A second consecutive chaotic and stressful holiday season is over. And just like last year, it’s tempting to close the books and never look back. However, that would be a mistake. There are always lessons to be learned from Christmas past that can help our Christmas future.
Here are five digital marketing tips to take with you in your planning sessions for this year and the upcoming holiday season:
1. The early start to the holiday season has power
Lament the Christmas creep all you want, but October is now officially part of the holiday season. Supply chain issues – both on the supply and delivery side – have prompted more consumers than ever to buy their gifts earlier.
In fact, almost half of consumers started their holiday shopping before November last year, according to NRF. Although this is a significant increase from previous years, advance purchases have always been popular, with around 40% of consumers having purchased before November on average over the past decade. So we probably should have included October in the holiday season from the start.
Related article: Lessons Learned from Holiday CX: A User Guide for the Future
2. Marquee shopping days are losing their luster
The period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday is always a huge sales generator and a great time for marketing efforts. For example, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the 1st and 2nd highest days of the year, respectively, in terms of email revenue, according to data from Oracle Marketing Consulting.
However, those days have lost their significance. Thanksgiving declined because more stores are closing out of respect for the party and for the employees. And Black Friday has shrunk as it’s traditionally an in-store sale day and the pandemic has kept buyers away.
While those marquee shopping days have waned, the surrounding shopping days have more than taken over, which brings us to the next takeaway…
3. Adopt larger windows to measure performance
Whether you’re looking at the performance of your stores, website, email marketing, or another channel, comparing days year over year makes less and less sense given the changing consumer behavior. For example, Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping expanded from these days, which makes it more insightful to examine the performance of Black Friday week and Cyber Monday week. In general, 7-day periods are much more useful than looking at days alone.
Beyond that, when looking at holiday performance on a monthly or full season basis, remember to include October as mentioned above. Ignoring all the demand that has been carried over into October for the past two years will surely lead to an artificial drop in holiday sales figures.
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4. Improve multi-channel attribution
One of the characteristics of the pandemic has been the huge jump in e-commerce sales in 2020 – due to store closures, store capacity restrictions and general health and safety concerns – followed in 2021 by a rebound in store traffic and a return to more typical e-commerce growth. While this has caused legitimate introspection into the future role of stores, it has also skewed the perceived performance of many of our channels due to outdated attribution models.
For example, email marketing programs had a banner year in 2020 due to reduced store activity. This caused many other promotional email subscribers to click through and make purchases that could easily be attributed to the emails. However, as stores have regained some of their influence in 2021, some subscribers have reverted to old behaviors such as receiving an email from a brand and then heading to their local store to convert. Most retailers aren’t able to capture this well-established and common messaging behavior, so messaging performance seemed to suffer last year. If Apple’s email privacy protection hasn’t caused your company to take a more holistic approach to measuring customer activitythen these pandemic-induced changes in channel usage should do it.
Related article: Multi-touch attribution has come a long way
5. Better communicate product availability
Stock-outs have been another lingering feature of the pandemic. For example, the number of out-of-stock messages on product pages increased by 325% in October 2021 compared to October 2019, according to Adobe. However, many brands still fail to manage them properly.
For example, few brands offer shoppers the option to sign up to be notified by email or text when a product is back in stock. It’s also rare for brands to do a good job of recommending similar products, beyond the usual “customers who bought this also bought these” messaging, or tailoring their abandon-browsing messaging to recognize that the out of stock likely led to discontinuation.
Again, while it was tempting to dismiss the 2020 holiday season as a one-of-a-kind event, unfortunately many of the challenges of this holiday season were repeated in 2021, including supply chain issues and hesitation regarding in-store purchases. With the pandemic far from over and supply chain issues and inflation likely to linger, make sure your business fully learns the lessons of the 2021 holiday season and takes steps to improve its bottom line.
Chad S. White is the author of Email Marketing Rules and Head of Research for Oracle Marketing Consulting, a full-service global digital marketing agency within Oracle.