Like Santa Claus, we made a list and checked it twice: a list of 25 holiday marketing to-do's before the shopping frenzy starts!
25 Holiday Marketing To-Do's Before the Shopping Frenzy Starts
Santa Claus isn't the only one who makes a list and checks it twice.
Holiday marketers have so much to do and prepare for in the coming holiday shopping season that it can feel overwhelming. That's why we at Rakuten Marketing put together a list of 25 to-do's for holiday marketers this season. Everything from double checking what's in place, to seizing last-minute opportunities and implementing strategies can be found here. Rather than spend time telling you about it, read our list of 25 holiday marketing to-do's below!
1. Ensure Your Site Can Handle the Additional Traffic
If you haven’t already, one of the first things you should do is test your site or platform for the additional traffic you’ll be experiencing during Cyber Week. Consumers are going to be swarming sites for deals and purchases, and even the biggest of brands are not immune to getting overloaded and knocked offline from the additional traffic. Even being down for a couple minutes can be detrimental to sales, so take preventative measures. Talk to your IT team (or whoever is responsible for ensuring your site is up) and make sure they know about the additional traffic increases and have prepared your site to handle it. Have them share with you the information they have, and have them explain to you how your site will stay up during the biggest e-commerce days of the year.
2. Have an Emergency Plan in Place
You can take as many precautionary steps as possible to ensure nothing goes wrong during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but what if it does? Taking the steps to plan ahead is great, but having a plan of action if something goes wrong is even better. Have a team and protocol in place for any potential day-of disasters so you can react immediately and with precision if anything goes wrong. Make sure contact information is shared with this team, everyone is clear on what their responsibilities are, and know who will be around throughout the day.
3. Pull Reports and Know Past Trends
If you haven’t already been reviewing trends from previous holiday shopping seasons, get started right now. Being informed of what worked, what didn’t, and when what you were doing was most and least effective is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to holiday planning and strategies. Get those reports pulled and start reviewing them internally and with your account managers to understand what the data is telling you, and how you can capitalize on it.
4. Look for Non-Peak Days to Capitalize On
Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be the two biggest shopping days of the season, but they’re not the only two out there. Consumers are shopping all season, and some believe they can find better deals on non-traditional shopping days. One great statistic recently shared in an advertiser webinar is that the Monday before Thanksgiving and the Monday after Cyber Week are two of the most-shopped days during the season, but that also have very little cost for placements and the like for brands. Try to incorporate these into your strategy to help reach consumers. Another good strategy is to incorporate fun, quirky holidays during the holiday season into your marketing strategy.
5. Stay Informed of Trends
There are tons of articles, studies, and reports coming out daily about what to expect from holiday shoppers this year. Keeping yourself well-informed about what the latest trends are observing and what experts are saying can help you make strategic adjustments to your marketing plan as needed. Try to keep yourself as educated as possible leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday by reading and discussing this information with your team. Since there is so much content out there, Rakuten Marketing is publishing blog posts that aggregate some of these articles and trends for marketers to get high-level takeaways and insights. Be sure to check out some broader seasonal trends that are a bit more “holiday evergreen” if you’re looking for general information.
6. Communicate Offers to Affiliate Partners…
Affiliate publishers and advertisers will need to communicate with one another closely during this time of the year, and there are several ways to accomplish that (which we’ll get into), but one critical thing brands should be doing is communicating their offers to affiliate publishers as early as they can. Give the publishers time to build content or organize the deals in ways that will benefit their audience and your customers by getting information to them early enough to enable them to take full advantage of it. There are some situational exceptions to this, as we’ll discuss later in this list, but for right now what you should be doing is keeping in regular touch with affiliate partners and giving them what they need to succeed.
7. …But Don’t Over-Communicate Either
There’s a happy medium to a number of communications you should send to your affiliate partners. Sending too many can be as problematic as not sending enough. That’s because publishers are going to be getting tons of newsletters and updates from all their partnered advertisers, and sending too many can turn them off from reading your communications altogether. Pick and choose how often you’ll be sending emails. If you need more information on this, read this blog post on best practices for communicating offers to affiliate publishers.
8. Host a Holiday Planning Webinar (And Record It)
If you want to make sure your publishers are on the same page as your brand, and you don’t want to bombard them with newsletter after newsletter, try hosting a webinar for your publishers to hear what you’ll be planning this holiday season, and the role they’ll be playing in that strategy. This is a great way to get an engaging and personal touchpoint with your publishers before the rush hits, as well as provides them a forum to ask questions directly and create a quick dialogue with your brand. Record the webinar for publishers that can’t attend and share it with all your publishers afterward so they have it as a reference.
9. Play Up the Buzz!
You know who’s excited about hearing holiday offers? EVERYONE! Don’t be shy about feeding the buzz of the holiday season and giving your customers something to look forward to. Some ways you can do this is by leaking some of your holiday offers early, or making an event about the upcoming deals being announced. Holiday shopping is projected to be at a high this year, so capitalize on that early by getting shoppers excited about what you’ll have for them.
10. Create Gift Guide Lists for Your Publishers to Share
Much like Santa Claus, holiday shoppers are making lists and checking them twice. These lists are presents they’re asking for, gifts they want to buy for others, products that they’re keeping their eye on, deals they want to take advantage of…the lists go on! Help them and help your affiliate partners by using the Multiple Product Feeds update to make holiday lists for all types of shoppers. This will empower your publishing partners to use these lists in their content and deal promotions, and act as a guide for list articles and holiday guides for customers to review and take advantage of.
11. Keep Your Messaging Targeted
The more you read about consumer behavior and trends, the more you’ll realize how varied their behavior is during the holiday season. Trends like men shopping later in the holiday season, Millennials enjoying experiential gifts to give, and younger shoppers being more responsive to impulse purchases are all examples of how diverse holiday shoppers are. When you’re promoting your deals – be it through affiliate partners, in your display advertisements, or your search strategy – make sure your message is something that will resonate with the shoppers you’re looking to convert.
12. Build Loyalty Through Influencers
There’s a bit of a mercenary mentality for holiday shoppers when they’re looking to make purchases. If the product meets their needs and the price is competitive, shoppers will be compelled to purchase. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t connect to a customer through loyalty this holiday season. As discussed in previous content and webinars, customers trust influencers. They value their opinions and take their advice to heart. Influencers can help connect your brand with the trust that shoppers have for said influencers. This can help build brand awareness and recognition so that, when it comes time to make a purchase, customers will be able to identify your brand – and possibly convert on their purchase with your products in their cart because of this.
13. Keep Your Message (and Offers!) Fresh
Even though consumers will be up to their eyeballs in deals, offers, and discounts, that does not mean that they won’t recognize repeated offers when they see them. Consumers are quick to shut out deals they’ve already seen with the logic that ‘if it didn’t entice me the first time, it’s going to do even less for me now.’ Avoid these types of situations by keeping your deals fresh during the holiday season and changing up what you’re offering, how much you’re offering, or what extras customers could get. You can do this in quick bursts – like having different offers between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – or make this more immediate and sudden, like offering flash sales.
14. Keep an Eye on Your Competition and Adjust as Needed
Nobody likes getting beat. During the Super Bowl-equivalent of shopping periods, you don’t want to come in with a strong game plan and then not make an adjustment when you see a competitor beating you on an offer or discount. While it can be hard to predict exactly what will happen during Cyber Week, it doesn’t mean all is lost if you see on Friday there are steeper discounts or better offers from your competitors. Keep an eye on what they’re doing during Black Friday, and quickly work with your partners to make a better offer for Cyber Monday. Know what your budget is and what you have room for when you do this, but most importantly act quickly. You and your partners will be in the middle of the biggest shopping days of the year, but a more competitive offer means you can both be winners if you work effectively.
15. Brush Up on Demographics
Millennials and Gen Z can feel like an absolute mystery to some marketers. Cut through the questions and get the answers you want for a marketing strategy that will resonate with these two prominent shopping groups by reading our blog post on what to expect from these two generations during the holidays, as well as Millennial shopping behaviors and Gen Z consumer trends.
16. Free Shipping (Yes, We’re Mentioning It Here, Too)
Free shipping. Does any more need to be said? We will anyway: 64% of holiday shoppers were convinced to make a purchase because the brand/retailer offered free shipping. 63% said that free shipping influenced them to shop digitally. 86% said they abandoned their cart because there was a shipping cost. There are plenty more statistics, but why waste time? Start finding ways to offer free shipping in some capacity if you can. It really does make a difference.
17. Offer Impulse Purchase Opportunities
Younger generations love feeling like they’ve found a great deal, and they don’t mind making an impulse purchase if they feel they’re getting a deal. According to the NRF, 66% of Millennials and 71% of Gen Z’ers said they made impulse purchases. Utilize flash sales, timed offers, and “one day only!” type sales and deals to get the attention of younger shoppers and win them over. You can also combine this strategy with non-peak day opportunities to help drive conversions and sales on days that aren’t being as heavily shopped.
18. Be Mindful of the Brick-and-Mortar Experience
Want to know something kind of strange? Gen Z, the very generation that grew up in the age of the internet, loves in-store shopping. It’s crazy, but it makes sense. Gen Z shoppers see the in-store shopping experience as just that – an experience. In-store shopping is novel and social for this generation, and with Black Friday around the corner, there’s a surprising amount of buzz. These younger shoppers like to go in-store during this time to get gift ideas and enjoy the atmosphere. If you’re a retailer with a brick-and-mortar space, make your storefronts feel like an experience as much as you can to entice younger shoppers to explore and find products they’ll want to get for themselves or others.
19. Use Prospecting and Retargeting as Your Display 1-2 Punch
The holiday shopping season has grown longer. Consumers, believing they can order online later in the season and find deals as good as or better than Cyber Week, cause the holiday shopping period to last longer. That means building awareness early and keeping it high throughout the holiday season is crucial. After all, consumers will bounce from deal-to-deal and brand-to-brand, and they can easily move on from something they saw a few days ago. That’s why, during this time of the year, you should focus heavily on finding new audiences and rediscovering old site users, whether they purchased from you or not, and serve them ads leading them to your page. Use display advertising to bring new shoppers to your site, as well as retarget shoppers who’ve checked you out before (or even purchased from you in the past) and are looking for a new deal.
20. Be Social with Display
Social media is highly influential on younger generations, specifically Millennials and Gen Z. In an NRF report, Millennials were influenced the most by Facebook (47%) when comparing Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Gen Z’ers, on the other hand, were most influenced by Instagram (44%). These platforms are a great way to integrate social strategies into your display campaigns. When planning your social content, consider using video ads rather than static. Video content has become a very popular medium choice for consumers, so consider bringing your ads to life and leveraging this medium during the holiday season. We’ve previously discussed how younger generations see visuals as a second language, so speak to them on their level.
21. Look for Last-Minute Placement Opportunities
If you haven’t secured placements already, don’t fret: there are still opportunities to do so. Coordinate with publishers right now, but also don’t overlook using non-peak days as opportunities for placements. Doing this successfully requires you to evaluate and identify what non-peak days were the most engaging for your brand over recent years.
22. Be Mindful of All Device Users
People love mobile devices. People also love desktops. They use both at different points in the buying cycle and use them almost interchangeably. Cater to both and deliver a seamless, painless experience to your holiday shoppers. Make sure your mobile experience is optimized for easy check out options, but make sure your desktop experience isn’t cumbersome either. Though this seems like common knowledge, don’t let it fall through the cracks while trying to manage everything else this holiday season!
23. Geotargeting for In-Store Shoppers
If you have the capabilities to target based on location or your affiliate partners have the ability to do so, explore opportunities for geotargeted notifications on deals and discounts. Geotargeting is a good way to keep consumers aware of your in-store deals and can compel them to convert on a purchase if they feel they're getting additional value.
24. Keep the Late Holiday Shopper in Mind
The holidays are longer now. Don’t forget about the holiday shoppers who are starting or finishing their lists late. Give them incentives to shop with you that correlate to the shopping period. Offer deals on faster shipping to ensure they get their products faster, or give additional cashback online and in-store for a weekend motivating them to finish up. But, most importantly, keep them in mind because they can help boost your end-of-holiday-season efforts!
25. Remember, this is a Marathon
If nothing else, don’t forget that the holiday shopping period is a series of opportunities. Cyber Week may be the most well-known, but it’s just the beginning of a litany of different marketing opportunities. Recently, the holidays have even extended beyond Christmas for US shoppers who are looking to quickly spend their gift cards or exchange unwanted gifts for something else. These are great opportunities to target discounts and deals to get them out and shopping!