The 2011 holiday shopping season is ON! Cyber Monday 2011 is on track to be the single highest online shopping day in history with 83% of consumers saying they prefer shopping online over visiting crowded stores during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Holiday online spending is projected to reach $37.6 billion, reaching $37.6 billion online. That’s a 15% increase from 2010, according to comScore Inc. In contrast, brick and mortar retail sales are expected to increase a mere 2.6%.
In 2011, 48% of all retail sales are either online purchases or Web-influenced purchases. More than $1.1 trillion in retail sales could be attributed to “web-influenced” purchases (offline retail sales influenced by online research), according to Group M Search and Compete.
The stakes for retailers are high. Many will generate between 20 and 40 percent of their annual revenue during the next six weeks. Below are our top 12 marketing must-do’s in 2011.
1. Amp-Up Your Email Campaigns
Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to both online and brick and mortar stores. But just because email is cheaper to send than postal mail, cutting corners on the email design can significantly cut response rates and sales. Conversely, investing in high-quality product photography and professional direct-response copywriting can deliver a BIG payoff.
The email subject line is an ad for the email; its single objective is to compel recipients to open their email and read the offer.
Even the most incredible email offer that doesn’t get opened is like a magic trick in the dark. Think of Put a KILLER OFFER in the subject line to grab readers’ attention and boost open rates i.e. “Black Friday 25% OFF Storewide Coupon 1 Day Only – EXPIRES Midnight November 25, 2011”
Increase the frequency of your mailings. Our experience has shown that about 95% of all people who will respond to an email will do so within 48 hours. After that, response rates drop off dramatically. Customers subscribe to email promotions from multiple merchants. As their email box fills up, the majority of older messages will get deleted or simply ignored. Customers fully expect to receive discounts and specials via email, especially this time of year. Therefore, don’t be afraid to increase the frequency of your email campaigns.
How frequently is TOO FREQUENTLY? You might be surprised. Sometimes our clients are concerned about emailing their list too frequently. And they should be. It’s important to know your audience. Review email analytics to monitor the unsubscribe rate and identify the ideal threshold.
Have a look at how frequency Victoria’s Secret emails its subscribers. Apparently their tolerance is quite high. The production quality of the emails is also spectacular, which helps significantly.
2. How to leverage mobile to drive both online and offline sales
It’s more important than ever to make your website and email campaigns mobile-friendly. If you’re in doubt about your customers’ mobile usage habits, check your own web and email analytics to determine what devices your audience uses to access your email content. You might be surprised.
Mobile facts to know:
- The U.S. has 327.6 million active wireless customer connections. That’s more than the entire U.S. population!
- About 1 in 3 online U.S. consumers have both checked for sales and specials and looked up store information such as hours, location and maps via mobile device in the past three months, according to e-tailing group and PowerReviews.
- A 2011 report by e-Dialog reveals that 34% of consumers now check email on their mobile device at least once a day; 21% of consumers say that they check email on their mobile device more than once a day.
- eMarketer reports that 33% of mobile users are looking to access local content relevant to their GPS positioned location.
- Research shows that 80% of consumers use mobile devices while in stores for further research.
- ExactTarget’s “Subscribers, Fans, and Followers: Mobile Dependence Day” (June 2011) found 57% of smartphone owners who had made a purchase because of a mobile marketing message said they had done so after receiving a mobile marketing email.
Are all of your retail store locations optimized for mobile local search directories such as Google Place, Bing Business Places, CitySearch, etc.? If not, you might be steering customers to your competition. It’s not too late to get your locals search listings updated.
What about in-store mobile usage? While some customers (window) shop online and buy offline, others may (window) shop at your local store, using mobile apps like Red Laser and ShopSavvy to scan UPC codes to find the best price and then make their purchase elsewhere.
Don’t bother trying to fight this trend — it’s online going to increase. Instead, embrace it. Consider that most of the customers in your retail store WANT to buy from you, otherwise they wouldn’t have spent their time to get there. They’re just afraid of finding a significantly better deal elsewhere and regretting the purchase. Here are some good ways you can give them the confidence to make the purchase
- Display your low price / price match guarantees in your retail store.
- Prominently highlight your “no hassle return” policy.
- Offer other incentives like free gift-wrapping.
- Reward customers for their loyalty with exclusive discounts and specials.
- If possible, carry unique merchandise which is not easily found elsewhere.
- If you sell common items like DVDs, create product bundles and offer free gifts with a purchase. Department store fragrance departments do a great job by offering unique and limited gift packages which can’t easily be found elsewhere.
Want to boost mobile email response rates? Schedule to send your email campaigns when your customers are most likely on the go and shopping. Check your analytics frequently, test various send times make adjustments.
Mobile users have shorter attention spans. Communicate your offer within the email subject line. Test several subject lines simultaneously and make adjustments to maximize response rates. Of course, always include a clear call-to-action (CTA). At AIS Media, after taking over one client’s email marketing program, we instantly increased email campaign response rates 784%. The right small changes can produce big results.
If you’ve built a mobile app or a mobile-friendly website, be sure to properly promote it in multiple marketing channels. Connecting with customers through mobile apps enables you to push notifications directly to them, bypassing email spam filters and search engines, where competitors lurk.
3. Tap into the digital coupon phenomenon to propel sales
Consumers LOVE discounts and coupons –51% will utilize coupons, according to a 2011 PriceGrabber survey and according to Coupon Craze 94% of online shoppers will look for coupons/discounts before shopping on Cyber Monday; most of these will be looking for deals on electronics, apparel or health/beauty items.
Think most coupon users have blue hair? Wrong! With mobile and internet coupons gaining popularity, finding the best deals and coupons are hot hobbies across all ages and incomes, especially folks in their 20s and 30s. Frugality and digital coupon usage is now considered cool and a firm part of the online shopping experience.
Are you catering to a more affluent market? What may surprise you is that U.S. consumers with higher incomes are more likely to use online coupons, according to new survey results from PriceRunner.com – 48% of households earning $75,000 or more used online coupons 4 times or more in the past 6 months vs. only 23% of those households with incomes under $35,000.
Here are some other coupon related facts to know:
- 88.2 million consumers (47% of Internet users) plan on using online coupons in 2011.
- 74% of consumers search multiple coupon sources each week.
- 78.3% of consumers reported using coupons regularly in 2010, up 14.7% from pre-recession levels.
- 74% of consumers search multiple coupon sources each week.
- Digital coupon conversion rates are highest for those viewed and printed 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Consumers are most likely to print coupons at work.
With consumers eager to save money, traffic to popular coupon websites is rising — and can be a good source of traffic to your online store. Consider listing your coupons on sites like www.RetailMeNot.com, www.CouponMom.com, and www.FatWallet.com.
When is the best time to release digital coupons to maximize promotion ROI and drive in-store sales?
Digital coupons released at 8:00 AM Wednesday generate a 20% increase in that coupon being printed, according to a 2011 RevTrax Day and Time study.
As mobile internet usage continues to grow, invite customers to receive local digital coupons on the mobile device. Promote your mobile deal alerts via your website, your email marketing campaigns, your social media networks and in your retail store.
4. Leverage the viral power of social media to increase the impact and reach of your promotions
Studies have shown that the #1 reason consumers connect with businesses and brands on social media is to get discounts and specials. Research from the National Retail Federation and iProspect found that 57%t of shoppers in the U.S. turn to Facebook or Twitter to stay informed on holiday sales and promotions.
This holiday season, unleash the power of social media marketing to maximize sales. Instead of just posting plain text messages on Facebook, use high quality images and illustrations that grab customers’ attention. Facebook posts that contain images or videos get about twice the click rates as text only posts. Additionally, content that entertains and/or provides real value gets shared more.
Many consumers look forward as much to the experience of shopping with their friends as they do to the thrill of finding a great discount sharing it with others – online and offline. Use social media to Reward your Facebook fans and Twitter followers stimulate sharing. Encourage your customers, fans and followers to tell their friends. Provide them coupon codes and special offers they can share on Facebook and re-tweet on Twitter.
If you’re tweeting your promotions, be sure to track which hashtags are trending on Twitter during Black Friday and Cyber Monday and include those hashtags in your own tweets. Take your Twitter marketing to the next level by offering special deals to your followers or creating special offers that are triggered by re-tweets and/or mentions.
5. Leverage your website and retail store to grow your fans, followers and subscribers
Some of your most active social media users will be your loyal patrons. Be sure to promote your social media channels and email promotions on your website an within in your brick and mortar stores to convert your visitors into fans, followers and subscribers. To do so effectively, make sure email sign-up and Facebook follow prompts are thoroughly incorporated into your website design.
Leverage your friendly staff. Godiva, for example, rewards retail store customers with a free truffle each month for subscribing to their email list. The company’s friendly retail store staff encourages customers to complete a short form and instantly rewards customers with a free truffle. Within 24 hours, Godiva sends a welcoming email which promotes both the online store and retail store.
6. Create irresistible offers
Consumers obviously LOVE deals and discounts. But which drive the best response? A recent PriceGrabber survey found that 75% of customers will respond well to… you may have guessed it — FREE SHIPPING. This especially applies to higher priced products where consumers may already be able to avoid paying sales tax by making the purchase online.
Here are some of our top deal tactics which have proven highly effective at converting shoppers into buyers.
- Free shipping (free express shipping is even better)
- Free returns (Zappos includes a free return label with every order)
- Low price guarantee (eliminate the fear of overpaying)
- Guaranteed delivery date (eliminate the fear of order not arriving in time)
- Extended return period (nobody wants to get stuck with a product they can’t use
- Free gift (helps close the sale in a photo-finish buying decision between you and a competitor)
- Customer reward / loyalty program (point when can be applied towards future sales)
Don’t forget to highlight your offer across all of your marketing channels. Although this may sound like common sense, we’ve seen clients promote a phenomenal deal via traditional media such as radio and neglect their digital channels. Cross-promoting the deal across all channels can significantly increase the reach, impact and response rates.
7. Reinforce your search engine marketing campaign
According to a recent BIA/Kelsey study, the majority of consumers (97%) now use online media to shop locally.
With a surge of people shopping online for the best deals, increase your PPC budget over the holidays to make sure your store is found. Check your site analytics more frequently to identify key trends and apply tweaks to optimize conversions.
Make is easier for people to buy from your store. Link PPC ads directly to the web pages that contain the offer you’re advertising. This goes for email marketing, social media and online display ads too. We still see many ads that link to website home pages instead of product pages. This causes friction and contributes to bounce rates.
8. Boost your profits with these proven upselling tactics
Your best prospects are existing customers – especially those who just made a purchase. Follow up within 23-48 hours with special discounts on related products For example; customers who purchase a necklace might receive an email with a coupon code to matching earrings. Or, a customer who purchased a big screen TV might receive an email with a coupon code to a Blue-Ray player.
This tactic has proven extremely successful by big retailers like Best Buy but can be used by anyone. The keys are knowing your related merchandise and having a follow-up plan in place. If your marketing team is stretched too thin this time of year to plan, execute and manage an effective follow-up program, consider utilizing an agency that specializes in this area.
Digital purchase receipts represent a great opportunity for an upsell. It’s the one email most consumers tend to save. Provide a coupon code or link to a page on your website where specials are posted.
9. Drive Customer Engagement with Flash Sales
Consider leveraging your website, social media and email to promote flash sales – a deeply discounted time-limited offer for a specific product or small group of products. A flash sale can generate a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement while boosting customer engagement and loyalty. Flash sales are effective both online and offline.
Here’s an example of an effective online flash sale from BestBuy. As you might expect, the delivery of this email was perfectly timed – around 9:00 PM on a Tuesday, when their target customers were more likely to be home and paying attention.
10. Increase Your Average Order Value (AOV)
Driving customers to your online storefront is expensive. Website bounce rates (visitors who leave without making a purchase) and shopping cart abandonment rates are on the rise. If you’ve already taken steps to optimize your website to reduce bounce rates and abandoned shopping carts, you’ll want to take steps increase your average order value (AOV).
- Offer free shipping when the total order reaches a certain threshold i.e. “free standard shipping on orders $100 or more”.
- Use ascending discounts i.e. “save 10% on orders over $50; save 20% on orders over $100.”
- Offer related products to the one purchased during checkout and additional discounts when orders are combined.
11. Aim Past the Finish Line
While the holidays may consume the majority of your marketing focus, consumers have been conditioned to look for post-holiday discounts. Christmas doesn’t have to represent the end of your sales season. Use all of your direct marketing channels to stay closely connected with your customers and keep them coming back to your stores. While many consumers are home for the holidays, sooner or later they’re likely to venture online.
12. Fully leverage your brick and mortar location
The week before Christmas is one of the few times of year that brick and mortar retailers gain a strong advantage over their online competitors. Many consumers will still (window) shop online but hesitate purchasing out of fear that their orders won’t arrive in time for Christmas. Many consumers will compromise and pay higher prices for the instant gratification of being able to take their purchase with them. It’s at this precise moment when all direct marketing channels must aim at driving customers into retail stores; email, social media, search, website and mobile campaigns.
Thomas Harpointner is CEO at AIS Media, Inc., an Atlanta-based award-winning digital strategy and creative marketing agency. Thomas is a public speaker, author and has been featured in the global press and news media. Learn more about and connect with Thomas: www.About.Me/ThomasHarpointner
AIS Media consults, designs, executes and manages performance-driven digital marketing programs for leading companies and organizations. Capabilities include design & application development, search marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing.