When thinking about your holiday calendar and forecasting (it’s never too early!), it’s important to remember not only your key online dates, but also offline happenings. The best place to start is with the previous year’s calendar in analyzing online promotions. If you’ve been using Google Annotations to track your promotions, this should be a relatively easy analysis. If you haven’t, right now is a great time to start! It’s time to consider: Will you want to repeat all of the same promotions? Are there some that didn’t perform well so you’d like to test another? What promotions did your competitors run last year?

After you’ve considered your promotions, we’d recommend playing your own devil’s advocate and think about a contingency plan. What will you do if a certain promotion doesn’t do as well as you hoped? Is there another one you can fill in last minute? What if your competitors take a steeper discount than you? One of the easiest contingency plans is to extend a promotion an extra day. With your messaging, it is key to emphasize “last day” or “extended one day only,” etc. to create a sense of urgency with your customers.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is to consider your offline strategy and how it may affect your online performance in Q4. If you send catalogs, will you be sending the same amount this year as last year? How will the drop dates be the same or different? This is also a great way to utilize Google Annotations to better connect your omni-channel strategy. Also, consider any offline advertising/print you may be pushing in Q4 as this exposure will impact your direct traffic in a positive way.

Holiday can be a stressful time for retailers, but if you start now by laying a calendar and forecasting foundation, it will ground your program and help you anticipate any unforeseen issues.