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How Retailers Should Plan Their Holiday Strategy This Year

Home baked pies, holiday lights, and gatherings around the fireplace celebrating the holiday season. Is it too early to think about the holidays? 

Well, it’s never too early for retail marketers to start planning for a successful holiday season. Holiday planning has always been a time for retail brands to innovate and evaluate their programs, even before COVID-19. Now in the era of COVID, holiday planning has become even more crucial as retailers react to new and shifting consumer behaviors and sentiment. Creating a premier customer experience this holiday season, with many retailers competing for the same dollar, will be a key ingredient to success especially as you consider the expected increase in online shopping this year. As marketers, consider evaluating your technology and online experiences through the lens of the customer. We’ve heard this notion talked about for quite some time, and this season more than ever before, brands will need to bring customer centricity to the forefront of their holiday strategies. 

Revisit Performance for 2019

Revisiting your 2019 wins and learnings can also support this year’s plans.  I recommend you evaluate: What worked? What didn’t work? What tests did you run last year that can inform your plans for this year? Ask yourself, what tests do you need to run this year, to support next year’s holiday season? Having a solid learning agenda throughout the holiday season can provide useful insights into your customers and those that may only purchase one time a year. Also, consider your customer data acquisition strategy which can support future remarketing efforts. The more customer data gained throughout the holiday time period, the better off you’ll be in 2021. The holidays are prime time for retailers to gain behavioral data due to uptick in site traffic and online engagement. Therefore, evaluate your data enrichment strategy so that at every point across the customer journey you’re gaining meaningful and rich data to be used for upcoming marketing personalization.

When to Start Promotions

Another area to consider is your promotional calendar. What we’ve seen in the past is that promotions will be very robust and will start very early especially now as many customers have reduced their shopping to only the essential items during COVID. This time period may in fact be the first time in a while that some customers are treating themselves to something beyond the basics and considering more luxury items. Enticing customers back to shopping through multi-day/weeklong promotions and promoting earlier can be a winning strategy. Last year, some retailers even started messaging Black Friday in September. It’s also important to consider the two extra shopping days this holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas to determine which promotions and incentives can be passed along to your customers. Competition will continue to be fierce this season. Being relevant, timely, and having meaningful, personalized promotions can help to break through the clutter.

Technology to support customer behaviors

Every holiday season we see an increase in ecommerce and this year will be no different. Since COVID, customers have continued to crave new ways to shop from retailers. Whether Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) or curbside delivery, customers will continue with this expectation and retailers will need to adapt to these needs. Offering convenience and ease of shopping, next day and same day shipping, can also be key strategies for winning this holiday season. The challenge for every retailer will be to create personalized experiences and engagement through technology while bridging the gap between online and instore purchases, curbside, and BOPIS.

Start now by evaluating your company’s mobile and app experiences for your customers. Since retailers will have to create engagement and build brand advocacy potentially through online-only channels (depending on the area of the US), loyalty and in-app engagement can be crucial to the brand experience. Consider visual changes to your site which will allow your customers to purchase, pay, and acquire their goods effortlessly. Customers continue to want seamless, frictionless experiences with the brands with which they engage . And due to this, you may need to evaluate your technology as well as your strategy.

Consider asking yourself, “Does my brand have the right tech for my customers?” If more customers consider curbside, is my brand ready for gift card sales and large volume purchases? Is my curbside delivery program best-in-class and if not, what do I need to consider making it so? Does my app/mobile experience allow for ease of purchase in finding the right products, or is it too difficult to navigate? Are there ways that BOPIS can be enhanced through product and inventory management tools?

There are many key areas to consider as we think about COVIDs impact on retail and the shifting customer behaviors like how, when, and where they purchase.  What worked last year may not work this year. So, plan for it. 

Want to learn more? I'll be presenting more on this topic on a webinar Sept 10. Sign up here.