Holiday marketing tips from a holiday shopper
How can you stand out from your competitors during what is predicted to be a record-breaking holiday shopping season? Columnist Amy Bishop shares some advice for retailers.
I’m not sure which I like more: shopping or digital marketing. For people like me, the holidays make for a pretty great time to be a marketer! This holiday season is an especially exciting time to be in digital marketing, as Adobe has predicted that holiday e-commerce revenues will reach a record-breaking $100.7 billion by year’s end.
So the question becomes, how can you get in on the action? Here are some ideas.
Reconsider who you are targeting
For 11 months out of the year, you’re zeroed in on your key demographics. You know your prospects, and you’re speaking their language. But when the holiday season rolls around, you need to be able to simultaneously tap into your market while also including those people that are most likely to buy gifts for said prospects.
Why does this matter?
During the holiday season, you have to think about the differences in the way your target market shops and perceives value, and the way that those gifting to them shop and perceive value. It’s about positioning your brands and your products correctly to both new and old prospects. You’ll have carefully consider how to remove obstacles from the buying process, as gift-givers may be less likely to jump through hoops if they don’t really see the value.
You’ll also need to consider where gift-givers gather their information to make purchase decisions. No doubt, some buyers are fulfilling wish lists — but plenty of others are looking for ideas on their own (or with a little help from their friends).
- Your target customer is still important. After all, many of us do a little holiday shopping for ourselves amidst our gift giving. And, more importantly, you want your prospects to ask for your products by name.
- Your prospects’ families and friends are key targets, too, as they are in buying mode for your targets.
- The interests of your prospects’ friends and family are different, so different value propositions are warranted. While your target customer is most interested in your brand and products, those people giving gifts are much more likely to care about their own experience with the brand — which means less emphasis on the product itself and more emphasis on perceived value, shipping options, and overall accessibility.
- The information-gathering process is different for these new prospects. Social strategies and review strategies are valuable techniques to drive gift-giving decisions.
Know that your in-store customers are browsing as they shop
A 2016 study found that more than half of shoppers engage in “showrooming,” which the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) broadly defines as as “in-store mobile price comparison activity.”
I’ll be the first to say that I do this, too, especially on Black Friday. I enjoy going Black Friday shopping, but I don’t love the lines — so, when I find something I like but the line is long, I’m quick to see if I can find it online for the same price.
The reality is that this is a common practice for consumers. They’re educated on their buying options and are researching to ensure that they’re getting the best option at the best price.
For example, in my scenario, I really just didn’t want to stand in a line that wove throughout the entire store. So, if I could quickly and easily find the item online at the same store for the same price, I went for it. If that wasn’t the case, I did a quick search elsewhere for alternatives. (Hat tip to stores like Sephora and Amazon that allow you to scan pictures and barcodes in the app!)
It doesn’t always have to come down to price, though. It’s all about the perception of value, and there are a lot of factors that influence the value, including discount strategies, ease of purchase, availability, and brand among others. As people move online, reviews also become more and more important because they are more easily obtainable online than in-store. Including reviews on your own site can help deter people from visiting other sites to get the information they are looking for.
Why does this matter?
When people start browsing online, you risk losing them to other stores. Making the online shopping experience as seamless as possible helps you to retain the sale. This means not only being competitive but also providing a consistent experience in-store and online.
- Maintain consistency between online and in-store shopping experiences.
- Consider which path is more valuable: in-store or online and consider incentivizing that purchase path.
- Ensure that the in-app and online experience make it as easy, if not easier, to purchase compared to in-store with as few obstacles as possible.
- Know that online reviews are important and can impact sales.
Consider whether a discount strategy is right for you
You may give discounts, or you may not. Whether you decide to give discounts or not is a big decision. Some brands never offer discounts, and others thrive on them. There are several different discount strategies, though, so it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Price is a factor in holiday shopping but value is even more important. People like to feel like they are getting their money’s worth, whether that means that a cheap item is a great bargain or a luxury item is worth the money. Value isn’t a price point.
If you are considering a discount strategy, here are a few that you might consider:
- Event-based. This is a temporary discount based on an event. This could be your Black Friday sale, your Cyber Monday sale, or a longer holiday sale. This type of sale is obviously very common throughout the holiday season.
- Action-based. This is a discount based on an action that was taken (e.g., cart abandonment). There are different ways that this can be used, but be careful not to go overboard or you may accidentally incentivize bad behavior. I don’t suggest using action-based incentives long-term but rather periodically.
- Loyalty incentives. This is a discount based on loyalty actions — for example, past purchases, email subscriptions, and most valuable customers.
- Invite-only. This is a hybrid of loyalty and event-based discounts, which gives your loyalists access to a private sales event. Kate Spade does a great job of this with their surprise sales. There’s a sense of exclusivity and urgency since they tend to only last for a few days.
These are just a few of the strategies, there are plenty more. There’s much more that goes into determining how much to discount and which products to discount, but I won’t get into that.
Another consideration, though, is how those discount strategies manifest in-store versus online. As a shopper, I don’t love carrying around paper coupons, but I will if I absolutely have to. I much prefer loading coupons into apps or saving them on my phone. It makes for a much better experience — both for me and for the people waiting behind me in line.
Why does this matter?
Discount strategies are a big decision — one that should be an extension of your brand and that can make a big impact on your sales. If you opt not to do a discount strategy, positioning the value becomes more important. If you don’t want to discount everything or aren’t where to start, there are other discount strategies to help drive sales that may be a better fit for your brand and/or goals.
- Some people are making buying decisions purely on price, but others are focused on value. In short, discount strategies aren’t for everyone.
- In lieu of a broad-scope discount strategy, there’s opportunity to incentivize loyalists or certain actions.
- Making it easy to partake in available discounts, in-store and online, provides a better experience.
The online experience
We talk about conversion rate optimization (CRO) year-round because it’s supremely important. CRO has the ability to impact all avenues of digital performance. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Holiday Retail Survey, summarized here, consumers plan to spend the majority of their holiday budget online for the first time ever. With the volume of consumers going online in a purchasing mindset, it’s more important than ever to provide a seamless, well executed digital experience.
It’s probably a little late to try to redesign your site, app or landing pages, but it’s worthy of future consideration. And it isn’t too late to make small adjustments that can lead to big improvements.
Conversion rate optimization is worth a whole post in itself, so I won’t completely belabor the point, but some questions you might ask yourself include:
- How easy is it to navigate and filter for products of interest?
- What’s the checkout process like? How many steps?
- Do we accept several payment options?
- How easy is it to pay for your items on mobile?
- Does the mobile experience require the loading of several pages and a significant amount of typing?
- Can gift cards be emailed for simplified gift giving?
Here’s an example: I was browsing on ToysRUs.com while we wandered the store. I was looking for a plastic playhouse, which was certainly not going to fit in an already full car. Lo and behold, I found it online with free shipping and — the real kicker — Toys “R” Us accepts Apple Pay. No trying to hold my card and type in the number while wandering around the store, I just had to quickly enter my pin and the rest took care of itself.
I’m not alone in looking for Apple Pay as an option; the Deloitte survey I mentioned earlier indicated that 22% of people intend to use some form of mobile payment in-store or online.
Why does this matter?
With purchase habits trending upward in the holiday season, you’ll want to make sure that you capitalize on web site traffic while consumers are in the buying state of mind. If you receive traffic from gift-givers that don’t normally shop at your store, they may not be familiar with your products, and it’s especially important to keep it simple for new visitors that aren’t loyal to your brand.
- Consumers plan to spend most of their holiday budget online.
- It’s not too late to test tactics that make it easier for customers to shop online.
- Estimate that 10% of sales will likely occur on mobile and 5% on tablet — in other words, make it easy to shop on a device.
- Know that people are increasingly expecting to use their mobile wallets as a form of payment.
Stand out in the crowd
There’s a lot of competition for holiday sales, so even after you break through the noise, you’ve got to stand out in the crowd. That’s a pretty daunting task!
So ask yourself, what added benefits do customers receive if they shop through you? One that I notice a lot of stores taking advantage of are loyalty perks. Spend $x, and receive $x to spend later. Or, reach a certain number of points to redeem for future rewards. As a shopper, I love this because I like to get things for free. As a marketer, I love this because it’s a great way to:
- Obtain more data on your customers and their preferences by tracking their purchases.
- Pull people back to your store or site when it’s time to redeem their rewards.
Beyond discount strategies and additional perks, one of the best ways to lower the barriers to online shopping are to focus on the most common areas of resistance: shipping and returns. It’s downright annoying to pay $7.95 for shipping and wonder when your order will arrive, especially when it is a gift. The only thing more annoying is paying another $7.95 to return it because it doesn’t fit.
Because of logistics, consumers take on some level of risk when they shop online: risk that it won’t arrive on time, risk that it won’t fit, risk that they may have to pay to return it, risk that they’ll have to take time out of their busy schedules to ship it back. Ever wondered why Amazon is so successful? (In case you hadn’t heard, Amazon dominated Black Friday with a whopping 27% of online sales.)
Plus, shipping doesn’t always have to have a negative connotation — for many, it is a valuable tool. For those that are purchasing larger items or that prefer the store deliver direct to the recipient, shipping can be a value-add. It’s all about understanding what the customer wants. As merchants, our job is to eliminate as much of that risk as possible to make the decision to purchase that much easier.
Why does it matter?
Of all the noise, you have to be more compelling than ever. The value propositions that you usually use may not work for various reasons (as noted in the first section of this post). But if you can develop some additional value propositions, you can sway consumers to purchase from you.
As mentioned previously, you don’t have to compete on price — you just have to know how to facilitate and simplify the purchase decision, which has a lot to do with the purchase process and the perception of value.
- Loyalty programs can be a great way to get an edge over the competition while tracking valuable customer data.
- Positioning is key.
- Eliminate risks and buying objections for your consumers to facilitate the buying process