A Race to the Finish: 10 Last-Minute Holiday Marketing Tips


November is upon us, and marketers are counting down the days until Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday madness ensues. With only three weeks until Thanksgiving, it may be too late to make any major strategy adjustments; however, there are certainly last-minute tactics marketers can implement to end up on their customers’—and CFO’s—nice list this year.

Based on data from the e-tailing group and MarketLive’s holiday survey of more than 1,000 consumers, here are 10 merry methods marketers can put into place before holiday shopping kicks into high gear.

1. Merchandise with the mobile shopper in mind.

Mobile’s effect on the shopper’s journey has snowballed this year. According to the study, 28% of consumers say the quality of a brand’s mobile experience always causes them to consider purchasing from a particular retailer. In addition, 53% of respondents consider their visit to a retailer’s mobile app or site somewhat or very influential in prompting them to purchase.

Ken Burke, founder and CEO of e-commerce platform provider MarketLive, says marketers need to focus on highlighting the mobile site features shoppers engage with the most—such as the search bar and store locator. He also urges marketers to make it easy for mobile consumers to purchase. Promoting gift cards on the mobile site, for instance, is an effective tactic because consumers can buy them quickly, he says. Finally, Burke reminds marketers to ensure that their site content and images can be easily viewed and downloaded on a mobile device.

“Everybody thinks [they] have to provide the exact same experience [as on a desktop] going forward,” he says, “but the mobile customer actually has different needs.”

2.  Provide enough content to help mobile consumers make decisions in-store.

Today’s consumers rarely shop in-store without their mobile phone in tow. According to the study, 63% of consumers are likely or somewhat likely to use their smartphone in-store to access promotional codes for in-store redemption. Similarly, 54% are likely or somewhat likely to use their mobile device to check product ratings and reviews.

Marketers need to provide customers the same level of information on a mobile site that they would on a desktop site, Burke says. Doing so, he notes, keeps shoppers researching on a brand’s site instead of on Amazon’s. After all, 63% of respondents are likely or somewhat likely to use their smartphone in-store to visit the marketplace behemoth and compare prices.

3. Let there be Wi-Fi.

Retailers may be tempted to keep their Wi-Fi to themselves to prevent showrooming, Burke says. However, he claims that marketers shouldn’t concern themselves with this issue. Instead, he urges them to offer guests Wi-Fi to provide faster, more self-sufficient shopping experiences and to encourage browsing on their websites.

“Frankly, all of our studies have showed that showrooming does happen, but it’s really not a concern,” he says.

4. Make amends.

First impressions are always important. In fact, 64% of the study’s respondents say their past experiences with retailers will always influence whether they’ll make an online purchase from them this holiday season. But if your brand made a blunder last year, don’t fret. Burke says marketers can still win back shoppers’ trust.

One way he says marketers can do so is by identifying customers who had negative experiences with a brand and sending those shoppers personalized emails with special offers. “Messaging can go a long way,” Burke says, “but also giving them something goes an extremely long way, especially during [the] holiday for our price-sensitive shoppers.”

5. Hold off on heavy discounts

Every consumer loves a good sale. Actually, 79% of respondents say the right price this holiday season will always get them to purchase from particular online retailers. And 57% plan to check for sales or coupons weekly on their mobile devices prior to visiting a store.

However, Burke discourages marketers from offering heavy discounts too early. In fact, he says that marketers might not have to implement deep discounting at all this holiday season. Instead, he advises marketers to promote product availability, customer service, and convenience.

“These are the areas that are actually going to win this holiday season over things like ‘I have the cheapest price always,’” he says.

The study’s data supports Burke’s emphasis on convenience. Having products in stock and guaranteeing online delivery always results in an online purchase for 62% and 52% of respondents, respectively.




6. Start early.

With the holiday season upon us, there’s not a moment to lose. Data from Google and Ipsos MediaCT shows that 61% of shoppers will start researching gifts before Thanksgiving weekend—a 17% increase compared to last year. Burke says marketers should already start pushing out their holiday gift guides.

“We’re going to see a really good start,” he predicts.

7. Avoid over-emailing.

Email is consumers’ channel of choice this season. According to MarketLive’s data, email is the most preferred means for receiving promotions among respondents, beating out print, text, and social. In fact, 55% of respondents say they are highly likely to take advantage of retail emails revealing new products or personalized product recommendations.

Given this, it can be tempting for marketers to bombard consumers’ inboxes every chance they get. But Burke advises them to refrain from doing so. Instead, he urges marketers to only send an email if they have something to say.

“Make sure that when the consumer opens the email that there’s a benefit—there’s something there,” he says. “It could be a discount; it could be content; it could be something that’s meaningful and relevant to them.”

8. Segment your messages.

Segmentation and personalization play huge roles in terms of influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions. MarketLive’s data reveals that 55% of respondents say they are highly likely to take advantage of retailers’ email recommendations this season, and 60% consider emails containing online or localized promotions somewhat or very influential in terms of prompting purchases.

Burke says marketers still have a chance to start segmenting their messaging this season. He advises them to start by creating personas based on customer data, even if these personas are only based on a few attributes. For instance, marketers can segment their customers by gender, he says, and tailor their email content accordingly. Men tend to focus more on convenience and be less price sensitive, he adds, while women often look for sources of inspiration.

“You want to make more money this holiday season? Segment. Personalize,” Burke says. “Your emails will be much more effective and they’ll get read….They’ll get read because you actually sent me something that I’m interested in as opposed to something that’s silly, and random, and stupid.”

9. Don’t overly rely on social.

Marketers will want to increase their number of tweets and posts this season to reflect the current surge in holiday activity, Burke says; however, he discourages marketers from investing too much time and resources into social media.

“Here’s the deal: Social doesn’t convert,” he argues; however, he does acknowledge that it can be influential. According to the study, 27% of consumers have made a purchase as a result of social media engagement.

Instead of using social as a sales opportunity, Burke says marketers should leverage the channel as a hub for inspiration and education, such as by posting gift guides, product recommendations, and sales announcements on their networks. After all, 56% of study participants consider looking for gift ideas on social sites like Pinterest very or somewhat important, and 54% say the same for product referrals from friends and family via their networks.

“It’s not where I would initially put my time outside of the necessary things that you need to do to keep your customers updated through those channels,” he says.

10. Prepare for next year.

The best way to prepare for next year’s holiday rush is to start prepping this holiday season. Burke advises marketers to set up an email or phone number capture program so they can start leveraging these data points this year and have them ready for next year. Brands can even provide incentives to store associate and consumers, he adds, to make the collection process a bit sweeter.

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