With hardly any time left in the third quarter of 2021, opportunities are waning for retailers who want to put marketing plans into action to capitalize on what’s sure to be another distinctive holiday season ahead.
According to eMarketer U.S. holiday retail is forecasted to rise nearly 3% and e-commerce sales are predicted to jump 11.3% to $206.88 billion. After a year unlike any in recent memory, consumers are eager to return to normalcy while also being open to new shopping experiences and now accustomed to online shopping. Even with the ability to shop in-store this year, e-commerce sales are projected to make up 18.9% of total holiday retail sales, up from 17.5% last year.
Recent research from Yahoo, shared by a company spokesperson, shows a similar sentiment: 40% of customers predict they will shop more this year than in 2020, and 60% say they want to try new brands and new stores. This means retailers have a huge opportunity to not only reconnect with loyal customers but to engage with new audiences.
The holiday shopping season is crucial for retailers, large and small. As we look ahead, here are six ways marketers can prepare for the 2021 holiday shopping season.
Engage Customers with New Digital Experiences
Consumers are looking for new things to buy and new ways to buy them digitally. 3D product catalogs, AR try-ons, personalization with AI, and shoppable video are among the emerging technologies that suddenly became hallmarks of a pandemic shopping experience. Consumers – especially older audiences – have become more comfortable using technology to replace if not replicate an in-store shopping experience. Now there are new expectations surrounding that digital experience. More than 80% of shoppers would like to see 360-degree views of products before buying, and nearly 75% want to discover new products by window shopping at virtual storefronts, based on Verizon Media research as shared by the company.
From AI-driven content feeds to shopping experiences enhanced by augmented reality (AR), technology can help transform the customer journey and make brands stand out. For example, AR ads in 2020 produced a 38% engagement rate and a click-through rate of just under 4%.
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Remember that Deals (Still) Matter
While 44% of shoppers say they’ll be spending more around the holidays this year, they remain price sensitive. Nearly half identify themselves as bargain shoppers and 57% say brands that offer the biggest discounts will earn their loyalty. When it comes to saving money, 83% of shoppers say finding deals and budgeting are important this holiday season.
This means that, once again, offering budget-friendly options this holiday will be a smart strategy for turning shoppers into buyers. Brands can stand out during the holidays by offering discounts in creative ways that draw attention. There’s no beating content when it comes to connecting with viewers. According to research, two thirds of users would rather learn about products through content rather than through traditional methods.
The more relevant, helpful and beautiful a native ad is to a platform’s audience, the more engaging it becomes. This became clear in a new study by MAGNA, IPG Media Lab, and Verizon Media, which found that interactive ad formats garnered significant attention with native advertising formats, leading to a +6% increase in brand favorability and purchase intent versus standard video ads, which only increased +3%.
Engage On The Go
Including omnichannel screens for holiday promotions is crucial to reaching and influencing new shoppers, especially as shoppers return to in-store shopping and experiences. Retailers can tap into these customers through premium CTV supply that can be enhanced with audience engagement through shoppable QR codes that drive audiences to take action.
As the world moves forward, reaching shoppers out of their homes will be more important than ever. Digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising is a marketing channel where advertising is run digitally and dynamically in public spaces such as on billboards, in waiting rooms, movie theaters, bus depots and stores. It bridges an important gap for marketers, given it’s not being viewed on a consumer’s personal devices.
According to eMarketer, DOOH marketing spend is expected to increase by almost 20% next year, yet over half of the advertisers recently surveyed said buying DOOH is difficult. This is where partnerships are essential and retailers need ones that can help seamlessly deploy relevant campaigns that connect with customers on-the-go.
Boost ROI through Personalization
Smart and personalized shopping experiences captivate consumers, shortening the path to purchase across every stage of the purchase funnel. Personalization leverages data to control the conversation and experience of content being delivered to customers throughout their journey, across all digital channels — and even beyond.
A great way to engage and personalize messages for each shopper is through dynamic product ads (DPA), enabling brands to target audiences based on their unique shopping patterns. This means that consumers will see ads that are more tailored to their interests and shopping history.
The more retailers and brands can tap and leverage data, the more they can create relevant, tailor-made experiences for shoppers. Shoppers have come to expect a personalized shopping experience across digital.
Encourage Safe In-Store Shopping
More than 75% of shoppers will buy both in-store and online this year, up +25% vs. last year, and consistent with what we saw back in 2019. But with COVID-19 concerns, brands need to make sure consumers can shop safely. Stores have introduced new floor plans, updated rules, and tapped tools from the digital shopping experience.
When New York City reopened, Yahoo partnered with PUMA to welcome back shoppers by creating a Tap-to-Map digital unit, which consumers used to learn about the store’s opening and find a direct route to their nearest store location. Through mobile wallet capabilities, PUMA offered a 10% discount code to a shopper’s digital wallet. With a CPM 10x more efficient than past display campaigns and an 88% reduction in cost-per-click relative to benchmarks, PUMA created a relevant, value-add experience that ultimately—and safely—drove customers through their doors.
Now as the country reopens, there’s a newfound novelty to shopping in-person, and brands must over deliver on an in-store experience not only on-par with digital, but better.
Customer Retention Remains Vital
The core tenets of customer retention, from valuing loyal customers to building better experiences based on user feedback, have always been paramount in retail, but are even more important now as retailers adapt their brick-and-mortar and digital strategies.
As businesses in the U.S. reopen, brands who gained new customers online now have an opportunity to introduce those customers to their physical stores. It’s an exciting new point of connection and one that should be leveraged. For digital-only brands, post-pandemic retention can and should still focus on the physical world.
The brick-and-mortar shopping experience will become more of a novelty than ever before, so retailers have to connect the dots between the digital shopping experience and what’s happening in the physical store. While shopping habits and behaviors are forever changed, there are new opportunities to connect with shoppers in both the physical and online shopping experience.