‘Tis the Season for Holiday Planning (and Spending)

With Halloween behind us, our focus can officially shift to the holiday gift giving (and buying) season. The National Retail Federation expects total retail sales in November and December to increase 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion. The online sales portion is forecast to increase nearly 10 percent over last year to as much as $117 billion. Spending includes gifts for others, self-spending, food, flowers, decorations and greeting cards for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Black Friday is only 16 days away.

Despite some competition in previous years from Cyber Monday and Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday remains the busiest shopping days and signals the official start of the holiday shopping season. According to the National Retail Federation, 110.2 million people shopped on Black Friday in 2015, which included online and in brick-and-mortar stores. That represents about 35 percent of all Americans spending a total of $13.14 billion dollars on Black Friday in 2015.

But not every retail channel is realizing this hockey stick growth – specifically brick and mortar sales. Shoppers spent $10.4 billion in physical stores on Black Friday 2015; that’s roughly $1 BILLION dollars less than the year prior. But fear not, it appears most of these consumers have simply moved online. Last year online shoppers spent a record $2.74 billion, an increase of 14.3 percent over Black Friday 2014. And a lot of these sales came via mobile – roughly one third, in fact – and we expect that number to only continue to rise.

So with the promise of big revenue and record online shopping growth, how can retailers properly prepare and ensure their holiday campaigns result in big sales under the tree, rather than a fat lump of coal? Here’s some tips to consider this season:

  • Save time and resources; automate where possible
    Your time is valuable. During the holiday season, it should be spent strategizing your next big campaign, not down in the weeds working on campaign execution. No matter how large or small your team, you have a finite amount of resources to grow your business. By automating the more manual aspects of your marketing campaigns, you’ll be able to maximize your time and in turn optimize your campaigns. When you replace manual repetitive work – like building out rules for each of your target segments – with automated campaigns, you naturally free up time and resources to focus on more strategic and creative tasks.
  • Look to your peers or other seasonal campaigns for inspiration
    When building out your holiday campaigns, it’s important to look for inspiration wherever you can find it, even some non-traditional places. For example, though the upcoming holiday gift giving season isn’t a profit-driver for BuySeasons.com, Halloween is. More than 60% of their revenue comes during the months of September and October. That means their peak buying season is shorter than the time you’ve spent planning for yours. With such a small window of opportunity, getting customers to the right product quickly is critical. According to BuySeasons COO, Eric Kirkhofer, “You really have to drive customer engagement and reduce the bounce rate in order to drive the sale… We have to be able to offer something a little different. Part of that is selection and with selection comes a good recommendation model so that people can get engaged and they see things that make sense and they keep clicking versus bouncing out of the site without making a purchase.”
  • Individualization shortens the path to products.
    Find every opportunity to personalize the shopping experience for each individual customer and make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for fast. By understanding the preferences of each individual, retailers can ensure more successful shopping experiences for visitors and higher conversion rates for their brand. Intelligent search and predictive product recommendations speed up the path to purchase and relieve shoppers from having to sort through thousands of products to find the perfect gift. Each click a shopper makes provides a new piece of data that retailers can use to better understand that individual shopper and respond to their real-time intent. Consider extending that same efficiency to your email campaigns; personalized emails can reactivate customers and speed conversions.
  • Focus on last year’s failures rather than the successes.
    It’s easy to look to last year’s campaign successes and simply try to recreate them again this year. If it ain’t broke, right? But it’s even more important to look at your campaign failures. What went right with a campaign can be fleeting, but what went wrong is very often consistent. Analyze the previous year’s failures; get to the root cause of why it failed. Was your message confusing? Was your campaign poorly timed or targeted? Are you misinterpreting the signals your customers are sending? Unpacking the failures of the past can lead to even greater campaign success in the future.
Matt Helmke

Matt is the senior director of communications and content at Reflektion. He’s led global communications, content and brand strategy programs for high-profile, culture-shifting Fortune 500 business divisions, as well as innovative, early-stage startups. The common thread running through his career is a passion for disruptive technologies focused on improving and redefining end-user experiences. Outside of technology, his passions include his family, music, bourbon, craft beers, fishing and swimming… but not all at once.