You’ve likely got a list of to-dos longer than a kid’s wish list for Santa. And with the hustle of the season, it’s easy for some tasks to fall by the wayside, which could result in a poor customer experience or first impression, lost sales, or even an under-performing holiday season. Don’t let this happen to you. Here are five essential tasks that should be on every commerce marketer’s holiday preparation list.
#1: Audit Your Forms
During the holidays, you’re likely to get a lot of new visitors, so be sure that the forms that help turn these visitors into subscribers are ready to go. And once they subscribe, they need to be able to access the manage preference form, especially if your welcome series directs them there.
A couple of questions for your team:
- Where do the forms live?
- Who can edit them?
- How does a customer reach them?
- Are they optimized for mobile?
- Are subscribers being assigned to the correct lists?
- Are the forms generally working as intended?
I recommend documenting each form and sharing with your team. If something breaks during the height of the holiday season, you must be able to fix it as quickly as possible without having to ask a lot of questions. This documentation will also allow you to easily add more forms over time without confusing how that form may affect other processes already in place.
#2: Evaluate Your Content
At this time of year, consumers will be inundated with emails, so be sure your current email content is optimized for the busy season. Some items to review include:
- Scanability: Can people quickly digest the email and find the call to action (CTA)?
- Responsive Design: Are your emails mobile-friendly? If not, make them so!
- Send From Name Consistency: Is your company’s brand uniformly expressed across all messages (triggered and scheduled)?
- Preheader Text: Are you using it effectively and supporting the subject line (not repeating it)?
- Calls to Action: For emails that features several pieces of content, are the CTAs easily identifiable?
- Social CTAs: How prominent are they, and do they detract from the conversion CTAs? Are you clear about what you’re asking customers to do?
While these suggestions also apply to transactional messages, consider a few other things as well. For instance, are you using the promotional space wisely too, for instance, suggest stocking stuffers or other seasonal items? And don’t forget to highlight extended return policies and other holiday specific value-adds.
#3: Analyze Last Year’s Plan
Hopefully, you’ve already looked at last year’s plan. If you haven’t, here are some items to pay special attention to:
- Your High Priority Campaigns: Why were they must-haves? Did these campaigns perform as expected? If they didn’t, can you tell why?
- The Poor Performing Campaigns: Why did some campaigns fail? Was it due to timing of the send, or has that particular promo jumped the shark (or reindeer in this case) with your audience? Should you repeat it this year with a new spin?
- The Sending Cadence: Did you send more emails than anticipated? If so, why? Was it because a campaign was not delivering expected results and you needed additional sends to make up for it? Did you notice your competitors sending much more than you expected, causing you to match them for fear of losing out on revenue? How were unsubscribe rates with the increase in sends? What type of emails were added (i.e. types of discounts/free gifts, length of promo)?
#4: Plan for All Scenarios
Stuff happens. The Internet says so, so it must be true! In your planning, especially after looking at the items above, you should be prepared for all “oh no” scenarios. Get ready with:
- Back-up promotions: Remember last year when your plan went off the rails thanks to an underperforming campaign? Be prepared! Create extra promotions with different offers (tiered discount, dollar vs. percentage, free shipping) or additional free gifts to include. A great place to start is with your key campaigns for this season. Prepare the content in advance, build the email and have it ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
- Don’t forget: Set your promo codes up in advance as well! If you never need them, great. But it will be one less step to perform if you’re in reactionary mode.
- An answer to your “Oops” moment: Anticipate that Steve Urkel moment. Create “oops” messages covering the most common issues well in advance. You can even leave an editable space that allows you to either provide more clarity or customize a promo code. Some of the most common reasons for sending an oops email? A non-functioning promo code, a website that’s slow or completely down, promotion of the wrong incentive, and broken links.
But be sure the error warrants sending a message. If there’s a typo in the subject line, you probably don’t need to address it. If the subject line advertises a 50% off sale when it should have been $50 off, you’ll probably want to do something about it.
#5: Evaluate Your Season
Yes, you read this right! Once the season is complete, you should immediately evaluate the season. You can analyze better when the work is fresh in your mind. Nine months from now, you may not remember that the reason a key campaign underperformed was because of an error or a send time glitch. It also protects you if a key team member involved with the planning leaves during the year. Analyzing the season immediately gives you the best view of the current season and the information you need to accurately determine must-haves for next year. When planning time rolls around, compare these seasonal results with trends you have seen develop over the past year and determine whether a pivot needs to be made.
While this is not an all-inclusive list for holiday planning, it should at least get you thinking. By executing these ideas, you’ll be better prepared to deliver a smooth customer experience, react at a moment’s notice, and plan for the following year. If nothing else, knowing you’re prepared may help you sleep better at night, like a warm glass of milk. Just be sure it’s not the “big guy’s” milk.
Greg Zakowicz is Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst for Bronto Software