Christmas planning: past lessons learnt

How can last year’s lessons help inform this year’s festive campaigns?

Co-authored by Tia Matsumoto & Jill Brittlebank

August 24, 2016

Plan for a Christmas marketing miracle: how can last year’s lessons help inform this year’s festive campaigns?

Whether you embrace Christmas with open arms or you’re Scrooge reincarnate, there’s no escaping the need for all of us to tackle the Christmas shopping.

And whilst some of us plan our trip to the Christmas markets with glee, others leave the shopping for a last-gasp dash around the city centre on Christmas Eve – both managing to have presents under the tree come the morning of the 25th. But, in our professional lives, there’s only one approach that will bring home the bacon (or should that be the turkey?) and that’s to plan, plan and plan some more. If you’re working in retail marketing, chances are you’re already thinking through your Q4 Christmas promotions and beginning your preparations for the best marketing campaigns that support them. In this, the first of our Christmas readiness blog series, we’ll help you get in the Christmas (planning) spirit as we highlight key data points to drive highly impactful strategies and tactics for peak 2016.

As a child, I remember opening a little door of an advent calendar to reveal a tasty chocolate each day leading up to Christmas Eve. It always seemed like Santa would never come. These days, I can hardly fit everything in to ensure a merry Christmas season, full of family tradition and wonder. Among the increased merriment, am I the only one grateful for the ability to take care of my gifting needs via smartphone whenever I have a spare second? The Christmas rush – it’s real!

While preparing this post, a colleague shared a recent Think With Google article, “Time Pressure: Behavioral Science Considerations for Mobile Marketing,” by Dan Ariely. It strikes a chord as he explains that “time pressure, a situation in which our need for time exceeds the amount of time currently available to us, can be seen as a type of stress. To help us manage stress, we often experience a narrowing effect, where we channel our focus toward a main task and ignore or filter out certain cues.”

He goes on to explain how this narrowing effect leaves marketers with a very brief moment to grab attention and influence actions. He advises that “it’s critical today that marketers think about the context of their customer on the path to purchase: where they are, what device they’re on, what their likely mindset is in that given moment.” I couldn’t agree more.

While Ariely’s article is not Christmas specific, the importance of meeting each consumer where they are on the purchase path is intensified during the brief Christmas season. To help make your Christmas planning stress free, I’ll begin by sharing some key insights from peak 2015.

Christmas Consumers Said, “Bah, humbug!” to Traditional Brick and Mortar Shopping in 2015

Industry statistics from the 2015 peak season suggested consumers were increasingly online, and more specifically, using mobile devices throughout their shopping experience:

This growth was driven by a rise in m-commerce, with 45% sales made via mobile devices in the third quarter, according to IMRG and CapGemini

IMRG reported a 12% year-on-year growth in online shopping in UK, equating to a whopping £24bn over the Christmas period

  • Gartner asserted that by 2017, U.S. customers’ mobile engagement behaviour will drive mobile commerce revenue to 50% of U.S. digital commerce revenue.
  • This increased consumption of mobile information requires more compelling and time-sensitive information. According to 2015 lessons learned from our impressive research partners, retailers must specifically make the email channel work harder.
  • The Relevancy Group’s State of the Email Marketing Industry 2016 Tips to Optimise finds that, “email marketing is the workhorse of the industry, but this dominance also underscores marketers’ need to use relevant targeting to cut through the competitive clutter.” Their five tips to optimise email marketing in 2016 include:

– Developing customer profiles
– Adopting segmentation and real-time data
– Utilising dynamic content
– Designing with mobile in mind
– Institutionalising testing

  • In Gartner’s 2015 Digital Commerce Holiday Recap, Jennifer Polk suggests that “digital is often an assist channel where people browse, compare products and prices and plan both online and offline purchases.” She urges marketers to use customer identifiers, targeted advertising and mobile devices to connect digital marketing to online and offline sales.
  • Our counterparts at eDatasource took a deep dive into what worked in 2015 to drive opens via the all-important subject line. Highly promotional discounting language like “sale,” “save,’ and “percent off” dominated subject line communication. The language most used was “percent off,” where 20%-70% of the time retailers chose that phrase to entice consumers.
  • Additionally, at Zeta, we continued our aggregate baseline of retail clients, where we found that mobile and tablet dominated opens and clicks on all key dates. In the US, over Thanksgiving weekend alone (11/26 – 11/30/15), mobile share of opens and clicks reached 52% and 54% respectively. Those numbers, combined with tablet share of opens and clicks at 15% and 11% respectively, made for an impressive 67% of open and 65% of click shares for the holiday weekend – reinforcing the need to ensure mobile friendliness across messages.

Plan for a Better 2016 Peak Christmas Future

As any good Santa will tell you, the success of the season is largely attributable to making a list and checking it twice. On our list this year? Marketers who artfully address an individual consumer’s purchase path to grab the most attention and influence the most actions. What to get these worthy recipients? Timely access to top tips for breaking through the 2016 peak inbox clutter:

  • Device-responsive email creative elements designed to entice clicks and supported by full purchase cycle capabilities to accommodate the increasingly on-the-go consumer
  • Data analyses to conduct now to enhance message strategies throughout the Christmas season

Make sure you download our Christmas Plan Package today so you can collect your bag full of Christmas goodies.


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