Beautiful young woman shopping over internet

It seems like only yesterday that we were kicking off summer. Now the holiday shopping season is almost upon us. If you’re like a lot of online retailers, the holiday season represents a huge source of potential revenue. According to the National Retail Federation, that number is as much as 20-40% for many businesses. If you want to take full advantage of the busiest shopping season of the year (and who doesn’t?), it’s important to know how to connect with your potential customers.


Analytics Power

If connecting with your customers on a more personal level is your goal, then your analytics can be a great indicator of how to go about it. You can use your available metrics and demographic information to create a number of approaches. Your creativity really comes in handy. You can geo-target customers and create special offers based on their location, email deals based on popular items among people in the customer’s age range, or create targeted holiday deals based on past purchases. Use your knowledge of your customer base and the power of analytics technology to find ways to personalize your offers.


Optimize for Mobile

It’s no secret that mobile web surfing is more popular now than it ever has been. According to the IBM Online Retail Index, consumer online spending in Q2 2013 went up 15 percent since Q2 2012. Mobile shopping accounted for 20% of those sales. In light of this, companies are increasingly turning to mobile apps as a way to market their businesses. IKEA successfully did this last year by creating an app for the iconic IKEA catalog. The app-version of the catalog was interactive and allowed customers to unlock exclusive content by scanning pages. Creating a seasonal app can go a long way in promoting a business during the holidays.


Connecting via Social Media

Data has shown that web surfers are more likely to use social media for inspiration rather than a buying portal. In other words, someone is more likely to visit Pinterest to look at shoes before going to the website or store to buy them later. However, this isn’t keeping companies like Express and Gamestop from transforming their Facebook pages into virtual storefronts. Facebook is perhaps the best way to connect with customers during the holiday season both because of their large user base and the ability to share different media. You might also find creative ways to connect with customers on visual-centric websites like Pinterest and Polyvore while they’re searching for inspiration. How you integrate social media into your holiday marketing will depend on what you feel your customers will respond best to. Maybe it’s time to try something new, or perhaps it’s best to stick to a tried and true approach.


Cross-Channel Marketing

While online shopping revenue is expected to increase overall this year, the majority of shoppers still plan to visit stores for their holiday shopping. If you have a brick and mortar store, add an online element to your in-store advertising. You can advertise exclusive deals available through your website, or follow Nordstrom’s example. One of their most recent in-store campaigns featured shoes that were the most-pinned on Pinterest. Also, due to the rise of cross-channel marketing, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have pretty much become the bookends to one long shopping period. Data from the National Retail Federation showed that last year, online sales rose 17 percent year-over-year between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. You can expect to see something similar this year, making the days following Thanksgiving ideal for discounts, sales, and more time-sensitive specials that create a sense of urgency for the buyer.


Refine Your Customer Service

The importance of customer service for a B2C business can’t be expressed enough. According to a survey conducted by American Express in 2012, two thirds of U.S customers said that they were willing to spend more with a company that they believed provided excellent customer service. The survey also showed that one third of surveyed respondents felt that businesses were paying less attention to customer service than in the past. Now is a good time to review your customer service practices and refine them if necessary. What are the response times for customer emails? Is there a certain website feature that people have been asking for? Conducting follow up surveys is a good way to gauge the health of your customer service, and see where things could use some sprucing up.

The holidays are a time where spirits are high and people are gearing up to give and be given to. As technology improves and becomes more widely available, the Internet will continue to play an increasingly important role in the holiday shopping season. Those business owners who stay on top of and act upon trends like mobile usage and cross-channel marketing will see the biggest gains during the holiday season 2013.