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Peak Preparedness Calendar

Is your brand ready for peak? The “peak” period, falling between Black Friday and Christmas, is the busiest time of the year for most retailers. It is therefore the most important time to ensure that your site stands out, both in terms of search result and user experience. Peak is also seeing rapid digital growth as people start their seasonal shopping earlier, and more people shift to online shopping.

Explore how to optimise your approach with Merkle’s Peak Preparedness Calendar, which will guide you through the key considerations for each month of the year, to ensure that your brand is in the best position possible. Don’t leave it too late and start working on the foundations for success today.

January - Reflecting

January is a period of reflection as well as goal setting. Understanding your customers is integral to your success, so identify what has worked well in the past and what you want to adapt and change for the future. It’s important to review your first party data as well as analyse market trends to identify missed opportunities when you are planning for the next peak season.

  • Align your business on the KPIs that you are driving towards and ensure that all areas of the business are collaborating to reduce siloed working.

  • Review your data trends from previous years.

  • Research and map the predictions for the forthcoming year.

  • Establish where your competitors are and what they are doing.

February - Technical

Providing an optimised on-site user experience relies not only on content and UI, but also on ensuring a smooth journey from a technical standpoint, such as site speed and navigation. Identifying and resolving technical issues earlier in the year can help to avoid unnecessary friction in user journeys during peak.

  • Identify on-site technical pain points that may damage user journeys.

  • Use pain points to prioritise long-term and quick-win technical fixes.

  • Create a roadmap to resolve priority technical issues ahead of peak.

  • Related: The Road to Mobile-First: Our Technical SEO Guide

March - Competition

We are in the age of the customer expectation economy, so you need to look beyond your competitors and identify what it is that your customers expect to experience with your brand. Start with the customer to identify their wants and needs and then ladder up to research on your competitors and future innovations. Make sure you are predicting experience trends and weaving this into your roadmap.

  • Action technical fixes across your website.

  • Define your customer and their needs and desires through customer research.

  • Create a competitor strategy to position where your competitors are and where you need to be.

April - Golden Journey

You need to identify who your customer is, where they are browsing, and purchasing. You need to map their journey, identify their needs and desires, as well as pain points across their experience (across all channels). This is when you can identify opportunities and ensure that your brand experience becomes ‘sticky’.

  • Create a customer interaction map to understand how your customer is interacting with your real estate.

  • Map your customers pain points and areas of friction to establish the ‘jobs’ that need to be fixed to ensure the customer journey is frictionless.

  • Related: The value of adding friction to the frictionless experience

May - Onsite Experience

So, we have identified what your customers’ golden journey is, and now it is time to optimise it to ensure there is no friction to purchasing. By reviewing your first party data to understand your pain points, you can layer the UX heuristic data to identify best practise and design an optimised experience. Whether this is on-site search, landing page optimisation, or checkout redesign. These can be small tweaks as well as structural redesign. Just make sure you are putting the customer at the heart of all changes.

  • Now you have mapped the journey, review the pain points to identify opportunities to the experience to reduce friction.

  • Work with UX specialists to weave in best practise and heuristic data to your first party data to ensure you are future proofing your experience.

  • Look at the trend data and map this into a roadmap of improvements.

June - In-store Experience

As consumers start to return to brick-and-mortar stores, it is key to bridge in-store and online experiences. Improving a brand’s local presence, and matching the desire for unique, personalised, and memorable experiences both in physical stores and online can help to grow brand affinity and create seamless customer journeys.

  • Bridge the in-store and online experience by improving local presence.

  • Enhance local landing pages on-site for seamless experiences.

  • Optimise business listings to help your brand stand out on the SERP.

  • Related:  The Future of Physical Stores

July – Spring-Clean of Seasonal Content

July means it’s time for a spring (or summer) clean of your seasonal pages. Seasonal content is a fantastic way to attract new visitors to your site, generate valuable backlinks, and encourage social media shares. July is the perfect time to start thinking about the value of your existing content (such as gift guides, category landing pages, and product category pages).

Many brands make the common content mistake of publishing brand-new seasonal pages every year, and keeping older pages that might compete for valuable seasonal terms. Uplifting and pivoting older content towards alternative keywords, or removing irrelevant content with little search traffic value will allow you to make sure you have unique, authoritative pages that stand a fighting chance against your digital competitors for crucial Black Friday, Christmas, and New Years Sales keywords.

  • Explore the existing content on your site and identify content that competes with other pages for the same keywords.

  • Use SEO data to identify most valuable content to uplift and older, irrelevant content to retire.

August – Improving the UX of Seasonal Content

Now that you’ve selected a handful of seasonal pages that you believe will be most impactful for generating peak traffic year after year, it’s time to think about maximising user engagement on these pages as part of your content strategy ahead of the peak buying period.

Conduct competitor analysis as well as user behavioural analysis from your own sites (looking at journey paths and internal site searches) to determine what type of content will best meet users’ needs across peak shopping season. Incorporating elements of personalisation with gift guides and quizzes will provide a tailored and memorable experience that will encourage new users to keep returning for more after the busiest period for ecommerce is finished for another year.

  • Use competitor research to determine the areas of opportunity for seasonal content: what are other brands doing that stands out that you may want to emulate?

  • Analyse how your existing seasonal content is performing and use this data to inform the creation of content strategies to maximise user acquisition and engagement.

  • Capture the growing interest in personalised and interactive user journeys by creating seasonal gift guides, blogs, and quizzes.

 

September – Trends

With peak just around the corner, this is the time to ensure that you are on top of trends with your target audience. Leaning on predictions from earlier in the year and conducting analysis can help determine the kind of content that users are keen to engage with during peak. In addition to search trends or on-site behaviour, exploring trends across social platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube can help to establish a seasonal social presence and grow brand awareness ahead of peak.

  • Use January predictions and trends from throughout the year to understand what content users may want to access during peak.  

  • Lean on trends on social platforms such Instagram, TikTok and YouTube to grow brand awareness and audience reach.

  • Establish and grow your social presence by creating new content to capture audience interest.

October – Journey Optimisation

It’s now the countdown to peak season and it is important that you are finishing off tweaking your experience to cope with the seasonal traffic that you have been planning for. It’s integral to your success to do the final health checks, remove any pain points and resolve any issues before it is too late.

  • Complete final health checks on the site and ensure that are no blockers to conversion.

  • Test, test, test again.

  • Make sure you have stressed tested your website for suspected traffic levels to ensure the site won’t be affected at peak.

  • Identify any outstanding technical issues that can be quickly resolved.

November – Reporting and Adapting

Peak is upon you. The hard work and planning should have been completed so you have a clear strategy to follow. November is about following your plan, responding to market trends, and optimising tactics based on internal performance metrics. Assessing your competitors is paramount – what date range is their sale period, what have they done differently, what is their pricing strategy? Don’t be afraid to adapt your strategy, but do make sure all teams are bought into the changes and following suit. Peak is about the company as a whole coming together, hitting targets, and celebrating success during a busy time where very busy time.

  • Provide daily and weekly reporting, insights and actions.

  • Collaborate as one business, with a central planning team coordinating business tactics and changes.

  • Assess competitor and market trends daily.

  • Don’t be afraid to change tact, but make sure there is a clear strategy and metrics to justify it.

  • Data, Data, Data!

  • Celebrate daily and weekly successes. Team morale is key.

December – What’s Next?

The heart of peak still beats with vigour. The focus should still be on assessing and responding to daily metrics, market trends, and insights. You will have a good sense of how peak is tracking but there are still opportunities to improve upon your KPIs.

Now is the time to start executing your gifting concepts and strategy with Christmas around the corner. It is also the time to really think about your strategy for January sale and whether the post peak plan needs tweaking based on the Q4 performance thus far.

Questions to ask yourself:

Will you have a surplus of excess stock in certain categories?

Can you tap into your sales driving toolkit to utilise promotional or innovative tactics to drive your key KPIs?

What can you do to drive sales with the least impact to margin?

December is about ending the year on a high and being ready to consolidate your strategy as the new year starts. 

  • Look for marginal gains and optimisations to keep you on track.

  • Review and execute upon your gifting strategy.

  • Assess and respond to stock overages and shortages.

  • Consolidate your strategy for the new year.

  • Continue to assess competitor and market trends daily.

  • Celebrate achievements from the past year.

Want to discuss how Merkle can support you when preparing for peak period?

Contact us
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