Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday — the holiday season doesn’t lack shopping days. Add those to the traditional boost in consumer spending that occurs in the run-up to the holidays, and you have a recipe for a record sales quarter.
However, a bumper festive season doesn’t happen by accident. A comprehensive and thoughtfully crafted digital marketing strategy is necessary to make those sales rack up.
That’s why today, I will run through my top digital marketing tips for the holidays. By the end of this article, you’ll have an arsenal of strategies you can execute to make your physical or metaphorical cash register sing.
Why the Holidays Are the Best Time for Digital Marketing Success
Online shopping will be just as pivotal for consumers this festive season as last year. In 2020, online retail sales during the holiday period totalled $186 billion in the US, and Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history. This year, the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday are projected to increase by 14 percent compared to 2020.
The sheer demand for online shopping makes the holiday period one of the best times to launch a new digital marketing strategy, but competition between brands also makes an effective strategy necessary.
It’s important to present a strong digital campaign given the potential propensity for consumers to seek out the kind of in-store events they missed out on in 2020. Research shows that while 70 percent of consumers report their shopping journey involves online touch-points, only 14 percent of U.S. shoppers say they won’t shop in-store at all this season.
9 Digital Marketing Holiday Tips
OK, enough background information. Use these nine digital marketing holiday tips to guarantee a holly-jolly holiday season.
1. Start Early and Have a Plan
The best holiday digital marketing plans start months before the festive season. To put it another way: If you haven’t already started planning your strategy, start now.
By the time you’re reading this, most consumers will already have started shopping. It’s estimated that 31 percent of U.S. consumers will start their shopping in October or earlier, and 55 percent will start before Thanksgiving.
Whenever you start, making a plan is crucial. Try to wing it during the holiday season, and you’ll be outperformed by competitors who have had their campaigns set up and scheduled months in advance.
Planning your strategy doesn’t have to be complicated.
Start by outlining the goals you want to achieve and the tactics you plan on using. Next, list all the assets you need to design and the marketing funnels you need to build. Finally, create a realistic timeline backward from the day you want to launch.
Breaking your holiday digital marketing campaign up in this way will help show you exactly how much work needs to be done and how to make the best use of your time.
Most important of all, don’t freak out if you haven’t started planning yet. There’s still plenty of time to create a killer digital marketing plan. Focus on the shopping days that are still ahead of you and identify one or two effective strategies to put all of your efforts into.
2. Host a Contest
The holidays are a time for gift-giving, so what better way to get into the spirit of the season than by hosting a giveaway contest.
Not only is a contest a great way to give back to your consumers, but it’s also a fantastic way to drum up brand awareness, grow your social following, and build your email list. You can even use your contest to tease the holiday shopping deals and events you have coming up.
The great thing about hosting a contest online is that it’s quick, easy, and cheap to set up. You don’t even need to give away something extravagant to get people excited. A free product is all it takes to get your campaign going.
3. Use Paid Campaigns to Increase Awareness
While I’ll always believe SEO should have a prominent place in any marketing campaign, the time-sensitive nature of the holiday season makes PPC ads essential.
Run awareness-based campaigns on every major paid ad channel. I’d recommend Google, Facebook, and Instagram at a minimum, but feel free to advertise on any channel you think is appropriate for your audience.
Be thoughtful with your budget. Specifically, you’ll want to make sure you spread your budget across the entire holiday season. While it’s tempting to front-load your budget and catch shoppers as early as possible, consumers may not be ready to purchase at the start of November.
There are a couple of strategies you’ll need to implement to be sure of this.
First, account for higher costs the closer you get to Christmas. Since retailers know that consumers are much more likely to make purchases the later it gets in the season, CPCs become more expensive, too.
Second, get rid of any campaigns that aren’t performing by the end of November. That way, you can save your budget for campaigns that convert.
4. Use Promotions but Use Them Carefully
Promotions and discounts are something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they are a great way to drive traffic and increase conversion rates. At the same time, they have the potential to devalue your brand—especially at a time when rampant consumerism is so closely linked to environmental damage.
In response, many brands have been distancing themselves from heavy discounts and Black Friday deals. Outdoor retail brand REI is closing its doors for the sixth year in a row and paying staff to take the day off and spend time with their family. Clothing brand Allbirds is raising prices on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, then donating the additional money to Mother Nature and matching it with their contribution.
You don’t have to go that far, but you should use offers and discounts with caution.
Rather than trying to compete on price when consumers are looking for as much value as possible, why not deliver value in another way? Free shipping, gifts, and other rewards are a great way to retain brand value while offering the discounts holiday shoppers are eager for.
Another way to make discounts more meaningful is to limit them to existing customers. With this strategy, there’s no risk of devaluing your brand in the eyes of new customers, while rewarding existing customers for being loyal. What’s more, it’s much cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one, and a generous promotion may be enough to stop them from shopping with competitors over the holiday.
5. Create Holiday Gift Sets
If you’re looking for a way to increase conversions and boost your average order value (AOV), try bundling your products into holiday gift sets and selling them at a discount. Product bundles are particularly popular in the run-up to Christmas when shoppers are searching for the perfect gift.
Bundling is particularly common with health and beauty products, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t work in other sectors, too. For example, a yoga e-commerce store could bundle a yoga mat, block, carrier bag, and pair of leggings. A pet store could bundle dog food, a bed, and a collar. Whatever you sell, there’s almost certainly potential to bundle several products together.
Don’t just guess which products will work well together. Harness the power of data and dive into your inventory analytics to see which products have been most popular and which are most frequently purchased together.
Of course, you don’t have to only include your best sellers. Bundling is a great way to sell less popular products that may not do so well on their own.
6. Create Laser-Targeted Email Campaigns
Email marketing generates on average $36 for every $1 spent, making it the highest returning marketing channel. It’s a no-brainer to include email in your digital marketing strategy.
Unfortunately, nearly every other brand includes it in their strategy, too.
That’s right; it’s not just you who gets bombarded with offers during the holidays. From November onwards, everyone’s inboxes start overflowing with Black Friday deals, special offers, and holiday greetings.
Not sending emails isn’t an option. If you don’t catch your audience’s attention, your competitors will. Your job is to make your emails stand out in a sea of sales messages.
That’s not to say your subject line and email copy aren’t. You’ll have to nail those, too. You’ll also want to make sure emails are optimised for mobile.
There’s only so much you can optimise, however. When you send your email shouldn’t be one of them. There’s no shortage of statistics telling you the best time to send an email. The trouble is your competitors are reading the same articles, too, so forget best practices for a moment and stagger emails as much as possible throughout the day.
7. Be Socially Responsible
Customers are prioritising corporate social responsibility more than ever. More than three-quarters of them are motivated to purchase from companies that work to make the world better, according to research by AFLAC.
That means practicing social responsibility—whether that’s donating a portion of your profits to charity, creating environmentally-friendly products, or something else entirely—isn’t just the ethical thing to do. It makes business sense, too.
If you’re new to corporate social responsibility, start by supporting causes that align with your brand. For instance, it makes sense for a pet store to support a dog shelter, or a gardening brand to support an environmental nonprofit.
In both cases, customers will want to support the charity and may go out of their way to shop with your brand over a competitor. It’s also just nice to give back to something you care about. Tis the season for giving, after all.
Whatever causes you support, remember to be genuine. Your customers aren’t fools, and they’ll quickly be able to tell the difference between a company that is committed to being responsible and one that is greenwashing.
8. Try New Platforms
Ever been tempted to run a campaign on TikTok or Instagram Live? Don’t wait for the New Year to make a change; try a new marketing channel this holiday season.
While it can be reassuring to stick to the channels you know, there’s no guarantee they’ll be as effective as they always have been. The move away from Facebook’s suite of apps towards newer platforms, in particular, is well documented.
Launching a campaign on a new platform may seem daunting, but if you treat it like an experiment, then it doesn’t matter if you fail. Better still, there’s every possibility you’ll hit it out of the park and uncover a profitable platform you can advertise on for years to come.
9. Make a Plan for Long-Term Success
My last holiday marketing tip doesn’t technically involve the holidays at all. It’s about how to squeeze as much return as possible from all the money you invest into holiday marketing throughout the rest of the year.
If your brand awareness ads are successful, you’re going to have a lot of people visiting your site. Hopefully, most of them will make a purchase. If they don’t, you’ll want to find ways of targeting them throughout the rest of the year to make sure that initial ad spend wasn’t wasted.
One of the best ways to do this without getting visitors to sign up for a mailing list is through retargeting ads.
With retargeting ads on Google and Facebook’s ad network, you only serve ads to people who have previously visited your site. This is an incredibly cost-effective ad strategy and one of the best ways to keep your brand top of mind well into the New Year.
Digital Marketing Holiday Tips: Frequently Asked Questions
Why is holiday marketing important?
Consumer spending is high during the holidays, but so is competition between brands. A holiday marketing strategy can help your business boost sales and increase market share.
What makes a great holiday marketing strategy?
A great holiday marketing strategy is well-targeted, highly personalised, and focused on driving as many conversions as possible.
How can I increase sales during holidays?
A digital marketing strategy is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to increase sales during the holiday season.
Digital Marketing Holiday Tips Conclusion
The holiday season is rife with opportunity, and there’s no shortage of digital marketing strategies you can use to make 2021 your best season ever. It’s all about putting together a campaign that works for your brand.
Start by implementing one or two of the strategies I’ve listed above, then make sure you’re doing everything you can to improve your conversions. Finally, learn how you can keep your sales high after the holiday spike.
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