For retailers, the holidays seem to start earlier and earlier every year, with some retailers launching campaigns before the leaves even begin to turn. While many American shoppers may feign disgust at the sight of tinsel before Thanksgiving, the truth is that one in every three Americans buy holiday gifts throughout the year (especially if something someone wants is on sale) according to our new research, “A 2018 Holiday Shopping Outlook: How and Where Consumers Will Buy During the Most Wonderful Time of Year.”
That said, holiday shopping campaign planning begins in the dog days of summer. For those ready to launch those campaigns, here are five strategies you should consider for this season and the years ahead:
1. Timing is everything
Regardless of the trends, it’s important for retail marketers to know their unique audiences, because the timing of their messages to achieve relevance is crucial. It’s not simply about the month in which they’re doing their shopping, it’s about the actual moment. Understanding and identifying shopping audiences is important but knowing when they have the chance to purchase can be the difference between a sale and an opportunity lost. This is particularly important when you consider that mobile purchases went up 28 percent last year, according to Salesforce. Over 40 percent of holiday e-commerce purchases were made on mobile phones during the 2017 holiday season. And even though the majority of holiday shopping is completed in physical stores, mobile is still a critical channel to drive those sales. Facebook reports that 51% of conversions visible to them occurred on mobile devices.
Knowing that almost half of shoppers still purchase in-store, marketers should balance their data-driven digital marketing with traditional media like television and radio. Blending advertising channels to utilise the best of what broadcast and targeted media have to offer can help brands take consumers all the way from the couch to the checkout.
2. Think about the Gifter, not just the Giftee
It’s the season for giving, but up until the big day, the receiver won’t know what they’re getting, or who from. That means your focus should be on the actual shopper, rather than the recipient. The person you really need to help out here is the person doing the buying. She likely has more than one person on her gift list, and likely has a lot more to do than just shopping. With that in mind, inspire her, persuade her, convince her, and remind her of the wonderful gifts available for purchase in your store. It’s a busy time of year, and like it or not, your brand will find it harder than ever to stay top of mind. Make it as easy as possible for busy shoppers to choose you: show them the path of least resistance – literally! – with directions to their nearest store. Make them great offers, like free shipping, or give them the opportunity to order online and pick up in store at their convenience.
3. One for you, one for me
I know I just said it’s the season for giving, but how many of us have spotted things we might like for ourselves while in a generous mood and shopping for others? Those items could get added to a wishlist for later, but how much better would it be if they just dropped straight in the basket then and there? Last year 19 percent of shoppers reportedly planned to buy gifts for themselves, while another 40 percent were thinking about it – so targeting the self-gifting shopper definitely an opportunity.
This is where the personalisation of mobile comes into its own. When it comes to gifting, there is a lot of guesswork. We don’t know who the shopper is buying for or what the recipient may have requested as a gift. However, when it comes to the shopper themselves, we can be a lot more certain about brand preferences and shopping habits. Use data to personalize shopping experiences and put favourite products in the path of the shoppers you know.
4. Little and often, or all in one go
It’s a universal truth that some people never learn that a last-minute smash-and-grab round a department store on the busiest shopping day of the year is not what makes the season jolly. Nevertheless, they’re the ones who need the most help – and the ones we’re in the best position to offer that help to. In-store, or near-store advertising could provide just the prompt they need (and are desperately looking for) to tick another gift off their list. Leverage geofencing and other location-based strategies to attract those shoppers to your holiday sales events and make it easy for them to find and purchase the items they need. 76 percent of shoppers prioritized convenience as a holiday shopping purchase driver, and 69 percent said immediacy was important to them. Particularly in those final days leading up to the holidays, it’s easy to see why these matter so much.
Meanwhile, the more well-prepared who collect gifts as they go will need a longer-term approach from us to mirror their shopping habits.
5. There is no line between online and offline
Your shopper doesn’t see the line between your physical store and your virtual store. They see shelves, racks, queues, staff, tabs and baskets (wire or digital), but the important thing is that they see your brand, so ensure their experience is consistent whether physical or digital, and whether that transaction occurs in person in-store or online. Customer experience is everything, and your customer must be delighted no matter how they choose to engage with you. Ensure your brand experiences are seamless: have the same inventory online as you have in-store, and if you have wonderful, helpful customer support in your brick-and-mortar locations, extend that to your web and mobile stores, as well. The simpler, more frictionless and more delightful you can make your shopping experiences online or in the real world, the better your odds of winning and keeping your holiday shoppers.