Planning Ahead for the 2013 Holiday Crush

Staying ahead of the game is the goal for retailers during the fourth quarter of the year, better known as the holiday shopping season. Year on year, brands are reporting results that indicate they’re making bank from shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, statistics actually show that through their marketing strategies, companies are focusing on generating more customers, not necessarily revenue.

Cyber Monday steadily remains the strongest online purchasing day of the year since its inception in 2005. Last year marked the third consecutive year as the busiest online shopping day, reinforcing that the holiday season is prime time for marketing opportunities and cash flow for online retailers. With consumer sentiment for online shopping increasing, brands are taking greater strides in their marketing strategies to fulfill the online shopping experience, and cash in on the holiday season.

By the time Cyber Monday rolls around, brands are fighting tooth and nail to offer the best deals on the market, taking drastic measures to retain existing and generate new customers. According to recent statistics by the National Retail Federation, shoppers prefer online shopping over traditional shopping on Cyber Monday, with an estimated 247 million shoppers visiting online stores and websites. With web and mobile becoming the preferred purchasing method, brands have been forced to re-strategize the way they market their business in their fourth quarter.

Historically, the results of Cyber Monday have proven that online purchases increase with discount or coupon-based incentives in brands’ calls to action. And since the holiday season provides an even greater incentive to buy, etailers can expect significant improvements to their bottom line with the right marketing initiatives.

Using mobile is integral to getting the right message out at the right time. The holiday shopping season should be reason enough for any etailer or consumer brand to put mobile at the forefront of its marketing activities. But they need to understand that mobile marketing doesn’t end when the app has been developed. And any mobile activities need to be implemented into a blended campaign to ensure they’re reaching as many customer touchpoints as possible. More than ever, we’re seeing the evolution from broadcast, to narrowcast, to now what I call “segments of one,” where conversations with the individual are paramount.

Mass merchant Amazon took huge leaps in its go-to-market strategies by opening 18 new fulfillment centers this year and employing 50,000 extra employees just for the 2012 holiday season. Although it’s spent billions on its expansion efforts, the company isn’t seeing an increase in revenue just yet; and because it attributes the majority of its fiscal earnings to the holiday season, Amazon, like many other companies, is stepping up brand promotion during significant shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The most common and most effective means of reaching consumers during the holiday season in 2012 was paid search advertising, which increased by 26% over 2011 advertising, proving that U.S. consumers are more trusting of search ads—and retailers are noticing, becoming more savvy with paid campaigns. Globally, however, the cost-per-click rose by 11%, while budgets rose 36%. Consumers are marking their calendars for “free shipping day,” as noted by an increase in impression volume of 75% year-on-year.

Overall, the U.S. holiday season volumes of clicks, sales, and revenues were up by double digitals. Online sales revenue generated by paid search advertising rose 23% over 2011.

The message to etailers: Paid advertising over the holiday season pays off. When anywhere between 20 to 40% of annual sales can be attributed to holiday sales, B2C marketers should be planning for this shopping period now, and integrating their marketing plans across all channels. Consumers are spending and looking for bargains—whether from their smartphones, tablets, computers, or in-store. Get in the game, stay in front, and take a slice of the holiday pie.

Jeffrey Hayzlett is a global business celebrity, bestselling author, and sometime cowboy.

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