Yes, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to start thinking about Christmas. However, this year things are a little different. The economy is not great, high gas prices, housing market is soft, everything related to oil costs more and the competition for every shopping dollar is fierce.

Is there anything you can do to salvage the holiday season or will you just sit behind the counter, cross your fingers and hope for the best? If you choose the former then I have good news for you. You actually do have a say in the success of your season. One answer is to be more creative in the marketing of your web site.

Change Of Habit

During the summer months high gas prices caused a change in the shopping habits of many Americans. In order to conserve fuel they began consolidating trips. Customers no longer drove from store to store looking for the best bargains. They started doing their shopping research online. They turned to the Internet to find products and businesses that produced maximum results when they did drive to their local retailers.

If gas prices move lower toward the end of the year, that may or may not, move people back to their old habits. But if they find that they like their new efficient way of shopping - you need to be ready to accommodate them.

Online Sales

If you sell products and services online, there are some things to consider that will increase your sales. First, I understand that you promote your web site in ads and anywhere else you can. However, during the holiday season, people don’t search for companies nearly as much as they search for products, both by name and model number.

In order to help customers find you, think of each page on your web site as a standalone web site. What that means is, when people search for a product, they are more likely to find a page featuring the product, than the home page of the web site that sells the product.  In order to increase sales, the smart thing to do, is to create a page for each product you offer. Now I know, for some of you who carry many products that may seem like a tall order. But it will make your products easier for your customers to find. If you simply have too many products, then take the top fifty best sellers, or products with the highest sales margin, and use those.

Make sure the title of the page has the model numbers, name and any other searchable information included. Also use “Alt” tags for any product pictures you might have on the page. Alt tags are word descriptions that show up when you pass your cursor over the picture. It’s a great place to put additional keywords that your customers will be searching for. If you are not sure what I’m talking about, show this article to your web designer and they will know what to do. Or see: for the basics of getting your site higher in search engines.

If You Are Not Selling Online Now, But Want To …

For those of you that have a web site, but are not selling online, there are some ways to get started. The major hurdle for most beginning online retailers is setting up a shopping cart to take credit card payments on their web site. There are many reputable companies that provide shopping carts for beginners. For reviews of the top ten shopping cart providers see:

Make sure your best customers know they can now buy online. If you maintain a mailing list this is the time to use it. Include an incentive of some kind so people will be encouraged to try you out before the holiday season. Most of us want to shop where we already have an established relationship.

If you offer coupons, make sure you have them on the web site so customers can print them out and bring them into you. If you get too many you can always take the page down or put short term expiration dates on them. Remember the more people you bring through the doors the better your holiday season will be.

Some Final Thoughts

Every day of the year someone needs your products or services. If you want to stay in business it’s imperative that they find you. No one is going to short Mom or Dad when it comes to their presents. Use every tool possible to get the word out to your customers and you can have a truly Merry Christmas this year.

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