With Christmas just behind us, retail marketers have little time to catch their breath to plan for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, which are just around the corner.

The two events fall unusually close together in this year’s calendar – just over two weeks apart – so retailers would be wise to consider them as one extended gift-buying peak, and plan accordingly.

Due to the current economic environment, shoppers will be more considered in their purchasing this year, and for many the internet will be their starting point. The retailers who make the most of this early spring peak will be the ones found extensively through search and on content sites, by consumers who are researching gift ideas, comparing products and prices, or making their final purchase.

At a time when overall marketing budgets are likely to come down, the transparency and accountability of search engine marketing and contextual targeting is appealing, as they allow marketers to track how much it costs to acquire new customers and drive profitable sales, while dynamically managing their budgets in line with demand.

We know that the best selling products throughout the season will be cards and flowers, chocolates, gift baskets, health and beauty products and jewellery, so retailers selling these products need to be sure they have exhaustive keyword coverage across these areas, and that they’re exploiting any relevant niche offerings they might have. They should prioritise and tailor ads to their best sellers, and try to capture consumers in extended brand territory with keywords like ‘luxury gifts’.

Timely delivery is a vital part of the e-commerce experience that retailers need to get right. Unlike Christmas, where delivery can happen days in advance, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day gifts often go direct to the recipient and need to arrive at the precise delivery times promised by the retailer. If a retailer offers free delivery or flexible options, these may be worth mentioning in ad text. Next day delivery can be an especially compelling selling point for last minute shoppers – namely all those forgetful boyfriends, husbands and sons. The easier retailers can make the experience for consumers, the more attractive their proposition will be.

With all those cards to send and flowers to buy, the opportunity for Valentine’s and Mother’s Day is clearly enormous – and the retailers best positioned to exploit it will maintain strong keyword covering across their whole range of products. Experience gifts, e-cards, cuddly toys and lingerie will all be in demand – though perhaps the latter won’t be so popular at Mother’s Day.

The best advice of all, though, is to maintain budgets closely, trial different text ads, and target different geographies and different times of day to see what really works best for your specific proposition. Search and contextual targeting is not a hands-off solution; it’s a dynamic and fast-moving medium, and managing it well can make the difference to how happy a retailer’s Valentine’s or Mother’s Day will be.

Article By Peter Fitzgerald
Peter Fitzgerald is Industry Leader, Retail, at Google