Temps are rising. Beverages are chilling. The beach is calling. It must be time to start your holiday planning!
Whether the idea of holiday planning makes you feel festive or freaked out, you can’t ignore the flurry of potential revenue waiting to be unwrapped during the final months of the year.
You may think you can put things off for a couple months, but that will just give your competition a head start to develop their ideas.
How Will You Stand Out From the Merry Madness?
Distinguishing your brand and standing out from the competition was noted as a top concern for marketers in a study released by WBR and TurnTo, titled Aligning Customer Content with Retail Success.
Content (50 percent), including user-generated content (UGC) and customer images, was the top-ranked strategy for marketers to distinguish their brand from competitors. A solid content strategy outranked promotion (38 percent) and data strategies (19 percent) when it came to ways for brands to break away from competing brands.
Offers such as “Free Shipping” and “20-percent off everything” have become table stakes for holiday shoppers. Discounts and promotions can definitely boost your bottom line, but increasing incentives and deeper discounts shouldn't be your only holiday strategies.
How Does UGC Impact Consumers’ Purchase Decisions?
While it's insightful to know that fellow marketers rank content as a top strategy, it doesn’t mean much if consumers don’t feel the same way. In “Hearing the Voice of the Consumer,” a study published by TurnTo, shoppers in the U.S. were asked to rank how various marketing tactics influence purchase decisions.
In total, UGC (90 percent) and search engine results (87 percent) held the most influence when a shopper is deciding whether to submit an order. Twenty-four percent of shoppers reported UGC being “extremely influential” when deciding whether to buy.
How Do You Make UGC Part of Your Holiday Planning?
As consumers look beyond price and promotion when shopping, marketers must find other compelling ways to engage them and provide unique experiences.
As you start your holiday planning, examine your existing UGC efforts, including ratings and reviews, product photos/videos, product Q&A, etc. Focus on ways to showcase product categories that are rich with UGC and, before the rush of holiday traffic, work to collect more UGC for those categories that are lacking.
UGC must be featured throughout the customer journey — not just on product pages. Include ratings in search results to encourage shoppers to click through to product pages. Boost your UGC library by receiving syndicated reviews from your top brands. Decrease shopping cart abandonment by showing checkout comments and review content in the shopping cart and during checkout. Bring cart abandoners back by using ratings and reviews in cart reminder emails.
Marketers looking to boost holiday sales with UGC should also analyze existing collection methods. There are likely UGC solicitation methods that you aren’t using that could increase your submission rates. Ensure your collection methods are mobile-optimized and served up at the right moments. Post-purchase review emails are great, but they shouldn't be your only source of UGC collection.
When it comes to the holidays, I always say, “plan now or stress later.” Well, you'll probably stress once the season starts, so I guess it should be “plan now and stress less later.” As you and your team begin to review the shining moments (and lumps of coal) from the past holiday season, identify opportunities for your holiday shoppers and existing customers to engage via UGC.
Jim Davidson is the director of research at TurnTo Networks, a customer content application suite including community Q&A, ratings and reviews, checkout comments, and visual reviews.