Christmas may be months away, but in the world of retail, that means it is right around the corner.
The holiday shopping season, which notoriously begins with Black Friday every November, is a major focus for most retailers and gives them the opportunity to net a profit for the year if they aren't on track to already. For these businesses, the holiday retail season ideally begins months earlier with planning and preparation well ahead of execution.
Below are best practices that retail marketers should begin implementing now to get a jump start on holiday success.
Part I: Prepare Assets Given the summer season is a slower one for many retailers, marketers should take advantage of this period and use the extra time to create Q3 and Q4 marketing calendars, build and scrub email subscriber lists, fortify their social media presence, and engage in customer reactivation campaigns.
For these reactivation campaigns, marketers' goals should be to remind disengaged customers what they purchased from their brand in the past and encourage further conversion by offering promotions on similar or complementary items. This strategy will help ensure these familiar brands are already top of mind for customers once holiday shopping begins. When it comes to email specifically, marketers should clean up contact lists by removing any recipients who don't respond to these reactivation campaigns so that the lists are immaculate ahead of the holidays.
Once these unresponsive contacts have been removed, marketers should replenish lists by adding new, high-quality contacts. One helpful way to go about this is through social media integration. All marketing emails should include social media links at the bottom, so that recipients can easily visit brands' Facebook, Instagram and other social media pages. By interacting with companies on social media, customers can spread the word about their favorite brands among their entire social networks, creating a ripple effect and helping retailers identify new targets.
In addition to social buttons, retailers should include direct buy buttons into emails so that contacts can easily make purchases from their email screen. To optimize this feature for mobile devices, marketers should implement mobile-responsive design templates over the summer if they have not already done so.
Part II: Stoke the Customer Base Once preparations are complete, marketers should focus on creating a series of campaigns leading up to the actual holiday promotions themselves. The goal of these campaigns is two-fold: to build pre-holiday excitement for the brand, and to collect insights into what offers will resonate most with target audiences for Black Friday and beyond.
In these campaigns, marketers should remind audiences that the holidays are around the corner, ask them for their preferences via email survey, and even see if they would like to be part of a focus group to determine which promotions retailers should use come November. To be most strategic, marketers should first offer these opportunities as perks to their more highly engaged contacts, and ladder them down to other engagement levels as needed.
Not only will these pre-engagement campaigns plant brands' seeds among their contacts before the holidays hit, but they will also provide marketers with useful data to leverage once they need to roll holiday promotions.
Part III: Execute with Ease For marketers who spend the summer and fall preparing, execution of actual holiday campaigns should come with ease.
A good rule of thumb for retailers looking to capitalize on the holiday retail season is to implement three to five pre-engagement campaigns so that by the time Black Friday nears, it's possible to launch informed and efficient holiday campaigns.
By implementing the best practices above and dedicating effort to the holiday season well ahead of time, retailers should experience a very merry retail season in Q4.
EJ McGowan, general manager of Campaigner, has more than 25 years of experience in the software industry with expertise in building highly available, scalable SaaS-based solutions.
EJ McGowan, VP of Engineering for Glance Networks and Founder of Carpe Diem Software, is a highly experienced software professional with a career spanning over three decades. With a background in mini-computing and experience building major applications for microcomputers, EJ has a unique perspective on the evolution of technology. He was the architect for one of the first SaaS applications and now focuses on creating scalable and highly available applications for the on-demand marketplace. With a successful track record in building and leading development organizations and sales and marketing teams, EJ is a valuable asset in the software industry.