How to Create a Killer Festive Marketing Strategy
An increase in sales, new customers and brand awareness – the festive period brings a wealth of opportunity to savvy businesses.
The secret to taking advantage of those opportunities… well there is no secret actually. It’s just good old common sense: plan, prepare, and know exactly what your brand wants to achieve over this incredibly busy time of year.
By reading this guide you’ll learn how to:
Key festive dates to consider:
Black Friday — Friday 23rd November 2018
Cyber Monday — Monday 26th November 2018
Small Business Saturday — Saturday 1st December 2018
Winter Solstice — Friday 21st December 2018
Christmas Eve — Monday 24th December 2018
Christmas Day —Tuesday 25th December 2018
Boxing Day — Wednesday 26th December 2018
New Year’s Eve — Monday 31st December 2018
New Year’s Day — Tuesday 1st January 2018
Recommended last posting dates:
2nd Class — Tuesday 18th December
1st Class — Thursday 20th December
Next day delivery — Friday 21st December
There’s a good reason why so much planning should go into the festive period. Here’s what the numbers says:
Yes we know this is the only time of the year where we see the jolly man with the white beard and red suit out and about.
The question is, how does the festive period influence your customers’ behaviour differently? Have you considered how this might impact sales? And what new opportunities might it bring you?
Who else might decide to shop with you that you may not see at other times of the year?
Whether it’s your Black Friday bargains or the ultimate Christmas gift, people have a much higher buying intent at this time of the year. Those that visit your site may be much more likely to purchase compared to other times of the year. This in turn will help you see an increase in conversion rates.
People are also doing more online searches at this time of year. In fact, Google search data reveals that the UK makes more Christmas searches than anywhere else in the world. So this is a great opportunity for your brand to be visible.
However, there are things that are working against you during this time.
Cutting prices and spending more money to get in front of the right audience is going to give you a lower profit margin
It’s a key time of year for a lot of brands—you’re going to be up against a lot of competition to win the attention of your prospects and customers.
With more competition comes higher costs for impressions and clicks across digital advertising. It’s 2.6 times more expensive to show an advert to 1,000 people on Black Friday.
In this guide we explain where to focus your marketing efforts in the run up to the festive period and how to make it your most successful one to date.
1. Set Your Objectives
Before you start thinking about marketing campaigns you need to define what success looks like at this time of year. This will enable you to set specific goals and ensure you’re using the right metrics to help get you there.
The key metrics for this time of year are:
Use these metrics to set up your S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. is a best practice format to set goals that are reachable.
Your S.M.A.R.T. goal should be:
Specific: Be clear and specific so you can easily focus your efforts on what you want to achieve.
Measurable: To track progress and know when you’ve met your goal you need to be able to measure it.
Achievable: It needs to be something that is realistically attainable.
Relevant: The goal should matter to you and align with other goals.
Time-bound: Set a deadline to work towards to help you prioritise your efforts.
It’s important to be able to measure your success. If you spend time on a campaign or activity that can’t be measured or won’t impact a relevant metric then it’s likely you’ll be wasting your time.
You won’t have the intel to optimise your activity for next year. Meaning you’ll always be starting from square one.
2. Maximise your email marketing
It’s an incredibly competitive period which means our inboxes are going to get noisier and noisier.
This doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth doing email marketing at this time of year—quite the opposite.
Email drives highly qualified traffic during the festive period. These are people familiar with your brand. The majority may have purchased from you before. Driving sales from existing subscribers will be much more cost-effective than trying to acquire new customers.
In fact, if you were to use only one marketing channel during the holiday season then it should definitely be email.
Here’s the steps you need to take to ensure you’re maximising your email marketing during this time.
Every year we see brands taking a batch and blast approach where they send a generic offer email to their entire database—this is such a wasted opportunity.
Every email subscriber has their own personality, motivations and preferences. So targeting them all with one offer is not going to give you a great return.
Grouping subscribers who display similar traits into segments is a much more effective approach. According to the DMA, segmented and targeted emails generate 58 percent of all email revenue. So it’s worth the effort.
Segmentation can seem like a daunting task—there are so many ways to slice up your database.
We’ve created some personas that reflect how people buy over festive period. These are based on a person’s behaviour rather than the basic demographic information such as age and gender.
Your festive email strategy shouldn’t focus solely on generating traffic from existing subscribers. This is a key opportunity to grow your email lists and to nurture these people through the sales funnel.
Capture their details with well positioned sign-up forms or overlays. When used well, overlays have been known to help marketers increase email subscriptions by up to 300 percent. Incentivise new visitors to subscribe by using tempting additional discounts as your call to action.
Don’t forget to use welcome emails to nurture them towards a sale after they sign-up.
This is someone who has had a look around your site and was tempted enough to subscribe to your emails but they haven’t purchased from you yet.
You can encourage them to purchase by targeting them based on their browsing behaviour. If they’ve been looking at specific products or within particular categories of your site, target them with emails recommending these products.
You may also want to target them with offers on their first purchase. This might be a discount or free delivery, for example.
Creating a sense of urgency within these emails may also be useful with this persona. Urgency is a tried and tested method of compelling people to act, from clicking a link to making a purchase. Do this by giving your offers deadlines and using countdown timers within the top of your emails to really emphasise that time is running out.
The key thing to consider with this persona is your expectations. Depending on your business, are they realistically going to purchase multiple different products in their first order? Or is it more realistic to focus marketing efforts on tempting them over the line with one purchase?
Finally, you may want to consider sending them an email asking how you might be able to assist them today. Team this with useful information which might include FAQs, your top selling items or instructions on how to get in contact.
These are your most loyal customers. They purchase from you time and time again. So when the festive period comes around, it’s a nice opportunity to reward their loyalty and ensure they know their custom is valued.
You can do this by giving them early access to your Black Friday, Cyber Monday and post-Christmas sales. In the example below, Bodyshop make their VIPs feel special by giving them early sale access and offering a discount on items that aren’t normally included within sales.
You should have a wealth of data on frequent buyers. This might include product preferences such as size, colour, brands or trends, or their past purchase history. Whatever data you have, use it to create highly targeted festive campaigns with relevant product messages.
These people are driven by the idea of bagging a bargain. They are unlikely to become loyal customers but they will purchase when sale time comes around. Cater for their price-driven nature by ensuring they know all about your sale promotions. Influence their fear of missing out with countdown timers that show when your promotions end.
These are the customers who purchased with you a long time ago and have stopped interacting with your emails. They’re in need of some TLC and the festive season gives you the perfect opportunity to create a timely and relevant message.
Christmas is an emotive time of year so up your festive spirit and offer them a discount to tempt them back. And make sure you explain the benefits of returning to purchase from you. Think about your unique selling points—what makes you different from other brands?
Lastminute.com uses emotive language like ‘really miss you’ and ‘want to help’ and ‘welcome back’ when reaching out to their customers at this time of year.
You’ve decided your goals. You’ve segmented your database. Now is the time to plan your campaigns.
Even though things may be unpredictable at this time of year, it’s important to enter the season with a solid campaign plan.
The key to success is to structure your campaigns and know exactly how you’re going to execute your offers and messaging.
We’ve broken the approach down into the following stages:
Awareness plays two roles. First off you want to ensure that the right people know about your Black Friday sales or your Christmas offerings.
Target your existing database to spread the news and ensure you’re on their radar at this time of the year. You might do this by simply featuring an advert at the bottom of your normal email campaigns a few weeks from your go live date.
Secondly, the awareness stage is the time to focus efforts on topping up your email database. This will broaden your opportunities to maximise your sales over this time. Ensure your email sign up forms are visible and enticing. Consider which channels you can use to encourage sign-ups other than your website.
Now is the time to create impactful messaging that will build excitement and intrigue your email subscribers. A lot of this comes down to the art of teasing and timing it right with just enough snippets of information to spike your subscribers’ curiosity.
It’s going to appear out of the blue if you just storm in with all the details on everything you’re offering. This risks overwhelming or boring your subscribers. And remember, you need to be extra careful at this time of year not to waste the opportunities you have to capture your audience’s attention.
The key is to take incremental steps so you’re taking your readers’ emotions on a journeys—from curiosity to desire. And ensure you’re always telling your readers what’s in it for them.
Game did this very well during its Black Friday campaign which features a live countdown gif to build anticipation. Games builds intrigue by announcing that new deals will be going live every day in the lead up the main event.
The Game example above offers the opportunity to sign up to its Black Friday email list.
The benefit to the subscriber is they’re the first to know about the offer, giving them a sense of exclusivity.
The benefit to the brand is they now have a highly engaged segment with a high buying intent who they can target immediately. They know this segment is likely to drive a lot of sales.
If you are well prepared and have launch dates for your product releases or offers, you can create nurture campaigns around these keys dates -—whether it’s Black Friday, the ramp up to Christmas or your January Sales. Set up a series of emails to drip feed key information on particular dates.
Behavioural targeted emails are a great strategy to use during this stage too.
While you build awareness and anticipation your subscribers will have been checking out your website. Now you can target them with offers or recommendations based on the products they’ve been looking at.
This stage is all about the longevity of your campaigns. It will be dictated by a number of things including; the success of the campaigns to date, where you are in the festive calendar, the nature of your business, and your strategic goals.
For example, it may be profitable for some to sustain momentum by extending your Black Friday sale. This might include Cyber Monday or even the entire week after Black Friday.
Discounting different categories on each day is a great way to sustain momentum. For example, Forest Holidays offered a significant discount on for two different types of holiday—the first to appeal to those hunting for next year’s holiday and the second to target those tempted by a festive getaway.
For others, this discounting strategy might impact the results of their Christmas campaign and therefore their sales revenue over this time. So it makes sense for these brands to switch their focus to the promotion of their Christmas campaign.
This stage emphasises the importance in defining your goals and creating a campaign plan as early as possible. If you have a plan it also means you have the space and time to be reactive when necessary and respond to real-time results.
3. Increase web conversions
So you’ve worked hard to drive people to your website. Now you need to ensure your website is optimised to convert visitors into sales.
It might sound obvious but lots of brands have fallen victim to this in the past—notably around Black Friday. This includes big high street brands that you’d expect to have things running like clockwork. This isn’t the case.
Last year Perfume Shop suffered from websites crashes over the Black Friday period. Not only did this prevent people from accessing its site, but those who were already shopping were unable to complete purchases.
Naturally, its customers took to Twitter to express their outrage, only to be met with a response from The Fragrance Shop—a direct competitor.
Time is money in these situations. It’s essential that your customer experience is a top priority at this time of year.
Here’s some tips on how to prepare:
When planning your campaigns, the IT team must be a stakeholder. Ensure you consult with them about your plans. Ask them to test your site, system and servers, especially if you’re introducing new technology.
As the saying goes: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Create a back-up plan in case your website does topple over. This will involve your tech team working on the problem but also includes plans for other channels where you can communicate issues immediately such as social media. Craft key messaging for multiple scenarios and ensure relevant stakeholders are fully briefed.
Whether it’s new landing pages or lots of edits to existing content, ensure you’ve done plenty of front-end testing to make sure your customer can complete the intended journey.
Don’t underestimate the power of your campaigns. You could be the victim of your own success if you drive hundreds of thousands of people to your website in one go. Unprecedented traffic could increase page load times or even bring your website down. Taking preventative actions like staggering your email sends.
On an average day, 69% of people abandon their online shopping. During Black Friday, basket abandonment rates increase to 75%!
There are many reasons why people abandon their online baskets. But at this time of year it’s more likely that people are shopping in multiple tabs at the same time, comparing prices and looking to grab the best bargain.
So having a strategy in place to recover this lost revenue is crucial and can make a huge impact to your bottom line.
If you haven’t already invested in basket abandonment recovery technology, now is the time to do it. Learn how we help brands recover 12% of revenue lost to basket abandonment.
If you already have an abandonment programme running, here are some tips to consider:
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, you’ll want to shorten your email trigger times to run within the short time period of your campaign.
During the Christmas period you’ll need to work to your final order dates. Ensure delivery deadlines are highlighted within your copy. This doubles as useful information as well as driving urgency to purchase.
It’s easy to overlook the creative you use in basket abandonment emails. After all, they’re set up to run in the background all year round. However revising your creative with festive themed images and messaging will make them timely and relevant, e.g. these items are going back up in price soon.
Get creative when revising your templates and consider additional elements that could improve them. You might want to feature your countdown timer again to emphasise that time is running out on that deal. Maybe you want to offer an extra percentage off to get them over the line? Or a free gift wrap service?
Featuring low stock alerts for items they’re interested in buying (which you can identify from their browsing behaviour) is especially relevant at this time of year.
Address the top five reasons why people leave websites at the checkouts:
While many of us may use Black Friday and seasonal sales as an opportunity to treat ourselves, a lot of your custom over Christmas is likely to be from people buying gifts.
Introducing seasonal categories that reflect festive buying behaviours is an effective way of improving your conversion rates.
Seasonal categories make it easier for visitors to research, discover and compare suitable products.
Here are some examples of how you might want to categorise your products:
93% of companies see an uplift in conversion rates from using personalisation. And Amazon reports that 35% of their sales come from personalised cross-selling.
So there’s a lot of value in creating personalised experiences for your customers.
The key to personalised journeys is to deliver relevant messages at just the right moment based on the actions someone has just taken. This recreates the one-on-one experience a customer would get if they were served by an assistant in a physical store.
The technology behind personalisation uses machine-learning to gradually understand more about how your customers behave. Using browsing behaviour, purchase history, and crowd-sourced data, they predict and shape what your customers do next.
At this time of year, your personalisation can excel in the following areas:
Set up triggers so when a visitor abandons your site, they’ll receive an email reminding them of what they looked at.
Be choosy when it comes to sending these. Don’t send them to absolutely everyone, every time. You don’t want to risk bombarding and annoying recipients.
Instead retarget the people who are most likely to move from browsing to buying. These are people who might:
The content of the email can feature the products they looked at and similar items they might want to consider. Relevancy is key.
If they’ve browsed lots of items in a session then don’t feature everything—it will be overwhelming.
Look at what they did most recently or which products or categories they spent longest on. Maybe prioritise products that have a high conversion rate, like bestsellers.
You could also tie browse abandon campaigns to stock levels. For example, highlighting when recently browsed items that were out of stock are available again. Or when items they browsed are running low on stock.
The moment the someone hits your website, they’re going to be giving off all kinds of signals about what they’re in the market for. Signals could come from real-time behaviour (search terms, products viewed) or historical data (previously purchased products, popular categories and trends).
These signals allow you predict what they’re in the market for so you can drive them to conversion with relevant product recommendations.
For new visitors, you could show best sellers and trending products in particular categories.
For returning visitors, you could show them items they previously browsed or similar products.
For regular customers, you could show product recommendations based on their previous orders.
Making recommendations once a shopper has added a product to their basket can help increase the revenue from a single transaction.
Most often these are suggestions of complementary purchases designed to cross-sell or upsell. Items that ‘complete a look’, for example.
The product recommendations presented at the basket page are much like the sweets at the supermarket checkout. They’re relatively low cost, tempting items that are easy to add to a shop without thinking too much.
Social proof is when people refer to the behaviour of others when they’re in new or unfamiliar situations i.e. when they’re unsure of what to do.
In marketing it can prove to extremely influential. According to Forbes, online reviews have been shown to impact 67.7% of purchasing decisions and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
There are so many types of social proof but these are particularly useful for influencing shoppers’ behaviour at this time of the year:
A little sense of urgency goes a long way to getting people to commit.
By telling visitors that certain items are low on stock, you can create a fear of missing out that compels them to buy. With the right technology you’ll be able to display availability updates to prompt customers to buy
This shows web visitors how many people are also browsing the same product at that particular moment which can be very effective in encouraging people to take action. Think of it in a real-life scenario. When people start crowding round you in a shop to look at the same item you’re looking at, it drives an impulse to pick up the item before you miss your chance and the other person walks off with it.
At this time of year, lots of shoppers may be looking for guidance and inspiration on where to spend their cash. Highlighting your best selling products to visitors is perfect for this scenario—if the majority of people are buying these products then others likely to follow suit. The hard work is done for them.
4. Get creative
It’s easy to get caught up in trading and forget about building a brand. Christmas offers a wide variety of options to help build brand awareness. But it means investing in eye-catching design and taking the time to really consider your messaging.
If you can’t get creative at Christmas, when can you?!
Here’s some key areas to focus your money, time and attention:
Whether it’s Black Friday or the countdown to Christmas, your offers need to be tempting. Start by looking back at what you did last year and how your offers performed. Are they good enough to replicate this year? Or is there room to improve?
You’ll also want to check out your competitors. What did they do last year and what do you know about their plans for this year? What is it that you have to offer to become the buyer’s choice over them?
It may sound silly but something as simple as opting for a 21% discount when everyone else if offering 20% could help you stand out in a crowded inbox!
Below are just some examples of how to think about your offers:
1. Hourly deals
Create different hourly deals online and send them to your subscribers. Let them know in advance to build awareness and manage expectations.
2. Category discounts
Offer flash discounts on different categories each day to appeal to different people within your target market or to grab an extra sale from the same person.
3. Free gifts
Everyone loves a freebie! Giving away a free gift or stocking filler with every purchase is a festive way to add value to your customer experience. L’Occitane reward those who spend more with a more luxurious present!
4. Run a competition or giveaway.
This could be as simple as entering people into a prize draw when they shop with you. Drive more sales by reminding people that the more times they purchase from you the more times they’ll be entered.
5. Raise money for a cause or charity
For some, getting involved in the Black Friday and Christmas price wars isn’t reflective of their brand image or values. Choosing to offer something special at this time of year like a charity donation is a great way of differentiating your brand.
In 2016 the sustainable clothing retailer, Patagonia, offered to donate 100% of its Black Friday sales to charity – it made a whopping $10 million worth of sales! The brand received masses of PR as it went viral on social media, received celebrity endorsements and was picked up by the global media. 70% of these sales came from new customers, giving the brand thousands of new relationships to nurture.
As your most powerful marketing tool you’ll want to ensure the look and feel of your emails are fully optimised. Here’s a checklist of things to look at:
5. How to wrap up the festive period
Christmas is over. The tree is down. The decorations are back in the box. The only chocolates left in the tub of Celebrations is Bounty.
At this point it’s likely that you’ll have access to a wealth of new data about your existing customer base and your newly acquired customers. But before we move on to how to make the most of this, you first need to consider the risk that returns might have on your strategic objectives.
Unfortunately once the festive period is complete, it isn’t time to celebrate just yet. It’s highly likely you’ll see a surge in returns over January. During the Black Friday period alone, 40% of items that are bought online are returned.
As more people opt to do their Christmas shopping online, retailers are having a difficult time trying to forecast the impact these returns will have on their overall sales revenue for this period. According to the FT, it can cost brands double the amount for a product to be returned into the supply chain as it does to deliver it.
Here’s some steps you can take to reduce your returns rate and protect your bottom line.
One of the obvious problems with online shopping is that customers can’t touch or thoroughly examine the items they are looking to purchase. So it’s really important that brands present their online products as clearly as possible and with accurate information. Unfortunately 23% of products are returned because of inaccurate product depictions.
But there are some great examples of brands out there who are using forward-thinking ideas to ensure their customers are happy with their purchases.
Glasses Direct uses technology that allows browsers to virtually try on their glasses before purchasing. Customers can also test their desired spectacles on a range of virtual models which differ in gender, skin tone and face shape.
Other brands, like ASOS, provide fitting assistants. Customers enter their measurements and ASOS recommends the correct dress size based on the fit of each product.
Made.com gives visitors a 360 degree view of their products and team this with videos of the product in use—particularly useful for furniture that transforms, such as sofa beds. Shoppers can also order free material swatches to see the colour and texture in person before they commit to purchasing.
Ideas like this improve the customer experience and help customers make a more informed and accurate purchase.
Marketing doesn’t end at the point of purchase. What you do at the end of that purchase can make a big impact on what happens next. The following can reduce buyers’ remorse and also encourage repeat business:
1. Thank you emails
Something as simple as a thank you email can go a long way. It builds a rapport with your customers by making them feel appreciated and lets them know they chose the right brand to purchase from.
2. Discount off next purchase
Reduce buyers remorse and encourage repeat purchases by offering customer a discount off their next purchase.
3. How to guide
This might be a guide on how to use your product e.g. ‘things you can create using your new sewing machine’. Or you might advise on how to care for the product e.g. ‘top tips for looking after your sewing machine’. This type of content can improve product adoption and prevent a return.
All of your efforts over this time will pay off with new data to learn from and new customers to market to. Now is you chance to increase your customer lifetime value and consider how you can build long term relationships with new customers and maintain the loyalty from those who have shopped with you before.
The aim with first-time buys is to prove your brand has value all year long and not just around the festive period. Because if you can get a customer to buy from you twice, they’re nine times more likely to become long-term repeat customers. Consider the following approaches to encourage them to purchase with you again:
1. Nurture with welcome campaigns
It is important to introduce your band properly to both new email subscribers and first-time buyers. Send a series of messages to nurture their initial interest so it develops into an intention to purchase again. Your emails might consist of your brand story, relevant product recommendations, and customer reviews.
2. Incentivise review requests
Invite customers to review the product they just purchased. Encourage them to do so by offering to reward them with a gift voucher, discount or by entering them into a prize draw with an awesome prize.
3. Promote loyalty programmes
Ensure your first time buyers know that you’ll reward them for shopping with your brand time and again. This might be with exclusive access to sales, invites to special events, personal vouchers, and sneak-peaks at brand new product lines.
Increasing retention rates by just five percent can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent. So it’s important to continue nurturing the relationship with your existing customers.
1. Reward them for referrals
Other than making regular purchases, your existing customers are likely to recommend your brand or products to other people. Set up a referral programme so you can capture those leads and offer rewards to both parties for putting faith in your brand.
2. Recommend products they’ll love
By now you’ll have built up a pretty good idea of the type of products your customer loves to buy. Use your data to send them relevant product recommendations. This might be an items to compliment those that they’ve just bought e.g. a complete the look message. Or, send them suggestions from their favourite product range.
3. Send replenishment reminders
These messages are extremely valuable to both you and your customer if your brand sells anything consumable e.g. make-up, health supplements or if you’re anything like me—red wine. Prove your value to your customer by sending them a helpful email reminder when their product is due to run out. Save them the hassle of having to search for it by make it easy for them to repurchase with a few clicks from an email.
4. Encourage user generated content
Your brand advocates are great people to request user generated content from i.e. content where the user promotes your brand instead of your marketing team. Consider how your might want to leverage their love for your brand as part of your marketing strategy for the new year.
When you do reach the end of the festive period, ensure you take the time to record and analyse your results.
The initial question will be ‘did we achieve what we wanted to from the start?’. Once you figure out the answer and your success rate, be sure to make a note of the following:
Ensure these results and notes are easily accessible for next year when you start the process all over again. You’ll be playing with a massive advantage if you can use your own intel to inform your future strategy. It might also come in handy for making a business case for investing in additional resource or new technology.
In this guide we ran through the essential steps you need to take in order to maximise your marketing efforts over the festive period.
Here’s a summary of what you need to remember:
1. Get everything planned well in advance and prepare for any possible risks. Invest in things that are going to improve your results; including the time in planning your campaigns and technology like basket abandonment recovery.
2. Yes acquire new customers, but don’t neglect existing customers. There’s a lot of value in nurturing your existing customer base during this period.
3. Relevance is key so avoid one-size-fits-all marketing. Use segmentation and personalisation to key messaging relevant. More sales will follow.
4. Get creative. Make your offers tempting and present them with well considered copy and on-theme, festive design.
5. Think beyond the festive period and work on ensuring your customers, both new and existing, will shop with you in the future.
6. Analyse your success against your goals. Ensure this data is saved in a sensible place so you can use it next year when you start the whole process again!
Don’t settle for mediocre conversion rates
Learn how personalisation and behavioural targeting will help you drive more sales this festive period.
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