The Holidays are a retailer’s best friend and worst enemy. When planned for ahead of time, they will provide a solid bottom line for the rest of the financial year; when neglected until the last minute, they can be stressful and disappointing.

Your holiday selling will be much less stressful and much more profitable if you take heed of these five merchandising/marketing areas long before the snow flies:

A landing page that’s obscure, difficult to navigate, and too cluttered with unimportant information is going to discourage traffic, not redirect it to purchasing portals.

Try subscribing to yourself to see how easy or frustrating it is. Then make the appropriate changes.

Keep your in-house chain of command clear and direct so there’s no confusion or conflict on who is authorized to access and/or change the landing page and other venues when they need updating and tweaking.

Just one click to capture information after the consumer has provided it. Any more than that, and they will abandon like crazy.

List breakdowns are essential so that grandma isn’t sent the same material as her Millennial grandson.

Never trust a landing site to work smoothly for more than a week at a time; have someone constantly watching and testing so glitches can be resolved immediately. This also cuts down customer care problems considerably.

The next step is to maximize your email effectiveness:

Make your Call to Action prominent but not overly aggressive. You want the reader to know it’s there but not become irritated or feel threatened or puzzled by it.

Standardized brand names keep readers from becoming confused about what product they are reading about. If one page says “New and Improved Whiz Bang” and another page says “Vanilla-flavored Whiz Bang”, they may just give up on the whole thing and move on to your competitor, “KaBoom”.

Marketing psychology dictates that your return policy be prominent in your emails, which may seem counter-intuitive — why give potential customers the suggestion that they will be returning something? But just the reverse is true; when consumers see a simple and reassuring return policy, they are more apt to trust the brand and feel secure in dealing with your company.

Review past holiday campaigns. Review what worked and what flopped. Can you recycle the flops as well as the previous successes? Recycle your mistakes after fixing them up. It’ll save time and effort, and a little bit of money.

Sure, it’s hard to know what the hot items are going to be in December when it’s only September. But you’ve got to make that commitment. Look at last year’s sales and merchandising figures and put your best people on prognosticating what’s going to be hot this holiday season. Then go for it. The worst that can happen is that you’ll still make sales — just not enough to buy that yacht you’ve always wanted.

Have a Plan B tucked away. Blizzards, strikes, comets, politics, earthquakes, viral trends, personal and personnel problems — the Holidays are rife with unexpected emergencies that may completely upset your main merchandizing plan. So have a second plan in your back pocket ready to go. Have it fully fleshed out, not just some hazy idea.

Your IT people always seem to fall apparent as the holiday’s approach. It’s a Murphy’s Law type of deal: “The closer the holidays, the harder it is to reach IT and get them to do anything.” So plan now for inevitable link breaks and landing page downtime. Have some second-string IT people you can call on when your first line of defense goes Christmas shopping for six days straight and can’t be reached.

Start instant replay as soon as the season is over. Don’t wait until next summer to start reviewing sales stats and traffic flow. Look at the clicks and the response to CTAs as soon as things have settled down again. Get a firm idea of what you’ll need to change, need to increase, need to decrease for next season. Then get started on those changes. The longest journey begins with the first step; the best marketing campaigns start with a little real-time Google Analytics.

Posted in Content Strategies.