This month I had the opportunity to sit down with a retailer who has been eating and sleeping Christmas for over 30 years. OrnamentShop.com, an ecommerce ornament store has been around almost as long as Amazon, and knows a thing or two about the holiday season.
Below are the major Holiday lessons Ornament Shop has learned from years of selling online specific to the holiday season, courtesy of OrnamentShop founder Dianne Weller.
7 Holiday Lessons from Ornament shop
Top Q4 best practices from a Holiday specific online retailer, which got its start before Amazon.
1. Its Never too Early to Get Started
You’ve heard about starting your Holiday preparations early, and it’s not uncommon to see Holiday content in September. But what about starting your Q4 preparation in January?
“There’s very little time to rest once the current holiday season ends! Next year’s holiday season begins practically once this one ends. We sit down together and figure out what went well for us during this season and we begin to outline a robust strategy to dominate our space for the following fourth Quarter.”
Reports, Reports, ad more Reports. Your post-Q4 should be full of Analytics and data to determine what went well and how to put your best foot forward for the following Holiday season. Use the following reports to monitor performance for Q4 on Google:
2. Understand Online Trends
Ornament Shop has more than 5000 unique ornaments, but which ornaments sell varies each year. Bacon ornaments would seem silly 5 years ago, but they sell like hot cakes for Ornament Shop now. Monitoring web trends and Holiday demand is crucial for Q4 strategy. Stock aside, advertising channels and tools can also change dramatically year-to-year. Google Shopping has undergone major changes every year for the past 3 years- morphing from a free program to a paid channel, and undergoing a complete structure overhaul.
“It is imperative to us as a business to keep paying attention to media marketing trends out there… so we can continue to be leaders in our marketplace.”
3. Don’t Rely Only on Google
Since its inception, Ornament shop has relied on Google as a major source of traffic online. Google is a major driver for online sales and traffic, but Google’s ad programs, and algorithm change frequently.
“Taking our business online back in 1999 was super beneficial for us. We were the very first online retailer of personalized Christmas ornaments on the Internet, which helped us tremendously from a Natural search perspective.” Until Penguin, OrnamentShop.com was appearing on first searches for the term “Christmas Ornaments” as well as several other related searches. “We’ve been able to weather the storm because we diversified our online marketing strategy by expanding programs like direct mail and email marketing to mitigate any losses in natural search”
Google is a vital source of traffic online, and a significant driver for Q4 sales. Retailers should incorporate other channels to drive more traffic, including Google’s.
Leverage multiple Google programs, rather than just Google search, such as:
- Google AdWords PPC and Google Shopping
- Comparison Shopping Engines
For Google search, marketers need to understand search updates, and pivot strategy to accommodate Google’s changes. With Hummingbird, and Google’s continued pivot towards verbal trends, relevant content is a key traffic driver.
“To stay current with Google’s changes, we know it’s absolutely necessary for us to maintain fresh content. We work hard to keep our content new and relevant so that it’s worth reading.”
4. Know your audience
Your demographic determines what products will sell during q4, what search terms will succeed, and which social posts will get shared the most. If you don’t know who your audience is you’re not going to understand what will appeal to them for the Holiday.
“Our audience is mostly mothers and grandmothers. We feel that this demographic tends to gravitate toward bolder imagery, so we tailor our content to reflect that. This year we are also focusing more on Twitter and Google+ as more women are joining these social media sites.”
5. Stand for something
Christmas ornaments aren’t a niche market, and Ornament Shop’s retail season happens predominantly over a 3 month period. Success for Ornament Shop involves leveraging their unique and diverse inventory selection.
“We are considerably different from other personalized ornament companies out there. The broad selection of ornaments we offer is an unrivaled number in our marketplace.
We have ornaments for every possible hobby and interest – whatever the occasion; it can be relived in a Christmas ornament. On top of that, our personalization is hand-written, compared to other major retailers that screenprint”
Identify your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)- what makes your store unique, and don’t be shy about leveraging that asset to drive sales and diversify your store online. Consider a USP specific to the Holiday, or for particular products.
6. Be Honest About Shipping
Getting presents on time for Q4 is a major consideration for online shoppers. Many shoppers are shipping products to themselves, and need time to wrap those items. Shipping costs are also higher around Q4, along with shipping volume for the post office. Featuring faster shipping time, free shipping, or similar shipping deals is going to help your Q4 sales. However, if you sell items which have unique shipping, or take longer to process, be clear about shipping time with your customers.
“We’re very cognizant of shipping. Website ordering for personalized ornaments needs to go through many different departments before it can be shipped to the consumer. Once an item is ordered, it still needs to be pulled from the shelf, personalized, and proofed – stages that could take a few days at the peak of the season.
During the Christmas rush, we post messaging on the website letting customers know our shipping timeline and when they need to order to get gifts in time for the Holiday.”
Be clear about shipping time in your website shipping on:
- Website banners
- Shopping cart
“We plan staffing, packaging, and other shipping logistics far in advance so shipments will be handled properly with increased demand, proper reporting and ongoing projects.”
Here are some mistakes to avoid for Q4 with your shipping to avoid Cart Abandonment.
7. Customer Service is No Joke
Customer Service impacts word of mouth perception, seller reviews, repeat purchases, and so many other integral online variables which impact your store.
“We really take pride in our customer service. We’ve been selling ornaments for over 30 years – since 1983 – and I, review every single order, every single day of the year”
Plan out staffing, contact methods, and response time for customer issues prior to Q4. Check out 50 Good Customer Service Strategies to get you started.