Is Your Marketing Ready for the Holiday Shopping Season?

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It’s time again to stock the shelves (and the virtual ones, too) and get ready for the crush of holiday shoppers. With another short holiday shopping season on our hands (only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas), I’m feeling anxiety from all corners.

For many of my clients and partners, though, the anxiety is less about the eight-week celebration blitz and more about where they are in terms of digital marketing strategy.

The countdown is beginning, and marketers are feeling the crush in these last few critical weeks.

If you’re feeling the pressure, don’t panic—there’s still time to implement meaningful promotional tactics that can both enhance your holiday results and lay solid groundwork for a strong, successful 2015. 

Take the following tips as last-minute checks to tighten up what you’ve got in place and ensure your best holiday yet.

1. Remember that multichannel and mobile matters

US e-commerce is projected to grow nearly 17% this holiday season, eclipsing last year’s 15.3% increase—and 50% of those sales will be influenced by digital interactions.

What’s more, 84% of shoppers will use some sort of digital tool surrounding their brick-and-mortar experiences, and they’ll convert at a 40% higher rate than those shoppers who don’t start online.

Translation: You have to be everywhere your consumers are, all the time. Grab their attention while they’re browsing online. Even if they don’t convert on the spot, spending time on your Web properties could lead to a major conversion in the not-too-distant future.

Taking that a step further, be strategically mindful of mobile. By next month, mobile will make up 20% of e-commerce sales–nearly 102 million consumers will buy via mobile devices—and 43% of site traffic, a double-digit year-over-year increase.

So, where should you spend time in these last few weeks? Apps, without a doubt. Mobile, overall, is key, but consumers spend more time engaging with the average app than with its companion mobile experience—upward of 150% more.

2. Make a list, and check it twice

The No. 1 thing you need to do before launching head first into a holiday email campaign is validate and segment your email list at the beginning of the season.

Many shoppers are just fair-weather friends, happy to engage when massive discounting is in play, but fast to disappear come December 26. Targeting disengaged consumers isn’t a lost cause, but it requires a different approach. They aren’t anonymous, but they’re pretty close. 

Holiday purchases often give no indication of future buying patterns. That bacon-of-the-month club membership purchased last December could have been for an office grab bag, so assuming the buyer is a cured meat connoisseur won’t get you anywhere.

In that vein, think about this year’s one-off shopper. She buys a great bottle of wine, a monogrammed tote, or specialty kitchen tool then disappears into the after Christmas abyss. Chances are she came through a special promotion offer or social referral—and she’s probably price-sensitive and less engaged than your average shopper. But, on the flip side, it’s overwhelmingly more expensive to convert a brand new customer than to work with those whom you sold to previously. Some 40% of e-commerce revenue comes from repeat customers—and that’s just 8% of total site visitors.

3. Deliver relevant experiences—even if you’ve never met before

With the holidays looming, you can expect a deluge of online shopping traffic, and the challenge will be that each consumer will expect content, offers, and product recommendations that are relevant. Nearly 90% of consumers say a personalized experience impacts their purchase decision, so it’s safe to say consumers don’t just prefer that feeling of belonging, understanding, and deep brand connection—they demand it instantaneously across multiple devices. And those anonymous consumers, the one-off holiday shoppers, the gift buyers, the browsers? They demand meaningful, real-time personalization, too.

All that starts at the data level, and some aren’t as challenging as you might think. For example, geolocation tactics—such as the use of iBeacons that offer services like targeted couponing in-store—are a great place to start. By using automated personalization systems and solutions, your organization can create personas and contextualize experiences for even unknown visitors, at scale. Maintaining a single customer profile and tapping into real-time analytics across channels will keep the momentum going, and enable effective, efficient experience delivery all season long, while mining the kind of data you need to create high-impact journeys into 2015 and beyond.

* * *

The holidays are a “moment,” and you, as the marketer, need to capitalize on as many of those moments as possible. Knowing your consumer—or at least having the solutions in place to deliver more personalized experiences throughout their journey—is critical for this season and for next year. Even if you’re feeling strapped for time, working toward this relevance delivery is still well within your grasp, and will not only catapult your efforts for November and December, but will lay a solid groundwork for next year.

We’re poised for an unparalleled holiday shopping season. Are you?

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