collected at the point of sale. You might consider an email that includes a holiday gift theme with links that lead to items for sale on your site. Constant Contact offers an easy-to-use email marketing system with a free 30-day trial. Create effective email campaigns and reach out to your customers. Click here to learn more about email marketing solutions for your business.

You might also consider a postcard campaign by mail. It's more expensive, and it also requires an extra step from your customer - logging on or calling. However, postcard campaigns can be very effective, especially if you want to sell to local customers rather than dealing with the hassles of shipping large items. VistaPrint offers free and low-cost printing for entrepreneurs looking for cost-effective printing solutions for post cards, flyers, mailers, etc. Don't forget the postage!

Take a look at search engine marketing

One great way to reach new customers who are searching for specific items is to use search engine advertising tools. One advantage is that you can control how much you spend; a typical cost-per-click online marketing tool allows you to place ads for key words online.

Most search engine marketing arrangements don't charge you unless the customer clicks your ad when the search engine displays it. These ads can be remarkably effective since the leads they generate tend to come from people who are actively looking to buy the item described.

You may have also heard about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and 'natural' search results. Natural search results appear for free on major search engines like Google and Yahoo, based on the content and structure of your website and pages. SEO is complicated and easier said than done. So you may want to talk to a professional. To learn more about search engine marketing, click here.

Create a sense of urgency

Holiday shoppers are under the gun and they have a limited time to make their purchases. Make sure your site reflects your customers' sense of urgency. Consider a program to countdown the number of shopping days. You can display the timeframe needed for gift arrivals with various shipping methods too.

Another way to generate business is to display merchandise under gift idea categories. Some online merchants feature very specific gift categories - for example, gifts for online gamers - while others make the categories more broad, like presents for men, women or children by age group.

Ready to cash in?

If you're ready to get a piece of the $30 billion dollar online holiday shopping frenzy, now is the time to set your strategy and get your site ready for online holiday shoppers. With a little planning and determination, you too can cash in on the internet shopping boom this holiday season.