The holiday shopping season is right around the corner and marketers are applying the final touches to campaign strategies. Use this checklist to determine how prepared you are.

Thanksgiving is only two months away, and you know what that means: Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be here before you know it. How’s your 2015 holiday plan coming along? Are you ready?

Whether it’s pre-season planning during late summer and early fall or making last-minute decisions to boost sales in the middle of the holiday chaos, commerce marketers must constantly be aware of key holiday dates and planning milestones.  It’s time to check your progress to see where you need to catch up and identify the next big holiday task to tackle.

What You’ve Already Checked Off of Your To-Do List

You’ve probably already done the initial planning that is best addressed in the relative calm of summer. By now, you should have:

  1. Reviewed last year’s communication plan and how well it worked.
  2. Established open, click and conversion benchmarks and goals, particularly for big dates such as Black Friday or the last day of shipping.
  3. Used those goals and your 2014 experiences to develop the 2015 communication plan, including a contingency plan to address unexpected events. About 4 percent of retailers will send an apology email during the holidays - be prepared!
  4. Collaborated with your technology team, email service provider, and other partners to discuss development schedules for the holiday season.
  5. Established a remailing strategy that keeps you on customers' minds and does not annoy them with excessive or irrelevant communications during this period of high email volume.

Checklist for This Month and Next

September is almost over and the holiday season is looming. Now it’s time to tackle these to-dos:

  1. Identify disengagement and inactivity within your subscriber population (Read more...) make moves to re-engage them.
  2. Focus on acquiring new subscribers before your messages are competing with the flurry of holiday communications.
  3. Build-out a more complete data profile of your subscribers by asking them to update their preferences, especially any data points that could increase segmentation possibilities during the holidays.
  4. Revisit your daily, weekly, and monthly performance reports to make sure they provide the key holiday numbers people will be asking for.
  5. Consider adding some festive flair to your transactional messages so order and shipping notices can work a little harder for you.
  6. Create or update an emergency contact list and protocol that includes everyone on your team, as well as any related vendors, so you can take quick action if anything goes wrong during the holiday rush.
  7. Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes and assess whether every element of your email is correct, effective, compelling, clear and mobile-friendly, from subject line to fine print.
  8. Open each holiday email from accounts you’ve established with multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to test its appearance and functionality with multiple devices, browsers and operating systems.

'Tis the Season - Already

It can be fun to create dazzling holiday content and glittery subject lines, but your most beautiful and inventive ideas will lose appeal if they don’t reach the right audience, render well on subscribers' devices, grab readers' interest within seconds, and make the value proposition pop. Likewise, you will be unable to effectively engage with consumers if your initiatives are poorly timed.

By applying some focus on the less glamorous elements of your commerce marketing program now - such as subscriber data, performance reporting, delivery and support - you will be more nimble during the height of the season.

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