The Beginning of the End

We knew it was coming. We knew it would happen about this time of year. We’re talking with clients every day about its inevitable arrival.

No, it’s not the asteroid collision that will end life on earth as we know it. It’s the end of the online holiday shopping season – that string of 3-4 days of declining unique visit numbers and website sales totals, documenting the beginning of the end of the online shopping frenzy.

Oneupweb manages paid search initiatives for many e-commerce clients spanning the gift giving universe. The “end” begins for each of them at different times. Those specializing in what economists call durable goods see it earlier than those selling video games and gift cards. We help our clients postpone the inevitable.

Two factors impact the arrival of the “end” for our clients, even delay it for some. The first, being the prospecting/branding done through paid search early in November.

For example, toy retailers had a tough time early in the shopping season due to the lead paint scare. By using general focus “toy” keywords we were able to introduce a client’s site to shoppers who may not have been aware that they sold toys. Theirs is an established brand with parents and kids of all ages. It’s a trusted name, so once shoppers arrived at the site, they already had a positive impression of the company and products offered.

Capturing toy shoppers while they researched safe and educational toys proved invaluable in driving sales when they were ready to buy. Return visits to purchase on the site over this past weekend were tremendous. Return visits paid for with clicks 6 weeks earlier. And guess what? Click costs were cheaper 6 weeks ago.

The other factor in postponing the arrival of the “end” is a well thought out and executed fulfillment & shipping process.

Our same client utilizes same-day order processing and expedited shipping options. The advantage here is obvious. Customers can order many days later than on competing sites and still be guaranteed delivery by Christmas. Shipping details and cut-off dates are prominently displayed on every page of their website. Those three additional days of holiday sales will make a solid contribution to the bottom line for this client.

Paid search marketing allowed this client to aggressively prospect for new customers while they were open to suggestion. Paid search also helped turn negative press into a competitive advantage in a very challenging retail environment. These are two powerful lessons to remember in planning for the 2008 holiday shopping season.

Happy Holidays!