During the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers had to throw out their marketing plans for Q2 and adjust their Q3 plans as U.S. states reopened and closed again. We’re anticipating that this holiday season will see more online sales than ever before. With that in mind, retailers need to have their digital strategies in order long before consumers start thinking about gifting.

Right now, keeping shoppers engaged all season long is a top priority for retailers. At Listrak, our team of account directors and client strategists counsel over a thousand retailers on navigating an ever changing business landscape. We compiled their expert insights into a marketing guide to have a successful holiday season.

Curious? Here are four tips from our team:

  1. Start right now: Like our Enterprise Account Director Katherine Brown says, “It’s essential to get the work done beforehand.” Give yourself time to establish, get acquainted with, and troubleshoot new technologies long before they’re left to manage the holiday rush. By implementing your new product recommendations features in August, you’ll ensure a seamless experience come November. Outside of technology, be sure to get organized around creative assets, subscriber list acquisition, and content generation with a marketing calendar to stay on top of important deadlines and goals. Set an end-date, and create a workback timeline from there.

  2. Avoid easy mistakes: This year’s holiday season will be unpredictable, so your team should focus on what they can control. Make sure you're diving into all the small details to ensure a seamless shopper experience. Take this advice from our Account Director, Megan McNamara: get in the weeds with your email marketing campaign planning. Confirm that your product files are correct to avoid recommendation errors. Double check coupon codes and expiration dates. Even the little things, like mobile site optimization, are all important in refining your digital strategy.

  3. Make contingency plans: I agree with Joe Schmidt, Account Director, in that retailers need to prepare for potential challenges around the holidays. Whether it’s shipping delays or out-of-stock updates, have a template ready to go in case of errors. Realistically, we don’t know exactly where our communities will be in three months. To ensure your teams are ready in any scenario, prepare for all possibilities. Replicate and improve upon the strategies your team implemented during the initial pandemic outbreak. With the threat of store closures, prep additional marketing messages to encourage online shopping or contactless pick-up. You can also experiment with location-based geo-targeting to keep your messages local and relevant.

  4. Continue to show empathy: The last few months have been tough on all of us.  Most shoppers are still reeling from the economic and emotional toll of COVID-19. Maintaining empathy during these times will continue to build long-term customer loyalty. Not only can you show that you care in your communications, you can make tangible changes to your business to remove friction from the shopping experience. Consider more mobile-friendly payment options like Venmo or Apple Pay. Jess Weisbrot, Account Director, also recommends experimenting with payment plan providers like AfterPay and Klarna to ease the economic burden of holiday shopping.

There are plenty more tips where these came from. Read our full 2020 Holiday Marketing Guide here. Happy holiday planning!

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