5 Powerhouse Holiday Marketing Strategies For Online Retailers Think it’s too soon to shop online for the winter holidays? Think again. Some retailers have been promoting holiday sales since this past summer. This year, both Walmart and Target held the first ever Black Friday in July sale, offering deals on a variety of electronics, apparel, toys, beauty products, sporting goods and other essentials. The early opening of the shopping season confirms that retailers are looking to find creative ways to spark buying activity after continued lagging sales as the US economic recovery stalls. The good news is that even in this economy, or because of it, holiday online activity will likely be higher than ever. In 2009 online retailers saw a whopping 51% increase in sales, and bets are on that this trend will continue this holiday season. In fact, four in ten consumers (41.3%) plan to spend more online this holiday season due to a positive shopping experience last year, according to eDigital Research. Even if some consumers don’t actually buy online, many check the web for comparison shopping, product availability, reviews, prices, special deals and promotions. Driving targeted consumers to retailers’ sites with effective, timely ads can increase the possibility of monetizing this behavior. Paid search advertising can be a highly successful and cost-effective tool for maximizing marketing dollars, especially if e-tailers have the data they need for precision targeting and the technology to quickly update ads to reflect real-time inventories and promotions and respond to competitive pressures. With these five recommendations, savvy retailers can leverage the rising online buying trends to bring stellar sales revenues home this holiday season. Streamline Campaign Management Automating many of the daily time-consuming campaign management processes reduces labor and saves valuable time, freeing advertisers to focus on more strategic issues. Managing multiple brands over several search engines and social media channels using the same system streamlines campaign management for additional efficiency. Through automation and mass management one retailer increased the number of accounts that they were able to manage by a scale of 6 and the number of campaigns from 34 to over 140. Another retailer reported a 300% increase in workflow efficiency. Keep Ads Relevant With Real-Time Inventory Updates For e-retailers managing hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of SKUs, the ability to keep online ads in sync with specific daily or hourly sales objectives and actual inventory availability is challenging. What good is it to drive someone to buy an item if it is sold out? And why waste advertising spend on items that are mispriced against the competition? Continuously updating on-line ads with feeds from back office systems enables retailers to advertise the most recent prices and promotions while ensuring that all available stock is advertised. The added bonus is the low cost per click and higher conversion rates that result from more relevant landing pages. Use Automation To Make Quick And Easy Campaign And Promotion Changes Year-end holidays follow one another quickly. The ability to update or pause ads on multiple campaigns and distribute those changes across various channels at one time can have a significant impact on performance. With automation solutions, advertisers can push or pause an ad across all engines at once, or can select the channels or networks of their choice and reduce the amount of heavy lifting traditionally needed to adjust to seasonal changes. Using bulk editing across search engines and campaigns, one retailer managed the updates and changes required from Thanksgiving to Christmas through New Years in a matter of hours vs. weeks, while reaping the benefits of fully synchronized promotions. Experiment With Conversion Attribution Models Understanding the path to conversion is key to ensuring proper ROI measurement. Capturing that knowledge across multiple advertising channels will help in minimizing skewed data and avoiding the mistake of under estimating the value of contributing keywords. Potential customers can reach you across a variety of touch points. Why should the last click always be given total credit? Attribution models can include equal distribution to all keywords in the path or assigning equal weight to the first and last. Having the ability to test and report on these and other attribution models will allow a retailer to create campaigns that reap the most conversions and to understand which keywords are contributing to each sale. With a more sophisticated attribution model, one retailer was able to create campaigns and keyword lists that resulted in a 100% increase in click through rates. Optimize Generic Keywords To Attract And Convert The Most Targeted Prospects For some retailers, generic terms can be the most effective if managed properly. By analyzing not only the last click but also each stop across online sessions and search engines, retailers can have a clear picture of each keyword that brought in new customers, including generic terms that were part of the initial search. For example, last Christmas season one retailer added “holiday gifts” to their keywords, which contributed to a significant boost in end of the year sales. The Bottom Line Paid search marketing program strategies which incorporate a combination of automation, experimentation and real-time inventory intelligence can enable marketers to achieve remarkable results this holiday season. Taking into consideration that some retailers can bring in up to 80% of their yearly revenues over just these few key months, the impact of on annual sales can be significant. If online shopping continues to grow as predicted, adding a level of sophistication to campaign management can pay off more than ever, making this a bright holiday season for savvy retailers.