How to survive the 2013 holiday shopping season

It starts earlier and earlier every year. Yes, the holiday season is once again upon us. With less time between Black Friday and Christmas than there was last year and the fact that Hanukah actually starts the night before Thanksgiving (no, really!), the 2013 Holiday Season is in full swing! If you haven’t crossed your T’s and dotted the I’s on your website’s plans yet, you better put on the super speed!

Black Friday kicks things off with a vengeance. That means you still have time to get your act together. But with plenty to accomplish in a short amount of time, you certainly need to get yourself organized! Last year, we warned you about what mistakes internet retailers should avoid. This year, we’ll take a more positive approach! To help you prepare your affiliate program for this year’s holiday season, we’ve put together a helpful list of action items. Follow these tips and you’ll not only have a less chaotic Q4, but you’ll have a much happier and more productive affiliate base.


Put Together a Budget

It’s the biggest shopping time of the year, so every affiliate and their mother will be looking to push your products harder than ever. That means it’s also time to invest some funds in some paid placement. Keep in mind that affiliates usually charge way more for ad space during the holidays, and particularly on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. So figure out a budget and then look around to see how you’d like to dole out the funds for maximum exposure and ROI.


Create Gift Guides

Whether the merchant site has put one together or not, the best thing you can do is offer up content for your users. Put a variety of enticing gift guides together broken down by category, price, age, gender or interest. The more information you can include, the easier and more likely an affiliate is to share the information.


Holiday Bonus Incentives

Want to really incentivize your affiliates? Throw money at them! It’s up to you how to handle it but offer a variety of bonus incentives for the holiday season. Offer a flat cash bonus or increased revenue share next quarter if an affiliate hits a certain number of sales. Or for your top affiliates, bump up their commission percentage for the holiday season itself. Knowing they’ll make more for each sale is a great incentive this time of year.


Get Organized

Make yourself a promotional calendar for the holidays. Granted, you should be doing this all year round, but it’s crucial to do this time of year. Find out exactly what products, categories or big deals will be available on the site and when. Map it out on your calendar and be sure to give your affiliates as much advance notice as you can. Don’t wait until the last minute to alert your affiliates about a special sale, or it’s likely to be completely lost in the avalanche of Black Friday emails that threatens to squash their inbox.


Shipping Dates

Affiliates and consumers will definitely want to know any and all shipping information available. Be sure to communicate (and communicate often) any shipping prices or specials (Free Express Shipping perhaps?). Of top importance is to continually let affiliates know the last possible day to place an order for Christmas delivery.


Gift Card Policy

If you offer gift cards for your website, are they commissionable? If so, be sure to communicate that loud and clear to your affiliates! Gift cards are big business in terms of gift giving, so don’t leave money on the table. Push these on your affiliates and push hard! Be sure to put together special creative and affiliate URLs for whatever gift cards are available.


Break Out the Holiday Banners

Even if you only update your creative once per year (please don’t tell us that!), that one time is now! Put together some fun, colorful holiday creative for your affiliates to spread the cheer (and your brand) this season!


Communicate Effectively

Want to greatly increase the chance your affiliates will actually post your content? Than make sure to include it in your emails. Embedding affiliate IDs within an email is one of the best ways to achieve victory. The less work that’s needed to be done, the better the odds that an affiliate will simply copy and paste a URL. With so many different networks and affiliate IDs, this is great advice all year round, but especially crucial come end-of-the-year crunch time when affiliates are posting fast and furious.

The ultimate goal is to get your affiliates to push your program. The traffic will most certainly be there for the holiday season, so take advantage by arming your performance marketers with the right tools to get the biggest bang. Good luck and be careful out there!