Five steps to help retailers plan for the holidays now

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Retailers and small businesses are already thinking about it, but realistically, you need to be scheduling your campaigns out now. Hopefully you already know what your typical response to an e-mail campaign is. If you don't, look at a retail e-mail trend report for average open, click, bounce and unsubscribe rates.

If you do know the type of traffic you get to your store or site during the holidays, you know what your product ordering and manufacturing pattern is going to look like and probably need to think about ordering soon.

There are five things to think about while you calendar your holiday season. The first is to devise your start plan. It seems like the giving season comes earlier each year so make sure you make the most of it. It's right around the corner.

Next, you should guarantee shipping. If you're an online retailer, when is the last day you'll guarantee your orders will arrive by December 24? Make sure your shipping company will guarantee it before you do.

Gift-wrap and a card is key. Will you offer this? If you do, make sure you plan your shipping accordingly and bake it into your calendar.

Then of course, customer service is important. Returns happen, are you set up for this? Prepare for this the week after the holidays when everyone is returning their "mis-targeted" gifts.

Finally, think about e-mail frequency. Plan how often you'll send your email campaigns. If it's once per week now, you may want to increase the frequency to two times per week closer to the holidays. Your last-minute shoppers will appreciate this.

Planning now for your biggest season will help you in the long run. Don't let the holidays pass you by.

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