The dust is still settling after a pressure-filled holiday season for the retail industry. It always takes about a month or two for me (and my wallet!) to recover and reflect on takeaways that we can apply to our planning for the New Year.
Retailers were certainly challenged by the shortest holiday shopping season since 2002, with six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than the prior year. We saw marketers rise to the challenge as they got aggressive with their promotions, and competed fiercely for distracted consumers’ eyeballs and a greater share of their wallets.
Although key online shopping days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, and even Thanksgiving Day reached double-digit year-over-year growth, in the end, the flurry of buying couldn’t overcome the nearly $1.5 billion loss in online sales predicted in our Adobe Digital Index (ADI) Annual Holiday Shopping Forecast. Despite this shortfall, mobile and social media channels performed strongly. Not surprisingly, these need to be key areas for retailers’ continued focus and investment long before we approach holiday 2014.
The ADI found that mobile shopping accounted for 14 percent of all 2013 online holiday sales and peaked at 26 percent of online sales on Black Friday alone. Wow!
And clearly the social media monster can no longer be ignored. Social media referrals to retailers from Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter all saw double-digit growth over the busy buying season. Equally impressive are stats from the recently released ADI Social Intelligence Report, showing that Q4 revenue per visit (RPV) on retail sites from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr were up 72, 131, 244, and 340 percent, year-over-year, respectively.
It’s not too late to further refine your 2014 mobile and social media marketing plans to take full advantage of the momentum we saw in November and December. Here are six strategies to get you started.
Make Your Brand Ultraportable
Consumers demand and expect a seamless experience across all of your digital properties, so be sure to optimize your website for smartphone and tablet operating systems. Tablets were influential over the holiday season. On Cyber Monday alone, $290 million of online sales came from tablets compared to $129 million from smartphones. But, optimizing for tablets isn’t the same as optimizing for smartphones, and for each group of devices, you’ll have multiple audience segments with different needs. In a recent blog post, Loni Stark provided a useful chart to help prioritize mobile development resources by taking a customer-centric approach. Once you determine who is visiting your site via which devices, what information they are seeking, what time of day they are coming, and how much time they spend interacting with your properties, you can invest in the appropriate mobile presence to suit these various stakeholders.
Better Late Than Never
Didn’t have a mobile app over the last holiday season? No problem. Now’s the perfect time to start developing and refining one so that come holiday 2014, it will be ready to take advantage of the barrage of buying. And when you do, try PhoneGap, a free, open source mobile app development platform that simplifies app creation by letting you develop for iOS, Android, Windows, and other device operating systems with a single codebase.
Once your app is available for download, make sure you’ve planned how to drive consumers to it when they visit from a mobile device, otherwise your development efforts will have been in vain. Take a testing and optimization approach to this process to determine what types of promotions will help drive the most downloads.
Don’t Lose Your Captive Audience
Many mobile users are outside the home when they access your website and are likely pressed for time with a specific task or need in mind. Help them find what they are looking for quickly. Place a search bar in a prominent place on your mobile site that offers autosuggest and autocorrect to keep those with clumsy fingers from getting frustrated. And although a buyer may want to see all 1,700 of your t-shirts at some point, it’s not likely to be when they’re on their smartphones. Allow visitors to sort and refine product search results to account for the type of device they’re using and the amount of time they have. And, always help them get back to the top of the search results page quickly.
Pinpoint Peak Hours
Understanding when the bulk of visitors are buying can help you manage your online promotions as well as your mobile advertising spend. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, online sales peaked at different times on different days. Thanksgiving Day shopping peaked in the evening, around 8 p.m. EST, whereas Black Friday shoppers were buying en masse between 11 a.m. and noon EST. Cyber Monday hit a peak between 8 and 9 p.m. EST, but also saw near-peak activity around 11 a.m. EST. Start monitoring your high and low periods on a weekly basis and you’ll notice trends that may help you better allocate your advertising spend now and as you ramp up to the next busy period.
No Time Like the Present
Remember how you were going to start running some Facebook ads last year? Well, there’s no more time to waste! In fact, as was apparent over this past holiday, not only did copious amounts of highly qualified traffic and click throughs to retailers come from Facebook, but they were also coming from Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr in droves. Many marketers still haven’t started trying out social media paid advertising, so it’s definitely worthwhile to evaluate using your ad dollars on these platforms, especially as Pinterest and Tumblr get ready to offer new marketing opportunities later this year.
Sell to Shorter Attention Spans
Social media marketing can shine during busy shopping periods when consumers are hard-pressed for time or money, so give them what they need, i.e., convenience and deals. Social media networks are beginning to offer more geotargeting and affinity-based targeting capabilities, giving you a chance to speak to specific groups of people with specific preferences. Moreover, social media’s influence on the purchase process is stronger than ever before, with 36 percent of US consumers consulting their social media networks before making holiday purchasing decisions. High-quality video, clever creative, and rich imagery will help you get noticed. Become a favorite of followers and their extended social networks, and they’ll help give your content a longer shelf life and increase click throughs to your site.
As you embark on these initiatives, keep refining and optimizing your campaigns and bring consumers the highly targeted and personalized experiences they now expect. Append analytics codes to your new links, landing pages, mobile apps, and high-impact pages to measure and understand how your efforts are paying off.
The shoppers are already there, buying on the go from multiple devices and relying on their social networks to recommend and help them discover new items of interest. Make sure you’re there too.