While the holiday season is often called the most wonderful time of the year, it's also the busiest for many retailers. A solid marketing plan will help you navigate the hectic sales days and draw in more customers.
Business News Daily talked to marketing experts about how to market your business during the holiday rush. Here are five big trends you can capitalize on to make 2017 your best holiday season yet.
No matter what kind of business you run, it's important to provide a seamless, fast web experience for your customers. If your website is slow, consumers will abandon your site.
Small ecommerce companies can't afford to lose this kind of business during such a busy season, so address any lags or missing features on your website and identify potential sales trends for the season.
You'll also want to make sure your website is mobile optimized for holiday shoppers. A report by marketing solutions provider SteelHouse states that retail sales on smartphones have nearly doubled year over year (according to eMarketer), so give your site a checkup to make sure everything is running smoothly.
"We've seen a rise in multidevice shoppers the past two years, which is why the seamless experience is so critical," said Lisa Graves, senior digital strategist at DEG digital marketing agency.
Holiday season shipping
In an age of Amazon Prime and same-day delivery, consumer expectations for ecommerce shipping are higher than ever.
All ecommerce retailers should think about realistic shipping times and cutoffs throughout the season to make sure customers get their deliveries before the holidays. Retailers with brick-and-mortar locations may want to consider adding an in-store-pickup option, said Kevon Hills, senior vice president, operations and insights, at ecommerce metrics company StellaService.
"Since later cutoff dates put additional pressure on retailers to deliver on promises in a short amount of time, we also expect to see increased numbers of retailers offering customers the option to buy online and pick up in-store," Hills said. "Retailers with the processes in place to support these initiatives are well positioned to capture last-minute revenue without the risk of not delivering products in time."
Businesses that ship products should also focus on optimizing their packaging and fulfillment processes, said Jarrett Streebin, CEO of shipping solutions provider EasyPost.
"Many carriers have dimensional pricing that fully accounts for compact packaging," Streebin said. "If you work the smallest boxes possible, you can save an enormous amount on shipping. [Also], make sure orders go out within an hour of being placed and staff up if you need to. The quicker you get orders shipped out, the less backlog you'll have. And make sure to send out tracking numbers so customers know how soon they'll get their packages."
When planning how to market your holiday promotions, remember that not all customers are created equal, said Jerry Jao, CEO of retention marketing firm Retention Science. Don't waste your profit margins sending discounts to shoppers who just look for deals and then move on.
"Segment your customers carefully by lifetime value," Jao said. "It's the brand-loyal repeat purchasers who should get special treatment. Whether it's a special loyalty campaign or an extra thank-you offer for the holidays, any investment you make into your high-lifetime-value customers will bring you higher returns."
Graves agreed and advised targeting each shopper segment with content that's relevant to them.
"For digital, we focus a lot on holiday procrastinators and how we can drive in-store traffic, gift cards and shipping schedules," she said.
Learn more: Using A/B Testing to Boost Marketing Results
Native-advertising campaigns look and feel more natural because they mimic the format of the platform on which they appear. For instance, sites like BuzzFeed publish posts sponsored by brands that read like their standard articles. Jamie Tedford, founder and chairman of the board of Brand Networks, said native advertising will be the trend in social media and content marketing for brands this holiday season.
"We've seen a lot of innovation across each native platform ... and the rollout of new features and capabilities specifically for marketers," Tedford said. "Now, these sites are more than just a place to share interesting content – they are a chance to convert and transact with customers directly on the platform in more relevant native formats."
Learn more: Native Ad Success Requires Research and Strategy
Social media marketing
Social media is a vital part of any marketing campaign. If you don't market on social during the holiday season, you are missing an abundant number of potential customers.
Last year, holiday campaigns on Twitter generated $6.67 for every $1 spent by advertisers. Twitter's research found that consumers are searching for a great deal and ads with holiday spirit.
"Ensure that you keep the right balance between heart and mind – deals should not overshadow the holiday spirit, nor can emotive content be effective without information," the study's authors wrote. "For example, while 68 percent of Twitter users will jump on a deal they see for a tech gift, ads are 28 percent more effective when they emphasize both deals and the spirit of giving."
For Gary Nealon, president of RTA Cabinet Store, the holidays are the busiest time of the year, and social media is a huge part of RTA Cabinet Store's marketing strategy. He told Business News Daily he uses social to create a sense of urgency.
"Every store will have a holiday promotion," Nealon said. "There is plenty of competition. By creating urgency, your customer will feel like if they don't act now, they may miss out. To do this, you can start with your retargeting campaigns by setting up multiple Facebook ads that include how many days are left on the sale."
Learn more: Social Media for Business: A Marketer's Guide
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.