"You don't want to wait until next year to see what you should be changing."
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Marketers should prepare now for the upcoming holiday season online. Testing email campaigns and looking at last year's holiday successes and failure--instead of at more recent efforts--will help increase revenue. "One of the biggest fallacies is that none of the other best practices you've been using the rest of the year apply around the holidays," says Shar VanBoskirk, analyst at Forrester Research. "This is the best time to play them all out."
"Think about toning down marketing right now," says Chris Baggot, CMO and cofounder of ExactTarget, an email marketing solutions provider. "Think about frequency. If the open rate is 20 percent, slow down. If people aren't listening, stop talking to them for a while and then they'll pay attention." People search differently for specific products during the holidays, according to Jeff Seacrist, director of product marketing for WebTrends. Organizations should look at last year's holiday report to see how search terms have changed, and to monitor where customers are getting poor results, then alter sites to fix problems.
Sending more emails is not the answer. "[That] can actually decrease the customers' propensity to buy, because they're overwhelmed," VanBoskirk says. Even if marketers get their holiday ROI, it might come at the expense of frustrating--and potentially losing--customers for the rest of the year.
WebTrends' "2005 Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report" found that 52 percent of respondents plan to use testing techniques to optimize campaigns during the holiday season. "One retailer said the holidays are no time to be doing testing. I see where they're coming from, but you don't want to wait until next year to see what you should be changing," Seacrist says. "There's no problem doing A/B testing of two different versions of a landing page offering different promotions and comparing the response rates, conversion rates, and profitability...to make better decisions about how you market to your larger population. You can have results within a day or two, and use that to enhance your campaigns throughout the holidays."
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