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3 tips to avoid marketing missteps this holiday season

3 tips to avoid marketing missteps this holiday season Michael Jones

Retailers are poised to deck the malls (and online channels) with holiday promotions very soon -- if they haven't done so already. The gift-giving holidays are right around the corner, and consumer interest is increasingly creeping earlier into fall.

A new study conducted by Kelton Global shows that the majority of shoppers (54 percent) expect retailer holiday promotions to have begun by now, with most shoppers (85 percent) expecting them to be well under way before Black Friday.

Despite early consumer interest in holiday deals, retailers must be prepared for the holiday shopping season to continue well past Black Friday and Cyber Monday and into the wee hours of New Year's Day.

So how can retailers beat holiday fatigue and keep shoppers happy all season long? I've broken down three tips to help retailers keep their promotional engines running smoothly throughout the holidays.

It's a marathon, not a sprint

Shoppers are ready earlier than ever before, but that doesn't mean they aren't willing to shop late in the season -- especially if it means finding the best deal. Recently at RetailMeNot, we analyzed 2013 and 2014 holiday insight data collected from hundreds of retailer promotions and millions of consumers. The data showed a 20 percent spike in search traffic beginning November 1, with a steady rise until it peaked on Black Friday. Additionally, the top 10 days for traffic on mobile devices and on desktop occurred following the five days of savings after Thanksgiving.

What can retailers do to capitalize on these trends? Make every day count from now until New Year's. When the early-bird shopper arrives on your site or in your store, be prepared with a game plan. It's also vital to ensure that employees are prepared for the season as well. Customer service teams and in-store associates are on the front lines of building real relationships with customers, and their interactions can leave a lasting impression -- especially during a stressful season for shoppers!

While the majority of shopping still occurs post-Thanksgiving, retailers that engage with shoppers earlier in their journey will be the ones that cut through the blizzard of competitor messaging once shoppers are out in full force. Be ready to strike early and often this season.

Keep consumers coming back

Stand out from competitors and connect with your customer base by strategically planning a variety of promotions that make sense for your brand audience. Retailers can vary marketing content and deals as a way to combat deal fatigue throughout the season. During peak shopping periods, retailers should consider additional incentives like free shipping, a gift with purchase, or allowing shoppers to order online during Cyber Monday sales and pick up in stores when convenient.

Worried about profit or consumer perception if your prices are always bottomed out? Retailers can expand their presence earlier in the season with in-store events to build brand excitement or by offering strong loyalty programs and rewards. Additionally, promotions like discounted gift cards and rebates can be valuable alternatives after Cyber Monday.

This might all sound a bit overwhelming. Don't be afraid to seek outside partnerships so that the execution of your holiday plan is seamless across promotions and channels. By partnering with other marketing experts, retailers can tap into additional customer audiences and experiences, and better maintain an always-on content approach.

Bridge the gaps between bricks and clicks

There is no doubt that consumers will be more connected than ever this season. According to eMarketer, "U.S. retail m-commerce sales are expected to rise 32.2 percent" by the end of 2015. And there will be no shortage of shoppers with phone in hand during the holidays. Additionally, proprietary data found that smartphone and tablet browsing surpassed desktop during the 2014 holiday season, a trend that is likely to continue this season. However, desktop still leads the way in terms of clicks that resulted in a purchase.

Retailers can use the rise of mobile to their advantage by allowing it to become the glue that seamlessly integrates their online and offline efforts. Recently at the Shop.org Digital Summit, Sucharita Mulpuru of Forrester Research spoke to the fact that $1.6 trillion in sales are influenced by mobile, with the majority occurring offline.

If you're still placing your customers into channel silos and dividing your marketing efforts, then you're likely doing it wrong. Focus on creating a plan this season that provides consistency of promotions across online and offline channels and reduces friction for the mobile customer.
While it may be a little early for retailers to begin blaring the holiday tunes throughout their stores, one thing is certain -- shoppers are already making their lists and checking them twice. It's time to buckle down and embrace the season. See you on the other side.

Michael Jones is senior vice president, retailer and brand solution at RetailMeNot.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Michael Jones has over twenty years of experience as a financial professional. Mr. Jones strategically plans and develops private equity Notes, conducts research, sales, and management for this boutique consulting firm that assist emerging companies...

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