How to Capitalize on the Year End’s Holiday Marketing Trends

With the holidays already in full swing and Christmas and New Years rapidly approaching, there is only a small window left to take advantage of holiday marketing trends. If you haven’t started yet, don’t despair—there’s still time. But first, take a look at some recent holiday shopping trends to see how you can reel in buyers and skyrocket your sales this holiday season.

Trend #1

Online purchases rise until December 15 (the last day for standard shipping before Christmas).

How to Take Advantage

Recognize that, while many people are finished with their shopping by the end of September, there are also many shoppers out there who leave it all till the last minute. Magnetic found that gift cards are the most popular choice for last-minute holiday shoppers—there are 72% more searches for gift cards the week before Christmas than there are the first week of December.

Trend #2

According to a 2015 survey by HookLogic, 40% of online shoppers are mobile.

How to Take Advantage

With more and more people relying on tablets and smartphones to do their holiday shopping, optimizing your site for mobile has never been more important. Make sure that your site is user-friendly for mobile users—because if it’s not, your visitors are likely to lose patience, and you will lose out on a large percentage of potential customers.

Trend #3

Consumers are more influenced by online advertising than TV advertising.

How to Take Advantage

IAB found that when it comes to clothing purchases at least, 26% of US adults are influenced by e-mail ads, while just 21% are influenced by broadcast TV. Similarly, 19% of adults surveyed are influenced by Internet ads, while 13% are influenced by cable TV ads.

It’s therefore important to keep in mind that the medium of advertising should depend not only on your buyer persona, but also the type of product or service sold. Adweek discovered that automobile shoppers are 71% more influenced by digital ads than other shoppers, especially videos. Accordingly, auto-sellers should aim to show many more online video advertisements than, say, e-commerce clothing stores.

Trend #4

Many people, especially younger shoppers, price compare.

How to Take Advantage

10 years ago, this was not really an issue. But now that people and their smartphones are attached at the hip, it’s quite typical for a retail shopper to whip out their phone in store and check to see if the product they are eyeing is cheaper online. Massive retailers have caught on to the fact that many consumers will compare retail prices to online prices before purchasing. As a result, many stores offer to match the cheaper price, if found.

Price matching is a powerful way to not only increase sales, but also increase transparency and brand loyalty. I don’t know about you, but when I see that Expedia guarantees to refund my money if I find a cheaper flight than the one that they offer, I am much more inclined to book that flight.

Trend #5

Shoppers read (and trust) online reviews. A 2014 study by Influence Central discovered that 87% of consumers check online reviews for purchases they plan on making both online and at brick-and-mortar businesses. And during the holiday season, 49% of shoppers will check reviews more often, compared to other times of the year. This probably comes as no surprise, but the same study also found that 90% of shoppers are more persuaded by online reviews than by a sales pitch.

How to Take Advantage

While reviews are incredibly powerful, I am certainly not encouraging you to go out and write a bunch of “reviews” for your own product or service. Consumers are quite savvy and can often distinguish between an authentic review and a fake one. The last thing you want is for shoppers to lose trust in your brand—once trust is lost, it will be very difficult to regain.

It’s a bit of a catch-22, because for businesses that are still growing, it can be tough to acquire a substantial amount of reviews right off the bat. And without positive reviews, it can be hard to get sales. So with each sale that you do make, encourage your buyer to leave an honest review. Offering a small freebie in exchange could be a good incentive for your customers to post reviews.

Trend #6

At the risk of sounding cliché, timing is everything. A 2014-2015 study by MDGA Advertising found that Christmas-themed campaigns sent out two weeks before Christmas day boasted a 3% higher open rate compared to non-themed e-mails. On the other hand, Christmas-themed campaigns sent out within the first two weeks of December had lower open rates by 6%.

How to Take Advantage

Open rates will of course depend on a number of factors, so take this trend into consideration, but don’t assume that the same will be true for your business. As with everything else, test and see what time of the month (and day) works best for your brand.

Trend #7

People want flexibility and freedom of choice. According to the same survey by MDGA Advertising, 69% of consumers say they prefer gift cards to tangible, wrapped gifts.

How to Take Advantage

Many buyers don’t want to deal with the stress of holiday shopping—buying a gift card (especially if it’s from a brand that you know the recipient already likes) solves this problem. It also gives the recipient the freedom to choose the product or service of their choice. It’s a win-win for both parties. For e-commerce stores that must rely on shipping, providing buyers with electronic gift certificates can also keep people buying right up until the day before Christmas.

Trend #8

Offering discounts can work wonders for your sales. According to Hubspot, 85% of consumers claim that an e-mail containing a coupon code would encourage them to purchase. And 73.1% of consumers say that sales and discounts play a role in their holiday shopping decisions.

How to Take Advantage

Even if it’s a small discount, people love to feel like they are getting a deal. It makes them feel special. And who doesn’t like to feel special? Entice first-time buyers by offering coupon codes with discounts in the e-mails. Reward your high-paying customers with larger discounts. Text in massive print reading “20% off” (even if it’s proceeded by smaller text “when you spend $50”) is attention-grabbing and will get many people excited enough to click through that e-mail.

Trend #9

Personalization is everything. Hubspot noted that 78% of people expect e-mail promotions to come with offers and recommendations that are tailored to them.

How to Take Advantage

Think about it this way: If you are a man receiving e-mails about women’s dresses and shoes, how likely will you be to continue opening e-mails from that company? My guess is, not very likely.

In direct contrast, I almost always open Netflix e-mails because they seem to know me well: Not only do they use my name three times throughout the e-mail (in the subject line, subheader and at the bottom of the e-mail), but they also show me movies and TV shows that are similar to ones I’ve already watched. They’re not just sending me e-mails about any newly added TV shows or movies—they are sending me ones with suggestions that are catered to my taste. Since the past has proven to me that Netflix knows my taste quite well, I now almost always open their e-mails—and even look forward to getting them!

And turns out, I’m not the only one. Aberdeen Group found that personalized e-mails increase click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%. As for how many different versions to send out, this will ultimately depend on your customer base and just how personalized you want your e-mails to be (my suggestion: the more the better). McKinsey & Company states that the shopping site Gilt Groupe sends out over 3,000 varieties of its daily e-mail, each which depends on click-throughs, browsing history and purchase history.

Examine your buyers’ previous behavior and activity. Determine their interests. What pages and products or services are they browsing? What have they purchased in the past? And what similar products or services might they be interested in based on that behavior? You might not get it exactly right every time (I certainly don’t like every movie and TV show that Netflix proposes I watch), but by personalizing your e-mails and catering to your consumers’ unique tastes, you are more likely to appeal to them in the long-run, gain their loyalty and increase your ROI.

Trend #10

The power of e-mails cannot be denied: Per Hubspot, eight out of ten consumers who sign up for company e-mails will end up making purchases based on those e-mails. McKinsey & Company discovered that e-mail conversion rates are 40 times the conversion rates of social media (Facebook and Twitter).

How to Take Advantage

While social media has proven to be highly effective for increasing brand recognition and credibility, when it comes to increasing conversions, e-mail is the most potent weapon of choice.

As Hubspot states, ensure that your holiday e-mails are a “mix of enjoyable content, holiday coupons and personalized product suggestions.”

Trend #11

According to Hubspot, 87% of shoppers would take free shipping over fast shipping. And 47% of holiday shoppers claim that free shipping and shipping promotions influence their purchasing decisions.

How to Take Advantage

The human brain works in funny, oftentimes illogical ways. In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely discusses how even changing the price of something from one cent to zero can increase sales dramatically. He states that, “Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! we forget the downside. FREE! gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is.”

Here’s the takeaway: Even if it means increasing the price of your product a bit to compensate, it’s worth it to provide free shipping for your customers. People are more likely to purchase a more expensive product with free shipping than a slightly cheaper product that comes with a cost for shipping. It’s the power of “FREE!”

Trend #12

For many people, holiday shopping is a stressful and overwhelming undertaking.

How to Take Advantage

Surprise, surprise…this is not so much a trend, as it is a fact (albeit an obvious one). Between the stress over exceeding budgets to the anxiety caused by pure indecision over what to buy friends and loved ones (which is only exacerbated by the sheer amount of choices out there), holiday shopping is a stressful experience for most.

Make it as stress-free as possible for your consumers by guiding them through the buying process step by step. Provide them with exceptional customer service, answering any questions they may have and making returns and exchanges as easy as possible for them. If your buyers have pleasant memories from the shopping experience, they will be more likely to buy from you in the future.

One Last Thing…

While capitalizing on these trends will presumably increase your ROI this year, keep in mind that next year could be different. After all, they are called trends for a reason. But as long as you continue testing to see what works, keep an eye out for changes in consumer behavior and stay informed by reading the SUCCESS agency blog, the holiday season will continue to bring your brand prosperity in the years to come.