Cross-Channel Holiday Season Preparation

The leaves are falling and pumpkin-flavored goodies abound. Autumn is here, but for many online retailers, it signals that the holiday shopping season is upon us. And what a season it will be!

According to a recent article in Internet Retailer, a double-digit increase is predicted for online holiday retail sales and mail orders from 2013. Deloitte is projecting a 13.5-14 percent increase and eMarketer forecasting 16.6 percent growth. In addition to the purchases completed online, over half of all in-store purchases will be influenced by “digital interactions,” as defined as customers engaging with your brand across multiple channels and devices, including desktop, mobile, tablets and more.

With cross-channel marketing execution becoming expected by the customer, here are some tips to have a very fruit(cake)ful and digitally-sound holiday retail season.

Start early, but embrace the procrastinators

Traditionally, the shoppers have turned out in droves for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but the emerging trend is “Gray Friday.” Many retailers have been launching their online deals and promotions throughout the whole month of November, and for good reason. A number of shoppers (up to 29 percent, according to a Google Consumer Survey) start their holiday shopping before Halloween. However, don’t think that all shoppers are turning into early birds. Most (48 percent) will still begin their shopping in early December. In 2013, over 47 percent of online adults (95 million people) made an online purchase during the month of December.

What does this mean for the modern digital marketer? Keep engaging your customers through your online channels throughout the entirety of the holiday season, but employ tactics like exclusion targeting to stay connected to your customers. Segment your customer data to ensure your promotions are relevant to both your earlybird and your procrastinator.

Be Mobile-Ready

As digital retailers know well, it’s a cross-channel, multi-device world. The mobile shopping stats continue to grow at an astounding rate. December sales on smartphones and tablets have tripled from 2011, now up to 19.1 percent and expected to increase more for 2014 (Google). 37 percent of visits to the top retail sites come from smartphones or tablets and 83 percent of cell phone owners engage in shopping-related activities from their phone immediately before, during, or after visiting a store (Experian, 2014).

How can top retailers make the most of these mobile customer habits? By creating a seamless customer experiences through all devices.

  • Email made for mobile: Email is still the king of marketing channels, with 91 percent of all retailers sending offers via email (Experian, 2014). Make sure it’s mobile-responsive and test for various email clients when sending out those holiday promotions.
  • Send promotions in real-time while they are in-store: For those 83 percent of customers interacting with their devices before, during, and after the store, shoot them offers and promotions in real-time using beacon technology. The recent Apple iBeacon iOS 8 updates have greatly improved the potential for retailers to take advantage of this significant opportunity.
  • Create a holistic view of the customer across devices: With all of the interactions with your brand across the full range of mobile devices, it’s imperative for a retailer to develop a holistic view of the customer. Break down the silos by collecting and connecting your customer data to send them the most up-to-date and relevant holiday promotions. Learn how to do that here.

Prep Your Websites

With website traffic rates soaring during the holiday season, it is crucial to ensure the health and well-being of the heart of your online retail world: your website. Many organizations implement a code freeze, meaning that no major changes will be made to the source code during the holiday season to reduce the risk of unintended consequences during this peak time of year. To stay agile and continuing to test campaigns, the best organizations have tag management systems (TMSs) in place to allow them to make these changes without interrupting the code freeze.

Here are some quick tips to make sure you’re managing your TMS to ensure best website performance:

  • Maximize Site Performance: To optimize page performance during this important time for traffic on your site, consider mandating third party vendors go Server-Direct if available.
  • Focus on active campaigns: For internal preparation, deactivate tags that are not tied to an active media campaign.
  • Minimize mobile tag fires: Only fire absolutely necessary tags on mobile sites during the peak season. It’s a best practice to have fewer tags fire in a mobile environment than on desktop environments.

The holiday season can be a challenge for retailers, especially as customer behaviors change as rapidly as the items on your niece’s Santa wish-list. But it’s also the biggest opportunity of the year to engage with customers and set the stage for not only the holidays but next year as well. Follow these insights and tips and you’ll ensure that your customers’ stockings will be full this holiday season.

Originally published October 31, 2014

Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas was formerly the Marketing Manager at Signal.

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