It’s that time of year again. Retailers have been planning the following six weeks for the last 46. If you just started holiday planning over the last few weeks, you’re probably too late to make the biggest impact for holiday 2011. For those who are unaware of just how big the holiday season is for ecommerce: It is common to generate 25%-40% of marketing-driven revenues during the next six weeks. The ramp-up starts this week of Black Friday. Most ecommerce marketers have their biggest day on Cyber Monday, followed by Green Monday, and the more recent Free Shipping Day.
Here’s what it takes to have a killer holiday:
Leverage increased receptivity to marketing. It’s not just retailers who benefit from this key seasonality. Generally, consumers are far more receptive to marketing during this period, and all marketers can take advantage of this. Of course, ecommerce marketers should ensure their agencies embrace the additional complexity and labor intensity necessary to expand performance marketing efforts and integrate specific messaging, offers and landing pages for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, and Free Shipping Day, in addition to general holiday messaging. Pay close attention to daily performance trends and budgets. Formal testing during the holidays presents challenges and risks, but you can still analyze consumer behavior and optimize throughout the season.
Utilize incentive scarcity to motivate spending. This year, many retailers will be offering the same door-buster deals online as they do in store, priming the pump for big digital holiday revenues. Limited-time and limited-inventory offers will get consumers in the doors and online, and are the starting point for harnessing increased consumer spending. Competing on low-margin or loss-leader offers may feel like a race to the bottom, but it’s a means of moving inventory at scale while protecting existing customer relationships and taking new customers from your competitors.
Reward loyalty and social media engagement. Retailers with loyalty programs should reserve a handful of exclusive deals and referral rewards for card-carrying loyal customers. Rewarding your highest value and most loyal customers fosters advocacy.
Extend this thinking to your social media communities. Studies have proven that special offers and promotions are a primary expectation of consumers who connect with retailers on social platforms. While promotions in social media ordinarily generate low engagement, your offers will be more warmly received during the key weeks of the holiday shopping season. Retailers who take the time to develop engaging social shopping features can go further toward taking advantage of the intersection of content and commerce.
Multichannel communication: While consumers are more receptive to marketing during the holidays, there is a gluttony of marketing noise in the market at this time. As always, we’re all competing for consumers’ limited attention. Marketers must leverage all owned and controlled channels, including their website, blogs, email, SMS, and social media. This is the time to increase the frequency of communication, which also underscores the importance of providing consumers with the ability to manage their communication preferences, allowing for better segmentation, relevancy of messaging and a better overall consumer experience with your brand.
Engage on mobile. 2010 was an eye-opener. Mobile comparison shopping and mobile commerce came of age last year. With smartphones pushing close to 50% penetration, 2011 will surely see significant increases in mobile holiday commerce. Is your mobile commerce site and/or app prepared for the opportunity? Daily deal sites and online retailers are running mobile-only Black Friday specials to compete with brick and mortar retailers. They’re betting that a percentage of consumers will discover better deals on their mobile devices and divert some of their spending even while physically inside of retail stores. Smartphones have empowered consumers and marketers as never before, and will continue to reshape the retail shopping experience during the holidays and beyond.
Black Friday is just three days away. Here’s to a prosperous 2011 holiday season! Let’s remember that the real value of this week is to step away from the spreadsheet or Powerpoint and spend some quality time with family and friends for Thanksgiving. All the best to you and yours!