Q4 is the most wonderful time of the year. According to Adobe Digital Insights, the online holiday shopping season in 2017 topped expectations. The Thanksgiving weekend saw shoppers spending over $19B dollars during the days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Over $7B was spent on tablets and smartphones over the holiday weekend (37.5% of all online revenue during that time).
Everyone wants a piece of the action and to maximize sales over Q4. So when does this crazy season begin? When my coffee is served in the “red cup” from Starbucks, that’s my sign that the season has started. My friendly Barista told me this morning, that those cups will be out in early November, so that gives us about 10 days. Planning and communication are key and should start long before Q4. However, for those that are getting a late start, all is not lost, as I am going to give you fifteen quick tips to help you get your program in top shape to navigate the season.
You will start with reviewing, moving on to updates, and all sorts of fun planning…
1. Review Program Details
It’s important to do a quick review of your program details. Double check to make sure that all information is up to date and relevant. I mentioned in a previous post that affiliates have preferred means of communication. Add as many possible ways of reaching you that you can – Skype, email, and even your phone number. This increases your chances of having your offers seen by your affiliates and them promoting you over a competitor.
2. Update Creatives
Make it a priority to have your creatives available early. Look at creatives from previous holiday seasons and other key shopping times and see what performed best for your program. Analyze also what your competition has been doing. You will want to have a call to action and ensure that you have a variety of desktop- and mobile-friendly banners so affiliates can find one that works best for them. Also, have multiple sizes available.
3. Excite New Affiliates
Have a strong activation offer for newly-onboarded affiliates to get going quickly. There is a lot of competition in Q4 so you want a strong offer to entice new affiliates to join and promote your program. Consider offering an enticing first sale bonus or set up performance bonuses for the holiday season. Reach out to holiday-specific publishers. There are a lot of sites that specifically promote Black Friday deals or Free Shipping.
4. Mind the Key Dates
There are eight key e-commerce shopping dates to keep in mind. Plan promotions around them where possible. When you communicate with your partners, ask if they are doing anything special on those dates, where you can be included.
- Singles Day – November 11th
- Thanksgiving – November 22nd
- Black Friday – November 23rd
- Small Business Saturday – November 24th
- Cyber Monday – November 26th
- Green Monday – December 10th
- Free Shipping Day – December 14th
- Super Saturday – Dec 22nd
5. Analyze Top Affiliates from Last Q4
Look at what worked last year and if you can replicate that success. Do an analysis of what SKUs worked best for your top performers and reach out and have conversations regarding similar promotions.
6. Look at This Year’s Top Publishers
Look at your top affiliates for this year and see how you can maximize their performance over Q4. Start conversations now and see if there are placement opportunities. Share offers well in advance of the major shopping weekend so that your offers are included. Affiliates pre-plan also and get some posts scheduled in advance. Find out the working schedules of your contacts over the major shopping days and the best way to reach them.
7. Secure Placements
Identify, negotiate, and secure placements as early as possible, because in Q4 affiliate inventory goes fast. If you don’t have a budget for placements, get creative. Offer free product in exchange for a review, exclusive coupons or a giveaway for their readers.
8. Plan Newsletters
Communication is vital to your success. Create a schedule of affiliate newsletters to send out on bi-weekly basis. In these newsletters you will want to include updated offers, new creatives, and any coupons/promotions.
9. Clarify Shipping Deadlines
Offer free shipping where possible and ensure you have free shipping offers for December 14th – the Free Shipping Day. Also, know your last day to guarantee to ship in time for Christmas and make sure this is communicated clearly with affiliates. The last thing you want is them promoting offers heavily that will not ship in time for the holidays.
10. Do Not Plan Major Website Changes
Most companies refuse to make any website changes in Q4. The last thing you need is to break something or slow down your site. Any changes or improvements that you plan to make should be made well in advance of the shopping season and tested thoroughly to make sure that it’s working.
11. Leverage Remnant Inventory
Paid placements fall through and publishers somethings have last minute availability. By keeping in constant communication, you could be in the right place at the right time and get a discounted slot or an additional placement.
12. Monitor Performance
Know what you expect from your program/top publishers and monitor daily and weekly. That way you can be proactive if there are any performance issues and adjust quickly.
13. Review & Analyze
It’s always worthwhile to have a review at year end. By the time you are ready to plan for the next Q4, you won’t remember all the details. Make a note of wins and losses and what you would change. What was your most successful promotion? What did your competitors do differently to you? Monitor placements and their performance. Do a review of top affiliates performance YOY. Make notes of areas for improvement.
14. Have Post-Holiday Plans
The season doesn’t have to end at Christmas. In fact, as Geno Prussakov once pointed out: “One of Q4’s frequently overlooked opportunities lies post-holiday.”
Sales after December 26th can be strong as consumers shop for post-Christmas sales and bargains. Some buy seasonal items that are discounted for the following year. January can also provide sales opportunities as people prepare for the New Year with new resolutions. Get creative and keep the sales rolling. Create some clearance events or after Holiday sales. In January, create a New Year Promotion & reach out to new customers that you acquired over the holidays.
Remember that it’s all about partnerships. When the season has died down, make sure you reach out to your affiliates and thank them for their part in helping you have a successful Q4. Congratulate them on their successful season and what worked for them. Do a quick overview and recap wins and losses and strategies for the upcoming months. The holiday season may be over but the show must go on. Start planning for the months ahead.
I hope these tips are helpful in preparing you for the upcoming holiday season. Please feel free to share anything that has worked for you in the “Comments” below. We warmly welcome your feedback.
Finally, consider also this post: 5 Things Your Affiliates Want for Holidays