6 Ways to Get Ahead of the Holiday-Season Marketing Game Now

With consumers shopping earlier and earlier for the holidays, marketers need to be prepared with content to address their needs now and throughout the holiday season. This is more important than ever, with different consumer timelines, touch points across devices and channels, and consumer expectations for personalized experiences.   

Gift Buying Starts Early  

An Ipsos and Magnetic survey revealed that more than 25 percent of gift buyers purchase their gifts a few months in advance of the holidays. Of the 79 percent of people shopping online for gifts, more than one third start looking a few months before. 17 percent search all year long. Google Trends shows us that holiday shopping kicks up right around September, and in 2015, Nielsen reported that by the end of September, 36 percent of Americans had already started their holiday gift shopping. This means that the holiday shopping season is about to kick off, and if you’re in the ecommerce game, your holiday marketing starts in 3..2..1..

Here Are 6 Ways to Plan for Holiday Marketing Now:

1. Create a campaign aligned with your brand and target audience

It may be tempting to start changing your creative to feature snowflakes and holiday lights, and e-blasting your lists with “act-now” offers, all with the goal of putting a seasonal sale in front of your audience. But take a moment to think about your audience – what they value and how they shop. For example, last year, REI took a stand against the madness that is Black Friday, and instead of running crazy deals, they encouraged consumers to #optoutside – a call to action (or non-action, depending on how you look at it) that completely aligned with their audience of adventure-seekers.

The #optoutside campaign works because it:

  • Aligns with the brand: “REI is a national outdoor retail co-op dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” – REI website 
  • Resonates with the target audience 
  • Presents the perfect content opportunity – a microsite with inspiration for adventure 
  • Encourages user generated content (UGC) organized by the hashtag #optoutside for further social reach 
  • Is shareable – people like advocating for what they believe in

2. Get your audience involved with a seasonal UGC campaign

User Generated Content (UGC) campaigns are popular with consumers because people like the chance to be featured by brands, which normally have a much larger following than the average person. Holiday UGC campaigns trigger awareness of the upcoming holidays, get people in the holiday spirit, and serve as gift-buying reminders.

3. Incorporate hashtags and CTAs in physical experiences

People will interact with your brand online and offline, and sometimes with a mix of both at the same time. One way to bring the offline experience online is to cue people to think about social sharing in the retail environment. You can incorporate hashtags into product packaging, signage, and point-of-sale (POS), where appropriate. For example, you may include a small card in the packaging of your product with instructions for how a user can join the community and post their own pictures with a specific hashtag.

To do this right, you should:

  • Be mindful of the context 
  • Make sure you don’t have an ask that’s a nuisance or requires extra effort without a payoff 
  • Integrate with what the consumer is already doing, or provide added value to justify the effort 
  • Create mutually beneficial experiences for both the consumer and the brand  
In Urban Outfitters dressing rooms, customers are prompted to share photos to social media with the hashtag #UOONU (Urban Outfitters On You). This creates authentic brand content, provides social proof, increases social reach, and is also used for marketing on their website.

With the right planning, you can use these opportunities to get more traction for your holiday campaign and increase reach with the help of your community.

4. Make way for mobile users

Results of a study recently released by Facebook IQ show that the share of mobile purchases made during the holiday shopping season increased 33 percent between 2014 and 2015. In addition, mobile commerce accounted for 30 percent of all U.S. ecommerce sales in 2015. 
Get ready for mobile consumers by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is it like to purchase, from landing on the website, to finding the right product, making a decision, adding to cart, and completing a transaction? 
  • Are emails mobile-friendly and leading to mobile-friendly landing pages?  
  • Does social content look good on mobile devices?  
  • Does social media content lead to mobile-friendly experiences?

5. Prepare to fight against Amazon 

It’s almost inevitable your ecommerce business will compete with Amazon in some aspect, whether it’s directly or with substitute products. Here are a few things you can do to be ready: 
  • You have the best data on your customers – use this data to provide tailored experiences that show you understand their needs and preferences 
  • Have product reviews (with enough of them to show people actually buy from you) – people use these as social proof and to help them make decisions 
  • Make the buying experience as easy as possible – eliminate any potential points of friction on the path to purchase, because whenever you make it difficult for people you create an incentive for them to go to Amazon

6. Plan for customer service 

A surge in shopping activity and an increased sense of urgency from customers will likely mean more customer service inquiries. Instead of waiting until customers come to you with problems, anticipate potential issues and have a strategy for addressing them.  
This can be as simple as preparing your social media community manager with answers to common questions related to your holiday promotions and popular products, or setting up thinks like instant responses in Facebook (read more about customer service on social media in our previous blog post). The key is planning ahead so you can collaborate with any necessary parties (i.e., product team, social team) to get answers ahead of time, before the holiday rush strikes and it’s harder to get a hold of people. For example, by giving their customer service team the autonomy to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, an example of Zulily’s customer service went viral on social media after the purchaser took to Facebook to share her story.

So, if your brand doesn’t have its holiday 2016 marketing plan in place yet – digital is a great place to start, especially if you keep these things in mind. Have any other ideas to add? Leave them in a comment below.

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