With Mother’s Day just around the corner this is probably a good opportunity to look at what makes a successful eCommerce campaign targeted at a specific calendar date. Dates like Mother’s Day, Easter, bank holidays and sporting events can all present great marketing opportunities: times when there is potentially heightened interest in what you sell and a more receptive audience.
If particular dates are significant, is it enough to hope that you can ride the tide of interest and profit through extra search traffic? Or should you do more to convert the maximum number of sales while you have the opportunity?
Here are my 7 steps to making sure that you reap the eCommerce benefits of relevant calendar highlights.
Step 1 - Understand the ‘interest profile’
For any calendar event and for products associated with that event, there is a time profile over which interest builds and then diminishes. To target your campaign activity you need to understand when people are actively searching for specific terms. This isn’t just a case of timing PPC ads - knowing when people are thinking about something will also tell you when targeted emails are more likely to be welcome and get opened.
Google Trends can tell you a lot. Here’s the 2013 UK trend for the term Mother’s Day:
It’s clear that there was a steady build-up of interest from the end of January. So anyone concentrating their campaign just in the week before the day (March 10) would have missed plenty of interest and opportunity.
Note also the smaller peak in May. That’s all to do with Mother’s Day in the US being on a different day. But this was UK-based traffic; perhaps there’s an opportunity to market to American expats that you might not have thought of?
Just to illustrate why the trend data helps with timing here’s the corresponding plot for St George’s Day. Note the much sharper peak and very short interest period. Clearly the timing of any campaign for this event would need to be fundamentally different.
Step 2 - Plan your calendar well in advance
Given that Google Trends indicates that interest in Mother’s Day starts to build around the end of January, when should you start planning? That largely depends on how complex your campaign will be. If Mother’s Day is a big opportunity for you then probably the planning should have started before Christmas.
As always, the earlier you start the better the result. So if you haven’t already done it get out the calendar for 2014 AND 2015 and put some milestones in for when your campaign plans need to be started.
Step 3 - Get all the elements working together
A successful eCommerce campaign is going to involve multiple elements including email, social media, specific content, landing pages, paid search and possibly PR. A proper plan will show how all of these elements will support and reinforce each other.
Take Twitter, for example. What sort of tweets are likely to get attention and shares? Where do you want people to be directed: To a landing page? Via your Facebook page? And do you have any traffic data to validate the channels and pathways that result in the highest conversion rates?
If you use Facebook as a key marketing channel, do you have a plan for making sure your Facebook updates get the maximum possible visibility? Facebook will only show them in the feeds of around 20% of your followers so you need to think how you’re going to get noticed, which may mean promoted posts.
Looking at channels in isolation is inefficient and ineffective - that’s why it’s called a campaign.
Step 4 - Build some great landing pages
So in the run-up to Mother’s Day, sons and daughters around the land are likely to be receptive to social media messages and PPC ads offering ideas that will delight one of the most special people in their lives. If you’re smart, getting click-throughs shouldn’t be your biggest challenge (the bid price on your keywords might be, however).
What happens after the click is probably the most critical part of the process. I could show you a stack of split test and content experiment data that shows how much difference a well-constructed landing page makes to conversions.
And if you have to pay a premium rate to get the clicks (either from Google or Facebook) you absolutely need to generate as many conversions from those as possible. Linking through to a poorly thought-out landing page or, worse still, your homepage or a standard product page is a waste of the money and effort it took to get the clicks.
A few basics of effective landing page design:
- Make it look great, blow your normal photography budget if you have to.
- Don’t overdo the creativity - a clean, elegant design will draw people in and help them through the decision making process. Your aim is to convert, not to confuse or to dazzle.
- Make sure there is continuity between whatever they clicked on and the content of the landing page. A PPC ad saying: ‘10 gift ideas to make Mother’s Day special’ should logically link to a landing page with the same headline and actually showing 10 great gift ideas. Disconnects in the logic and the flow cause confusion and frustration, and ultimately, high bounce rates.
- Always ask yourself: ‘If I clicked on that link, is this what I’d be expecting to see?’ If the answer is not obviously ‘yes’, then you need to go back to the drawing board. That’s why the planning needs to be done early.
- Clear and prominent CTAs - almost goes without saying.
- Engaging and concise copy.
And whenever you think you’ve got the perfect landing page, you haven’t! There are always tweaks you can make to the content and layout that will improve conversions. Start your campaign with a couple of versions, monitor conversions and switch to the best performer before the traffic hits the peak.
Again, it all goes in the plan. If, say there is a 4 week build up of interest, aim to run your A/B split test during week 1 so that the rising traffic in weeks 2,3, and 4 all goes to the higher converting page.
A great example of a company who’s targeted multiple demographics is NewRelic, here are just a few examples they have:
Step 5 - Create killer emails
Email marketing is one of the most misunderstood and misused tactics in eCommerce. But there are many reasons why targeted emails should be part of every calendar-based campaign. Let’s look at the advantages:
- Your email list should consist of previous customers and people who have already shown an interest in what you sell
- Many of them will be looking for specific ideas and inspiration, and you can help!
All of which means that you should get good open and click-through rates.
In terms of guidance for putting winning emails together I can’t really do better than highlighting the CRABS test developed by Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights.
- Chunking. Make your paragraphs no more than 1-2 sentences long so that people can scan read.
- Relevance. Stick with what matters - the details of the offer and how to receive it.
- Accuracy. Make sure you set accurate expectations, don’t get carried away and over-promise.
- Brevity. Go through at least 3 editing cycles taking out superfluous words or even sentences every time. If you’re first draft was 200 words aim to get the final version to 100 by focusing on what people really need to know.
- Scannability. Pick out key words and phrases in bold and use important words at the start of paragraphs. Often people scan a message to get a sense of what it’s about before reading it properly. Make sure that a scan will highlight enough engaging words to encourage a ‘proper’ read.
You also need highly engaging subject lines. Write several drafts to hone something that will grab the attention of exactly the right people. If possible A/B split test before you send to the whole list.
And finally: use an email marketing platform that allows you to track your email open rates and CTRs; and make sure your email template is mobile-friendly.
Step 6 - Content marketing
The other increasingly important aspect of campaigns is to think about what other types of content you can create to increase awareness of your products, earn internet traffic and build brand loyalty. This is the content that doesn’t contain overt sales messages but subtly makes people aware of what you offer. Have a look at these examples in a recent Econsultancy article and you should find some inspiration.
Step 7 - Test, Evaluate, Learn
With better planning, and by following these steps, you should get significantly better returns from your peak marketing periods. But you won’t get everything right. Testing and evaluation are critical.
Using Google Analytics goals and other techniques such as content experiments are essential. You can also use predictive eye tracking and session recording to understand how people behave - and where you could improve conversion rates still further.
During the heat of a peak marketing period might not be the easiest time to be reviewing data and tweaking your eCommerce site. But at the very least, you should make the last phase of your plan a thorough analysis of your site data. And then feed that knowledge into the plan for next time.