According to Deloitte’s 2018 Retail Holiday Survey, we’re in for another big holiday shopping season. Purchases made from now through the end of the year will account for more than a fourth of annual retail sales. Additionally, spending is set to top $1,500 per US household. It’s no wonder that for months now brands have been readying themselves for the influx of transactions to come.
There are some marketers, however, who aren’t as ready as they’d like to be. Whether you dropped the ball on planning or don’t feel entirely confident in your current holiday marketing strategy, don’t worry. It’s not too late. There’s still time to make the most of this revenue-boosting opportunity by embracing four tried-and-true digital marketing strategies.
Oh, how Black Friday shopping has changed. Deloitte’s data shows the number of consumers who made a holiday purchase on their mobile phones this year increased to 67 percent, compared with 59 percent in 2017. What’s more, a survey conducted by Citi Retail Services reveals that the majority of consumers (73 percent) will still take on mobbed malls and big box stores to secure retail deals this holiday season. But, more than 40 percent of shoppers are opting instead to snuggle up on the couch with their smartphones.
This behavior means mobile should be top of mind for retail marketers. Mobile ads are a good way to reach consumers whether they’re shopping online or in the physical world. But, you’ll need to be smart if you hope to capture their attention during this busy time. Fullscreen creative is one useful tactic. So is location-based marketing that employs customer data to identify behavioral trends and increase foot traffic to stores. Close to 40 percent of advertisers plan to invest in Facebook Stories to reach mobile users, while 37 percent will spend their marketing dollars on Instagram Stories, new research shows.
Many retailers will also be using mobile ads to promote a sale or special offer. But, don’t overlook the value of mobile for email. Alison Lindland, VP of Strategic Accounts at digital technology company Movable Ink, says that “if a marketer wants to impact mobile user engagement,” the answer lies with email.
“Across all verticals and regions we’re seeing that email access on mobile has well exceeded desktop, and though growth rates have slowed due to saturation they’re still incredibly high,” Lindland says. “The first step to boosting sales during the holiday shopping season is to design mobile specific content for that huge portion of the population viewing on mobile.” When creating an email that resonates on mobile, she suggests that businesses use larger text and images. Also feature buttons instead of small links, and experiment with 16-point font. “For important calls to action, create wide buttons to accommodate both left and right-handed consumers,” she says.
Increase Your Exposure on Search and Social
As the digital marketing industry has evolved, publishers and site platforms have begun offering more self-serve advertising options. This trend pays off in a big way when you’re short on time. Self-serve ad platforms like search engines and social media sites make it easy to create, launch, and optimize an ad campaign. They cut out the need for an agency partner, external media strategist, or lengthy approval process.
On the search front, adjust your paid search strategy to feature holiday-specific language and increase your visibility on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. While you’re at it, check your Google My Business listing to make sure your store’s holiday hours are accurate, and post a holiday-themed image of your staff or products. Google Business posts, which were launched for all users in 2017, are essentially digital ads that appear to internet users when they search Google for your business name. Updating them on a regular basis can improve your local search ranking. Promote your brand and latest deals, and make them a valuable addition to your small business marketing plan.
As you’re enhancing your search strategy, be sure to optimize paid search ads for mobile. Google recommends including a compelling call to action that incorporates your keywords; testing headlines, descriptions, and URL path fields of varying lengths to see what resonates with users of different devices; and automating your bid strategy based on signals like device type to maximize your presence on mobile.
Finally, look to platforms like Facebook and Twitter to help you promote your holiday-related updates. Paying to turn standard social media posts into ads through Promoted Tweets and boosted posts on your Facebook Business page will expand your reach and increase awareness of your brand on these social sites. Consider incorporating product testimonials and customer reviews into your social content to drive positive word of mouth.
Tell a Story
The holidays are a time for sharing stories, and that tradition also applies to brands. Look for ways to incorporate storytelling into your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts. That way your customers can visualize how and where your products fit into their shopping plans.
Dan Granger, founder and CEO of ad agency Oxford Road, feels strongly about this approach. “It’s critical that retailers tell stories to consumers about their brand because people need a reason to be interested,” he says. “They need a reason to trust, and to want to be a part of the narrative.”
Your story can take numerous forms, but it must relate either to your company or to your customer. Granger warns that if the connection to your brand isn’t clear, you may entertain your audience but won’t necessarily incite a purchase. “If you’re trying to drive sales this holiday season, marry the story to (a retailer-related) event. The stories have to drive action and drive behavior.”
One way to build an effective narrative is to think about why you started your company in the first place. “That’s the story of most brands, and it has the most resonance with consumers,” Granger explains. Another strategy is to use customer feedback, something Oxford Road does with radio and podcast ads. “Customer stories, reviews, and emails are also important to keep track of because they’re going to tell you about problems they had and how your product helped them,” he says.
As far as platforms go, Granger believes that Facebook and Instagram Stories are particularly useful for brand storytelling. Consumers don’t expect high production value from the videos they see in these environments. So, they’re ideal for last-minute campaigns.
As a leading medium for brand storytelling, video allows brands to paint dynamic pictures of their customers. Just take a look at this year’s Barnes & Noble ad, which follows a little Harry Potter fan as books stir her imagination. If you need to supplement a storytelling campaign that was created months in advance, developing a series of stand-alone video assets that showcase your product line is key. These can feature snippets of your story for teaser-style marketing and are easily shared on social media. They can also serve as a more sales-oriented accompaniment to your existing holiday content. To promote its online gift guide, for instance, Macy’s posted several videos to Twitter highlighting a selection of products based on the theme “cozy and caring.”
No time to produce new videos? Grab some user-generated content posted by your customers instead. UGC featuring adoring fans of your brand can be just as effective at driving last-minute sales online. Also, by reposting or retweeting content created by your social media followers (with due credit, of course), you can also increase their devotion to your brand.
If your holiday wish is to grow your retail sales, bypass the gift box in favor of these four strategies. They’re sure to give your brand the last-minute sales it deserves.