This week the pumpkins came down, and the white lights went up in my Manhattan neighborhood signaling that the holidays are just around the corner. Which means that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just a credit card swipe away.

With just a few weeks to go, retailers are doing their final preparation for capturing the hearts, minds, and wallets of their customers. Here are 7 ways you can make this gift-buying season your best ever.

1. Be mobile ready.

According to The Washington Post, retailers "pulled down $91.7 billion in digital sales" during the previous holiday season. No surprise given the popularity of online shopping, but the biggest boom headed our way this season is the number of people that will be doing their gift buying on their mobile devices.

Adobe reported that half of the visits to retailer websites during last year's holiday season were through tablets and smartphones, with more than $28 billion of revenue coming from direct purchases through those devices.

Ken Wisnefski of WebiMax says that the best way to attract mobile users to your product is to get their attention on Facebook and Instagram. These sites offer the unique opportunity to target your customer base in a cost-efficient manner with awareness ads that let would-be gift buyers in on your company's best buys.

 "The time to grab the attention of the holiday shopper is now," says Wisnefski. "Competitive pricing and incredible targeting for consumers of just about any industry make Facebook and Instagram the two most important social profiles to capitalize."

2. Use the whole week.

While many online businesses put all their attention on Cyber Monday, Gabriel Kramer, the CEO of SI Certs, says he earned 24.3 percent of their company's annual revenue by turning a one-day sale into a one-week event.

"We started our sale the Monday before Cyber Monday and ended it on Cyber Monday," says Kramer. "During this time period, the mass media primes everyone into a buying mindset. We sent multiple emails advertising the sale: one two days before the sale, an email when the sale started and then emails on Wednesday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday."

3. Make your Wednesday count.

A recent study from SendinBlue revealed that the best day for an ecommerce company to send an email campaign is Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. "Brands should take that info into account when gearing up to send out those Cyber Monday deals to gain a competitive edge during the online holiday shopping season," says Armand Thiberge, the CEO of SendinBlue.

Matt Certo, CEO of Findsome & Winmore, an Orlando-based digital marketing agency, has several tips regarding marketing strategies for Black Friday. Please see below...

4. Give something away for free.

Almost all retailers offer the standard 15 percent discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but offering something for free can be more of an enticement than just a percentage off. Matt Certo, CEO of Findsome & Winmore, suggests rewarding your current customers by giving them early access, an insider reward, or something similar for free to thank them for their loyalty.

Consider a joint promotion with another (presumably complementary) store where you might leverage one another's audience. A health food store might dovetail a promotion with a fitness club, for example, or a men's clothier with a sports bar. Both companies get access to the other's audience of existing customers.

5. Incentivize impulse purchases.

We have all bought that last-minute magazine, mini mirror, or Mars candy bar at the grocery store checkout line while waiting in line to pay. These impulse items are the stock and trade of brick and mortar, and there's no reason not to offer the same when it comes to online shopping.

Daniel Mintz, Chief Data Evangelist for Looker, says that this season we will start seeing applications that give real-time discounts on online goods offered to online shoppers on demand.

"Imagine you've clicked on an item while online shopping but didn't add it to your cart," says Mintz.

"When you go to check out, your online seller pops up a notification offering you 15% off that passed-on item."

 6. Create a post-holiday re-engagement strategy.

According to a report from RJMetrics, the average ecommerce business acquires 23.8% of its new customers during the holiday season. So, turning Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers into repeat customers can have a major impact on your businesses bottom line. Judd Marcello, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing for Cheetah Digital, says that it's essential to create a strategy to engage new customers post-holidays, including:

  • Thank you for shopping with us email
  • Offer of future discounts
  • Retargeting on social media
  • Event-specific offers (i.e., Valentine's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc.)

7. Keep the true meaning of the holiday front and center.

"The brands most likely to stand out and capture consumer attention at any time of year, are those best able to create a strong connection to their target consumer through a set of shared values," says Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor at Gartner.

Remember a few years ago when REI closed their store on Black Friday and encouraged everyone to commune with nature? Counterintuitive maybe, but a strong brand move to be sure. In the end, more than anything, a shared values campaign can be especially effective around Black Friday or Cyber Monday as a counterbalance to the shop-till-you-drop mentality.