Marketing The (Shorter) 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday shopping season is here!

Yes, it’s only October, but retailers are already decking the halls and rolling out the deals in hopes of spreading the holiday cheer early on, and of course, maximizing consumers’ holiday spending.

In simpler times, before the ubiquity of connected devices and the convenience of buying with a few quick taps of our thumbs, the holiday season officially began the day after Thanksgiving. But as retailers have made it oh so easy to buy through compelling offers and making free shipping pretty much a standard practice – not just at holiday time – there’s less of a reason to wait for that ultimate post-Turkey Day deal.

And, marketers are definitely getting more creative in their methods of reaching holiday shoppers. Ultimately, isn’t that what marketing is all about?

Why wait until Black Friday?

The holiday season is beginning earlier and earlier every year, and that’s partially thanks to Amazon’s Prime Day. It’s credited with kicking off the shopping season early in Q3 with about half of Americans making a Prime Day purchase; and 70 percent of those people included a holiday gift in their order.

Half of Americans make a Prime Day purchase; 70% of those include a holiday gift

Of course, in the spirit of competition, other retailers jumped on board with their own July deals and created somewhat of a buying frenzy that can only be matched by Black Friday. And with all these summer deals, why not go ahead and get some of that holiday shopping out of the way?

While retailers are indeed concerned that the six-day-shorter timeframe between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year will hurt their bottom line, Black Friday is still expected to be the top shopping day for 2019, with Cyber Monday coming in second and Cyber Saturday rounding out the top three.

Although shopping season has already hit the ground running, there’s still a great opportunity for marketers to win the holidays by minding some of the current trends outlined below, as well as thinking outside of the box (ahem, holiday gift-wrapped box) to provide a unique, memorable customer experience.

thinking outside of the box

Mobile’s continued growth

Digital commerce has undeniably been on a trajectory of growth in recent years, thanks in large part to our mobile devices. Mobile spending share of total digital retail commerce continues to grow at a higher rate than desktop. According to a comScore State of Retail report, in Q4 2018 (last holiday season), mobile commerce had grown 44 percent over the previous year, while desktop had grown just 13 percent.

Mobile commerce has grown 44% YOY while desktop has grown 13%

TIP: Take advantage of those large-screened devices and optimize your mobile experience, so you’re not leaving money on the table.

Retailers stepping it up

Currently, only about one in three Americans are even aware that there’s a much shorter shopping season this year. But, not to worry: 44 percent of retailers will call out the shortened time frame in their advertising this year, 54 percent will run the deals earlier and 55 percent will deepen their discounts even greater than they normally would.

Retailers to call out shortened holiday shopping timeframe

TIP: Don’t wait. It’s better to start communicating your deals now, as opposed to waiting until Black Friday. And if your price isn’t necessarily the lowest, focus your advertising on the benefits to your prospective customers – the value they’re getting for their money should be clear and undeniable.

Shipping: Free required, fast negotiable

Thanks to Amazon (again), consumers have become accustomed to fast and free shipping. They expect to receive their purchase within a matter of days, or in some cases, hours. While other, larger retailers have been able to compete on the “fast and free” level, smaller retailers sometimes have to choose – and research shows that “free” prevails over “fast” with over 84 percent of holiday ecommerce transactions in 2018 offering free shipping.

But that’s not to say speed isn’t unimportant, either. Fast shipping speed was ranked number one (at 62 percent) when digital shoppers were asked how they define positive experiences with digital brands or retailers, in a recent Avionos survey.

Another case for free shipping? RetailMeNot’s Holiday Insights guide shows that 58 percent of holiday shoppers will not complete an online purchase without free shipping.

Fast shipping is the most important factor

TIP: Do we need to say it again? Offer free shipping to make it on consumers’ nice lists this year – and make it fast if at all possible.

Channel overload

While email messaging is the O.G. of digital marketing, offering the highest returns for marketers at an average of 42:1 return on investment, the sheer volume of other channels and growth of digital media options overall can leave advertisers a little lost on how to best choose the right channels to reach their prospects at the right time.

Email has the highest ROI for marketers at 42:1

eMarketer’s Email Marketing 2019 report shows that email is still a top digital activity for consumers, as well as a preferred means of communication with brands. Virtually all age groups use email, and around half of all emails will be read on a mobile device.

TIP: Definitely use email marketing since it’s an owned channel for your brand, with great ROI potential and has an opted-in audience. For guidance on other channels, consult a professional to help optimize your holiday strategy.

See also: Top Ways to Win at Holiday Email Marketing

Let’s make a deal

Before we dive too far down the rabbit hole of “do this, not that,” let’s summarize the overlying theme of holiday marketing success: deals rule. Seven in 10 shoppers say that price is the No. 1 factor when purchasing holiday gifts.

7 in 10 shoppers say price is the no. 1 factor in purchasing holiday gifts

TIP: Offer a unique deal in which customers can see the clear value and benefit they will receive. Holiday shoppers will no doubt research deals for the items they’re seeking, so make it easy for them to find the best offers.

Time will tell

In summary, marketers must look beyond Black Friday advertising (although still a crucial part of your strategy) and find a creative approach to making your brand stand out from the competition. Consumers want value, not just in the form of lowest price, but also in the buying experience and brand interaction.

Technology has enabled better brand experiences – through social channels, personalization capabilities and advanced targeting tactics, just to name a few – but at the same time has made it more challenging for marketers to identify the most efficient and effective strategies to reach potential customers.

This holiday season, there’s no doubt we’ll see marketers employing unique, creative tactics on one end of the spectrum, to dependable, less exciting methods on the other, in order to try and win their share of the holiday budget. Chances are that most marketers will be using a mix of approaches, and ultimately, consumers will decide which brands make the nice list.

Need help connecting with consumers? Contact Mindstream Media Group for digital, traditional or holistic media strategies that deliver the results that matter most to your business.