Use Comparison Shopping Engines to Maximize Your Holiday Sales

10/19/2009

- Lesley Gross, Director of Client Strategy

The 2009 Holiday shopping season is upon us. Do you have everything in place for a successful season of online sales? According to the recent NPD Holiday Survey of Consumer Purchase Intentions, 62% of those surveyed said value plays a big role in what and where they decide to buy. These days consumers turn to comparison shopping engines (CSEs) to find these types of deals.

According to Forrester Research, CSEs can influence up to 50% of all online purchases. If you do decide to utilize shopping engines for the holiday season, there are a few very important tips to making the most out of your holiday advertising dollars.

First, set a budget. Have a clear game plan of which engines you plan to participate in and what budgets you want to allocate to each. Remember to watch these budgets closely on days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Also, be aware of increases in Cost per Click charges, which tend to increase in November and continue through the end of December. Understand how these increases will affect your budgets.

Due to the competitive environment of CSEs, it is essential that you play up your benefits to the searcher. Many studies have proven that the most effective offer is simply offering your customers free shipping. If you plan to do this, or if you want to offer coupon codes or other discounts, make sure that you are clear in your messaging in order to set yourself apart from your competition.

Creating a holiday promotions calendar at the beginning of every season will help you to stay organized. This calendar should include all details on the promotions, which engines and dates they will be running and when the shipping cut-off dates will be. Again, the better strategy you have now, the more you will be able to get maximum potential from the CSEs.

Another often-overlooked task is filling out all required fields within each CSE. Anyone who has run multiple shopping engines at one time can appreciate how time consuming this can be. However, by using all of the fields that each engine offers, you will create a better experience for the shopper.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don't start anything until you have coded all campaigns for tracking results. Whether you use Google Analytics or any other metric tools, this step will save you a lot of time and money. By tracking results, you can easily make decisions to increase budgets on top performing products and engines. On the flip side, you can easily identify and remove products that are not converting well and reallocate your budget elsewhere.  The data you collect over the next few months can be used to make more educated decisions next year.

If you aren't already using shopping engines, it's not too late to start. Furthermore, now is the perfect time for retailers to maximize their visibility on these sites. If nothing else, take the time to get your shopping feed uploaded to Google Base, for free traffic to your site during the busy Holiday shopping season. Make sure to follow all these tips and have the right strategy in place ahead of time. Happy shopping!

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