Managing Promotional Content for a Holiday Sale with Magento

Getting ready for a promotion can take up lot of a company’s time and resources. In this post I am going to introduce you to key features in Magento you’ll want to know about as you prepare your online store for the up-coming holiday season. Sales can be a great opportunity to bring new business to your company as online customers are always looking for a deal and a drop in price or the extra bonus of free shipping could be all it takes to turn a site visitor into a customer.

Here’s a checklist of 3 things to consider before your next sale

Managing Promotional Content

1. Where are you going to be displaying messages?

In Magento the best places to keep creative content for your sales is in CMS Static Blocks, Banners, and Widgets. These can be accessed by the owner of the site and typically don’t require any work by a developer to be set-up. Typically a homepage is made up of multiple CMS blocks that can be updated to reflect your stores current promotions or new products so this is the first place you should be adding promotional content. Updating your homepage would be the easiest thing to do and typically the first thing we would think of but there are other options too and this is where CMS widgets come in handy.

What is a Widget?

A widget allows you to take a CMS block and add it to various pages of your site, in a variety of different places.

  1. Page Top
  2. Navigation Bar
  3. Page Header
  4. Left Column
  5. Left Column First
  6. Right Column
  7. Main Content
  8. Mini Cart Promotion Block
  9. Page Footer
  10. Page Bottom
  11. Shopping Cart Sidebar Extra Actions

Illustration of blocks in Magento

A common promotion for online stores as seen in the Umbra site above, is to offer free shipping. A universal place to show this message is at the very top of the header, above all content and navigation. This placement works well because no matter which page your customer is on, they will have a high chance of seeing the message as they scan the page from top to bottom. Setting up a block like this is simple, just log into your Magento admin panel and follow these steps:

  1. Got to CMS (in the navigation bar) > Widgets
  2. Click on ‘Add  New Widget Instance’
  3. Select the Type of Widget (In this case CMS) and in which theme it will be applied, typically this will be the current theme you are using unless you are planning to change the theme for your sale.
  4. Click ‘Continue’
  5. Set a name for the widget and choose the Store View in which it is visible on, maybe this only applies to your Canadian store and not US. This is where you make that specification.
  6. Click the ‘Add Layout Update’ button at the bottom of the page to select which page it will display on, and where on the page its located. For the example you would choose ‘All Pages’ but you have the option of a broad selection like category or product pages, or as specific as the Shopping Cart or Customer Account Dashboard.
  7. Under the Widget Options tab in the side bar, select which static block will be used in this widget.
  8. Click ‘Save’, refresh your page and your widget will appear!

This is a simple way to get a sales message out to all of your consumers and have the ability to target when they see the message by choosing the best page and place depending on the type of content you are sharing. But what if you only want to offer this promotion to a specific group of viewers such as your registered customers. Targeting your customers and offering specific promotions, or even the same promotion but different copy or images that makes sense to them can help you achieve greater success with the promotion. This brings us to our next section about customer segments and targeted promotions.

Related: Gear Up Your Email Marketing For The Holidays

2. Are you sending the right message to the right customer?

Why use a Customer Segment? Well, earlier we found out how to create content, determine what page it can be placed on, and where on the page its located. That was the first step to get the message out but customer segments help us refine who sees is. This can help us tailor our message and offerings based on many different factors. One option for this could include changing the copy in your ad once a customer hits a specified dollar amount for free shipping and show a new message. To set this type of message up you need to use CMS Banners, Customer Segments and CMS Widgets.

CMS Banners are similar to static blocks but in addition to holding modular content, they allow us to specify a customer segment associated to it. Banners can also be associated with shopping cart price rules, and catalog price rules. In this example I will create 2 banners, 2 customer segments and link them together in one widget. Each banner and segment group will be associated with customers with less than $100 in their cart, or more.

To set up a Customer Segment follow these steps:

  1. Go to Customer (in the main navication) > Customer Segments
  2. Add Segment
  3. Choose wether the customers need to be Registered, Visitors or both
  4. Click ‘Continue’
  5. Choose the Conditions tab in the left side bar and set up the conditions for this segment – such as having $100 in the customers shopping cart

Now create 2 CMS Banners:

  1. CMS > Banner
  2. Click ‘Add Banner’
  3. Choose a name and select the appropriate customer segment which you just finished creating.
  4. The content field is just like the static block, this is where any text and images are added.
  5. If the banner is related to a catalog price or shopping cart rule this can be linked in the Related Promotions tab.

Link the Banner and Segment and add it to a Widget:

Earlier we were able to display the static block on a specified page. Now when we create a widget we will:

  1. Choose the Banner Rotator Type.
  2. Choose the page and placement using the ‘Add Layout Update’ section.
  3. Under Widget Options tab, select both of the banners you created which already have segment conditions applied to them.
  4. Once you click save they will now be working.

Related: Holiday Promotion Creep: a Self-Defeating Strategy?

3. Promoting a Future or Current Sale with Catalog Events

Catalog events give us the option of adding a countdown timer to the category or product page. This type of information can help create a sense of urgency so you customers feel like they could miss out if they don’t purchase now, or a reminder to come back when it starts.

Using a combination of both the counter and Widget using a CMS Static block is a great way to use both your creative assets as well as having a timer that is constantly updating.

  1. Catalog > Categories > Mangage Catalog Events
  2. Add a Catalog Event
  3. Choose the category it applies to and when the event starts and an image
  4. Choose whether to include a countdown timer on the category or product page
  5. Click Save and your event will be saved. If you don’t have a countdown timer set, nothing will show differently on your site just yet.
  6. A preset widget already exists so you can add it to any cms block or page by clicking ‘Insert Widget’ and selecting Catalog Event Carousel.
  7. Once you hit save a list of all catalog events, their image, and a link to the sale category will be displayed. If you have many different sales going on this is an easy way to promote and direct users to each of them.

Related: How to Improve Your Site Performance Before The Holiday Rush

Get Your Promos Prepared Pre-Holidays

Managing Promotional Content
Gearing up for a sale is a lot of work so hopefully these easy to follow steps will help you set up your store for success. All of these mini tutorials require no dev work so log in to your admin panel and start clicking around to get comfortable with adding content to your site. All of these are easy to set up and remove. Because your catalog events, customer segments and static blocks and banners are all saved you can asses your sales success and use them again with revisions to build better promotions each time. To get your eCommerce store fully prepared, download our free ebook review of the best email campaigns from Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2014:






Download Best Holiday  Email Campaigns eBook