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The holiday season is probably the most important time of the year for brands. Each year, most brands allocate around 20% of their overall marketing budget to the winter holidays. And for good reason: altogether, holiday spending accounts for 20% of annual retail sales. These past two years, much to the delight of retailers, they have kept on increasing and in 2018, the NRF (National Retail Federation) reported that consumers spent over $1,000 on average during that year’s season. Online shopping has been under the spotlight especially, in 2019 it represented 21% of overall holiday sales. *

What tools and strategies can brands implement to yield the best results?

*Kantar, Winter Holiday 2019 study

Voice Search

We often hear about Voice Search as part of the emerging technologies and trends. ComScore reports that more than 50% of smartphone owners use voice search technology in 2020.

What about during the holiday season? Well, in 2017 25% of shoppers used voice search to look for their gifts. These figures make brands and retailers think twice about search intent. Internet users will speak out longer sentences to find what they want. Brands will have to change and adapt their websites and pages (their content as well as other technical details) in order to gain visibility on search engines.

Digital gift card programs

Gift cards are more and more appreciated under the Christmas tree. In 2019, 80% of US consumers reported receiving a digital or plastic gift card, and more than half of French and US consumers declared wanting cash or gift cards more than any other gift. It is no surprise considering they are an easy and fast gift, which never disappoints.

Offering your own gift card and highlighting it over the year-end period is a great way to boost holiday sales. And offering a digital version of your gift card will enable you to reach and seduce Millennials as well as the ever-growing number of late-shoppers.

Besides selling gift cards as a product, a brand can also use it as a marketing tool, especially as a promotional tool. They are more popular than vouchers or coupons and will make you stand out and mark the occasion. Over the holidays, 36% of French consumers wait for promotions and sales to buy their gifts. And 81% of them are looking for the best deals as early as November.

Social media

Nowadays, more than half of social media users (55%) have made a purchase through this medium. Social media have evolved in a way that enables brands to offer users to buy their products and services directly on the platform, without ever leaving it. That way, the purchasing process is shortened, more fluid and less intrusive. It considerably reduces the abandonment rate.

Over the holidays, many consumers turn to social media for gift ideas. Therefore, implementing direct purchases on these platforms is worth considering in order to increase sales.

Ephemeral content is another trend brought by social media. It creates a livelier relationship with the brand’s community and is an interesting way to get noticed during the holiday season.

Phygital and omnichannel

Consumers like to find their Christmas gift ideas online as much as they like to find them while going shopping. Some of them (46%) like to start their search by looking in the stores and then shop online. Whereas some (58%) would rather do the opposite and find their ideas online before visiting the chosen stores.

Digital or physical, it makes no difference for consumers, they are willing to do anything to find the right gifts for their family and loved-ones.

By being visible on both channels, brands increase their number of contact points. And even better, by offering a fluid and seamless experience whatever the channel, customers will be able to easily switch devices and go from digital to physical effortlessly. It is a way to help them prepare for the holidays confidently, with total peace of mind.

Several actions can be taken. For example, brands can bring digital to their stores. Phygital is a recent concept that offers to bring the benefits of digital to the brick-and-mortar stores and provide a unique and improved experience. For Christmas, Gucci created digital interactive window displays, like cabinet of curiosities, to showcase their different products.

Chatbots

For a few years now, chatbots have gained popularity. In addition to facilitating the work for customer service, it provides reassurance to customers who can have a quick answer.

Especially around the holidays, a time when traffic increases, and with it, the number of questions and complaints. Very often, customers want to track their orders (51%), or want to know more about a product (29%), about a purchase (27%), the delivery (25%) or the store (24%). Automating a part of the process will enable you to reduce your response time and improve customer satisfaction. Knowing they can reach the brand at all times increases purchase intentions for 65% of consumers.

Moreover, chatbots can become a real marketing tool. For instance, Disney used its genie to find ideal gifts for consumers. He asks them different questions and offers them products that could match their answers. It is a great way to assist customers in their search.

Pop-up stores

Pop-up stores are the perfect marketing operation for Christmas. Opening a short-term shop, especially for the holidays, gives brands the opportunity to introduce consumers to their world and its products, all the while enjoying the festive setting. Creating a new and exciting playground to find gifts will likely attract many customers. For example, the brand Happy Socks opens pop-up stores each Christmas to gain visibility and increase brand awareness.

With an e-retailer, pop-up stores can enrich the relationship with its customers and offer them the possibility to see and try-out their products.

For brands that already have physical shops, a pop-up store enables them to try out a geographical area in which they plan to settle, or experiment a new store concept.

Smartphones

Smartphones are gaining ground when it comes to e-commerce. Over Christmas 2018, its share further increased and reached 37%. It is in any brand’s best interest to invest in this lucrative channel.

Over the holidays, brands can implement a strategy based on push notifications. It could be for a flash sale, ecoupons, private sales, special store openings, … or any other type of information that could spark the interest of mobile users. These notifications can be sent if the app has been downloaded beforehand. In fact, the number of gifts bought through apps have increased by 12% in 2017. SMS marketing is also an interesting means of communication to use for the festive season. It is a particularly efficient means, with a high opening rate (95%). What is more, SMS brings traffic in the physical shops. 26% of consumers declared they visited a store after receiving a text on their mobile phone.

Influencer marketing

With the end of the year approaching, many consumers are looking for gifts. And who better than influencers to give them tips? Nowadays, Millennials spend 30% of their time looking at the content posted by other people. The rest, they like to spend it on influencers’ social media or blog (24%). It is a perfect opportunity for brands to make the most of this channel and highlight the products and services that would make the best gifts.

There are several ways to do so: creating a special event and inviting influencers, organising contests with them, or offering promotional codes through them.

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