The holiday season is the busiest spending time for most consumers, which means that your business needs to be ready. This is especially true if you operate a B2C or an e-commerce site.
B2B’s should also not exclude themselves from this equation as there are plenty of opportunities for B2B brands to also get ahead at this time of year.
In order to get ready for the holiday period, it is most helpful to look at the trends that were present last year in 2015, to see what you need to pay attention to and where you need to focus your energy.
One of the biggest trends to emerge in the last few years is the rise of online shopping. In 2015 alone, more people shopped online than in stores during the holiday period, which was measured from the 24th of November to the 25th of December.
Here are some more key statistics that were recorded during the holiday period back in 2015-
- An estimated 79 percent of people browsed online for gifts
- 30 percent of people made majority of their holiday purchases online
- 50 percent of people who were shopping online spent more than five hours browsing stores to find the perfect gift
If you run an e-commerce site, that last finding should be enough to make your mouth water. Those who are resorting to online shopping at this time of year are spending a huge amount of time searching the web for that perfect gift.
This means that it is crucial that your brand is out there in full force, marketing and promoting your products at the busiest time of year.
Considering it is already December and consumers are already out there doing their shopping, it is time to start finessing and reviewing your holiday strategies.
Here are some of the top strategies we recommend for this holiday period for any business big or small-
What 2015 Taught Us When It Comes to Holiday Spending
If your brand is not online, you are missing out on huge potential. If your brand does not have a mobile friendly site, you are also going to be missing out on huge potential.
According to comScore, total online shopping in 2015 increased by 13 percent and online shopping on mobile devices increased by 59 percent.
Furthermore, when it comes to millennials, who are very quickly turning into the biggest consumers out there, having your products promoted across different mediums is extremely important.
Another survey found that 56 percent of millennials used multiple devices to make holiday purchasing decisions and around 30 percent of millennials purchased holiday gifts using their smartphone or tablet.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you already, another survey found that sending out an email to your subscribers had the same effect as running a TV ad.
Another important factor when going digital is reviews. Even though a customer maybe in a brick and mortar store looking to buy your product, most of them will look online to check reviews of your product.
In fact, 90 percent of shoppers find reviews to be the number one selling point when it comes to whether or not they are going to complete their purchase.
These statistics from 2015 show us that having a strong digital presence is paramount, so if your brand is still living in the dark ages, this holiday season is going to be the perfect opportunity to make your debut online.
For those brands that already have an online presence, it is important that you build this presence, not just around holiday season but also throughout the year.
The more online presence you can build, the more reputable and trustworthy your brand will become, which over time will lead to more and more customers.
Start Your Holiday Marketing Earlier
Every year, consumers are feeling the pressure to get on top of their Christmas shopping sooner rather than later. This is largely due to the presence of online shopping which makes it easier for consumers to access shopping at any time of day.
The survey group, Nielsen found that in the United States, 36 percent of people had started their holiday shopping as early as September.
Another survey also found that 25 percent of online shoppers start looking for gifts two to three months before Christmas day and another 17 percent search for gifts all year long.
When it comes to online shopping, things do start to die down by mid December, and this could be due to the fact that consumers get nervous about relying on their shipping to be on time.
For these last minute shoppers, gift cards seem to be the popular favourite and it was found in 2015 that 72 percent more searches for gift cards take place the week before Christmas day.
Offering a gift card is a great way for your business to take advantage of customers that either leave it to the last minute or just don’t have time for holiday shopping.
The beauty with gift cards is that you can also have them download the card right on the spot, which means that both you and the customer save when it comes to shipping.
The holiday period can bring up a lot of anxiety for people, especially when it comes to money and spending. More and more shoppers are also looking for promotions and coupon codes, and competition is also stiff during this time of year.
In 2015, it was recorded that the most common way for people to learn about a promotional price was through-
- Email (70 percent)
- General online search (64 percent)
- Online ad (56 percent)
- Social networks (38 percent)
The same survey also found that searching for coupon codes rose 1.5 times during the holiday period as well.
Offering a promotional deal is a great way to attract customers to your online store, but don’t make it difficult for them by creating hard to find coupon codes. In fact, many consumers abandon carts or forget all about them while browsing the web for a coupon code.
To counteract this, consider having all the discounts and promotions on your site completely transparent, as this can help to avoid cart abandonment with people looking for a better deal.
Ads that retarget consumers were also shown to perform exceptionally well during the holiday period. In fact, in 2015 it was found that retargeted ads resulted in an average 72 percent higher view rates during the season.
Retargeting your customers during this time of year is a great way to keep them moving down your sales funnel and is also a great way to remind them of your brand.
While retargeting ad campaigns have their merit any time of year, in the holiday period they are typically the best approach when it comes to advertising online.
Holiday Trends Expected for 2016
Even though the past can teach us a lot when it comes to effective marketing techniques, you also have to look forward into the future as well.
2016 has been a fairly consistent year when it comes to online shopping trends, but here are a few ways that you can maximise your performance –
During the holiday season people want smooth, effortless transactions, this means that your website needs to be purring like a kitten.
Your checkout process needs to be simple and fast and your customers should be able to find exactly what they are looking for with just a click of a button. You should also ensure that you offer reviews, product demonstrations and even user generated content.
Web optimisation could be a whole new article on its own, so to keep it simple, here is an easy checklist you can use –
- Make sure your site is loading fast- 57 percent of consumers will abandon a website that does not load in 3 seconds
- Ensure your mobile version is optimised and offers online purchasing options
- Make sure your checkout process is easy and straightforward, aim for as fewer steps as possible
- Generate trust by offering reviews or user generated content such as pictures of your customers using your product
- Make sure that your website is laid out cleanly and simply and offers access to all of the most important features of your company
- Use heat maps to determine the highest activity on your page and then place your best offer in that spot
- Don’t clutter your website with unnecessary information
- Use the holiday shopping period to your advantage- collect emails and grow your list!
If you run an e-commerce store this is going to be the most important component to your holiday success. If you get a million dollars in sales but can ship out orders in time for Christmas, chances are you are going to have very angry customers who are likely to never forgive you.
If you are expecting a greater demand in sales in the coming weeks, beef up your shipping team and make sure your ship out orders within 24 hours of processing them. This will ensure that you don’t have a backlog and that your orders will arrive on time.
It is also imperative that you list on your website the cut off date for shipping by the 25th of December. The last thing you want to be dealing with on Christmas Eve is calls from angry customers who thought their order was going to arrive on time.
Jarrett Streebin, the CEO of the shipping company, Easy Post offers this advice-
“If you work with the smallest boxes possible, you can save an enormous amount on shipping. Also, make sure orders go out within an hour of being placed and staff up if you need to. The quicker you get orders shipped out, the less backlog you will have. And make sure to send out tracking numbers so customers know how soon they will get their packages.”
Segment Your Customers
Even though the holidays are about bringing everyone together, in marketing land the holidays are about segmenting.
Not all customers have the same needs and the same desires, which means that you are going to have far more success if you segment your customers and tailor to a few of their individual and unique needs.
Businesses that segment their customers also generally see higher profit margins, so it is definitely worth your time to think about segmenting your audience.
If you have been following the behaviour patterns of your audience all year long, it will be easy to know how to segment them. But if you have no clue on where to begin, consider segmenting your audience in the following ways-
- Age/Gender/Location etc.
- Based on their likeliness to buy (ready to buy vs. still needs more convincing)
- Where you acquired your customers (social media vs. highly targeted landing page)
- Lifetime value (reward loyal customers vs. rewarding new customers)
Jerry Jao, the CEO of the retention marketing firm, Retention Science had this advice to offer when it comes to segmenting-
“Segment your customers carefully by lifetime value. It is the brand loyal repeat purchases who should get special treatment. Whether it is a special loyalty campaign or an extra thank you offer for the holidays, any investment you make into your high-lifetime-value customers will bring you higher returns.”
Segmenting your customers also allows you to split test and send a specific and more targeted message, which will definitely help you to boost sales this holiday season.
Native advertising has been on the rise in 2016 and the holiday season may be the best time to capitalise on this growing trend.
If you haven’t experimented with Native Advertising just yet, you may want to consider dipping your toes in the experience. While you definitely don’t want to abandon your other practices that have worked for you throughout the year, you may just be surprised what native advertising can o for you.
According to CEO of Brand Networks, Jamie Tedford native advertising is set to be one of the biggest new trends this holiday season-
“We have seen a lot of innovation across each native platform..and the rollout of the new features and capabilities specifically for marketers. Now, these sites are more than just a place to share interesting content- they are a chance to convert and transact with customers directly on the platform in more relevant native formats.”
Many large sites from Buzzfeed to CNN have native advertising on their sites, which means that your ads have the opportunity to be seen by millions in a setting that it is more “native” to the consumer.
Create a Personalised Campaign
If you have been online at any point during the holiday season, you may have seen the “Elf Yourself” campaign, which allowed you to put your face on a series of dancing and singing elves. This campaign drew in 193 million visits and its expected to also be a smash hit this year.
Surprisingly, the Elf Yourself campaign was started by none other than an office supply company in the US called Office Max.
Even though this campaign has nothing to do with office supplies, it was able to indirectly boost sales and get the office supply chain on the map.
Creating a catchy and personalised ad campaign like this can help to draw a huge wave of customers to your site, and depending on how you implement your campaign, the effects could last year after year like the Elf Yourself campaign is appearing to do.
Get Your Staff Involved in Marketing Campaigns
When you get your staff involved in your marketing campaigns it can help to dramatically boost results. This doesn’t just include social media but also in other forms of advertising as well.
Everyone remembers those famous Bunnings Warehouse ads that used real staff members in their advertising campaign. Those ads were a huge success for the company and helped to boost engagement.
Using real staff members also helps to make your brand more personable and can peak your audience’s curiosity in a new way.
Find creative ways to use your employees in your holiday marketing campaigns and see what effect it can have on your business.
Hit Key Holiday Emotions
There are certain emotions during the holiday season that are going to appeal to buyers more than most. Holiday shopping is not purely rational, rather there is a huge emotional component to it that your marketing strategies can definitely tap into.
Emotions that do particularly well around holiday time include feelings that evoke togetherness, friendship, being with family, good will, giving back and being kind.
You can also go that extra step further and create campaign specific hashtags or slogans that help to drive home your emotionally driven message.
Nostalgia is also a great feeling to tap into when it comes to holiday marketing as the holiday period often stirs up a lot of fond childhood memories for people.
On the flip side you could also take a more humorous tone and appeal to audience members who may be dreaded the holiday period and spending time with certain family members.
Think about what is going to resonate the best with your audience and then see what manifests from there.
Make Your Content Shareable
If you want your holiday campaign to go viral, you need to make it shareable. This means that sharing your content needs to be easy and painless for your audience.
Making your content shareable has big benefits any time of year, but when consumers are actively looking to spend money, the holiday period is the perfect time to really hone in all of those tips and tricks you have collected throughout the year to get your content shared.
If you are wondering what goes into making a post shareable, you can read more here.
Statistics show that 74 percent of consumers rely on word of mouth marketing as the top influencer of their purchasing decisions, so having shareable content that people talk about is definitely going to help to drive sales.
The holidays are a great time of year to ramp up sales and surpass those sales goals. By creating a solid marketing strategy for the holiday period, you can help to push spend-hungry customers straight down your sales funnel.
During the holiday period, consumers are in the mood to spend, so use this to your advantage and bring out all of the tried and true strategies that have supported you throughout the year.
No matter whether you are online, run locally or catering to businesses, your brand has a chance to really stand out from the crowd this year and make the holiday season of 2016 one of the best so far.
By following the tools and tips used in this article, your brand will be well on the way to making a serious dent in your sales goals for 2016 and beyond.
Here is a summary of the main points in the article-
- Web and Mobile Optimisation: Ensure that both your website and mobile site is running like a well oiled machine. Ensure that load times are fast and that checkout is easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile versions.
- Offer Holiday Promotions: offer special holiday promotions that make your audience feel like they are getting a great deal. Cater to your existing customers as well.
- Get on top of Shipping: do everything you can to get those packages out on time!
- Advertise: drive advertising campaigns on social media, create PPC campaigns, use Native Advertising and create a strong retargeting campaign
- Get Staff Involved: find creative ways to get your staff involved in your marketing campaigns, such as on social media
- Target Holiday Emotions: make sure your holiday campaigns appeal to emotions rather than logic- play on “holiday friendly” emotions that will inspire people to buy
- Make Your Content Shareable: if you want your brand to stand out from the crowd, you have to make your content shareable and get your audience excited to spread your content to their friends and family
The holiday period can be a busy time of year, but as things start to quieten down, use that time to start strategising for the year ahead so you can be on top of your game for 2017.