By Sue Chapman

In 2013, the NRF reported more than 1 in 5 holiday shoppers started shopping before October. Cyber Monday 2013 was the heaviest online spending day, reaching $1.735B, and mobile sales shattered records at the start of the hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son. On Thanks­giv­ing and Black Fri­day, for example, nearly 1 in 4 of all online sales came from mobile devices, both smart­phones and tablets.

Needless to say, you can’t afford to miss out on getting ready for the holiday shopping season early. So what should you, as a retailer, do?

Answer: Think about the customer.

Consumer engagement is by far the mission critical element that dictates retailer success. Asking them what they want, helping them quickly and easily find the right gifts for everyone on their list, giving them free stuff when they make a purchase, and offering loyal customers early access to special sales are just some ways you can keep consumers engaged and coming back to your site time and time again.

In my recent webinar, I highlighted 7 key elements that, when done correctly, can help retailers ensure continued success through the holiday season. These include:

  • Planning record-breaking holiday promotions – Offer 24-hour cyber specials and free shipping, or offer a preview of items available in timed blocks.
  • Putting a new twist on gifting techniquesGive your customers gift guides to make shopping easy.
  • Giving your loyal customers the VIP treatmentConsider free shipping options, or present them with special flash sales or purchasing options.
  • Effectively managing customer expectations around delivery schedulesConsider making holiday shipping a campaign in itself, highlighting shipping promotions and cutoffs.
  • Planning your mobile and omni-channel holiday strategy – Shoppers expect convenience. Let them decide what channel to buy from, and where or when they want to pick-up or ship. And don’t forget to make your coupons accessible via all channels.
  • Getting a head start on holiday SEOOffer your customers a sneak peek to build awareness of new collections while getting early indexing and SEO ranking of your content.
  • Test your holiday readiness before your customers do – Test everything, and test it again. Ensure all of your pages are optimized and your site is capable of handling an increased traffic flow.

And when the holiday shopping season wraps, you have one more step to complete: plan for next year – 2015 will come much faster than you think! Use lessons learned when they’re fresh in your mind to create a strategy that works best for you.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll dig deeper into each of these key elements to help you get ready for a successful 2014 holiday season.

Have any specific questions? Think I left a key element out? Let me know!