There are always those people who jump fully into Christmas mode the moment Halloween has ended. There are also those who are adamantly against anything Christmas-related happening until Thanksgiving is over. While personally I’m a big fan of Thanksgiving (I can always get behind a day spent eating and watching football), my strategic recommendations for advertising to push product sales in the holiday season centers primarily around getting out there early.
We’ve all walked into a store on November 1 to see the Halloween candy discarded to a miscellaneous aisle marked down to 50% off and the center display now housing Christmas trees. Although this jump-start on Christmas may rub some people the wrong way, the general idea these retailers are operating around is correct. More and more, the recommendation for advertisers is to begin holiday messaging on November 1, as not only the consideration phase for holiday shopping begins but also actual holiday purchases occur too.
Recently, Google released a study reporting that over half of holiday shoppers, whether they are early bird or last-minute, are spending a significant amount of time researching online before making a purchase – even if that purchase is ultimately made offline. This doesn’t mean that a Christmas message is necessarily needed in October, but you should have evergreen media in-market to build up a base layer of awareness so you’re not fighting an uphill battle to be top of mind during the peak holiday season. Search strategies to capture users browsing gift ideas should deploy in this early part of the season.
As you enter November, your digital creative should shift more strongly to feature holiday or gifting-driven messaging. What was once separately Black Friday and Cyber Monday has now merged into one large weekend (if not weeklong) sale. The perception that offering a discount ‘cheapens’ your brand’s image is a misconception that leads to missed opportunities during this shopping-centric weekend. The expectation has now become that the brands advertising during this period will be offering a discount. Those brands not participating in the sale are often overlooked or their purchase postponed, running the risk of losing out to another brand. Your brand may be in the consideration set following your evergreen efforts and the offer of 20% off or free shipping could be what convinces the consumer to go ahead and move forward with the purchase. Offering a discount creates a sense of urgency, allowing you to capture purchases that may happen later in the season or not at all. If your product isn’t necessarily one that would be given as a gift, keep in mind that 66% of these discount shoppers are purchasing for themselves.
Lastly, I’ll get into the last-minute shoppers, which is the phase we are rapidly approaching. There is still a significant portion of people who are making their purchases just ahead of the holidays. It’s important to continue the focus around gifting consideration strategies in this phase to capture this group, who are often not specifically tied to a gift idea or a particular brand. While studies reveal the primary group of early bird shoppers are Baby Boomers, the vast majority of last-minute shoppers are Millennials and Gen Z. This group has a high comfort level with completing purchases on their mobile device and will be browsing on their phone. It’s imperative that your website is optimized for mobile from the home page all the way through the checkout process to secure purchases from this audience. This younger group has also shown a higher affinity to discount messaging, so I’d recommend providing any follow-up sales to entice consumers in this late phase to help your brand stand out against other options. Paid social should be a primary carrier of this message and provide the opportunity to directly purchase. Finally, if there are any shipping deadlines for receiving orders ahead of the holidays, they should be featured clearly in creative and on the website to increase the sense of urgency. If your brand’s products are sold in retail locations, digital advertising efforts following the shipping deadlines can shift more heavily to driving users to purchases in-person.
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