Are you ready for a holiday season unlike ever before? Despite the current global pandemic, holiday sales are still expected to soar.
If the past few years are any indication, business owners will still be buttoning up their plans just weeks (and final hours!) leading up to the kickoff of their big holiday promotions.
But, with more consumers shopping online, early planning is essential. There’s no better time than now to start thinking about your holiday marketing campaigns — plus, preparing early will set you up for success (and decrease the likelihood of a mad rush at the end.)
The retail strength of the holiday shopping season is felt throughout the globe. Although both Black Friday and Cyber Monday began in the United States, shoppers all over the world have come to embrace the two months of holiday shopping.
That said, we have now fully entered into the planning phase: arguably the most important part of a successful season.
A lot goes into creating a holiday campaign in the increasingly digital year of 2020:
- Creativity is key in order to win mindshare, but channel distribution may be necessary to win sales.
- Returning and net-new customers have different purchasing behaviors, but simplicity makes it easier for retailers to quickly adapt.
- Brick-and-mortar shopping has new challenges, pushing brands to focus more on online sales.
This is a balancing act between marketing and operations — two retail departments continuing to better blend as consumer expectations demand simple experiences.
What Makes a Great Holiday Marketing Strategy
In a year with so many unknowns, crafting a magical holiday strategy can seem particularly overwhelming. Don’t overwhelm yourself and stick to the basics.
1. Audit previous holiday marketing campaigns.
A global pandemic brings a new wave of challenge to navigate amidst the holidays. However, you can still learn and prepare from previous success. Look back to 2019 – or even 2018 – statistics to understand where you won and where you could use some improvement. Analyzing your previous strategies and campaigns will help you avoid making similar mistakes.
In addition to performance statistics, consider looking at customer data. Has your customer base changed a lot in the past year? What do they value? Understanding these key elements of your ideal customer will help you craft holiday messaging that clicks.
2. Identify holiday marketing strategies that fit your audience.
No holiday marketing efforts are created equal. Don’t simply mirror your competitors strategies. The key to a successful holiday marketing campaign lies in knowing how to speak to your customers. If you have younger customers, like Gen Z or Millennials, consider amping up your social commerce efforts to share special offers or push specific products. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, get creative with last-minute gift ideas available with curbside delivery or buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) options.
3. Create a schedule for syndication.
When it comes to the holiday season, work smarter – not harder. Find opportunities for content syndication that not only save you time and money, but create a more unified experience for your customers.
Holiday Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
While not every campaign is created equally, there are definitely some tactics you’ll want to steer clear of. Let’s break down the leading mistakes to avoid.
1. Not understanding your buyer personas.
The number one advice for all businesses: understand your customer. This advice may sound like a broken record, but it couldn’t be more vital to your holiday marketing success. As consumers, we live in a world where we have never had more distractions. Add in living in a global pandemic and we’re faced with even more than expected.
Having a marketing campaign that is crafted specifically for your buyer personas will help your brand stand apart from competitors and hold your customers’ attention.
2. Focusing on only one marketing tactic.
Using one marketing tactic not only limits your potential consumer reach, but lacks the creativity and authenticity consumers’ expect. While you may spend a majority of your time focusing on one to two marketing tactics, like influencer marketing or display ads, use the holiday season to try new avenues. Perhaps, Checkout on Instagram or Facebook Shops.
3. Last minute planning.
One of the most common mistakes businesses of all sizes make during the holidays is late planning. This year, consumers are shopping earlier, which means you’ll need to start executing your marketing tactics in similar fashion. Download our 2020 Guide to Holiday Planning to learn how to get started.
4. Sending too many emails.
Go to your inbox and count how many promotional emails you receive in a day. It’s probably more than you’d like.
Now, ask yourself which emails captured your attention. What was different about them?
Holiday email marketing can easily be overdone, but it’s the emails that add value and creativity that capture subscribers’ eyes. A simple yet catchy subject line needs to spark interest, but you’re only going to increase your click-through rate by crafting a value-add email. Be mindful of how many emails are in your stream and what purpose each one serves.
This will create less work for your team and improve overall customer satisfaction.
8 Holiday Marketing Strategies to Consider in 2020
The following holiday marketing tips and promotion ideas will help you refine your efforts to ramp up sales during the most profitable time of the year.
- Err on the side of simplicity.
- Be ready to react and adapt quickly.
- Use a more content-driven approach.
- Be prepared for more competition than ever.
- Consider an influencer strategy.
- Avoid false urgency. Create a real reason to buy.
- Don’t forget about your existing customers.
- Partner with a non-profit.
1. Err on the side of simplicity.
It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday planning. But it’s better in the long run to start small with your holiday campaigns, especially if this is your first holiday season as a brand.
Even larger retailers who have been around for decades often refer back to the basics during the holidays. It all depends on the amount of bandwidth your team has, and the amount of support your operations will have during the holidays.
The key to simple holiday campaigns? According to Mike Wittenstein, Founder + Managing Partner at StoryMiners, it is to pitch one idea, one benefit, and one emotion in each message.
“The IDEA is an outcome your product/service/gift can supply, the BENEFIT is what the buyer gets (not necessarily the recipient in the case of a gift), and the EMOTION is what draws them in and helps them remember.”
The holidays are not a good time to experiment with a new persona approach for customers, especially if you’ve done thorough testing and discovery throughout the year to nail down the correct messaging. There is too much on the line. If you want to be extra creative and try a new approach, consider doing an A/B test.
The reputation you’ve built with customers throughout the year will be one of the deciding factors when they choose where to shop for the holidays. Make sure you’re standing by with a customer experience that matches what they’ve been through when they purchased in the past.
Chelsey Dewitt, Marketing Strategist at DigitlHaus Agency, recommends using social media to connect with customers.
“Choose a strategy that connects with the consumer. Instead of just blasting off emails with sales price cross-outs and Black Friday and Cyber Monday in big bold font, choose to brand your campaign with a hashtag, something engaging that consumers will want to share through their social channels to feel like they are a part of something.
With this tactic, not only are you building a connection — you’re building trust and an audience, so when sales time comes peeking up around the corner, your brand is remembered.”
2. Be ready to react and adapt quickly.
The saying “all hands on deck” holds no greater meaning than when you’re a retailer during the holidays — and navigating a global pandemic.
During Black Friday 2018, customers grew frustrated when their orders on J.Crew were not going through.
The tech problems lasted almost all day, so many customers simply shopped elsewhere.
Regardless of the size of your website, you’ll need to have a fast-acting team available to remedy any issues that may occur on your site, on your ads, and anywhere else.
“Make sure all relevant resource contacts are available and on call. The last thing you need is a problem with Google Ads or Facebook ads with no rep to help out during the most crucial periods.”
— Caleb Siegel, VP, Group8A
In addition, you need to react quickly when things aren’t going as planned.
“Put yourself in a position to react quickly when you launch a campaign. If things aren’t working, you need to be able to make changes in hours, not days.”
— Ryan Shaw, Director of Growth Marketing, Shogun
3. Use a more content-driven approach.
Online shopping has been around for the past quarter of a century, so customers are more familiar with holiday campaigns than ever before.
Because they often see the same thing year after year, their eyes may glaze over at the traditional sales and marketing tactics.
The same themes that emerged during the 2020 year in ecommerce will apply to the holiday marketing strategies as well — and you better bet that brands will mix them into their Q4 campaigns.
The main theme that will stay true during the holidays is the “content-first” approach that innovative and trending brands are using today. Using content marketing as a method to reach customers, we’ll see brands offer more personalized shopping experiences, like holiday gift guides, shopping assistants, and brick-and-mortar activations.
“Go a step further from general ecommerce, and incorporate a content/commerce approach to your holiday campaigns. Offer your customers some extra level of value, such as a gift guide for your various customer personas. This helps holiday shoppers get a full picture of your products and why they might be better suited for one persona over the other.”
— Jessica Lago, Manager of Marketing & Partnerships, iMedia Inc
Adding a content strategy element to your holiday marketing ideas can reap big rewards, especially if you keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. This will help drive organic traffic to your website as customers search for products that you sell — even if they’ve never shopped with you before.
If you’ve introduced a new brand voice or customer marketing strategy over the past year, be sure to weave that new messaging into your holiday campaigns — otherwise, it may result in a disjointed customer experience.
“If you have a new or expanded “purpose” initiative for your brand, prominently telling consumers of that effort and weaving the story throughout your holiday marketing can help motivate consumers to spend their money and align themselves and those they give gifts with supporting that purpose.”
— Ron Smith, The Digital Outdoorsman
4. Be prepared for more competition than ever.
With all the holiday promotions around the holiday shopping season, email marketing will be more important than ever in drawing customers to your online store. Make sure your email marketing campaigns help you stand out from the crowd clearly communicate the benefits of shopping with you over your competitors.
“Try to think outside the box. Leverage something interesting/unique you know about your target demographic and speak to that rather than just going with the traditional (easy) holiday-related subject lines.”
— Kaleigh Moore, KaleighMoore.com
But getting customers in the door is just part of the battle. Over 3/4 of shoppers choose to leave a site without completing a purchase. Cart abandonment rate paired with the rise in competition will make the 2020 holidays a troublesome time for retailers who struggle to keep up with changing customer activities.
“Make sure you have effective retargeting campaigns set up and in place before the holiday season.
You need to remind your customers why they visited your site or added that item to their basket in the first place. Incentivize with discount codes and free delivery to lure them back in and make you stand out against the competition.”
— Michelle Rooker, Content Specialist, 5874
5. Consider an influencer strategy.
The effectiveness of influencers wavers between industries, but more users than ever are expected to hop onto social media during the holidays.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are clear avenues for brand interaction during the holidays. Make your presence known to social media users by using an influencer strategy that carries through to the holidays.
“You can also leverage influencers to create sponsored, yet non-promotional-looking content that focuses on a particular holiday. You can ask them to show your products in use during the holiday festivities. This will influence their followers to try your products.”
— Shane Barker, Founder, https://shanebarker.com/
6. Avoid false urgency. Create a real reason to buy.
If panic buying taught us anything this year, it’s that consumers will purchase when they have confidence something they need or want will sell out. The holiday season is known for deep discounts that can only be found once a year and shoppers know how to spot the good ones.
When creating your holiday marketing plans, make sure you’re clearly incentivizing shoppers to visit your online store and complete a purchase.
“Whatever promotion you decide to run, make sure there’s a non-BS reason for customers to buy NOW.
For example, maybe your brand genuinely only holds sales once or twice a year — and this is one of those times. That’s compelling!
Or maybe you’ll donate a percentage of holiday profits to a carbon-offset organization to make up for the insane increase in air pollution from delivery trucks. That’s convincing!
Whatever your angle is, avoid false urgency… because buyers can smell it from a mile away.”
— Lianna Patch, Founder, Punchline Conversion Copywriting
There is a fine line between haphazard discounting or giveaways and creating a relationship with your customers. You don’t want to devalue your brand to the point where customers think it is cheap, because then they might not be compelled to make a repeat purchase.
“You have two main opportunities to hit — provide value for shoppers who are planning ahead of time with early access, pre-sale shopping tools, and reminders, THEN those last minute impulse shoppers with personalized messaging and specific offers. Those day-of, ‘up to 60% off’ blanket offers don’t resonate anymore. We all know you only have one product at that discount.”
— Julie Causseaux, eCommerce Strategist, Revenue River
The holiday season isn’t just about creating revenue — it’s also about establishing connections with customers who will return to purchase in the off-season. Make sure that customer retention is top of mind during any marketing decision you make for the holiday season.
7. Don’t forget about your existing customers.
Chances are that the visitors who come to your website during the holidays will be a healthy mix of new and returning customers. The pathway to purchase for a repeat customer looks very different than a new customer, so make considerations for both while building out your plans.
“Do you have people who purchased last year who haven’t done so this year? Cool. It’s time to target them. Perhaps with a promo for a gift offering for someone in their lives? Maybe a product recommendation that’s the logical next purchase after the first? You should at least attempt something to get them to come back and buy again. It’s the low hanging fruit. You have to knock where the digital door is already open.”
— Scott Ginsberg, Head of Content, Metric Digital
8. Partner with a non-profit.
After all, this is the holiday season and, after tough year, consumers are looking forward to the merriment of the season. For many, this means giving back and doing good deeds. Consider partnering with a non-profit to get in the holiday spirit while sharing your brand mission with your customers. If you are unsure where to start, consider partnering with a local organization or tap your customers to learn what organizations are close to their hearts. End the year on a positive note!
The holiday season will make or break revenue goals for almost every B2C retailer.
An increase in customers shopping online paired with a constant stream of competition makes it harder for brands to succeed during the holidays, but there are steps you can take in advance of Cyber 5 that can position your brand above others and earn loyal customers.
Start planning now, keep your customers in mind during every decision you make, and don’t forget about establishing lifetime value with your brand.