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Tips for Enhancing Your Website and Online Marketing

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					Tips for Enhancing Your Website and Online Marketing Efforts for the 2006 Holiday Shopping Season
Now is the time to consider enhancements to your Website design and content and online marketing efforts.

As you prepare for the 2006 holiday sales season, now is the time to consider enhancements to your Website design and content and online marketing efforts. Yahoo! Small Business and e-commerce Web developer Solid Cactus offer the following season-specific suggestions to improve your merchandising, and make it easier for shoppers to find the right gifts at your online store. Create holiday category pages. Some products are more holiday-gift-ready than others. Put your best gift inventory together on category pages that make it easy for shoppers to find your holiday collections. Consider leaving these category pages up year-round for search engine indexing. Also, put a graphic and on your store's home page touting your holiday gift section, and make the holiday gift section part of your site's navigation structure. Publish gift lists, targeted to your core buying audience. Holiday shoppers who buy online are looking for convenience and speed. Give them what they want! Create multiple gift lists, with different shoppers in mind, including gift lists that are relevant to different holidays, or for specific recipients - gifts for mom, dad, college students, golfers, gardeners, sports fans, gadget-lovers, etc. Customers also appreciate gift lists divided up by price, such as "Gifts Under $25." Update your product descriptions for search relevance. Some customers will arrive at your site and go straight to your search box. Think about how your customers might describe an item that you sell, and work these terms into an appealing description of the product. You'll have the dual benefit of making items easier-to-find and better-merchandised. Ask your friends how they search for gift items; incorporate their advice into your product descriptions and keywords. Add seasonal elements to your site design. but don't change the essentials. Seasonal images, graphics, and colors are the online equivalent of holiday-specific window-dressing, and send customers the clear message that your site is a great place to shop for holiday items. That said, the holidays are not a time to redo your site navigation or completely redesign your site. You don't want to confuse returning customers who are familiar with how to find what they're looking for in your online store. Make your holiday enhancements consistent with the overall design of your store. If your store's colors are blue and tan, don't add flashy red and yellow graphic - it's distracting. Also, avoid animated gifs, background music and the use of clipart. Enable gift certificates - and promote them. If you haven't enabled gift certificates, now is the time. Many customers prefer to give the gift of choice, with an electronic gift certificate to your online store. You can offer gift certificates in multiple denominations, and offer a great last-minute gift-buying opportunity that extends your Holiday sales into the new year. Make sure your gift certificates are easy to find -- feature your gift certificates on your homepage, and create a navigation link or button for your gift-certificate product page accessible from anywhere in your site. Post your shipping times and policies. Can you serve last-minute shoppers? It pays to know your shipping partners' policies so you can deliver on your commitments to your customers. It's very important to provide clear explanations of shipping times, and how many days you need to get a package there by Christmas. In fact, every online store should have a

holiday shipping schedule posted both on the front page and at the checkout. The page should clearly show the last day to order using what type of service to arrive on what day, broken down by carrier. It should also show what days those carriers do and do not deliver packages. Provide a telephone number for each carrier as well as for your store so that if there are questions about transit times or order deadlines, the customer doesn't have to look all over your site for a number to call. Search and test your site.

Invite friends, staff, and colleagues to test your changes, review your holiday content, and search your site. You'll quickly be able to determine whether customers can easily navigate to your holiday merchandise or whether you need to make some more changes. Advance planning will help you work out any bugs and increase the effectiveness of your merchandising. Learn From Last Year. Glean all the information you can from your previous sales seasons. If you've been in business more than one year, consider what programs were more effective during the holidays. As you're putting these marketing programs in place, be sure to plan out how you will evaluate each program's success. You need to know whether your marketing spending is paying off, so you can invest in successful programs and stop spending on initiatives that don't give you adequate return on your investment. Keep good notes, and do a post mortem on what worked and what didn't. If you're doing special promotions, special holiday ads, etc., make sure they are trackable, either by a trackable link in the backend of your online store, or via a keycode for phone orders. Send Holiday Wishes. and Discounts. Use direct email or holiday newsletters to offer exclusive offers or discounts to current customers, encouraging them to revisit your site and boost your holiday sales. Direct email includes the added benefit of making it very easy for existing customers to forward information about your business to other qualified leads. Email newsletters can be very effective, but only if they have a hook. People sign up for email newsletters because they want to get special discount offers from you, so make it worth their while to subscribe. And always make it easy for someone to unsubscribe to your email newsletter. Make a List and Check it Twice. Email your existing customer base or purchase a list of prospects to reach a wider audience. Prospect lists typically include a database of potential customers who have opted to receive news and special offers from companies. Add Value With Coupons, Free Shipping, and Other Offers. To help move your holiday inventory, offer free shipping on orders over a certain dollar amount. Yahoo! Merchant Solutions customers can use the built-in Coupon Manager to create redeemable coupons to offer free shipping, percentage discounts, or even set dollar amounts off an order. Remember to set an expiration date that is relatively soon, as well as limiting the terms of use to one discount per customer.

Cross-selling and Merchandising. Suggest complementary products at the point of purchase. For example, if a shopper has added a holiday bathrobe to their cart, you might suggest matching slippers as an additional purchase. Yahoo! Merchant Solutions' automatic cross-selling feature makes it easy to create relationships between your products and, as an added incentive, allows you to set discounts on cross-sold items when they're purchased together. After Christmas Follow-Up. Don't forget your customers after December 25! The holidays may be over, but that doesn't mean you should neglect new customers you attracted during the holiday season. Follow up with them in January with a post card, email or special offer to help encourage them to become a regular customer. Consider offering first time holiday shoppers a coupon or special discount on their next order.