Your Online Store: A Month-by-Month Playbook

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Prepare your online store for 2010 by following this monthly plan to make sure you get the most from your online business this year. Start off by reviewing your performance from last year and selecting your shopping cart software. Then, execute your outreach and marketing efforts, spruce up your design and sell, sell, sell for the holidays.

I’ve been hearing a lot about New Year’s resolutions lately around the office. Of course there are the typical ones like getting in better shape and spending more time with loved ones, but I’ve also heard some interesting ones, like cutting back on the chips and queso or trying a new hairstyle once a month. Mine is to spend more time in my recliner – that should be easy to keep.

While in said recliner, I was watching a college football bowl game last night and heard a commentator speak of “needing a playbook to win the title.” Interesting. Got me thinking, do online business owners have a playbook for their success? It’s time to huddle up and get one together. Take a look at our month-by-month game plan to help you sell online more efficiently throughout the year.

January – Finalize your business plan and analyze last year’s performance.

Now that the holidays are over and the flurry of activity is slowing down, take some time to reflect on how well you did last year. How were sales? When were the busy periods? What was the impact of your marketing efforts? How did your customer support do? Take those answers and hammer down your business plan to strategically make improvements piece by piece.

February – Pick your provider…for everything.

You need to get this done early in the game so you are 100% acclimated to your daily operations before the busy season arrives. Select your shopping cart software to meet all of your administrative needs and more. Figure out if you want to look at other shipping providers or credit card processors. Who is handling the design and SEO efforts of your site? Field your options and make a decision that feels right for your online business.

March – Start Spring cleaning for your website.

Now that you’re settled in, it’s time to go through your website and clean things up a bit. Consider some slight design alterations, like updating your home page and category graphics. How do your product images look? Strongly consider all of your product descriptions and how it helps you sell the product. No need for a complete overhaul here – just minor steps that will pay off in the long run.

April – Spread the word. Connect with others.

April has officially been named Social Media Month. Okay, not really, but consider it so. Ramp up your Facebook and Twitter accounts, seek professional connections and solicit references. Make agreements with others for cross-promotions. Track your results and make adjustments to help grow your presence throughout the Web for the coming months and beyond.

May – Begin your SEM efforts.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) takes time to reap returns and you want these returns to hit before the holidays. Start researching best practices early in the month and begin executing them. It may be a bit to take in at first, but you’ll thank yourself later. And don’t be afraid to turn to professionals for help – their expertise is priceless in helping customers find your online store.

June – Monitor your competition like a hawk.

What have your competitors been up to lately? You should be focusing on their strategies all the time, but the halfway point of the year is a great time to check in and reflect. Have any new competitors appeared? What new tactics are your rivals using? Once you get a clear picture, evaluate your business plan and strategize how customers can fill the proverbial shopping cart using your site above theirs.

July – Seriously revamp your site design.

It can take some time for a site redesign to take place, so it makes sense to start in the summer before the busy shopping season arrives. At a minimum, redo your home page and/or template. It’s important to keep things fresh to keep your customers interested.

August – Get started on your PPC campaigns.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a great way to bring quality traffic to your website. If you’re not currently using this effort, start now. And if you already have a campaign in place, take some time to evaluate your success and  see if any major adjustments should be made. Believe it or not, the holidays are already right around the corner.

September – Find out what works best for your customers through testing.

Do some experimenting in September. Try out a couple of different promotions and see how they are received. Does 20% off or $20 off work better? Are there more conversions when you use one product image or another? Testing allows you to see what’s most effective in increasing sales – it’s surprising the impact of only minor alterations.

October – Finalize everything for the holidays.

Take your test results and implement them into your online store. Then start getting people excited about the upcoming season. One idea is to offer an “early-bird holiday special” to entice customers to get started. At this point, it’s all systems go for the busiest selling period.

November – Sell, sell, sell.

Enough said. Your online business should be fully prepped at this point for the orders to start coming in. Be aggressive in your promotions and monitor your competition to sell as much as possible. And don’t forget Black Friday!

December – Promote. Sell. Repeat.

Keep on trucking through the sales cycle. Offer promotions to draw in last minute shoppers. There’s no time to stop now – this is what you’ve been waiting for all year!

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Hopefully this playbook will allow you to make the most of your shopping cart capabilities all year long. Just make sure that everything fits into your business plan and you are working to achieve the goals you set from the beginning. Perhaps your New Year’s goal is to better succeed online? Come December, I’ll let you know how everyone’s resolutions here turned out – from my recliner, of course.

-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate

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About 

Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

5 Responses to “Your Online Store: A Month-by-Month Playbook”

  1. Web Designer

    I like the way you use a systematic approach and repeat it over and over. I find that to be the best way to get most things done.

    Reply
  2. SEO Palm Beach

    SEO Palm Beach…

    The truth- as always- is somewhere in the middle. These tools can be very helpful for a novice user that simply wants to do some basic SEO for non competitive keywords but they are totally useless if one wants to achieve high rankings in competitive ke…

    Reply
  3. Matt

    Josh,

    Thanks for the kind words. In reality, promotions totally depend on your type of business and your customers. What exactly are you selling? I’m happy to give some ideas from there.

    One of the best promotions you can offer is free shipping. One report from eMarketer states that 46% of customers that abandon their carts do so because of high shipping rates. Thus, offering free or reduced shipping can definitely increase your conversions.

    Thanks for reading and happy selling!
    – Matt

    Reply
  4. Josh

    Thanks for the great blog post, Matt! This is great information for my business. I’m always wondering what I should be doing throughout the year to grow my business and it’s nice to have a few tips and ideas available. Do you have any suggestions about successful promos? I like your September tip about trying out different variations. – Josh

    Reply

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