Forget about sharpening their online strategies in the weeks ahead: Retailers kicked off digital spending months ago. And mobile, social and email budgets are bigger than ever, according to a new study from Retail Systems Research and Bronto Software.
“Last year, we noticed online marketing taking off for retailers in mid-September,” Jim Davidson, Bronto’s manager of market research, tells Marketing Daily. “This year, we were seeing holiday emails going out in August, right down to stockings hanging by the fireplace.” Still, a third of the respondents don’t intend to start digital promotions until Black Friday.
The survey, which probed 179 large retailers about their holiday marketing plans, finds that close to half are increasing their online budgets, and more than 20% say they will allocate more than 50% of that budget to either mobile, social or email marketing channels.
Stores see themselves in a test-and-learn period with digital spending, “and from a broad perspective, they want to learn how to not lose their sales this year,” he says. “The consumer is so distracted by so many channels and devices. There is a lot for consumers to understand and digest. So we’re seeing marketers ask themselves, 'Regardless of channel, how can I help my customer buy with confidence?’”
Stores are bullish on the holidays ahead, with 68% expecting sales to increase, and a quarter saying they expect results to rise more than 50% from last year’s spending levels. And 43% intend to either significantly (21%) or slightly (22%) raise their holiday online marketing budgets.
Some 87% will use email. To make those programs more effective, the study finds that 46% have invested more in subscriber acquisition, 43% in automated messaging, and 36% in personalization. “Marketers are finding smarter ways to message customers,” he says. “It’s not just in an increase in frequency.”
Additionally, 49% have invested in mobile apps, 46% in a new e-commerce platform, and 43% in mobile website optimization.
Davidson also says stores are paying closer attention to saving sales in abandoned carts, with 35% planning to offer those shoppers a percent- or dollar-off promotion.