Navigating change in anything is never easy. Change requires of us new ways of thinking and doing that we may not have prepared for or expected. Nevertheless, change is here to stay, and fighting it is futile.
This brings me to holiday shopping. Yes, holiday shopping. Over the past few years, we’ve seen some big changes, primarily in the way people shop and the way that brands market throughout this busy time of year. Since we know we can’t fight change, let’s try to manage it.
This last day of free shipping has almost become a national retail holiday, mobile devices have become more transactional, and marketing is getting more personal. The biggest sales opportunities continue to revolve around big deal-oriented days like Green Monday or larger weekends like Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
We’ve seen new trends take shape around these high-traffic periods. People now start their holiday shopping earlier and earlier each year, with only nine percent looking for Black Friday deals the day before. Last year, we even saw brands close their doors on Black Friday, pushing more sales online, and for the first time, we watched as Cyber Monday outpaced Black Friday in terms of online retail sales.
What do all of these changes mean for retail? And how can the industry leverage these changes to their benefit? Marketers need to rethink the time frame leading up to high-traffic periods, revisit key dates they associate with big sales opportunities and evaluate their approach to measuring the success of their holiday marketing.
Maximize the time frame before Black Friday
The time leading up to heavy shopping periods is just as critical as the shopping days themselves. Let’s look at some suggested retailer strategies to maximize the often-ignored time frame prior to Black Friday:
- Start displaying advertising efforts at least four to six weeks in advance of the sales events — some even start as early as eight weeks — so that you can optimize based on people’s behaviors by time, device, browser and more.
- Use the time in advance to build your audience base. By running campaigns with enough lead time, you have a better opportunity to create more relevant in-market audience segments, specifically those people searching early for holiday items and deals. The period leading up to the actual sales event is also the perfect time to incentivize site visitors, both current customers and prospects, and learn more about your customers.
- Run A/B tests to customers using different types of email messages, some hyper-personalized based on people’s individual behaviors, and testing product pages across screens so that every device is well positioned to result in a transaction during the busy traffic periods.
Let’s also not forget that a lot of retargeting peaks the week of Black Friday. In 2015, Magnetic (my employer) saw in-view rates spike when users were retargeted on the Monday before Black Friday, and search volume for “coupon” and “discounts” terms was 1.5x the monthly average on the Sunday prior to Black Friday.
Green could be the new black
Some days are underrated when it comes to the holidays, often times overshadowed by the hype surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. I’m not saying that Green Monday (the second Monday of December, or at least 10 days before Christmas) will outpace Black Friday; but we have seen other specific days grow in popularity, including Green Monday and the last day for standard shipping. comScore also reported that December 11, 2015 (the two-week marker before Christmas), ranked fourth in terms of total e-commerce retail spending (slightly above Green Monday and significantly ahead of the last day for standard shipping).
Preparing for dates outside of the traditional deal days is also important. Additionally, using information and insights from your Black Friday though Cyber Monday sales can give you a chance to reclaim lost customers, or drive repeat buyers to come back and buy more.
Go in with an attribution state of mind
Running your holiday campaigns and implementing your marketing strategy is one thing, but evaluating its performance and understanding what worked and what didn’t is another. There are three key ideas to keep in mind when looking at your attribution and measurement strategy for the upcoming 2016 holidays.
- Omni-channel means more influential touch points. A majority of shoppers use more than one channel to make their buying decisions and actually complete their purchase. In fact, Google reports that 42 percent of shoppers conduct online research while in-store, and 46 percent are visiting the retailer’s own app or website. This makes it more important than ever to understand how various touch points (including digital interactions) influenced final outcomes.
- Consider view-through conversions as an influential touch point. View-through conversions looks at the percentage of users who view an ad (not click) and within a set period of time, convert and/or take a desired action. As marketers, we want to deliver impressions, and as a result of the impression, we want the consumer to take action: search for a product, click on an ad, visit a site and so on. Given the way people shop, especially for the holidays, as they browse and search for the perfect gift across devices, we know few people will follow the pattern of “see, click and buy.” Without counting the impact that view-through conversions have on holiday marketing and holiday sales, marketers will not have an accurate view of what worked, what didn’t and what touch points are responsible for influencing these seasonal purchases. Often times, mobile is completely miscounted when view-through conversions are not factored in.
- Last-click won’t cut it. Given the fact that we know people are looking for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals weeks in advance and more than 86 percent of shoppers worldwide are channel-hopping, you simply can’t base your analysis on one final touch point. You have to factor in email engagement and open rates, on-site interactions, social influence, view-through conversions and clicks, and look at how they happened throughout the buyers’ journey. If you can’t get that level of insight, at least give fractional credit to multiple touch points.
Maximizing the time before the shopping craze begins is critical to the success of your overall holiday sales. By now, your campaigns should be up and running, and systems should be learning so that you are well positioned to capture new customers, retain existing buyers and keep shoppers engaged during the peak times this season. And now that you’ve read this article, don’t fret if you’re behind. Now you know what to do to catch up for this holiday season.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.