There’s still over 17 weeks and more than 120 days of shopping left before Christmas, but retailers will start kicking their holiday shopping strategies into gear a lot earlier than that.
Some have already begun to roll out marketing messages and products aimed squarely at holiday shoppers, while more will follow suit in September, but despite the long-held belief that the holiday shopping season doesn’t truly kick off until Black Friday, the majority of retailers will kick their holiday shopping plans into full gear come October, according to the latest edition of the eTail Annual Retail Holiday Readiness Report. The report surveyed 122 executives in the retail sector.
“As more and more retailers compete digitally, the brands that will successfully cut through the noise in their customers’ inboxes and social feeds will need to take the time to invest in an approach that is as personal as it is dynamic,” according to the report. “Without creating a genuine connection with the customer, retailers will miss out on maximizing the boost in engagement that the holidays bring, instead getting lost in the holiday shuffle. With new technology, the timeline for building a contextual email or social campaign has shortened.”
October is by far the most popular month for retailers to begin kicking off their holiday sales plans, with 33 percent of retailers launching their holiday campaigns that month, according to the report. November is also a popular time to start, at 28 percent, while 15 percent begin in September and 8 percent begin as soon as August. Retailers who wait to launch their holiday campaigns in December have probably already missed the boat, as the report found that only about 1 percent of retailers wait that long to launch their holiday campaigns.
“In order to deploy a personalized campaign that shows off real engagement and incorporates [user-generated content], these retailers are beginning to run campaigns that will generate the content they will use in their holiday marketing months in advance, all with the understanding that, when it comes to winning engagement and conversions during peak holiday season, it pays to be unique and uniquely prepared,” according to the report.
This year, targeting consumers by segments will also be the most popular tool retailers will use to try and lure in customers and boost sales this holiday season, with 43 percent of retailers expected to employ that technique as a holiday marketing strategy. Another 23 percent will roll out A/B testing to see which of two products consumers prefer, 20 percent plan to use consumer data and analytics to improve relevance and about 7 percent of retailers will employ some form of live inventory pricing or the use of real-time data location servicing as a way to entice customers.
“As digital marketers plan their email campaigns for the holidays, one of their biggest concerns is how to reach their customers when they are potentially receiving more email than at any other time of the year,” according to the report. “The solution is to create emails that feel like they are meant specifically for them. Because of this, it’s no surprise that targeting by segment is the single most popular technique for improving sales.”
Interestingly, only about 43 percent of retailers will run user-generated campaigns outside of the holiday season (compared to 57 percent of retailers who don’t plan to). However, once the holiday season starts, that number flips, and 57 percent of retailers will run some form of user-generated advertising campaign (compared to 43 percent who won’t).
“In a hyper-saturated digital world, customers respond best to content that feels natural and meant for them. The need to capture and share genuine moments has many brands turning to user-generated content to bolster their holiday marketing,” according to the report.
And when it comes to running user-generated campaigns for the holidays, 23 percent of retailers will do so via their social media accounts, 17 percent will do so on their websites and 14 percent will do so through email.
With holiday shopping campaigns set to gear up in October for most retailers, many of them are likely working on those campaigns right now, as the report found that it took 71 percent of retailers over three weeks to go from conception of a holiday marketing campaign to deployment of that campaign through emails.
The majority, 32 percent of retailers, need about three to four weeks, 27 percent need between one and two months and 12 percent will take more than two months. But 29 percent of retailers will only take between one and two weeks to implement these types of campaigns.
And if there’s one other thing retailers should keep in mind as they plan for this year’s holiday shopping season, eTail believes it’s the importance of personalized messaging to target consumers.
“Your customers want their holiday messaging to feel like it’s really meant for them, which requires gathering and acting on the right data insights. Personalization will be key for breaking through the noise this season,” according to the report. “The most effective messaging for the holidays, and during the rest of the year, is based in knowledge of who your customers are.”