Get Prepped for the Holiday Shopping Season

We’re fresh into fall, but most digital marketers I know are thinking more about presents and parkas than pumpkins.

It’s time to start planning those online holiday campaigns.

The past week has seen the release of numerous studies and reports heralding the upcoming holiday shopping season, and things are looking promising. According to eMarketer, U.S. Internet users are expected to spend some $54 billion this year, an increase of nearly 17 percent over 2011. If these projections prove to be correct, online spending in November and December will likely account for nearly 25 percent of all retail spending in the U.S. during these months.

Here’s what planners and buyers need to know to prepare for the holiday rush.

Mobile Media Will Be Bigger Than Ever

Digiday reports that mobile is top of mind for digital advertisers this year, particularly given that a number of brands suffered strategic and technical setbacks in 2011. If you’re among those for whom mobile advertising will be king of the black diamond trail in Q4, you’re on the right run. IBM says of all the sessions that took place on retailer sites in December of last year, nearly 15 percent were initiated from a mobile device.

Apart from ensuring that mobile sites are equipped to support holiday traffic, marketers should be considering how to leverage the trend toward “couch commerce.” Expect consumers to be using their smartphones and tablets to make their purchases from home, on Thanksgiving and Black Friday alike.

Expect, too, that shoppers will be looking to mobile media to simplify the shopping they do in stores. This behavior is best addressed with partnerships focused on increasing product exposure and reach on all manner of mobile devices. Companies like Spotzot, and its newly launched SpotAds, offer advertising opportunities for retailers like Macy’s that have an equal stake in selling online and off-. By using geo-targeting and click-to-call technology, along with coupon codes and online price comparison, brands can use mobile marketing placements like this to drive holiday shopping traffic to stores as well as to the web.

Consumers Are Expecting Digital Ads With Functionality

In “The Ultimate Digital Marketers Success Kit,” released online this month, digital marketing company Mediative advises brands to build their lead generation ads using calls to action like “buy now,” “sale,” and “free.” This will surely boost click-through rates, but as a strategy, it’s somewhat incomplete. Exposed as they are to high concept, interactive banners on a regular basis, consumers will be counting on interactivity this holiday season. And that means giving them more than a direct link to your site.

Look to brands like Lands’ End, Levi’s, Zappos, and IKEA (which managed to fit its hulking print catalogue in a banner) for guidance on how to use galleries and featured products to incite purchases. Combine tried and true calls to action with in-banner interactivity that engages the consumer with the product in some meaningful way. If you can encourage interaction before the click, you can prequalify your customers and increase the odds of future purchases.

Shoppers Are Planning on Spending Less

ClickZ’s Denise Zaraya recently reported that over 43 percent of consumers are planning on spending less on gifts this year. Keep this customer mentality in mind when you’re planning your campaigns. Featuring sales, discounts, and special offers in a prominent way will resonate with frugal buyers, but don’t overlook the fact that they’ll be planning ahead by comparing products online and conducting preliminary research well before they see your banner ad.

To increase your chances of converting them to your brand, don’t just think about where they’ll be once they’re ready to buy, but where they are when they’re in the discovery stage. Buying media alongside product reviews and online holiday gift guides could give your brand the edge it needs to cut through the holiday clutter.

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