With Thanksgiving now past and Christmas rapidly approaching, the time to start promoting your business online was yesterday. Though your current holiday sales and marketing campaigns are still important, it’s time to start focusing on your plans for next year. From website optimization to charitable giving, with a little preparation and planning, you can ring in the New Year right to ensure that next year’s holiday campaign is on the Nice List.

1. Give Back to a Good Cause

The holiday season is a time to focus on giving. A 2012 Goodpurpose study found that 73% of consumers would switch to a different brand of similar quality if it supported a worthy cause. As you prepare for next year, start developing relationships with your community. Look for creative ways to give back and, if possible, find causes that are relevant to your business.

Toms Shoes thrived by incorporating this principle into their business model. Their “One for One” policy promises to donate one pair of shoes to needy children for every pair sold. This simple concept anchors their brand identity—not only do they promise to donate shoes, but they have created an entire community where customers can get personally involved in the movement of giving back.

Though your business may not be as expansive as Toms, you too can find worthy causes that will give back to the community and simultaneously garner greater trust and customer loyalty. Start building these relationships now. Then, come next year, people will be more likely to give you their business when they connect your name to a good cause.

2. Measure Your Holiday Marketing This Year

A key to marketing success at any time of year is measurability. Make sure the holiday marketing strategies you implement this season are measurable. That way you can track your sales and returns on investments now and plan next year’s campaign accordingly.

If you haven’t already, map out specific goals you have for each facet of your marketing campaign. Whether you are aiming to increase email click-through conversions or reduce shopping cart abandonment, record those objectives and track the results over the coming weeks. Then, as you go back to the drawing board for next season’s holiday campaign, you will have concrete data to direct your marketing approach and return a higher profit next year.

3. Design Alternative Landing Pages for the Holidays

Deck your virtual halls with some festive site design. Create holiday-themed pages to ring in the season. You can choose a new color scheme (e.g. red and green for Christmas) or add a holiday flair with new fonts and a seasonal logo. Include these new festive designs throughout your campaign in the form of emails, print ads, landing pages, and shareable content.

Keep in mind that up to 65% of all emails, and a whopping 45% of holiday season emails, are opened via mobile devices. This means that if your content isn’t optimized for mobile viewing, you could be losing a significant portion of your target market.­­ Make sure that your images and designs will operate effectively on smartphones and mobile devices.

Start designing early and use A/B testing to determine which designs will be most successful. If you do this far in advance, you can have your most effective website theme ready to launch in time for next year.

4. Begin Optimizing Your Website Today

A finely tuned website will set you ahead of the game come next season. Review your site and identify areas for improvement, such as your web design, copy, keyword focus, or coding. For online consumers, two factors that can have a huge impact on your conversion rates are your page’s loading time and the simplicity of your checkout process.

Loading Time:

Make sure your page loading time is under five seconds, as this influences both your SERPs rankings and, most importantly, the user experience—which affects your conversions. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Minimize the number of HTTP requests on your pages—this reduces the number of items that need to load
  • Combine all your CSS into an external file and link to it from the HTML
  • Optimize your images and photos for the web to load smaller file sizes

Checkout Process:

If you sell products online, make sure your checkout process is simple and straightforward. Set up a variety of payment options for your customers and make the cart items visible at all times. This will reduce your shopping cart abandonment rates and encourage shoppers to stay on your site.

GetElastic.com reported that 67% of consumers abandoned the cart right before final transaction, with shipping costs being the main deterrent. As you prepare your site for the holidays, look for ways to reduce shipping costs for your customers, or offer special rates for early-bird holiday shoppers or members on your email list.

5. Reference the Holidays All Year

Though the holidays come around just once a year, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them all year long to support and drive your marketing campaigns. Take advantage of the months leading up to and following the main holiday rush with holiday-centered marketing. By referencing the holidays all year, you can attract more customers, such as early-bird shoppers and holiday procrastinators.

For example, as part of your main email campaign, incorporate several waves of holiday emails throughout the year. These could include:

  • Sending out a flurry of “Christmas in July” emails
  • Offering early bird Christmas deals and promotions from September-November
  • Delivering your peak holiday emails and deals in mid-December
  • Following up with post-Christmas deals through Valentine’s Day

By taking advantage of the holidays throughout the year, you can maximize your marketing profitability. Start planning your campaigns now so your marketing content is ready to send out over the next 12 months.

Even though the 2013 holiday season is in full swing, there are still plenty of ways you can make the most of your website and online marketing investments. Whether you focus your marketing with an email campaign, print advertising, SEO, or other strategies, if you start now, you can ensure that your website—and your bottom line—is merry and bright all year round.

Want to know where your website stands today so that you can kick off the new year right?  Request a free website analysis and consultation.  The website analysis will provide key metrics about your website to help you plan ahead.  Get a jump start on your competition by starting to prepare now.

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