With Thanksgiving falling on November 28, the 2019 holiday season is shorter this year. With 27 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, this compresses all festive holiday shopping into a four-week period filled with a variety of marketing opportunities. There may be fewer shopping days, but brands can take advantage of every single one to get the most out of their holiday ad campaigns -- if they get started early, that is.
Let’s look at the numbers. During the 2018 holiday season, total retail spending increased by 5.4 percent to $998.32 billion, with both traditional retail and e-commerce thriving, according to eMarketer. Brick-and-mortar sales rose 3.9 percent to $874.42 billion, and e-commerce soared by 16.7 percent to $123.90 billion. Last year's Cyber Monday racked up $7.87 billion in e-commerce sales, representing the single largest online spending day in history, while Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day also experienced significantly above-average growth rates for online sales.
This year, estimates from the National Retail Federation and Deloitte expect holiday retail sales to increase steadily by around 4 to 5 percent, with e-commerce continuing to pack a heavy punch.
These numbers underscore the importance of the holiday season and holiday ad campaigns for retailers. The growth of e-commerce and the proliferation of new holiday shopping days, such as Green Monday and Super Saturday, put a lot of pressure on brands to leverage holiday fever to craft an omnichannel ad strategy that drives sales. As we approach the holiday season, there are a few critical points brands must consider when it comes to maximizing holiday campaign strategies.
Timing is everything
The first and most important question is when to spend. Timing is everything, and brands should be planning their holiday strategy far in advance. Although we began seeing some holiday promotions as early as October, effective promotional campaigns are up and running by early November to capitalize on early shoppers and to raise brand awareness before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Holiday emails sent early in the season drive two times the conversion rates than those sent later. Getting started early allows you to test out messages and strategies so they are fine-tuned when the holiday season gets into full swing.
Map it out
The planning process should include a preholiday checklist that takes marketers through what they need to know and do to prepare.
The first item is to set your goals: What do you aim to achieve, and what metrics will you use to measure success?
Secondly, look at your calendar to decide what holiday shopping days you want to focus on and how you want to pace the campaign over the course of the holiday season. Will you send out promotions on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or just focus on one? What budget will you allocate for each of those days? Know that many retailers rely on the majority of their annual sales during the holiday season, and understanding competitive marketing, messaging and advertising spend is key to maximizing share of voice during this season.
Third, evaluate past performance. All of these decisions should be made in part by considering the previous year's performance. If a Black Friday campaign from last year wasn’t as successful as you had hoped, why was that? Would it have been more effective in a different time frame or targeted at a different audience?
The fourth step on the checklist is to give serious thought to every channel. There are so many ways brands can reach consumers these days: display, mobile, search, social, audio, video, connected TV, geofencing, billboards and more. Consumer shopping habits have changed, and even if they do shop in brick-and-mortar stores on major holiday shopping days, they are likely also browsing online, comparing prices and searching for deals and offers throughout the holiday season.
It can be difficult for brands to stand out during these weeks of media saturation, meaning an omnichannel marketing strategy that targets consumers with messages on multiple devices and accommodates multiple shopping patterns is a must-have. It is also key to identify marketing through a national campaign and how much incremental marketing will be needed regionally or locally.
This is just as true for digital brands as it is for brick-and-mortar stores. The boundaries between online and in-store are blurring. Beyond traditional ads, there are new strategies physical retailers can take to drive foot traffic and conversions.
For instance, historic geofencing is a technique to conquest a competitor's customers by targeting them with a message that pushes them to your store or website instead. With foot traffic attribution, brands can not only connect their digital ads to sales lifts in store, but can also serve ads to shoppers while they are in-store to enhance their shopping experience and upsell them on relevant products.
Stay true to what works for your brand
The final step is to take a good hard look at your brand’s resources and assets. Video may perform better than static ads, but video is also expensive. Brands need to craft strategies that maximize reach without sacrificing quality.
To that end, consider investing in higher-quality private datasets, which may be more expensive but can drive performance with better targeting, and make sure your creative is spot on and has continuity across all media channels.
Go with what works -- in 2018, the promotional offers that appealed most to U.S. internet users were price discounts (95 percent), free shipping (75 percent) and free gifts (52 percent). As direct response marketers well know, the offer itself is critical. All the strategizing and optimizing in the world won’t help if the promotional messaging is not compelling.
Ultimately, maximizing holiday campaign strategies boils down to considering what your goals are, what your brand is, what timing makes sense, the media your consumers spend time on and what message is likely to have the greatest impact. Start asking those questions now, ahead of the holiday shopping season, and you will be ready to reap the rewards when November 28 hits.