The Holiday Shopping Race is On and It’s Going Into Extra Laps!

kikovic / Shutterstock.com

Listen to the chatter from consumers as they peruse local shops and malls across America, and you can often hear passive disdain for how early retailers are gearing up selling efforts for the coming holiday season. Most lament “Christmas already” or “it gets earlier and earlier each passing year.” Marketers appear to be deaf to the sentiments or at best unconcerned. This year major big box marketers are moving up the holiday selling season even earlier, with many launching several weeks earlier than ever before. Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving was reserved for a massive waving of the “start your engines” green flag, but in 2018 many well-known retailers are off the starting line early in hopes of getting a head start on the competition. In this race there doesn’t appear to be any penalty for jumping the gun.

A recent study indicated that 64 percent of marketers began running holiday advertising by Halloween. Most will dump the bulk of holiday advertising spend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Nearly 95 percent will commit a significant portion of total advertising budgets by the first week in November. “Retailers don’t focus much of their holiday ad spend on last-minute shoppers, which could be a missed opportunity as it’s a pivotal time to generate brand exposure,” Nanigans said. Consumer spending  between Black Friday and the Monday after Thanksgiving will once again spike and is expected to reach $718 billion dollars, according to the National Retail Federation, a 4.8 percent increase over the same period last year. With almost half of shoppers starting their gift searching on Amazon this year, getting the brand out in front of the competition earlier is critical for major retailers wanting to increase their share of the feast.

The absence this year of a major toy retailer is changing the dynamics of shopping for those little ones around the house. “With Toys R Us out of business, all of the major retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon, Target and Walmart, are fighting for an increased share of the toy market,” said Philip Dengler of BestBlackFriday.com. “Each has already released holiday toy lists and toy books, and they will all be expanding their selection of toys this year.” Consumers will also find great deals on electronics at stores not typically known for being electronic sales leaders. “It is often possible to get better overall pricing on electronics at Kohl’s compared to Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon when taking into account the Kohl’s Cash,” Denger said.

Consumers are expected to turn out in greater numbers than ever before to eCommerce outlets for gift giving purchases. This year, finding an online retailer not offering free shipping will be like finding a drop of fresh water in a desert. It is estimated that online spending will jump $2 billion on Thanksgiving and another $2.5 billion on Cyber Monday. Consumers’ comfort with using mobile smart devices for shopping is boosting eCommerce holiday sales this year. Retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, Target and Amazon planned and initiated promotions earlier this year in an attempt to lure increased clicks.

Physical retail outlet shoppers will need to focus on a vast variety of store hours before heading out on a shopping adventure this year. Pounded by consumers in past for opening in the wee hours of the morning or on Thanksgiving Day, many brick and mortar retailers are closed this year on Thanksgiving Day or are delaying openings until later in the day. Consumers will, however, enjoy a longer holiday selling period, as the calendar has offered up an additional week in November.

Buckle-up shoppers, the race is on and it’s going into extra laps!

“What is old is new again” May Be the Most Surprising Trend in Marketing in 2019

Image credit: Artur Szczybylo / Shutterstock.com

Believe it or not, we have once again come full circle on another year. Marketing prognosticators are polishing their crystal balls of future things to come and declaring how technology will revolutionize our channels of communication with consumers in 2019.  Last year’s predicted trends are being measured against reality, and the process is becoming akin to scoring a competitive game of sport.

As with so many games in life the results of our collective efforts to predict the future of marketing tactics and activities are never completely aligned with perfection. Shifting consumer expectations and the response to accepting new communication technologies make the playing field difficult to read and an unsuited environment for calling a perfect game. All we can really do is take stock of what is working, evaluate why some predictions failed, make necessary adjustments to the strategy for 2019 and move forward. The most successful predictions of marketing in 2018 appeared to be offered by those who envisioned a broader and less specific set of outcomes.

“While some industries have embraced the paradigm shift in how they reach, engage, and mobilize new customers, I predict that we will see even more attention and focus being placed on getting the marketing mix correct,” predicted Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions. The year’s performance appears to have been another example that absolutes and inevitabilities rarely pan out. So what appears likely to work best in 2019?

Video Marketing’s performance will continue to align with the previously predicted game plan. A Cisco forecast indicates that video will make up 85% of Internet traffic by 2020. While posts with digital images and content continue to capture a significant audience, video is generating 135% more organic reach for marketers. Once seen as an opportunity for only the most well-healed, larger players, video is becoming more economical for those smaller marketers who can benefit from projecting an emotional and appealing story. According to The Wall Street Journal, “the usage of online video has increased by 10 times between 2011 and 2016. Over the next two years, the trend has only intensified and is unlikely to slow down.”

Automating the marketing process to work more efficiently and smarter will continue to pay dividends of better understanding customers.  Scott Brinker, Founder of Chief MarTec, said, “As much amazing marketing software as there is today, there is still an opportunity for new ideas. Marketing should be — and can be — better.”  Automation will be seen as another set of marketing tools that enhances the acquisition of new customers.

Smart marketers will continue to develop an expanded inbound approach to connecting with their market segments. Content marketing, automation, social media and multichannel marketing can be coordinated to create a brand reputation that is authentic and valuable to customers. Consumers are more often placing trust in those they know. Quality, reputable content will prevail over stock ads in the coming year. If one were to bet on an absolute, a continuing utilization of inbound marketing tactics is a wise wager for 2019.

Once predicted to be rendered obsolete; direct mail, print advertising and brick and mortar sellers are showing some unexpected resilience in the digital age. Not unlike wax LP’s return to popularity among a niche market of music lovers in a world of digital recordings, old school marketing tactics are finding success with consumers who are tired of the incessant barrage of digital media noise and those who long to revisit a traditional physical shopping experience. Players on the field of brick and mortar will need to focus on creating entertaining events and an enticing experience for their target markets.

Who would have thought it: consumers like getting mail, even if it was once thought to be junk? Print advertising is not dead. While a small and much diminished portion of overall marketing spend, print is finding its rightful place in the digital world. In the field of marketing where a fast, bang, digital technology appears to arise every minute, the most surprising trend in marketing for 2019 may just be “what is old is new again.”

Prepare Your eCommerce Website for a Happy Holiday Selling Season

Image credit: Dmytro Flisak / Shutterstock.com

Would a winning team come to the plate in the World Series expecting to win without their best equipment? The answer from most sports enthusiasts and players alike would be, “certainly not!” But retailers and sellers across the industry spectrum may be coming to the plate in the biggest game of the year woefully unprepared for a big win. The holiday season is marketers’ most important opportunity to win big or go home, yet many players are failing to adequately coordinate ecommerce outlets for victory.

This year, online sales have risen by 46% and with more than 60 percent of retailers showing inventory on their website, it is critical to be ready for all the increased holiday shopping ahead. For a website to be most effective it must be aesthetically relevant, be at the peak of its performance and timely in its content. The worst time to realize that your marketing hardware isn’t loaded properly is when you have competition within your sight. Now is the time to focus on improving the performance of your website’s existing functionality.

First and foremost, your website must be prepared to handle and respond to the increased amount of traffic that is experienced around the holiday season. With their busy schedules consumers are impatient with websites that are slow to function and deliver accurately on their commands. Studies have revealed that websites that fail to load in just three seconds produce increased bounce rates. It is time to test your server’s ability to respond to your customers’ expectations and take measures to improve the site’s performance.

Decorating brick and mortar stores for the busiest selling season is a holiday tradition. Retailers spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to set a festive mood in hopes of encouraging shoppers to spend with them. A website should be no different. Decorating your site with the sounds and sights of the season will generate consumer interest and appeal. Offer something dynamic and unique with your content and modify it often to accommodate special events and promote shopping incentives. Utilize plug-ins that automate the processes of timely scheduling and initiating content modification. Focus on intently delivering on your promises. A gift received the day after Christmas is a memory rarely forgotten.

“In today’s world, if you’re not on mobile, you don’t exist.” More consumers look to mobile devices to research products and services before making a purchasing decision.  By 2021, it has been estimated that consumers will spend $152 billion directly on mobile phones, and over the next few years mobile phones will influence $1.4 trillion in offline sales. A strategy to align your online presence across all mobile devices is critical.

Secure your website! Loyal customers may forgive an occasional mistake or inconvenience caused by unforeseen and uncontrollable calamity, but mess up a financial transaction or mishandle consumer data and you may be forever unforgiven. The holiday selling season brings out the best in many people, but it also brings out bad actors in greater numbers who are willing to victimize your customers and your business to advance their personal gain. Ensure that all your software, plug-ins, connections and passwords are up to date, and invest in the latest versions of anti-malware as a first line of defense.

Prepare your eCommerce platform now for a happy holiday selling season!