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Target Shoppers Online and Offline for Successful Holiday Sales

Target Shoppers Online and Offline for Successful Holiday Sales
Credit: Otnaydur/Shutterstock

It may still be back-to-school season, but retailers and consumers alike are already starting to get a jump on holiday shopping. To get the most out of this year's holiday season, businesses should be targeting shoppers both online and offline, new research finds.

According to the study from marketing agency Epsilon, 87 percent of consumers are at least somewhat likely to shop at brick-and-mortar stores this holiday season. That doesn't mean, however, that they won't be doing their fair share of online shopping as well. More than three-quarters of the consumers surveyed said they are likely to make purchases online, while 54 percent said they likely will look in-store for a product and then go online to find the best deal.

Tom Edwards, the chief digital officer for the Agency for Epsilon, said that the location where consumers are shopping for the upcoming holiday season is less important than how they are getting there.

"Leading up to the holiday season, retailers need to continue to focus on creating consistent and contextually relevant experiences for consumers across devices, time and media," Edwards said in a statement. "If they're not engaging in this manner, they risk losing out on their share of holiday shopping budgets."

While businesses have increased their digital marketing campaigns in recent years, direct mail still sways shoppers. The study discovered that 77 percent of those surveyed said advertisements received by mail will have at least "some influence" on their holiday buying decisions, compared to 41 percent who said online banner ads would sway their buying decisions. [See Related Story: 10 Ways to Turn Online Marketing Into In-Store Sales]

The study's authors said shoppers are often influenced by direct mail because it usually contains an offer or discount and because the format allows for them to review the material on their own schedules. Edwards said retailers need to apply what consumers appreciate about direct mail to online efforts.

"To improve the level of influence from online advertising efforts, retailers need to leverage offline and online insights to create personalized experiences that take into account consumers' desire for offers or discounts," Edwards said. "Utilizing a more targeted approach to online advertising will also create a more compelling and engaging cross-channel experience for consumers."

Despite the influence of direct mail, email marketing remains a critical channel for retailers wanting to connect with consumers. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said an email sent directly from a brand will have at least some influence on their holiday buying decisions. In all, email sent directly from a brand is the type of advertising that influences the greatest percentage of holiday shoppers, the study showed.

The researchers said shoppers tend to like this type of advertisement because it's personal and the emails they receive tend to be from brands the consumers like.

In the end, customer experience will be the silver bullet to winning this holiday season, said Adam Miller, vice president of retail industry strategy for Epsilon.

"Each holiday season comes with its share of unknowns, but 2016 appears to have great opportunity for success with thoughtful planning and the use of powerful data to understand your customers' needs," Miller said. "Map a thorough customer-journey experience to ensure you've thought of every possible touch point to win over shoppers and create an experience that elevates your customers' interaction with your brand."

The study was based on surveys of 2,300 U.S. consumers 25 years of age or older.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.