Recently I had the pleasure of discussing peak holiday season planning with one of our farthest-reaching client brands. Interestingly, we were forced to look at multiple customer types, varying product relationships and multiple distribution channels, all in the same context — how will this holiday season be different for marketers from past seasons?
Well, that got me thinking … I quickly identified some common trends that might help many marketers think about their approach this year, and what to expect from the interactive community. Here are four tips to keep in mind to make this year’s holiday marketing memorable:
1) Move Beyond the Plan into Context
Most marketers have already thought about the series of emails that will be sent this holiday season and have their overarching theme of communications well planned out. Shipping schedules have been systematized, infrastructure has been beefed up, last-minute leftovers are cued up, and promotions and general marketing management is at an all-time most efficient pace. You now can get beyond the plan.
Use this opportunity to think about the relationship between your customers, your product/services and the holiday time frame — when they might interact, and in what context. Your communications should surround this relationship. For example, if you’re advertising the perfect gift, when are your customers shopping? Catch them in the act. If there is the prefect accessory to go with that recent outfit, why not offer a related stocking stuffer before they check out? If your customers are cooking a holiday dinner, they might be shopping for gifts while they're passing the perfect gravy mix – so make sure you tell them about it.
Whether you’re messaging around a gift, a service, an event or even an ingredient, think about the overall experience — don’t miss out on this opportunity to be relevant.
2) Think Conversations, Think Beyond the Sale
Gone are the days of broadcasting holiday taglines and leaving it at that. In the era of the empowered buyer, you’ll need more than pushed messages to thrive during the holidays. Are you prepared to answer the customer questions that will be asked, meet their shopping needs and bring value to all your interactions this season?
Think about the ways you can use social and email to better connect and converse during the holidays. Be helpful in your customers’ event planning, providing value within your site experience, either from blogs or community content that both compliments your products and services and is seen as relevant to the holiday season. Follow up transactions will helpful add-ons, not just upsells. Monitor social chatter and use the channel to engage in conversations with your brand advocates.
Your customers will notice your effort and continue the conversation much longer as a result. The bottom line is that relevant, service-oriented messages and better conversations create longer-lasting relationships that go beyond the latest purchase.
3) Adjust for the Multichannel Shopping Experience
Shopping isn’t just what we do in the mall or on a brand’s website, it’s what we do in between everything else. We get alerts, text discounts, wish lists, directions to the closest deal, notifications of price reductions … you name it, shopping is mobile, real-time and almost, dare I say, convenient!
Marketers must recognize that omnichannel experiences are expected, with mobile at the center of this experience. Most of your emails will be read on the go, and in very different contexts than if they were read on the desktop. Also, are you communicating via SMS? Consumers are more receptive now to receiving a discount via text message. The most successful companies will provide an excellent experience across channels, devices and places where consumers are checking in or located via geofencing means. It’s convenient, timely and good for their shopping budgets.
4) Talk the Customer Walk
Customer service will stretch way beyond extra checkout lines this holiday season. Consumers have come to expect immediate assistance online and off, quality information, and real help when considering a purchase or trying to get questions answered from a brand.
Make sure you have the resources and processes in place to deliver online help, respond to common questions and offer general assistance – not to mention making sure everyone feels like an insider, gets in on the private event and has access to those limited quantities. For example, if your customers can get in on an exclusive sale for signing up as a VIP, be sure they get access to the discounts advertised, and if you run out, have a good explanation as to why.
The reality is that consumers are looking for these types of outstanding customer experiences – and if they don’t find them from you, they’ll look elsewhere. Take advantage of hand-raising activity by your customers, and then deliver the most rewarding holiday for them.
So what will be different this holiday? That remains to be seen, but if you follow the tips outlined above, you’ll be on your way to delivering the most customer-centric holiday yet!
More on Holiday Marketing:
1) “Holiday Email Frequency: Start Planning Now to Get It Right”
2) “Plan Now or Suffer Later: 3 Tips for Staying Sane During Holiday Season”
3) “Holiday Marketing Quick Tip: Leverage Facebook to Grow Your Email Database”