Christmas Planning 2012: Get Your Santa [Thinking] Hats On

There are plenty of opportunities for advertisers to ensure their Christmas season is a lucrative one and these are some key considerations when planning your strategy.

Spread the word

Although it feels like the summer sun has only just kicked in and mulled wine is the last thing on our minds, publishers and advertisers have already been planning ahead to the 2012 festive season. And it’s hardly surprising considering last year online sales in December were up 30% year-on-year, and the week before Christmas saw almost double the sales compared with 2011.

There are plenty of opportunities for advertisers to ensure their Christmas season is a lucrative one and these are some key considerations when planning your strategy.

Think Broadly

Reach and diversity of opportunities is relatively simple to achieve within the performance space given the prominence of targeted campaigns at this time of year. Some content publishers have built special Christmas themed sites geared around key generic searches around Christmas, email publishers may be more likely to promote brands and products where interest is high at peak season and price comparison sites will be pushing this season’s sought-after products. Almost every voucher and reward site will have themed promotional opportunities across their site, be it new pages, features or special newsletters.

All publishers should be considered as part of a Christmas strategy as messaging and creative can be adapted across the board for the sake of continuity and conversion. Synchronise the performance marketing efforts with other marketing channels, including above the line, so that publishers are pulling in the same direction and can capitalise on traffic spikes.

Get The Basics Right

It sounds all-too-simple, but preparing and planning early really does make the difference and is essential to avoid missing out. The first publishers have already released Christmas plans and most will be out well in advance of November, so get in touch early to discuss how you can get involved…take time to review all the choices and act fast on those that suit. Most advertisers will be doing the same so it’s best to keep communications clear and concise, and not too frequent.

Advertising creative and messaging should be refreshed with a festive theme and reflected across all promotional content on publisher sites. It’s also not a bad idea to review and refresh your merchant pages on key publisher sites to ensure they’re optimised. Be aware of last delivery dates and communicate them early too. Publishers will feature these on their sites so take advantage of this coverage, especially if last delivery dates are late enough to be a selling point.

Simple considerations like making changes to your website and tracking functionality well in advance can help to avoid the nightmare scenario of downtime during this key trading time.

Do The Math

As Christmas is such a competitive season, budgeting appropriately can help to ensure you’re in the right place at the right time. Tenancies and prizes play a part on a lot of sites at this time, so it is advisable to be flexible with your commissions. Offers and codes will be in high demand thus provision should be made.

Publishers want appealing but ultimately sustainable offers for their users and therefore it’s important to be mindful of overall costs per sale versus margin. Have a target ROI in-line with how competitive and aggressive you want your strategy to be.

It is vital that commitments to publishers aren’t forsaken as each promotional slot carries such a high value during peak weeks. Incentives are less frequent these days but can be successful if targets and rewards are thought out enough to be appealing to all parties.
Make Informed Decisions

If you were forward thinking enough to record Christmas activity last year, revisit those statistics. Look at which publishers, offers and placements offered the best uplift and feed this back into your strategy.

Key trading times will need to be analysed too; so try to identify your respective in-store and online peak shopping times. Also consider the shopping behaviour of your customers and when different products are prone to fly off the shelves. If you have advance knowledge of predicted best-sellers, communicate this with your publishers so they can focus their efforts in the best places but do be mindful of stock levels to avoid selling out. Always note the gifting angle to be clear on who is actually buying products so that the right target audiences can be reached on the right partner placements.

Make sure this time round to keep a detailed log of activity so that you can analyse the effectiveness and optimise further in 2013.

Think Beyond Online

Publishers are increasingly using multi-channel activity and it is important to think of how performance marketing could support your offline strategy too. Our work with Debenhams has demonstrated that this can be done on an ongoing basis, but around Christmas mobile vouchers and printable downloadable vouchers can also be particularly powerful to drive sales even after your last delivery date has passed.

Pete Berry

Pete Berry is Publisher Services Manager at affilinet. Originally from Manchester (Man Utd's No1 fan) when he's not watching football he's on the pitch attracting comparisons to Peter Crouch.

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