It’s Time to Start Working on Your 2018 Retail Holiday Checklist

With more than half of 2018 (somehow) already in the books, it’s time to start thinking about the holidays. While reminders of the gift-giving season don’t begin popping up until after Halloween for many of us, ecommerce retailers need to start getting into a wintry state of mind while the summer sun still shines.

You may be wondering if it’s truly necessary to prepare this early. After all, you probably have more than enough on your plate without worrying about several months down the road. However, those end-of-the-year holidays are really important for retailers of all shapes and sizes.

In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, 20-40% of yearly sales come from the last two months of the calendar for small-to-medium-sized retailers. If your business falls into this category, it’s especially important to stick your landing as the year draws to a close.

The good news is that readying your brand for the holidays is easier than you might think, and there are steps you can take right now to save yourself a lot of stress come November and December. Here are the major items to mark off your checklist.

Deploy Time-Saving Measures

We don’t need to remind you that the holiday season gets super busy. That goes double for small- and mid-sized business owners who are juggling a million different responsibilities, all while searching for the perfect gift for Aunt Sally. Taking action now will ensure you have more time to spend on what really matters during the holiday rush.

First, identify your top-performing products to promote with ad campaigns for the holidays. You may want to give attention to a broader selection of your product offerings, but you’ll only end up wasting ad spend on low-margin and low-converting items. When the holiday lights go on, focus on your MVPs.

Automated scripts will also prevent Google Ads from draining all your valuable time. With just a snippet of JavaScript code, you can automate common PPC tasks like checking for broken links, adjusting bids, and more. Implementing a single script can end up saving you hours per month, which is a godsend during the holidays. A variety of scripts are available for download in our free scripts library. Best of all, we’re releasing new ones all the time.

Fine-Tune Your Ad Copy

Adjusting your advertising message down to the precise wording can make a big difference in terms of impact and results. Instead of trotting out the same old PPC ads like last year’s Christmas decorations, consider revamping your ad copy in preparation for the holidays.

Have you given Dynamic Keyword Insertion a try? DKI customizes your ad text to match a user’s search query. While this may seem like a great feature for delivering a tailored message, its exact usefulness may depend on your industry. In a study last year, we found that non-DKI ads had an average CTR of 2%, while DKI registered at 1.45%. However, DKI ads came out on top in the food, hobby, animal, and stationery industries. If you do business in any of these fields, you might see if using DKI makes a difference for you.

You can also gain an advantage with holiday-specific sitelinks. During last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday period, we found that ads with holiday-themed wording in their sitelinks performed better than those with generic sitelinks, to the tune of a 55% increase in CTR and 56% increase in CVR. So deck your halls (er, ads) with sitelinks that call out “Holiday Sales,” “Holiday Gifts,” “Stocking Stuffers,” and more.

For more ad copy tips and insights, check out our Ad Copy Championships whitepaper.

Our checklist will help you prepare for last minute shoppers.

Prepare for Local & Last-Minute Shoppers

As we’ve mentioned, the holidays get increasingly frantic as the season wears on. Consumers will be whipping out their smartphones to see if any nearby stores have those coveted items in stock. Make sure you can cater to their needs in these moments.

It all starts with a fully-optimized mobile experience. If the only thing that greets mobile searchers when they tap on your site is an endless loading screen, they’ll abandon ship very quickly (many after only three seconds, per Google). The solution? Build fast-loading AMP pages that are easy to navigate. If you’re still lagging behind on the mobile-first initiative, it’s better to get started now than in the fall.

Google Posts are a simple feature that can also catch the attention of holiday shoppers. These short, 100-character updates are made from your Google My Business dashboard. You can inform customers about special sales, holiday store hours, and other up-to-the-minute details. Posts appear directly in search results, helping you take up valuable SERP real estate during this crucial period. They can even show up in Google Maps, making you stand out even more to local shoppers.

Use Our Holiday Readiness Resources

Last but certainly not least, we’ve just started pulling back the curtain on a series of useful tools to get the most out of the holiday season. Download our Holiday Workbook now to receive 20 time-tested ideas for perfecting your strategy. You won’t want to miss our Paid Search Planning Calendar, either (available in September). This tool provides an in-depth, day-by-day look at the holiday season, allowing you to properly allocate your budget throughout the busiest time of the year.

If you’re interested in taking your holiday preparation even further, you should also sign up for a one-on-one holiday clinic and our holiday forecast webinar on September 13. You can register for these events and gain access to the above tools on our Holiday Readiness Resources.

The holidays tend to overwhelm, but a well-prepared retailer can weather the storm and end the year on a winning note. By starting now, you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to make it a holiday season worth celebrating.

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