Holiday marketing: Take some cues from 2015 trends

James Green on
  • Categories: Channel: Retail, E-Commerce, Holiday Retailer, How To Guides: Retail Marketing, Retail Column
  • The 2015 holidays were a boon for digital retailers. For the first time, more people shopped online than in stores between Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; we all know the web is swimming with holiday shoppers. Yet marketers still struggle with getting in front of the right people and winning their attention during the busy shopping period.

    Magnetic (my employer) and Ipsos polled holiday shoppers in January 2016 and learned a bit more about people’s holiday shopping behaviors: Seventy-nine percent of people surveyed browsed online for gifts, 30 percent researched and made a majority of purchases online, and more than half spent five hours or more shopping on the internet.

    This is great news for marketers, because the more consumers rely on the internet for their shopping, the greater the chance we have to find, influence and convert them into holiday customers. The key, then, is really in execution.

    ‘Tis the season to get digital

    As marketers plan their campaigns, it’s important to look back at past trends to understand how people are using and relying on digital channels for their holiday purchases. Holiday shoppers are everywhere: Whether they search for products, gather gift information, buy online for delivery or buy online and pick up in the store (also known as BOPUS), the holiday shopper is using multiple channels and devices to check off the items on their gift list.

    The proof is in the numbers. We continue to see more consumers shifting to online and mobile shopping. According to comScore, total online shopping in November and December increased 13 percent in 2015, reaching about $69 billion. And while desktop only jumped about six percent, mobile — including tablets and smartphones — increased by 59 percent (totaling $12.65 billion).

    When it comes to millennials, cross-device presence is key. Our survey found that 56 percent of millennials used multiple devices to make their holiday purchasing decisions, and 30 percent made a purchase on a smartphone or tablet.

    And don’t forget the importance of email. IAB’s 2015 “Holiday Shopper Playbook” reported that email is more influential than broadcast TV when it comes to clothing purchases and that social can be as influential as cable TV.

    When it comes to electronics, the majority of people surveyed were more likely to research online before buying. In fact, Influence Central found that around 90 percent of shoppers find online reviews more persuasive than a sales pitch, which means that marketers have the opportunity to speak to these customers during the crucial consideration process.

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… a lot earlier, and later

    If there’s one thing we can learn from 2015, it’s that online buying trends have shifted the holiday shopping schedule. Binge shopping on in-store purchases is becoming a thing of the past, and customers are increasingly spreading their holiday shopping over an extended period. Due to the 24/7 nature of digital, consumers are buying any time from September to December and beyond.

    Nielsen last year reported that by the end of September, 36 percent of Americans had started their holiday gift shopping.

    Ipsos and Magnetic found similar insights, with survey results showing that more than 25 percent of gift buyers purchase their gifts a few months in advance of the holidays. Additionally, of the 79 percent of people who search online for gifts, more than a third start searches a few months before — and it’s worth considering that 17 percent actually search all year long.

    But for those last-minute shoppers, the online window closes earlier than for brick and mortars, since the postal service sets the cutoff. Our data shows that online purchases rise until December 15, the last day for standard shipping.

    Last-minute buyers are primarily shopping for (wait for it) gift cards! Gift cards are easier to ship than the latest gadget; 72 percent more searches for gift cards take place the week prior to Christmas compared with the first week of December.

    Whether you want to reach early bird, last-minute, or even belated post-Christmas shoppers, you have to prepare your campaign early and set up specific strategies that allow you to reach people with a wide spectrum of shopping behaviors and schedules.

    Consumers are dreaming of a discounted Christmas

    In 2015, plenty of consumers looked for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals before making their holiday season purchases. And they did more than just look for the day-of door-busters.

    Instead, with digital deals popping up everywhere, from inboxes to social media, shoppers looked for discounts weeks in advance and went into the deal-focused weekend ready to make their purchases.

    The Ipsos and Magnetic post-holiday survey points to this trend: 70 percent of people learned of promotions through email, 64 percent from searching online, 56 percent through online ads, and 38 percent from social networks.

    Survey responses also indicated how early people are preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend: 24 percent reported looking for deals online a month before, 51 percent more than two weeks in advance, and only nine percent waiting until the day before.

    Search data from Magnetic showed that search volume for coupon and deal-specific terms was 1.5X the monthly average on the Sunday before Black Friday, and our performance data showed a 72-percent in-view rate for retargeting ads the following day.

    What’s so exciting about the shift to digital marketing is that it allows us to effectively gauge people’s online behaviors and use that as a proxy for setting up holiday marketing efforts. Whether your objectives are to reach people for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales or to stay in front of consumers all season long, plenty of insights from 2015 can help you optimize campaigns — across inboxes, the web, and even on your own site — for the 2016 season. And that may be the greatest marketing gift of all.

    About The Author

    James Green
    James Green is chief executive officer at Magnetic, a technology company with a marketing platform for enterprises, brands and agencies. James is charged with driving the company’s strategic vision and overall expansion.