Over the years, there has been a significant rise in the number of online shoppers round the globe. Increased usage of internet enabled smart phones and mobile devices has empowered customers tremendously, allowing them to shop on the go, with minimal hassle and a myriad of options from the numerous e-commerce companies cropping up every day.

And what better time to splurge on goodies than the holiday season when shoppers have lightened their hearts and loosened their purse-strings? Thanks to the convenient shopping experience provided by e-commerce websites during the holiday season, online shopping has reached an entirely new level.

“Cyber Monday”, traditionally the UK’s busiest online shopping day of the year, has been known to drive sales and profits multifold. Last year alone an estimated £300,000 was being spent every minute online and Amazon UK reported its busiest shopping day ever, raking up £4.1 million in sales.

With so much happening in the online marketing space, how can e-tailers maximise their returns from the ‘Cyber Monday’ sales? Here are 5 handy tips:

1. Data, data everywhere – Keep the data ready:

Cyber Monday sales data is a treasure trove of information, which, when efficiently and optimally leveraged, can help to determine how an e-commerce enterprise could flourish. Advances in web analytics have made it possible to develop an extensive understanding of a customer’s online behaviour – their navigation routine within the website, what products interest them, which pages they visited and revisited, how long they stayed on a page, what were their search parameters, whether there was a conversion/final purchase at the end of the exercise and so on. Insights from this data help identify which products or categories are fast moving and which need to be bundled with others to help get them off the shelves. These insights help marketers take quick and appropriate decisions in near real-time. 

All forms of data, be it structured (tabulated data), or unstructured (graphic images, pictures, videos, streaming data, voice data, text data, sensor data, blogs, etc.) need to be analysed in real time to stay relevant in the current business context.

The onus then rests on Decision Scientists – experts with the right blend of business acumen, mathematical prowess and technological expertise who can not only crunch this ever burgeoning data, but also glean actionable insights – enabling them to convert this data into sound business decisions.

2. Have the right strategy and start early:

It is not enough to just have exciting deals and blockbuster products to lure customers. Online marketers need to have the right strategy that can attract, as well as deal with, the influx of shoppers. Preparations for the event must begin well in advance – ideally soon after the previous holiday season – so that the marketing strategy is finalised and budget is allocated for the upcoming holiday season.

Leading retailers across the globe conduct customer segmentation analysis as soon as the holiday season is over to separate the cherry pickers from the loyal customers. Insights from this analysis could help retailers strategise how to broaden the range and increase the footfall. Retailers can identify their target group, and provide customised and personalised offers for loyal customers based on these strategies. This helps to reduce churn and increase the share of customer spend during the festive season.

3. All hands on deck:

Different teams in charge of merchandising, operations, site analytics, strategy etc need to work in tandem to ensure all the cogs in the machinery are running smoothly and possible problem areas are ruled out.

Once the strategy is in place, the merchandising team must begin work on products and deals. Vendor finalisation, demand forecasting based on the last holiday season analysis and inventory planning must follow suit. The site analytics team also needs to delve into the price point analysis to ensure the products are priced at competitive rates.

Promotions need to start at least four months in advance to pique the interest of customers and check the pulse of the market.  The web operations team should work on the website design, to make it easy to use and ready to handle the traffic load. The online customer support and social media monitoring teams need to ensure timely monitoring and respond to customer queries and feedback generated online.

4. Keep an eye open for glitches:

Once the holiday season starts, it is crucial for marketers to pay maximum attention to server security, website response time, the websites readiness to handle influx of web traffic and should incorporate real time analytics to recognise profitable and non-profitable deals, product assortments in the store and stock keeping unit optimisation.

Some e-tailers start the holiday sale a week or so ahead of the actual holiday season so as to get the first fist into the market and increase their share of consumer spend. While such daring moves may have their own payoffs, they also have their set of risks, such as a sudden shopping explosion on the website and in stores. If e-tailers are not ready to handle the footfall and the performance is not consistent throughout the holiday season, the loss will surpass the gain. If customer expectations are not met, chances are they will check out competitor websites and end up making a purchase elsewhere. Loss of valuable customers will directly impact long term ROI, not to mention brand value.

5. Leverage multi-channel marketing platforms:

Many e-tailers play a back foot approach by being particularly active on social media websites to generate buzz around deals and track the pulse of online promotions, based on which they can moderate the load and response time. However, in today’s hyper-competitive environment, the smart move would be to leverage multichannel marketing platforms. A user should be able to buy a product or access a deal from anywhere and at any time – be it social media sites, mobile apps, print media ads or any other available channels.

In times where data driven decision making makes all the difference, leveraging an integrated decision support ecosystem comprising of the right data, technology and manpower can yield a world of benefits to marketers.

Additional input by Richa Gupta, a manager at Mu Sigma.