4 Tips To Ensure You’re Prepared For The 2015 Holiday Retail Season
It's never too soon to start planning for the most crucial shopping season. Columnist James Green has pointers to ensure your marketing strategy is a success.
This weekend my family and I went swimming in the Delaware River, so I can’t believe we’re already thinking about the holiday retail season. But if your advertising strategy isn’t in place by September, then it probably never will be. Like it or not, we’re already feeling the cool pressure of Q4 upon us.
The economy continues to produce, and according to The Wall Street Journal, GDP growth in Q4 is expected to clock in at around 3%. Last year, eMarketer reported that holiday e-commerce sales increased by 16% to $72 billion — the highest growth since 2011. So what is going to bring those in-market consumers to your store, keep them there and persuade them to purchase?
1. Keep It Personal, Keep It Consistent
A recent survey by MyBuys concluded that 50% of shoppers want their personal information to be used to coordinate a better overall shopping experience, and that number continues to rise. But personalization doesn’t mean putting “Dear John” in every communication; it means everything your guests see is curated and relevant to them, consistent across all devices and throughout the entire shopping experience.
Love or hate Millennials, this generation has probably made the world much more demanding for all of us. As “digital natives,” they are the first generation that didn’t have to adapt to technology. In turn, they are far more trusting of the online world, and they don’t mind when their data is used to make things more relevant. They want personalization, and they want it done well.
But it takes almost nothing for a consumer to be turned off: The wrong tone or assumption can cause a virtual door to slam.
2. Know When Your Customer Is Looking For You
Black Friday might serve as the kick-off of holiday shopping season, but it doesn’t always mark the beginning of your customer’s shopping journey. Researching is just as important as buying. Depending on the nature of your products, people may be looking for information and deals as early as Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation (PDF).
Implementing an always-on, data-driven strategy that reaches people whenever they are looking for you allows you to catch them when and where it matters — either early in the purchase journey, mid-cycle or at the tail-end. Using a distinct combination of data, including search activity, site interaction data, purchase intent signals, and even purchase history puts you in a better position to recognize the best times to engage with people.
And combining learning from your advertising campaigns with your CRM data will ensure you get it right when your customers are ready to buy.
3. Match Cross-Device Platforms With Cross-Device Behaviors
Mobile is the new personal shopping assistant, allowing people to get instant gratification for what they want and in the moment they want it. Last year, about 25% of holiday shoppers used a smartphone to purchase a holiday gift, and a quarter of all US retail sales were influenced by mobile, according to eMarketer. And we have every reason to believe that these numbers will go up in 2015.
We’ve reached a point where conversions on mobile are just as important as desktop, and the more mobile features your brand can build out — such as click-to-call or tapable options — the better.
While we focus on making mobile more conversion friendly, we also need to pay close attention to what is most important to people. According to an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) report, people look for easy ways to input information, research, compare products, receive mobile coupons and ensure that data is protected when holiday shopping on a smartphone.
A couple of years ago, marketers focused on making sure that when people put something in a shopping cart on their smartphone the same item would show up in the cart on their desktop. That problem is mostly solved, but cross-device advertising is still a massive opportunity.
Different people have different habits — I tend to like to do research on my laptop, whereas my wife prefers to use her tablet. But both of us tend to convert on a desktop. Where we’re reached with messaging on our other devices is just as critical as the device where we convert. Have the guts to spend some money in cross-device advertising to make sure you’re prepared on all fronts — smartphones, tablets, desktops and even digital in-store capabilities.
4. Connect Data With Creative
The tighter the integration is between data and creative, the greater chance we have to create compelling brand messages and deliver them to the right people. Banner ads are not going away, but there are many more engaging ads and delivery channels to choose from that allow us to mix data with creative.
One tactic that is gaining traction is native advertising, which integrates ads more seamlessly into content. In fact, one-third of consumers are actually more likely to trust native advertising over traditional advertising.
Another win-win for both retailers and shoppers is a recommendation engine that uses data to fuel messaging and creativity. Recommendation engines can power your site, email programs, and digital advertising with specific designs, content and product messages based on a customer’s individual preferences — including their interests, geo-location, and what products they’ve browsed, purchased or even searched for online. And if your recommendation engine is powered by data from both your website and your advertising campaigns, you’ll be able to deliver a well-targeted and engaging consumer experience.
Mobile is growing faster than any other digital ad format and offers unique ways to integrate data with creative. Depending on the depth of customer data that you have, you can personalize the experience by device. Reaching people within a mobile application opens up opportunities for 1:1 communication, including notifications, text communications and creative in-app experiences.
Native also fits nicely into mobile sites and platforms like Facebook and Instagram, which offer a range of creative options, from static to video. Infusing data into creative across all channels will make marketing more meaningful to people in the environment they choose.
This holiday season, make sure you know and understand your customer, and ensure that your marketing programs are built for people — giving them what they want, and when they want it.