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Ecommerce Trends and Strategies for 2012 Holiday Season

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Look, I know it's only the end of the summer and the last thing, you want to think about is Christmas, but too bad. I must get you focused on ecommerce for the holidays. I actually should have done this in the beginning of August, but better late that never - right? Absolutely. So, if you haven't started with your holiday plan I hope this article will not only create enthusiasm and excitement for this holiday season, but it will also inspire you to do something new and outside your comfort zone to reach those that perhaps you didn't reach last year.

Ok, so let's talk about your ecommerce plan for 2012.

The expectations of consumers has changed over the years and they expect more from you - the online retailer. Your customers want more than just exceptional service, great value and an overall smooth experience from the beginning of a transaction to the end. They also want to feel as if they have a direct relationship with you and your business - this means you must make it personal to create not only customer satisfaction, but more importantly customer loyalty.

It's no surprise that has time has gone on and we've grown into the adoption of online buying and commerce we have had the responsibility to stay on top of the latest tools and technology available. Doing this enables us as ecommerce stores to adapt and grow quickly - the benefit over brick and mortar. If you do not stay aggressive with the testing of new technology and tools it's likely that you will fall behind your own competition. Don't think for one moment that doing what you did last year is enough - it's not.

Take out a piece of paper or open a blank document on your desktop and ask yourself what strategies and tools will you and should you be using this year. Take a few moments and think it out. Think about your customers. Where are they? What are they looking for? What will they be asking for during this holiday season? How can you make it easy to find? These are important questions they help to lay the foundation of a successful holiday plan for your online business. Now, I want to take a few moments and share with you what I believe will be the building blocks to make this holiday season the best you've seen in ecommerce. I've selected 5 marketing tools and strategies that could make the difference in the success or the failure of your 2012 holiday season when it comes to ecommerce. These are not all the strategies and tools that I will share with you, but for now it's enough to get you started and these are things that need to be acted on now! You may have written these strategies and tools down when you answered the questions above, but if not consider them - they could increase your revenue, grow your market share and bring you new customers this year.

  • Search Engine Optimization
    Search engine optimization is a must when it comes to get your products in front of consumers online. I'm talking about natural search, not paid search. If your products are not being found in search, how do customers know you are there? You must adjust your natural search guidelines and optimize for those items that people search for when it comes to gift giving during the holidays. Unlike paid search, email or social media natural search engine optimization takes months, that's why it's important to start working on it now. Creating holiday content can help in search engine optimization efforts. Consider adding content that provides information on most popular gifts from your site, perhaps product reviews, and adding a section with gift giving ideas. Studies have also shown that customers like to not only see imagery, but product descriptions. Create descriptions that contain keywords that searchers are using to find products that you sell. If you are not sure what search engine optimization is, consider outsourcing your search engine optimization. It's too late to do-it-yourself without the knowledge of how it works.

  • Pay Per Click
    I suggest complementing your organic search engine optimization using Pay Per Click search marketing. Use pay per click search to create holiday- targeted campaigns. Again, if you are not familiar with pay per click search engine optimization it's time to find someone you can outsource this to. Don't try to learn it yourself, you don't have time to master it before the holiday rush begins and often those that rush into PPC marketing end up in the red. There are techniques and strategies when it comes to PPC search that an expert can utilize to help you in gaining higher conversions and spend less money to do so.

  • Comparison Shopping Engines
    It's important to start your holiday shopping engine activities now. It takes time to configure, optimize and manager your comparison search engine product feeds and to many that's a time-consuming tasks that they don't expect let alone plan for. Each CSE has their own specs and you'll need to meet those specifications and optimize for them. It's also important to realize that each engine allows you to submit feeds at different times. Comparison search engines can take a lot of work, but when done correct they can be very profitable for an ecommerce business. The ramp up phase of comparison shopping engines happens very quickly and by November you want to be fully focused on bidding and promotions. You must determine your holiday budget and this budget must encompass the entire season. To be successful with CSE marketing determine who you are targeting and what your goals are. I suggest that you break your goals down daily, this will enable you to track your progress to date. You may be wondering why I'm talking about budget, especially since Google Product Search and Bing are free, right? Well, there are many comparison shopping engines out there and some are free others charge per click (similar to PPC). Understand the business model of the comparison search engines you plan to use and make a determination whether they are free or work on a CPC model and base your budget on that information.

  • Innovative Site Search
    How innovative can consumers search products on your site? This is a question that is often overlooked during the holidays and the result is lost sales. You want to make sure that the search function on your site is innovative. You want to make sure that your onsite search helps consumers find what they need. It helps them with misspellings, fuzzy search queries. Your search feature needs to enable consumers to search via price, color or model - without these features those seeking products could find themselves frustrated and leaving your site for your competitors. If your website does not have an innovative site search feature you can seek out 3rd party vendors that provide this service and help you install it before the holiday rush begins.

  • Mobile Commerce
    I cannot say enough about mobile commerce. Last year many studies showed that consumers were turning to their smartphones to research and purchase products. If you are not there this year you may find that you are missing out on sales and I'm not talking a few sales. Nearly 40% of Consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation own a smartphone. More than half of them, 52.6% said they will use them to shop during the holiday season. Are you ready? If not, it's time to start constructing your mobile marketing plan for the holidays.
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