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Forecasting Holiday Marketing Trends: Analysis, Research, Facts

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As the global economy struggles to correct itself, and digital marketing becomes a strategic imperative, businesses and marketers have exciting opportunities to expand in various directions this year.

The need for trust, value and brand transparency, among other trends from last year, are just as important this year, however, the resilient shift to geo-targeting, mobile marketing, social media, eCRM, and e-commerce require businesses and marketers to continuously modify their approaches to surpass competitors.

Let’s first take a quick peek at last year’s numbers:

According to comScore, a leader in measuring the digital world, the 2010 U.S. online holiday shopping season faired remarkably well. Black Friday online retail sales soared and Cyber Monday made history when consumer spending exceeded $1 billion for the first time in a single day. As a whole, the November to December holiday season brought in $32.6 billion in retail e-commerce spending; this marked an all-time high for the season and a 12% increase in YoY sales.

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As indicated in the chart below, Cyber Monday accounted for the heaviest online spending day with $1.028 billion in total spending, with Green Monday (Monday, December 13) coming in as the second heaviest spending day with $954 billion, followed closely by Monday, December 6 and Friday, December 17 (Free Shipping Day) with $943 billion and $942 billion in online spending respectively.

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According to comScore, holiday promotions, discounted merchandise and free shipping offers helped propel the 2010 holiday shopping season.

According to Epsilon Analytics, social media and mobile capabilities were key drivers of sales on Thanksgiving Day last year, as consumers used mobile devices for Web site reviews, promotions, to check prices and to check in while shopping at stores.

Meanwhile, in 2010, holiday email open rates climbed 11% year-over-year, despite high email volumes. However, click rates fell 16% from 2009 to 2010, while — for the second consecutive year — the highest open rates occurred the week of Black Friday.

So what does this all have to do with 2011? Well, based on a strong first and second quarter sales-wise, Mercent Corp., a leading provider of online channel marketing technology and services for retailers, is predicting a strong holiday ecommerce season as well. The Mercent e-Commerce  Performance Index (MEPI) indicated a gross merchandise volume (GMV) increase of 17% in 2Q2011 YoY.

Meanwhile third-party sales, such as those from Amazon or Google’s retail channels, increased 35% (Amazon resellers) and 21% (Google resellers) for the quarter.

Other interesting findings include:

  Amazon is the top third party selling site

  Google Product listings saw increases

  Google Product Search showed declines

While we can’t yet know if online spending in 2011 will outpace that of 2010, the strength of this past holiday season highlights that consumers are spending more online than ever before. Hopefully, it’s a trend that will continue; here are a few tips that could perhaps help businesses keep up with the marketing Jones’ in the digital field:

  1. Social Media: Invest in building reliable brand advocates. Sure, a high number Facebook fans, Twitter followers, blog subscribers, LinkedIn connections is wonderful to have, however it all goes back to the old adage of “quality over quantity.” So what if you have thousands of folks subscribed? Are you supplying engaging content for your fans? Are they active participants? Do they genuinely care about your brand enough to speak and recommend it on your behalf on and offline? If not, they’re “good as dead.” Instead, invest in building quality connections and engagement with your true followers. 100 true brand loyalists will always be better than 1,000 headcounts.
  2. Pursue mobile marketing. While still in its infancy, it is the marketing imperative to include in the holiday season and great channel to break through the clutter. Mobile marketing can be used to effectively reach target consumers with the right offer at the right time and place, through demographic, contextual, behavioral and even location-based targeting. Think about it. It’s where consumers are during that time of year: checking prices online, sending photos of gift ideas for their significant’s approval, posting/tweeting about holiday shopping issues on Facebook and Twitter, checking in from stores on mobile social networks, such as Foursquare. Location-based targeting is unique to mobile and can be a powerful link to point-of-sale purchase during the holiday season.
  3. Prioritize geo-targeting and localized marketing. Local discount websites such as Groupon and local review sites like Yelp make it easy for consumers to find deals and reviews about businesses in their neighborhood and beyond. Creating targeted, local marketing campaigns using these tools will only further your reach in a familiar way.
  4. Just because online and social media is hot right now, don’t limit to solely digital. Offline, online and mobile marketing initiatives create an opportunity to lead consumers from one message to another by integrating those strategies. Businesses can drive a significantly higher ROI by cross-promoting branded online destinations, discounts, contests and events.

As new channels emerge, businesses will continue to experiment with a variety of online, localized and mobile marketing initiatives. Remember, even if you’re not leveraging marketing trends and opportunities, your competitors are.

Sources:

http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/12/U.S._Online_Holiday_Spending_Approaches_22_Billion_for_the_Season

http://www.epsilon.com/pdf/Holiday_Trend_Report_7_22_10.pdf

http://www.internetretailer.com/2011/01/07/online-sales-increase-26-q4-mercent-says

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