Christmas is coming – fatten your database

25/12 trumps 24/7. Or to put it another way, seasonality is a bigger influence on your business performance than ensuring your e-commerce site is available around the clock. And right now is when marketers need to start planning for the season that can account for between 40 and 80 per cent of sales in some sectors.

Christmas decorations may not hit the High Street for another couple of months yet, although Autumn clothing is already on sale. Even so, consumers will soon start thinking about gifting (and self-rewarding).

This year could see an even more significant seasonal spike in spending as austerity starts to bite. In part this will be due to a deeper trough of non-spending during the year, with consumers holding back from many discretionary choices. By the time the nights really start to draw in, shoppers will be in the mood for some indulgence, with Christmas legitimising that instinct.

Marketers have to be ready to get their share of that spend. Even pure-play online companies will have a significant uplift in activity ahead of December (or during January if they are in the travel sector). Ask any cataloguer or charity when they get most of their sales and donations and they will point to the fourth quarter of the calendar year.

So why should you be thinking about it now, when the season itself is still five months away? For the simple reason that having the right volume of data in hand to the correct standard and quality requires several months of planning and effort. Start now and you can be in market at the right time. Fail to plan for it and you might miss out.

Digital marketers may well assume that they are exempt from this planning cycle and that the online consumer is always there to be acquired. This view is faulty, however. While consumers may be online around the clock and throughout the year, there is a big difference between casual browsing and focused shopping.

If you start now to develop your email database and build permissions, for example, then you can send targeted seasonal offers that will capture that Christmas cash. Leave it to the last minute and, as many consumers have found to their own cost, the last turkey in the shop might not be quite as fat as you had hoped.

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