Is your business ready for the holidays?
It is hard to believe that just in a few short days December will be here and consumers will be in full shopping mode.
There is always a different energy to the behaviour of consumers during the holiday period. On one hand they are more likely to spend and spend big, but on the other they are also trying to be conscious of their spending and limit their budget.
This means that in order for your business to really succeed over the holidays and turn around a hefty profit, your marketing needs to be in order with the needs, wants and desires of your customers.
The holidays will come and go quickly, so if you haven’t already, it is time to start prioritising your holiday marketing strategy.
Getting Your Website Holiday Ready
For most businesses, your website is your gateway to making sales and developing strong customer relationships.
Over the holiday period it is important that your website is geared to be not only holiday friendly but also consumer friendly in order to keep them coming back month after month.
You need not redesign your entire website, but making a few festive tweaks may help consumers to not only get in the holiday spirit but also feel more secure about what they are purchasing, especially if they are buying gifts from your website.
To do this you may consider-
1. Updating your logo or website colours to be more holiday friendly
2. Showcasing your holiday specials or popular items on the home page for easy access
3. Changing your call to actions to be more aligned with your customers needs over the holiday period for example- “Order Now in time for Christmas” instead of just “Order Now”
4. Updating your terms of service to include notes about holiday shipping, return policies, gift receipts and gift certificates.
5. Boosting the capabilities of your site in terms of traffic and security, as the holiday periods can be busy and can also be a time that hackers are out in force.
6. Ensuring your mobile site and mobile e-commerce store is working and easy to use. This is especially important as experts are predicting that this year will have the biggest growth in terms of smartphone e-commerce sales. Statistics are already showing that e-commerce will hit 9 percent of total retail sales this year which is around $79 billion.
7. Updating your keywords to include popular holiday searches terms such as “gift ideas for dad” or “christmas gifts under $50”
8. Writing a holiday themed blog or a gift giving guide that uses your products or services or offers recommendations.
9. Studying your site metrics on Google analytics to get a detailed understanding of how your consumers are interacting with your page such as- bounce rates, referrals time on site, etc.
10. Adding a daily prize or incentive such as an advent calendar or discounts that consumers can unlock from your website.
Lilach Bullock the Co-Founder and Director of CommsAxis shared her advice for holiday marketing to help boost website engagement. She states-
“Holiday countdowns are always popular and a great way to boost engagement. An online advent calendar is a great example- daily prizes, offers, incentives, competitions, fun stuff etc. It also encourages people to come back again to encourage sharing of your initiative and is often much more memorable.”
Creating something fun and simple on your webpage, even if it is just a daily coupon or giveaway helps to engage your consumers over the holiday period and gives them something to get excited about.
Updating your website to include festive design elements also helps your consumers know that your brand is relevant and there to support them with their holiday shopping needs.
Sending Holiday Emails and Making an Impact
20 percent of marketers say that their primary revenue source is directly linked to email operations and another 60 percent of marketers claim that email is a “critical enabler” of getting products and services out to the consumer.
Over the holidays it is important to not only collect email addresses, especially from new leads and customers but to also acknowledge the customers that you already have.
In order to run an effective email marketing strategy, your brand should consider the following-
1. Sending holiday cards or personal greetings to subscribers that includes a personal message and perhaps your company logo. If you have worked with very loyal clients or businesses throughout the year, mailing an actual card may be a good way to show your appreciation.
2. Offering your subscribers exclusive deals or coupon codes and reminders of any special discounts that are on offer. It may also be worth noting that research has found that $10 off and 20 percent off coupons seem to perform the best on emails sent during the fourth quarter.
3. Reminding your leads and customers through cleverly crafted emails about what type of products, services or solutions you can offer them over the holiday period and into the new year.
4. Studying open rates, click through rates and the average revenue generated per email. Even though this data should be tracked all year round, during the holidays this data can help you to understand what promotions consumers are responding to, which will help you better understand their needs.
5. Finding optimal times to send holiday emails, which studies have found are Tuesday and Saturday between the hours of 8am and 12pm and 4pm and 8pm.
Important dates for 2015 that you may want to note for your email marketing strategy include:
- Black Friday- November 27
- Small Business Saturday- November 28
- Cyber Monday- November 30
- Hanukkah- December 6-14
- Free Shipping Day (US)- December 18
- Christmas- December 25
- Boxing Day- December 26
- New Years Eve- December 31
- New Years Day- January 1, 2016
Depending on your demographic and where your main audience is located, these dates can be a great excuse to run promotions and touch base with your fans.
Amy Jo Martin, Founder of Digital Royalty and NY Times Best Selling Author had this to say about making an impact with your holiday emails-
“The holiday season is typically a shopping frenzy for most consumers and brands can easily drown in a red and green sea of sameness. Going above and beyond during the holiday season helps a business to stand out in a time where everyone is competing for a share of voice. Businesses should aim to disrupt at this time of year.”
In order to make an impact, brainstorm some creative ways that your business can reach consumers over the holiday period.
For example, Bloomingdales the retail store giant in the US released a controversial online ad that suggested customers to “spike their friends eggnog.”
Even though the ad stirred up some debate, it ended up being extremely lucrative for the brand and helped them to generate a lot of press leading up to the biggest holiday shopping event in the US, Black Friday.
Office Depot, another US retailer is also continuing its “Elf Yourself” campaign which has been running for 9 years. This campaign allows consumers to put their head on a body of an elf and purchase mugs, mouse pads and even DVD’s. The promotion was initially free but due to the popularity, the company was able to offer more to consumers and create a loyal following.
Office Depot also offer an ‘Elf Yourself’ app which has helped the campaign to generate hundreds of thousands of extra holiday dollars for the company.
Starbucks is another brand that dominated this year with their red cup controversy. The brand decided to release plain red cups instead of a festive design this year and fans went crazy on social media. The company even released an Instagram Red Cup Contest which also helped the red cup saga to go viral.
While these big brands probably all have large marketing budgets, their ideas are also very simple. It is hard to know what is going to go viral, but if you understand your demographic and can spend some time getting creative, the results will surely pay off.
Understanding Your Customer’s Holiday Needs
The holidays can be a very stressful time for consumers so one way that your business can stand out from the crowd and win over customers is by taking the hassle out of shopping, wrapping, packing, shipping or anything else that may detract consumers from purchasing from your brand.
As Shama Hyder, the CEO of Marketing Zen and author states-
“Ask yourself- how does your brand tie into the holidays? If you are a B2B company serving sales professionals, chances are that they are scurrying to meet year end goals or they are thinking about how to reward their customers. You can share with them ideas on how to make last minute sales or provide gift ideas for their best customers. If you are a a B2C food company, how about a contest for the best cookie recipe? The goal is to think like your fans and help them with their holiday challenges.”
It can be difficult to know what to offer your consumers this holiday period, but a study from Google may shed some light on consumer behaviour.
Google have been tracking online shopping trends over the holiday period for a few years now and this is what they have discovered-
One third of all shopping searches on Google happen between 10pm and 4am
People start researching holiday deals earlier every year- around 26 percent of shoppers start looking for holiday deals before October 31st.
Shoppers are spending more time consulting sources before making a decision. The average shopper consults at least 12 sources such as social media, reviews, videos etc.
Around 75 percent of consumers are expected to purchase something on their smartphone in 2015
The biggest days for online shopping in 2013 were: December 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 17, 18
The biggest days for in-store shopping in 2013: November 29, 30 and December 21, 22, 25, 26
The biggest days for mobile shopping in 2013: November 29 and December 13, 14, 20, 21, 23
Knowledge is power, so by understanding these key facts your business can start planning a strategy that works for your products and services.
For example, if the average consumer is checking 12 different sources before making a purchase it may be worthwhile offering your customers access to reviews, testimonials, video demonstrations and more.
As Online Marketing expert, Melanie Duncan states-
“The more you give to people, the more they want to give back to you. As business owners, we should approach our marketing as ‘how can I give more valuable content in a bigger way so that I can reach more people” Now that builds brand value and creates raving fans who buy.”
You can also offer your customers more content and value by providing additional benefits over the holiday period such as-
- Gift wrapping services
- Guaranteed delivery before Christmas
- Gift certificates
- Extended Return Period
- Free gifts with purchase
- Client gifts and rewards
Understanding your customers shopping habits can also help you to better meet their needs during the holidays and help to boost your sales.
As Jesse Stanchak, the Community Manager at Microsoft UK states-
“Many people find the holiday season stressful- even if it is their favourite time of year. The one thing that unites most of humanity is that we’d like to be just a little less busy, tired and stress out. Think about how your fans are observing this season and than ask yourself how you can make the season just a little easier for them. When in doubt, remember that a helping hand is a gift everyone longs for.”
Being Festive on Social Media and at Networking Events
Engaging with your fans on social media is part of any successful business strategy, especially during the holidays.
Sites like Facebook are a great way to respond to fans, post products, offer deals and incentives and get people talking about your products and services. It is also a great way to share content and get traffic to your site.
You may also want to consider running some sort of social promotion that requires users to share or tag their friends in order to be apart of it.
Amy Porterfield who is a Facebook Marketing Author suggests getting fans engaged by asking them to post their favourite holiday photos from their childhood or share images of their favourite holiday treats.
Pinterest and Instagram are also top holiday favourites for consumers to find products, so if it is relevant to your brand, definitely get some festive product images up on these sites and share them like crazy across your network.
When it comes to social media, the idea is to engage your community in order to get people talking about your brands and services.
As Kim Garst, CEO of Boom Social states-
“A huge part of being successful on social media is humanising your brand. People want to connect with and buy from brands who they know, like and trust and sharing your own holiday moments with your fans and followers is a great way to build this trust.”
If you don’t have a big online social presence, getting out there and networking at company events and mixers is a great way to promote your brand and make contacts in a casual setting. This is especially valuable if you run a local business that is dependent on the community around it.
You can also throw your own industry event and invite clients and other interested businesses to be involved.
It may also be worthwhile mentioning that Facebook has a “Local Awareness” feature that allows local businesses to be seen by people that live in the area. This may be a good way to find a custom audience and develop more of a relationship with your community.
‘Tis the Season of Giving
The holidays are typically the season to give so it may be unrealistic to expect your consumers to ‘buy’, ‘buy’, ‘buy’ without offering anything in return.
While it is important that your site and content is always offering value, the holiday period is definitely a time to up your game.
Consumers also want to know that your brand is involved in the ‘gift of giving’ during the season, so make it a point to share with your followers how you are giving back to the community.
Research is finding that more and more consumers are looking to align themselves with brands that stand for a good cause. This doesn’t mean that you have to donate money to charity just to get customers, but it does mean that you may have to communicate your values and mission as a brand.
As Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of Marketing Profs states-
“The holidays provide businesses with a way to connect with the audience on a more human level…because they allow us to communicate as people who share similar traditions, or they allow us to talk about what makes us unique. Show how people in your company celebrate or honour certain traditions, to give your fans and prospects an idea of the people and personalities that make your company what it is. It is also a great time to showcase any charitable activities your company might participate in.”
To show that your company is participating in the holiday spirit, consider the following-
- Sending gifts to top clients, businesses and customers
- Donating a percentage of profits to a charitable cause
- Donating your time to help out in the local community
- Creating a festive work place environment by offering employees benefits, lunches etc.
- Allowing your staff time off or half days to be with family or holiday bonuses
- Sending thank you note or samples to customers that purchase
Holiday Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
1. Forgetting That Not Everyone Celebrates in the Same Way
Australia is a multicultural country that is filled with many religions and traditions. This means that not everyone is going to celebrate Christmas or follow the same traditions. In order to be sensitive to this, many businesses use the term “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” to be more inclusive of other cultures.
You know your demographic best, but keep in mind any cultural sensitivities that may be relevant. As Jesse Stanachak from Microsoft UK states-
“Forget about all iconic holiday images for a second. Don’t let Santa or Frosty or Charlie Brown cloud your vision. Ask yourself what your best customers- the people who support you all year round- are doing this month. Forget about what you think the season of the holidays is about. Ask what your customers are focused on…”
2. Not Taking Advantage of End of Year Budgets
The holiday season is a good opportunity to meet your sales goals and use up any residual budget. December is one of those months where it is not advised to scrimp on advertising because there is often a huge potential for your brand to make some decent sales. Be smart with your budgeting around the holiday period and use all available funds to drive traffic to your website and generate sales.
3. Being a Holiday Spammer
While promoting your products and services is ok, no one wants to deal with a holiday spammer. Being a holiday spammer includes sending countless emails, making your email subject headings very promotional, only sharing product links on social media and running misleading marketing campaigns.
Even though you may be caught up in the excitement of the holidays, being a spammer is a sure way to get consumers turned off your brand for the year.
4. Forgetting to Audit your Site
If you are expecting a spike in search and traffic volume it is important that your site is up to scratch, as the last thing you want is your site to crash before the holidays!
To prepare, conduct an audit of your entire site by visiting all pages and testing out all functions, particularly in your online store. You may also want to double check your written content for spelling or grammar errors and upgrade your server and security settings.
The holidays are truly ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ for consumers and businesses alike. In order to dominate the 2015 holidays and put your business on track for a super successful 2016, it is important that your end of year sales go out with a bang.
What strategies will you be adopting these holidays?