It’s beginning to look a lot like holiday campaign planning time!
Holiday retail sales in 2016 accounted for $658.3 billion in sales. 12.6% in online sales alone. Mobile conversions have for the first time ever outperformed desktop globally, with 53% of conversions coming from a mobile device.
Mind-blown yet? Shoppers are showing more confidence during the holiday season. That is just one example of how consumer behavior is changing in this regard. Given the importance of the season, well-timed planning and preparation are necessary to maximize your success during the holidays.
Holiday shopping is starting earlier. 40% of consumers report starting holiday shopping by Halloween.
Source: National Retail Federation
Time spent on social media starts increasing in early October and reaches its peak around New Year’s Eve. Consumers look to their newsfeeds for gift ideas before and during the holidays so this is an opportunity for you to grow your business, drive product awareness and, above all, reach your audience. Those of you panicking right about now, don’t worry, you still have time.
In this article, I will share some tactical best practices to help you prepare for the holiday season – and make the most of your campaigns across Facebook, Instagram and the other top networks.
Cozy up with some tea and let’s get planning!
1. Look at last year’s performance
Who are we kidding? Social media and tech can change enormously in just six months let alone a year. Start by digging out years past from the archives and deciphering which campaigns worked and which platforms widened your visibility and reach.
Look at past reports and use your SMM tools’ analytics to guide you in deciding where your budget and resources should go for this coming holiday season.
2. Know your audience
Your early planning will pay off now, and you are in great shape for targeting your customer base. If you haven’t done so already, identify key audience segments and the best way to connect with them cross-channel. You may need to set up separate campaigns for high lifetime value customers who are familiar with your brand, and potential customers who have shown interest in your products or services.
Segmenting your audience will allow you to better tailor ads, emails or creative; which in turn creates an incentive for a person to engage with your brand. Learn from data and get to know your audience. The more you know the easier it is to tailor campaigns for your audience.
3. Timing: start early, end late
The North American and European winter holiday seasons range from Black Friday through Christmas. But the reality is that consumers shop for gifts long before and after the period. With that in mind, marketers need to find a balance between early messaging and supporting their bottom line without causing a consumer backlash.
So start reaching your audience in late October with gift ideas so that customers can take advantage of them. This game plan offers plenty of lead time before Black Friday and Cyber Monday while December is still reserved for Christmas messaging.
Fun fact! Women start their holiday shopping earlier.
4. Personalize and humanize your messaging
Be authentic and avoid transactional language at all costs. Establish an emotional connection with your content (year round I’d say). You want to evoke a positive reaction and relatable content during this warm and loving time that tugs at people’s heartstrings.
Why else would Facebook have added reaction buttons? Your campaigns need to be centered around a theme and directly mention the date you’re targeting to boost its effectiveness. Generic language can often lead to a dead end.
Remember: for some brands it is ok to be silent if the holidays aren’t central to your business. Costco’s, T.J. Maxx and many others are keeping their doors closed on key US holidays, boldly challenging consumerist mantra with the message “we’d rather stay home with our loved ones”.
The end of the year is a great time to offer more than just discounts. Sure, you can offer free shipping, a limited-time offer or flexible pick-up options, but what if you took this time to showcase the good work you’ve been doing in the world or your community year-round. Just as KLM did in 2016. Use this time for your fans to get to know your business and the people behind it.
5. Create stand-out content
With more spend comes more competition. Create content that has the potential to go viral. The airlines seem to have figured it out – just look at the total views on WestJet’s Christmas Miracle video
6. Plan, test and schedule content
You know the drill. Once you’ve identified the holidays you want to cover on social media take time to schedule the content in advance as that will create room for you to handle real-time engagement during the busy period. Take advantage of content calendars à la Falcon’s which can look a little something like this in the month of December:
7. Promote your top-selling products
The holiday season is a highly promotional period on social media. Enter the arena knowing which products are top sellers and which ones you want to turn into top sellers by the end of the campaign season. Design a flexible budget that can handle always-on campaigns as well as the activity on high-volume days such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Who do you want to reach during the holidays? If it is people who don’t know your business yet, then create a Lookalike Audience. No? Then you could look into creating a Custom Audience from your customer insights. That’s not it either? Then it must be the group that hasn’t clicked on your checkout; so you should install a Facebook pixel for and create a Custom Audience from your website visitors.
I recently spoke to a customer of ours, Jessica Becker at footwear retailer Rockport, who is using the Falcon platform and Facebook Pixel in preparation for the season.
She said: “Falcon has made our team much more efficient in recent months, which is incredibly important as we head into the holiday season. We’re able to focus on making the most of the information we have at our fingertips from channels like Facebook, whose Pixel data allows us to market directly to customers who recently visited Rockport.com in search of shoes for their holiday party – or boots for their holiday travel.”
To be sure, you can always A/B test the same ad on different audiences to see which audience performs better.
8. Mobile first!
Nearly 40% of shoppers make informed purchase decisions via their mobile devices. To capitalize on this growing opportunity you need to start investing in mobile marketing. People expect a seamless shopping experience from seeing the advertisement to checkout. I mentioned above that mobile has extended the consumer journey. Google has famously dubbed this extension micro-moments, those fleeting windows when we are most open to making purchase decisions.
Screen shopping is the new window shopping even if it is just that impulse purchase. Is Adidas on to something?
9. Go live!
If you plan to host a Christmas party for your employees then why not extend the invite to your fans by broadcasting parts of the event on Facebook or Instagram Live. It will give people a front row seat into your company culture. If that’s not your thing you could host random giveaways or announce exclusive deals instead.
We talk more about video and the formats you can explore here.
10. Crises happen to the best of us
If you’ve been checking items off of your holiday campaign checklist as you’re reading this chances are you’re pretty well prepared. Right? Wrong. That’s what the universe wants you to think but you’re no less exposed to a social media crisis around the holidays. Go old school and prepare a call tree so whoever is on call during the holidays knows how to activate the right colleagues.
Also, equip yourself with pre-approved templates to calm people down until you’ve had time to figure out a PR game plan.
11. Post holidays
Allocate some budget for the weeks after New Year. Shoppers are right back at it on the first of the year and that is your chance to convert engaged customers into loyal customers. 45% of shoppers say they continue to shop in January to take advantage of post-holiday sales. Don’t let all your hard work acquiring new customers spiral downward. Consider introducing new product lines or special offers to keep the momentum with new demand generation and cross-sell opportunities.
There you have it. Make sure to build a strong foundation and make sure to address the basics first. NRF expects 2017 holiday retail sales to increase another 4% totaling up to $682 billion. That’s a whole lotta cash but you’re now in the loop about what you have to do to drive more sales.
Are you ready to spread the holiday (marketing) joy? You can start with this free downloadable calendar with all the dates you need to know for November and December.