BBQs, Swimming Pools, and…Holiday Planning?

With summer ramping into full swing, the easy days of barbeques and swimming pools make it almost impossible to imagine snowflakes falling and a jolly man in a red velvet suit, trimmed in fur no less. But as marketers we must begin to envision what it will take to produce our most successful holiday marketing in order to capitalize on the reality of the huge spike in retail activity during the peak gift-giving season.

At this writing we are a mere couple of weeks from the mid-point of 2013 and only 170ish days until the holiday season is officially underway (starting with Thanksgiving). This means it’s time to kick holiday planning into high gear.

First up for consideration: research! There is a vast amount of information to be gleaned by looking both backward and forward to maximize your holiday planning effort.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly From 2012

One of the most distinct advantages of digital marketing is the rich data we are able to obtain about how our recipients interact with any given campaign. Compile all those well-meant holiday messages for a given year and you’ve got a pretty good understanding of holiday marketing success.

Some of the key insights from the 2012 holiday season include:

  • The National Retail Federation reported:
    • A total holiday retail sales increase of 3 percent year-over-year
    • E-commerce holiday retail sales increased 11.1 percent year-over-year
  • Branding Brand found that Thanksgiving to Christmas mobile sales increased 171 percent
  • Retail Online Integration recounted that 2012 retail revenue was generated from the following sources: 74.8 percent store, 16.7 percent online, and 1.6 percent mobile
  • E-Dialog’s “Holiday Hindsight 2012” study found that the average open and click rates exceeded retail promotional benchmarks – even with much higher volumes

Some of the inbox trends from last season included:

  • Early holiday promotions seen in late October and early November
  • Free shipping was everywhere
  • Cyber Monday became “Cyber Week” and Green Monday became “Green Week”
  • Many brands focused on gift guides as well as mobile and social initiatives
  • A significant focus was placed on last-minute shopping allowing for e-card, shipping upgrade options, and in-store pick-up emphasis

But don’t stop there. Take a deeper dive into the effectiveness of your holiday emails in 2012. This will be the most valuable glimpse into what works for your audiences and should help shape your plan for 2013.

Anticipating 2013 Trends

While I have yet to discover a source with a crystal ball, there are some well-educated trend spotters who consistently make it their business to predict consumer expectations for the year ahead. The mid-year point is always a great time to check in on these trends and see which of them have begun to take off. A couple that I think are worth further investigation are:

After due diligence on last year’s results and anticipated trends for the season ahead, it’s time to pull your shining star of a marketing plan together. Here are my suggestions on content to include:

  • Early groundwork:
    • This should focus on any items that can be knocked out before the chaos of the season begins. Some ideas include:
      1. Brush up your deliverability to ensure you’re not compounding the stress of the holidays with preventable issues.
      2. Clean up your lists – this is a great time to consider reactivation tactics so you’re ready to go with the first holiday message.
      3. Execute those acquisition tactics now so you can educate newly acquired subscribers at a steady pace leading up to the holidays.
      4. Test to determine the most effective communications for your recipients when the holidays arrive.
  • Holiday messaging BAU:
    • Collect your schedule, available offers, and any recurring “holiday traditions” (e.g., annual sales) for your brand into one easily accessible reference section.
  • New for 2013:
    • Incorporate a brainstorming section to allow for any new messaging opportunities, technical capabilities, and trends. Have you considered the following?
      1. How will you make your most valuable and loyal customers feel special this holiday season?
      2. Are you thinking of trying a gift guide this year?
      3. How can you make your triggered emails and transactional messaging work harder for you during the holiday season?
      4. Can your calendar accommodate a simple holiday message or thank you as a way to elevate your relationship with recipients without a sales angle?
      5. Do you have the bandwidth to try something new like multichannel retargeting?
  • Holiday goals and KPIs:
    • What are you hoping to accomplish during this peak season? How will you measure your effectiveness? Pulling these thoughts together now will allow you to evaluate your plan for this holiday season and constructively measure your success to better plan for 2014!

A plan isn’t worth its space on your hard drive without implementation. So get going! Need some inspiration for what to do next? Check out my fellow ClickZ author Jim Davidson’s recent column, “3 Holly Jolly Holiday Planning Meetings for June.”

Merry… summertime!

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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