With holiday retail spending ramping up, columnist Jim Yu shares seven ways to create integrated shopping experiences that engage customers.
Holiday spending is expected to reach record levels since the Great Recession — increasing 10 percent since the 2015 holiday season, according to a report from PwC’s 2016 Holiday Outlook.
Digital shopping is expected to rise 25 percent, which means marketers and advertisers need to be even more creative and strategic with their efforts to get the attention of the average holiday shopper.
Shoppers are already bombarded with hundreds of ads and emails from retailers announcing upcoming sales and special holiday events. The most impactful advertising and marketing strategies attract, engage and convert shoppers online by providing an integrated shopping experience.
Here are seven omnichannel marketing tips to attract more holiday shoppers this season and beyond.
1. Flesh out the mobile experience
While it’s valuable to have a streamlined mobile checkout process in place, it may be wise to invest your resources in creating a robust online browsing experience accessible on all mobile devices.
One in five consumers browses via a smartphone or tablet, according to the latest data from Signal. However, only 8 percent use smartphones, and 7 percent use tablets to make the actual holiday purchase. This means the majority of shoppers are only using their mobile devices to browse and then either going to the store or heading to their desktop computer to check out.
Marketers can take advantage of this trend by decluttering the online shopping experience with a mobile-friendly, easy-to-navigate holiday shopping section. This section might include elements such as a top 10 list in each category, top-reviewed and top-rated items, latest discounts and announcements of special offers.
Anything that would appeal to a browsing shopper, rather than one who’s ready to make a purchase, may have more value on mobile.
2. Build out a buyer’s guide section
A buyer’s guide designed specifically for a certain type of gift recipient or shopper can help shoppers explore some of the best options and make a buying decision. These guides can be especially helpful for items that have similar features from multiple brands or for big-ticket items that require some research.
The goal is to help the shopper come to a buying decision; publishing a buyer’s guide or lists of recommended products is one way to do this.
Consider trending items and topics over the holiday season that you could use as headlines for these buyer’s guides. These may perform well in search, since they are longer than standard pages. Use those search terms for your Google AdWords and other search campaigns to drive shoppers directly to the buyer’s guide.
You could also have a downloadable PDF version available for those who want to print out the guide. Be sure to collect the visitor’s email address for any follow-up marketing initiatives that will bring them back to the store and hopefully, to the checkout page.
Another option is to launch an app that makes it easy for shoppers to find gifts for certain people or occasions. Matching the shopper to a list of recommendations and providing content about each item is one way to keep the person engaged.
Sort a section of your product catalog based on certain criteria to match various types of items with different themes or personality traits of a gift recipient. For example, gifts for college students, gifts for teachers or gifts for co-workers and bosses.
Convert shoppers via email or by offering a coupon as they use the app. Promote this app across social media and other advertising vehicles, so shoppers know they have the option to use an app to find exactly what they need. If you get enough users, the app itself could end up being a main feature of your site and the brand experience.
Publishing buyer’s guides or launching an app provides value to the shopper by making the decision-making process easier, and it leads the user toward the final purchase.
3. Create content around holiday-themed keywords
Many shoppers will be looking for holiday specials and deals as they go about filling out their shopping wish lists. If you run an online store or shopping platform, make sure you have plenty of content about upcoming deals and specials, holiday wish list must-haves and similar content published on your website or blog that will engage the visitor.
Content centered on holiday-themed keywords and special offers, coupons and discounts can help attract more shoppers and encourage them to buy. Promote this content across social media, and create content that is easy to share — top 10 lists, buyer’s guides, and even something humorous will help you get a shopper’s attention.
Be consistent about updating your blog with fresh posts and keeping tabs on trending topics to cover over the holiday season. This may be a good time to cover non-shopping-related news and other topics that might interest your target market — everything from tips for saving money before the new year to cooking and entertaining ideas can appeal to certain demographics and encourage them to stay on the site.
4. Run organic and paid search campaigns in synergy
The key to holiday search shopping success is supporting organic efforts with paid advertising so that on-page SEO and content marketing are primed for conversion. Findings from BrightEdge (my company) show (registration required) that marketers should align organic search efforts to customer intent. Organic search and paid search marketers should work together to target terms where searchers indicate purchase behavior.
From Google AdWords ads to Bing Ads, accelerate conversions and sales with targeted paid search campaigns aligned with your content strategy or featured products. Companies in the business of selling toys or a certain brand of clothing, for example, can identify top-selling products that are making the “most-wanted list” for the holiday shopping season and build content and ads around those specific items.
Another option is to promote sales on certain products or special offers. Any incentive to buy, such as free shipping or a special discount included in the ad, can help drive shoppers to the site before they head to a competitor.
5. Strategize advertising of post-holiday sales
Purchases made right after a holiday may bring in more revenue than pre-holiday purchases. Some shoppers will be armed with gift cards or cash they received as a holiday gift or have been waiting for holiday sales markdowns all season long. Companies can take advantage of this second holiday shopping rush by advertising post-holiday sales over the holiday week, when many people are off work and traveling.
Social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, may be more heavily used during this time, since many people have the down time to browse social media sites — which means running targeted social media ads and extending offers to fans and followers could help drive a new wave of traffic to the site and checkout pages.
6. Maximize ad retargeting tools
Magnetic data for 2014 revealed a 65-percent increase year over year in the number of retailers using search retargeting for ad campaigns in Q4 — meaning you can still attract high-quality leads by delivering retargeted ads.
Timing is everything when it comes to retargeting, so you will want to consider what types of ads you want to run leading up to the holidays and immediately after as shoppers continue filling their carts during post-holiday sales. Running a countdown promotion leading up to the holidays, or special offers for additional discounts on sale items after the holidays, may help bring back shoppers who abandoned carts or left the site without making a purchase.
Joining an ad network that offers retargeting services can make this process easier. These networks will position specific products your site visitor was looking for and serve up ads for those products on your site as the visitor shops other sites or surfs the web. It’s a powerful way to keep your products top-of-mind and possibly prompt a purchase.
7. Personalize messaging and marketing at every opportunity
Personalizing the sales experience can increase customer loyalty and engage the shopper at a whole new level. Retailers may be able to stay one step ahead of the competition by engaging customers at every touch point and making use of smart assets, such as associate-facing applications used in stores or interactive booths or screens for customers to “check in” to their store to earn a reward.
Personalize email messages with the shopper’s name in the subject line and body; send personalized greeting cards via regular mail; and provide rewards or thank-you messages for visiting a brick-and-mortar store based on the shopper’s latest purchases or social media check-ins. All of these are simple ways to help create a sense of trust and comfort with the brand or company.
The holidays provide plenty of opportunities to create more personalized content and provide intelligent experiences both at the store and online.
As online retail spending increases over the holiday season, marketers need to focus on creating integrated shopping experiences to attract and engage customers. Holiday shoppers can be led through the entire buying journey with streamlined omnichannel marketing initiatives.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.