It's never a good idea to wait until the last minute to make plans. We've all been there. It's not fun. That's why now is the time to start preparing for the holiday season - especially since this year is shaping up to be unique.
In this week’s episode, Dan, Producer Matt, and Ivan talk about preparing your business today for the unique holiday season. How will you be shifting your content strategy for the coming virtual holidays?
Be sure to ask the Bees any questions you might have about how to get started before the Christmas rush, and how to work around roadblocks.
Check out the video or podcast above. 👆 Subscribe to our weekly live stream on Facebook, or take it on the go with a podcast, on your choice of platforms. Keep up-to-date on news, trends, and tips in the world of digital marketing and join in on the conversation.
With quarantine still in place and no definitive end in sight, a virtual shift in how we approach the holidays is likely to happen.
Imagine Black Friday without the crowds stampeding brick and mortar stores. OK, so it's called Cyber Monday, but that's not where I was going, or was it?
Will we have Cyber Monday and Cyber Friday this year? Cyber week?
According to this article, Cyber Monday actually already outsold Black Friday in 2019 - before COVID-19 and the new normal we now live in, so it's probably a safe bet that this year will be even bigger.
This is largely thanks to the insane popularity of Amazon, as well as the rapidly rising world of e-commerce. Online shopping is becoming more common, and this year may prove to be the go-to for the majority of holiday gifts - almost certainly if we're limited in brick and mortar options.
So, how do we adjust our content strategy for this virtual shift and prepare for the holiday season? Let's get into it.
Set Your Goals
This is always going to be the first place to start, no matter the situation.
Before you choose your goals, it's a good idea to look back on the previous year(s) holiday posts. You may already have content that you could repurpose.
- What worked and what didn't?
- What channels had the best ROI?
- What you should potentially do again?
Decide what it is that you're trying to achieve and write it down.
For example, if you're new to social media, you probably want to focus on increasing brand awareness and developing authority and an engaged community.
If you've been on social media for a while now, you'll probably want to focus on increasing conversions and getting sales - or even fine-tuning for better engagement.
We touched on the topic of strategic development and tactical execution in much more depth in this blog if you'd like to dig a bit deeper into this area.
Start Your Holiday Marketing Campaign Early
I know, I know, it's still summer - why are we already talking about Christmas? Too much time on our hands? Need something to celebrate? Well, ya, but no.
The truth is, if you haven't already started preparing for the holiday season, you're already falling behind, friends.
Setting up a marketing campaign is no easy task, and scrambling last minute to put something together is not where you want to be.
Once upon a time we only had 3 major holidays in the final few months of the year to contend with: Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas.
Taking a quick look at Wikipedia's list of multinational festivals and holidays, there are 40 holidays in December alone. That's a lot of celebrating and gift-giving opportunities to plan for.
With the spike in traffic over these holiday months, you want to make sure you are prepared and set up for success, or you risk missing out on some of the biggest opportunities of the year.
You'll want to make sure your channels are optimized and your website is up to date and ready for the influx of holiday traffic. Make a list, check it twice. 🎅
Here are some things to consider:
- Ensure easy access to FAQs.
- Set up customer support chatbots.
- Test your emails and website.
- Make sure your site can handle as many API calls as you can potentially have.
- Set up landing pages, email marketing, and ad campaigns.
- Audit your channel strategy and adjust accordingly.
- Put a timer on your store that counts down to a coming promo.
- Update your SEO with holiday keywords.
You'll want to have all of this in place before the holiday months so that you can follow the common and recommended practice of "code freeze". You don't want to be making back end changes during this time, or you risk something accidentally going wrong. The last thing you want is your site going down when people are trying to buy from you.
The goal is to have your campaigns ready to roll out by October, so you want to start planning in August or September. What better time than now, right?
The Customer Experience Is Key
The shifting nature of customer expectations has led to a focus on customer experience as a top priority. No longer is loyalty based on your product or price. Providing the best customer experience is the way to stand out from your competition in 2020.
This is in line with a study by Walker that claimed by the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Take a look at these statistics that clearly show how important CX initiatives are:
- 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
- Investing in CX initiatives has the potential to double your revenue within 36 months.
- Customers are willing to pay a price premium of up to 13% (and as high as 18%) for luxury and indulgence services if they receive a great customer experience.
- 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience.
- Only 1 in 26 unhappy customers actually complain. The rest just leave.
The holidays can be a stressful time, and this year that stress will only be compounded by the frustrations and challenges we're all facing right now.
This is not doom and gloom here. It's an excellent opportunity for your business to help your customers and reduce some stress, by making the process easier, and by providing useful tips and tricks to help ensure their experience is positive and enjoyable.
You want to create content that aligns with your product or service, as well as the consumer's needs. When developing your content, ask how it will benefit the consumer. What problem does it solve, or what need does it fulfill?
Self-service has become increasingly popular, so it's a good idea to make sure you provide tools for customers to be able to solve problems themselves, as well - such as a chatbot, or an online knowledge base that allows customers to find the information they need without having to speak to anyone.
Gratitude is a Major Theme in 2020
With so many businesses struggling to remain open, or being forced to close their doors permanently, every sale is important and can make a huge difference, especially for small local businesses that have had to quickly pivot their strategies to survive.
These businesses have been incredibly grateful for the support people have given them, and we're seeing plenty of posts across social channels that are expressing their gratitude in various ways.
Here are a few ways you can say thank you, to help get those creative juices flowing:
- Offer a customer loyalty program.
- Reward top customers with a small gift, swag, or discount.
- Follow up. Ask if they got everything they need. Ask if they're happy with their purchase.
- Send a handwritten note. A personal touch shows that you made an effort and that you truly care about their business.
- Host an appreciation day event.
- Spotlight customers on social media.
- Feature customers in your store.
- Offer post-purchase discounts.
- Include package inserts.
- Make personal connections with video.
Because we've been physically separated for the majority of 2020 so far, the need for connection is stronger than ever. We're all about coming together and helping each other out in whatever ways we can.
Many people will be physically separated this holiday season, and this highlights an opportunity for businesses to be able to help.
The holidays are more than just celebrating with family and friends. They're also about bringing the community together.
Even if it's something as simple as offering up some ideas to foster togetherness over the holidays, whether in-person or virtually, such as:
- Holiday movie marathons.
- Small family celebrations.
- Virtual cook together Thanksgiving dinners.
- Online work celebrations.
Showing appreciation for your customers should always be a priority and will only help your business grow and flourish.
Happy customers tell their friends.
Webroom is the New Showroom for Your Products
In-person showrooms are not likely going to be an option this holiday season, so we'll need to explore alternative options for showing products to consumers.
Webrooms essentially work the same as showrooms. You're simply showcasing your products online rather than in-person.
Typically, webrooms allow consumers to examine a product in 360° from all angles to replicate the full in-person showroom experience through online channels.
It can be a great alternative to traditional showrooms, especially for more expensive products. It also comes with the added convenience of consumers being able to explore your products from the comfort of their own home.
If creating a webroom sounds like a good fit for your business while preparing for the holiday season, you'll want to get started early. Building a webroom requires developers and professional photographers, and depending on the size of your product lines, can potentially take months to complete.
Email Marketing is Still King
306.4 billion emails are still sent every day, and that’s predicted to rise to 347 billion by 2023. I feel like I should just drop the mic here and move on.
While preparing for the holiday season, we don't always have the time to make calls, visit stores (if we even can this year), and run errands.
However, you can pretty much guarantee that the majority of us are checking our emails daily - and during the holiday months even more so since we're actively looking for deals for gifts.
With so many people facing tough economic times right now, looking for the best deals available is going to be top-of-mind.
Many of your holiday sales will come from existing customers already on your mailing list. Retargeting customers who have previously shown interest in your brand can be very successful.
Consumers appreciate discounts and loyalty rewards, but more importantly, they're looking for personalized communication that nurtures their connection with your brand.
This is where segmentation comes in, to ensure you are sending to the right target markets, and not over-sending and losing potential leads.
Developing targeted messaging for each of your customer segments will improve your conversion rate compared to a generic, one-size-fits-all email.
Here are 4 key holiday emails that have had proven success in previous years:
- Welcome emails - open rates are 4X higher than bulk emails.
- Promotional emails - add a countdown timer to give a sense of urgency and to let consumers know when they can claim the deals.
- Abandoned cart emails - 70% of customers abandon their carts rather than completing a purchase, which creates a great opportunity to win them back.
- Holiday gift guides - an opportunity to curate your best sellers, top-rated, and other top products in your inventory.
Design is also something you don't want to ignore. Using high-quality images and logos that have been compressed to small files for fast loading is a must, especially considering that more than half of your emails will be viewed on a mobile device.
If you are not designing with mobile-first in mind, you're likely hemorrhaging potential leads who are going to your competition because your emails appear "broken" on their mobile device.
Of course, the most important element of your email is the content. When writing content you want to get straight to the point and be very clear about the reason for the email.
Here is a visual example of how you can structure the email and content:
To recap the main elements:
- Personalized introduction.
- Context: Why are we mailing you?
- What's in it for you, the consumer?
- Detailed content, right in the email body.
- Clear CTA.
Seeing your name at the beginning of the email is a small detail, but that gesture matters to people. Personalization helps humanize your efforts and reminds consumers that you see them as a person, an individual - not just a sale, or target demographic.
Getting straight to the point is also very important. We all live busy lives and don't like having our precious time wasted. We want to know what the purpose of the email is right away, so don't bulk up your content with needless filler. Make your intentions clear as soon as possible.
The reader will also want to know why it benefits them, and why they should care, so again, be very clear about this point.
The detailed content is where you want to share any information about your product or service to help the reader better understand the value you are offering. This can often be more long-form, since it is offering valuable information that will help justify the reader's purchase decision.
Your CTA should be clear and actionable. Whether it's clicking to your landing page, subscribing to your newsletter, buying right away, or any other option, you want it to stand out visually and be easy for the reader to find and recognize.
Encourage and Facilitate Conversations
Sometimes the best way to understand what your customers want is to simply ask them. Your website, blogs, and social media open up a variety of channels, each with their own demographics, that you can engage in 2-way communication with your audience.
Asking a question is generally a great way to get the ball rolling. It could be as simple as asking what people are most excited about this holiday season. Then your team can respond to each comment with personalized answers, and this will help users remember the interaction.
Here are some more simple examples of questions you could ask to facilitate conversation:
- What’s your #1 concern going into this holiday season?
- How are you preparing for the holidays this year?
- How could we help your holidays run smoother?
- What’s your best holiday memory?
- What's your favourite holiday food?
If you can craft questions that relate back to your brand, even better. Just remember to keep it simple.
Appeal to Emotions, Pay Attention to Trends
The holidays can be an emotional time of year. From nostalgia to excitement to stress to joy, it's a whirlwind rollercoaster that sneaks up on us faster than we ever think.
When putting together your marketing strategy, pay attention to the emotional appeal of your content, consider what is currently trending, and make sure to get started early.
Here are some more resources we 💖 if you'd like to dig even deeper.
Thanks for reading!