A Shining Start: Early Holiday Season Strategies

Has your inbox felt a bit festive lately? The 2014 holiday season has already kicked off for many retailers, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that now is the time for you to put your holiday marketing plans into action.

Thanksgiving Day, which has continued to grow into a major shopping day independent of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, will fall in late November again this year (November 27). This means there will be fewer days between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day to promote sales. Many retailers will attempt to combat this shortened season by launching holiday promotions early. As we saw last year, many will promote Black Friday sales for the entire month of November and Cyber Monday will be extended into a Cyber Week.

But while an early start to holiday marketing efforts may work for some retailers, the negative impacts must be considered. Mid-September may be too early for some consumers to start thinking about their gift lists – even the early-birds may consider holiday themes in September to be too early. Additionally, a full three months saturated with holiday themes could cause subscriber boredom and fatigue, resulting in your messages being ignored when shopping activity is at its peak.

You can start your season early while avoiding these holiday hazards by promoting products and services that will connect with an early-season shopper and by building awareness for tools that will make holiday shopping simple.

Promotional Themes

  • Personalized Items: Items that must be custom-built, engraved, monogrammed, etc. require more time to produce and deliver to a customer. Promoting these items early in the season will help to reduce production overload and potentially give the shopper enough time to order more items if they are pleased with the original purchase.
  • Décor: Featuring your holiday décor items and accents will help you to gently introduce your holiday themes before the season fully ramps up. This non-gifting promotional theme will help to off-set the fatigue some shoppers may experience if your gifting themes start too early and become overused.
  • Gifts for Businesses or Casual Acquaintances: From flowers to chocolates, hams to fruit baskets, there are so many gifts that shoppers can cross off their list now and have delivered later. These gifts are usually not for a shopper’s nearest-and-dearest, and can be purchased without the level of research and consideration required for gifts bought later in the season. Many shoppers will want to have the peace of mind that, by beating the rush, their gift will receive priority and be delivered on time.

Awareness

  • Wish Lists: Many consumers will use mobile devices to research holiday gifts before actually submitting an order. You could lose sales if you don’t provide a mobile-friendly experience and shopping tools that help a shopper move between devices and channels. Your shopping cart will do a lot of the heavy lifting, but building pre-season awareness of your wish list tool will give shoppers another way to quickly store items they are considering and will give you a clearer picture of the shopper’s intent to purchase. Data collected from this tool will help you to distinguish between cart abandoners and shoppers who are still a step back in the shopping process. You can then refine your messaging strategy to speak directly to the shopper’s place on the purchase path.
  • Profile and Preference Updates: You may have changed the subscriber profile data you collect, including subscription options, since the 2013 holiday season. Use this pre-holiday period to inform subscribers how they can have a better shopping experience and receive more relevant messages by updating their profile and preferences. You will be able to leverage this data to personalize content later in the season.
  • Shopping and Shipping Services: Before the chaos of the holidays hits the inbox, send a pre-holiday pep talk email to remind your subscribers why they should shop your store throughout the season. Strip the selling and focus on features such as extended store hours, in-store pick-up, mobile apps, personal shoppers, return and exchange policies for recipients, and gift-wrapping services. When the rush to wrap up shopping hits, these benefits will give the shopper a reason to come back and buy.

All of these early-season strategies help you to connect to the consumer and reinforce what makes your brand special. This time of year, before we are blinded by tinsel and blinking lights, is ideal for ensuring your subscribers are engaged and ready to start shopping.

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