Holiday Forecast: Marketers Can Expect Cool Profits

Holiday-shopping

Amid one of the hottest summers on record, it's hard to start thinking about holiday shopping trends. Still, marketers should take cool comfort in a new report from direct marketing agency Epsilon, which predicts that the holiday season will be a strong one.

Indeed, better cross-channel marketing strategies combined with an early-season push should improve results and increase revenue during the coming season, according to Epsilon.

"Throughout the year, companies are focused on selling a product or brand and their promotional strategies reflect this priority," explains Jill LeMaire, senior director of the Strategic and Analytics Consulting Group at Epsilon. "However, during the fourth quarter, they are in the gifting business and the way consumers relate to the brand and buy products is entirely different than other times during the year."

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In 2010, online sales peaked the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- or week 48 -- while retail sales reached their peak a bit later in week 51, the week leading up to Christmas.

According to Epsilon, social media and mobile capabilities were key drivers of sales on Thanksgiving Day last year, as consumers used mobile devices for Web site reviews, promotions, to check prices and to check in while shopping at stores.

Meanwhile, in 2010, holiday email open rates climbed 11% year-over-year, despite high email volumes. However, click rates fell 16% from 2009 to 2010, while -- for the second consecutive year -- the highest open rates occurred the week of Black Friday.

Also of note, in both 2009 and 2010 the words "shipping," "free" and "gift" were often used in subject lines, but did not necessarily drive opens.

"When it comes to holiday marketing, marketers shouldn't simply follow their competitors," LeMaire added. "To be successful, marketers should start early. Their strategies should differ by channel, based on the way consumers interact with brands and should be fully integrated to leverage the value of each individual channel and touchpoint."

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