The holiday season will make or break revenue goals for almost every retailer this year. Thankfully, most states resumed in-person shopping in some capacity, but a lot of uncertainty remains about how the retail industry will fare. In this period of uncertainty, there's one constant: this upcoming holiday season will be critical for retailers negatively impacted by the global pandemic. I’m predicting a strong holiday season, especially if Washington can usher through another round of stimulus packages.
I believe that retailers and brands selling direct have a strong fighting chance if they double down on digital marketing strategies and execute them properly. While we can’t expect the holiday season to resemble years prior, there are steps that retailers can take to make the most of it. Here are my top three:
Plan Early and Thoroughly
Planning starts by looking back at last year’s holiday season and assessing what worked and what didn’t. Where you can, use the data that you’ve acquired over the last year to help develop your goals for Q4. From there, it’s all about getting organized. Your marketing calendar should be in place and templates should be in production mode by early September. Encourage your team to think through all of the possible creative assets that you’ll need so that you won’t be scrambling when it starts to get busy. Another simple yet effective planning tool is ensuring that all of your lists are in place. Email is typically top of mind, but if there are other channels that have driven significant revenue as of late (e.g., SMS), prepare those necessary content and creative assets, too.
Often, marketing teams plan on leveraging new technology in their digital arsenal. If that’s the case, you should give yourself enough time to be familiar with the platform, but also to run tests. I can’t say that enough. Customer experience matters more than ever, and retailers don’t want to lose shoppers due to a faulty technology rollout or glitches. E-commerce sales are expected to see another blockbuster year. Stay in the game by ensuring that the end-to-end experience you’re providing is top notch.
Lastly, if you can, try to get sends out a little earlier this year. Start now to get ahead of increased online demand as well as potential inventory and shipping delays. Give yourself and your team enough time to uncover any major hiccups or challenges that could be detrimental during the holiday rush and adjust them before the Black Friday and Christmas influx.
Double Down on SMS
SMS continues to prove to be an incredibly powerful channel for retailers. Throughout the pandemic, many brands experimented with SMS and drove significant new subscribers and revenue, like Tula Skincare, which acquired more than 110,000 SMS subscribers in three months. One way to further tailor existing SMS strategies is to promote new holiday keywords on your website and within your email campaigns so that customers can sign up for SMS holiday communications. Not only will this help build your long-term SMS list, but it's another channel for you to engage with customers in. What’s more, SMS can also help increase urgency and get in front of consumers in less crowded channels.
Other SMS strategies include tap-to-join pop-ups on mobile to maximize signups while meeting consumers where they are. Additionally, you can delight your most loyal customers by inviting your email VIPs to subscribe to SMS, offering them exclusive access and extended discounts.
This holiday season, retailers should also anticipate more purchases on mobile devices given the increasing time consumers are spending on their phones. Help customers transact quickly from whichever device they receive your messages on, and consider adding SMS to support order confirmation, order ready and order pick-up. Brands that leverage SMS for instant direct communications will see more customers coming back.
Campaigns. Get Creative.
With fewer people shopping in-store, physical brand interactions are limited. To maintain a strong connection with customers, online retailers need to think about how they can recreate those experiences in their content. Campaigns need to be fun and engaging, but also easy for people to navigate with a clear call to action.
Retailers that are able to personalize their content will see strong incremental revenue growth. One way brands can approach personalization is by using dynamic content to cater messages for those who haven’t been to your site since last holiday season vs. those who are more evergreen and familiar with your brand. They might need more guidance in the form of category- or price-specific gift guides compared to your frequent shoppers.
Some additional ways that retailers can stand out this holiday season include surprising and delighting customers. For example, provide gift wrapping at no extra cost or an assortment of holiday cards that saves them a trip to the local drugstore. At a time when things are anything but normal, the extras go a long way — not to mention the added convenience can secure loyalty for future holiday seasons.
I’m as curious as everyone else to see how this holiday season plays out. Regardless, start planning now, keep your customers in mind during every decision you make, and don’t forget about establishing lifetime value with your brand.
Ross Kramer is co-founder and CEO of Listrak, a marketing automation platform for retailers.
Related story: What Social Distancing Means for Retail Marketers