Connecting With Holiday Shoppers – The Race Is On

It’s the week after Halloween, and that means retailers are thinking about one thing: the holiday season. In fact, most have had it top of mind for months, but now that fall has come to a figurative end, it’s all about the biggest shopping season of the year.

So far, things are looking promising. ComScore reports U.S. online retail spending for Q3 2010 is up 9 percent compared with last year, reaching just over $32 billion and marking the fourth straight quarter of positive year-over-year growth. But consumers won’t only be shopping online; research conducted by the National Retail Federation suggests that 30 percent of male consumers who own a smartphone will use it to research or buy, and about 23 percent of female consumers will do the same.

This bodes well for a lucrative holiday. It also sets the bar high for those digital marketers who need to reach e-commerce and mobile phone shoppers this year. And the clock is ticking.

According to a study from rich media advertising provider PointRoll, holiday-related retail display ads see the highest interaction rates from late October to early November. Interaction rates on rich media ads were at their lowest in early December – the point at which one might assume consumers are chomping at the bit to buy. The study, which encompasses retailer advertising campaigns from 2006 to 2009, suggested that this dip was due to a higher volume of ads during the month of December. The demand for holiday ads is there; there are just far too many of them for consumers to process.

Apart from getting an early start on holiday ads, marketers should be looking for creative ways to improve interaction rates both at the onset of their campaigns and throughout their fourth quarter runs. They should also be considering both Internet and mobile channels.

Video can help, both expanding and non-expanding. We all know the potential of expandables – they cut through the clutter and offer a plethora of information within a limited space – but in-banner video can also surpass typical display ad results. A campaign developed by PointRoll for Ford earlier this year saw 8 percent of consumers interact with non-expandable video ads, while 15 percent who expanded the expandable version of the ad started the video element.

Mobile video ads also promote valuable interaction. During the first month after the launch of the iPad, PointRoll ads that incorporated video enticed 67 percent of consumers who initiated a video component to watch it in its entirety. The average video completion rate on desktops, PointRoll says, is 53 percent.

“Digital marketers need to think about holiday campaigns holistically across PC, mobile, social, video, and any other digital channels and how to effectively engage consumers,” says Catherine Spurway, VP, strategy and marketing with PointRoll. “Combined with offering the ability to manage these campaigns across multiple devices with an integrated PC-based campaign, (we help our) clients drive consumers down the purchase funnel even as they bounce between platforms.”

Retailers can also look to online retail circulars as they endeavor to connect with online shoppers, a market that PointRoll says is “on pace for a record holiday season.” The company’s retail division ShopLocal (acquired by Gannett, which also owns PointRoll, in 2008) reports 18 percent more weekly pre-holiday retail offers in 2009 than 2008, and a 1 percent increase so far for 2010. Through a partnership with the geographically and contextually relevant comparison shopping tool brands can run targeted and rich media campaigns through both the Web and mobile channels, including iPhone and Android apps and mobile sites. As consumers actively seek out localized bargains at home and on-the-go, brand- and product-specific holiday ads stand a good chance of garnering attention.

OK, so it’s already November. That doesn’t mean it’s too late to engage holiday shoppers through digital means. As you do so, keep in mind that they’ll be seeing countless ads this year. A combination of online and mobile-rich media campaigns may be the recipe for a happy holiday.

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