Arcalea - Search Marketing and the Holidays

Each year, many retail companies fail to update their marketing practices to accommodate the annual rush of holiday shoppers. This leaves a wide opening for younger businesses to swoop in and snatch up some of the resulting windfall. For a small, highly specialized business, this holiday rush may be critical to the entire year’s financial success.

Here are eight simple tips to keep in mind while putting together a digital marketing strategy for the holidays. These tips are fairly straightforward, but they also have varied applications. In keeping with the philosophy of inbound marketing, they are presented with consumer habits in mind. Best practices for holiday marketing are still based upon giving prospective customers what they’re already after—it’s what that is that’s changed.

With that in mind, let’s look at our first selection of advice for the upcoming holiday season:

Holiday Consumers Buy for Others

A customer who is buying gifts exhibits behavior that is distinctly different from how they would normally act during shopping. This is particularly true during the annual holiday months, when gifts are being purchased for multiple individuals at once.

  • Focus paid marketing campaigns on holiday terms. People are looking for holiday-themed offerings, special deals, and other holiday accommodations—not for the same items they would regularly buy for themselves. A few generously priced specials may encourage a holiday shopper to make a larger purchase; convenience is still a factor, as is security. People don’t want to make more individual purchases than they need to. The terms they use for their online research tend to be focused on a particular holiday, or “gifts for dad,” and less on specific products.
  • Emphasize variety. Everybody loves one-stop-shopping. Emphasize the possibility of finding something for everyone on your list. Back up that assertion with themed deals for mothers, fathers, children, and spouses. The more gifts a customer can find from one retailer right away, the more time they’ll be inclined to spend looking for the rest of their list as well.
  • Offer free shipping. The world is shrinking; a growing number of people are buying gifts which will require shipment directly to their recipients. Even for local recipients, buying and shopping through an online retailer is attractive for its convenience. With the amount being spent on Christmas gifts annually, this adds up to a large number of purchases—and, no matter what a person is after, they’ll be able to find a company offering both the item and free shipping. This tip falls under the category of “don’t be left out in the cold.”

Holiday Consumers Have Begun to Spread Out Their Spending

With the advent of online shopping, the “traditional” approach of frantically splurging on gifts at the last second began to give way to a more laid-back and well-distributed approach. It’s by no means universal, but it represents a significant and growing trend, and one that is particularly applicable to online shopping. The predominant reason? Distribution of spending, and a reduction in the stress of last-minute gift-buying. Those who spread out their traditional spending also point to the avoidance of late-season crowds.

  • Use tracking cookies to their full advantage. Set your cookies at least 30 days in advance, to help gather relevant feedback on the keywords being used by early shoppers. Those who opt to spread out their purchases are potentially very valuable recurring customers; if a person has three good experiences with a given retailer over a period of two to three months, they’re more likely to turn to them for other needs in the future. This includes personal shopping, as well as future gift-giving occasions.
  • Begin advertising your holiday specials early. Specific industries will have their own best practices for holiday advertising. With as much complaining as consumers do about the increasingly early rollout of holiday ad campaigns, they still respond to them in an overall favorable manner. With distributed spending becoming more common, complaints about holiday advertisements seem poised to fall off. This is particularly true if the ads to which customers are exposed are more likely to be tailored to meet their needs than they used to be.
  • Use post-holiday sales effectively. Holiday sales are effective, but post-holiday sales are a particular delight for many bargain-hunters. The holiday season overlaps multiple gift-giving occasions, traditional family get-togethers (during which gifts may be exchanged “out of sync” for the sake of convenience) and notoriously popular shopping occasions. Offering generous “post-holiday bargains” for any of these occasions adds appeal, from the perspective of those who have yet to finish buying their gifts for any upcoming occasions. For most Americans, the biggest gift-giving occasion still falls at the end of the season; keep enticing holiday customers right up until the end.

Holiday Consumers Also Shop for Themselves

The average consumer will spend approximately $1,500 over the course of the holiday season. This figure has been steadily increasing in recent years; it includes gift-giving, food, and travel expenses, but it also includes money that consumers spend on themselves. Along with travel, this area of holiday expense has seen a substantial increase in recent years, with the average consumer now spending $1 on themselves for every $5 that they spend on gifts.

  • Cater to holiday consumers with valuable content. Valuable content is a part of any good marketing strategy. It’s content that imparts useful or interesting information about the product that a customer is purchasing, which increases their perception of the value of their experience. It bolsters a customer’s perception of a retailer’s authority within their niche. Holiday-themed content should retain these qualities; most companies use holiday-themed content, but many sacrifice its valuable components in favor of overly salesy phrasing. This comes across as pushy, and it turns customers away, instead of encouraging them to return.
  • Extend the holiday season. There are many useful strategies in encouraging a customer to return to a holiday retailer for their everyday shopping year-round. One of those ways is to take advantage of other holidays, seasons, national observances, and special events throughout the year. Treat them with that level of focus which is typically reserved for the end-of-year holiday season, by offering deals and content which fit their respective themes. Use that to connect consumers to sales and promotions related to similar items which aren’t holiday-themed, and presto: a loyal, long-term customer is born.   
  • Get them to the checkout page. With all the commerce options afforded to us, it’s easy for customers to feel overwhelmed and back out of their purchasing decision. This is especially true if they find another company has a better offer, or don’t have as much urgency to buy for their selves as others. Make sure your customers are not abandoning their carts through careful analysis of their behavior

More Information about Online Marketing for the Holidays

The following resources offer additional tips and tricks for digital marketing over the course of the holidays. They also maintain expansive databases of information related to general digital marketing practices. Check them out for some fantastic additional ideas to spice up a unique holiday-themed marketing campaign.

  • HubSpot maintains a hub for holiday marketing, with links to substantial resources for building an unbeatable online marketing campaign for the annual holiday season.
  • Moz features this best practices article on how to beat the competition through an early analysis of holiday search trends.