It’s already begun—the holiday shopping commercials, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and the frantic holiday planning. For retailers across the U.S., the winter holiday season represents the single biggest sales opportunity of the year. This year, holiday spending is forecasted to reach over $1.1 trillion, a five percent increase from last season alone.

In 2017, Amazon sold more on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Thanksgiving Week than Target, Best Buy, and Walmart combined. And as more and more shoppers decide to bypass the holiday shopping hubbub and buy their gifts online, Amazon is expected to capture almost half of all online retail sales this holiday season.

Although the holidays provide compelling sales opportunities, they’re also highly competitive. In order to outperform your competitors, you need to step up your eCommerce marketing game right before the holidays hit. We’ve outlined some last-minute tips to enhance your holiday marketing efforts and make 2018 even merrier.

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1. Focus on Your Stars

Having a successful holiday season is all about marketing smarter. Rather than allocating your dollars evenly across the board, reallocate your campaign resources to focus on the product(s) that will have the greatest impact on sales. To determine where to focus your efforts, look at the following four areas:

  • Previous Holiday Sales Data

Closely analyze eCommerce-specific sales data from the past few years to see if you have any “tried and true” items that should be prioritized in your marketing efforts this year.

  • Sales Trends Leading into the Holidays

Look at trends for the past few months to see if there are any up-and-comers in your portfolio. Items that have experienced a recent boost in sales could become your holiday stars!

  • Responsiveness to Marketing

Analyze all of your sponsored product, sponsored brand, promotions, and off-platform campaigns from the past year to see which of your products have experienced the greatest boost in sales (or percent lift) in response to those efforts. The products that have proven to be responsive to marketing in the past could represent smart money as the year comes to a close.

  • Competitor Assortment Gaps

Before the holidays, make a point of browsing your top competitors’ listings. Have they left something out? Are there any openings that you can capitalize upon? Are some of their items already out of stock? If so, you may have spotted a golden sales opportunity.

2. Add a Little Cheer to Your Product Content

The holiday shopper has a different perspective and goals than your typical shopper. They’re likely buying your product for someone else and are motivated by how good a fit your item will be for that person. So why not capitalize on this in your listing copy? Let people know that your Droid Battles T-shirt, your backscratcher, or your pro car waxing kit makes the perfect holiday gift. To take that concept one step further, get creative with your copy to help paint the image of an ideal holiday scene: “The lucky person who gets this under the tree won’t believe their eyes …”

In addition, consider adding a picture to your listing that will bring that scene to life. Show an excited person unwrapping a present and finding your item inside. This subtle listing enhancement will reinforce just how perfect your product is for the season.

If you're not yet using enhanced brand content (EBC), right before the holidays is the perfect time to invest in EBC for your focus listings. Doing so will enable you to highlight key product differentiators to stand out from the crowd and encourage shoppers to spend more time on your listing.

Finally, make sure all customer questions on the page are answered and that you’ve addressed any negative product reviews.

3. Sprinkle Holiday Keywords into Your Campaigns

With Amazon forecasted to capture almost half of online sales, you better believe that people will be using Amazon’s search engine to find their ideal gift. Make sure that your keyword strategy is up to par to help leads find your product in the sea of competition.

First, use Amazon-specific SEO tools to determine the best overall keywords for your product. Then, identify what keywords are currently driving traffic to competitor listings. If your item is “giftable,” consider adding popular gift search terms to your holiday SEO strategy. Some examples include:

  • Gift set

  • Gifts for (him/her/children)

  • Gifts under $20

  • Christmas gift

  • Gift ideas for age X

Finally, consider including the names of competitive products in your SEO campaigns. With recent changes to Amazon’s targeting options, you can now target sponsored product ads by brand as well.

4. Drum Up Excitement Off-Platform

With more people shopping online than ever before, social media is becoming an increasingly powerful promotional tool for eCommerce. It’s not too late to sprinkle a few extra promotional posts and shopping links into your November and December social content calendar. Using Amazon’s social media promotion tool, you can create custom holiday landing pages for different social posts and promotions.

Along with targeting new shoppers, use email to reconnect with your existing customer base. Doing so will help inspire more repeat purchases and enable you to nurture stronger (and longer lasting) relationships with customers. Repeat customers are also more likely to leave reviews, so don’t be afraid to use email to ask for some essential feedback.

5. Make Everyone Merrier with Great Promotions

Holiday shoppers are hungry for deals. With the immense amount of competition and the increased volume of shoppers, offering a promotion or deal can have a big impact on revenue. Some promotional options include:

  • Amazon discount codes

  • Amazon coupons

  • Social media promotions

  • Buy one, get one

  • Free shipping

As always, crunch the numbers to make sure that the economics check out before you commit to a strategy. Each of the above promotions operates under a slightly different cost model, so make sure that you understand the associated costs and potential rewards of each strategy. Coupons, for example, have redemption fees where discount codes do not.

Rather than banking on record-high numbers, plan your promotional pricing strategy based on a reasonable sales lift. Doing so will ensure that you come out ahead, no matter what the holiday season brings.

Making Your Marketing Investment Count

Getting things right online is just one part of the holiday success equation. If you’re not ready with great fulfillment, ample inventory, and top-notch customer service, your brand will be on everyone’s naughty list. Don’t lose sight of the big picture as you focus on last-minute improvements.

Consider setting up daily reviews throughout the season. Are campaigns spending according to budget? Are shoppers using the coupons you’re creating? Are you almost out of stock on a highly advertised item? These are all situations that can be addressed with quick thinking and quick action, but only if you have systems in place to monitor what’s happening.

After the craziness of the holiday has passed, make a point of evaluating the impact of all of your holiday-specific marketing initiatives with your team. By assessing ROI and doing a deep analysis of each of your campaigns (even the ones that weren’t so cheerful), you’ll get a more accurate sense of how you can improve your strategy and execution for next year. Armed with this insight, you’ll be able to start earlier and make more informed choices in 2019.

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