The Evolution of Holiday Marketing

Any American consumer has likely picked up on the fact that over the last few years, holiday marketing has escalated at an increasingly frantic pace. As businesses try to squeeze maximum revenue in the slowing economy, their marketing departments work overtime to reach customers at a time when the latter are particularly likely to spend their hard-earned dollars. With that in mind, here are three holiday marketing trends to keep in mind and three corresponding strategies to keep you on top of your holiday marketing game.

First, the trends:

1. The Black Friday phenomenon has seen remarkable growth, accounting for some 140 million adults spending $60 billion in the 4 day post-Thanksgiving weekend last year. This year, the frenzy has escalated, with some stores going as far as starting Black Friday on Wednesday in order to beat out the competition. We actually heard a commercial this season that literally implored would-be shoppers to eat their turkey “as fast as possible” so they can go line up for door-busters savings!
2. Cyber Monday, the digital equivalent to Black Friday, has also escalated, with sales figures jumping by 30% between 2011 and 2012 (the year before that, they rose 33%). Surprisingly, after a weekend of shopping, consumers are going into work on Monday morning ready to spend more cash. Last year, the peak shopping time was 11:55 a.m. Eastern Time.
3. Holiday marketing lead time is on the rise. It used to be that marketers would at least wait until the day after one holiday was over to begin hyping up the next. This rule is starting to be ignored, with simultaneous marketing for multiple holidays occurring more and more often.
In light of these, here is our advice for getting the most out of your holiday marketing opportunities:

1. Respect the holiday.

As far as we’re concerned, any holiday marketing that tells you to ignore the holiday in favor of more shopping is fundamentally wrong. For a small business, branding is everything. Retain some of your humanity (Walmart lost theirs a long time ago) and understand that humans celebrate holidays with other humans – shopping is the icing on the cake, not the main event.
Keeping this in mind and channeling it to your audience will communicate that you are a business with perspective, solidifying your brand, which in turn will increase sales not only for the holidays but also year round.

2. Participate in Cyber Monday.

You can’t argue with the statistics above. If Cyber Monday keeps growing by 30% a year, it will soon eclipse the physical shopping of Black Friday and become the ultimate holiday sales extravaganza.
As a small business, you should find some way, however small, to participate in Cyber Monday. Even if you don’t sell merchandise directly through your website, you can do something simple, like putting up a coupon that customers can only print on that day. The sale won’t happen until the customer actually comes in, but you are creating a sense of urgency by participating in the “event” that is Cyber Monday.

3. Start Early, Keep It Catchy, Follow Through

This isn’t just a way for us to fit three tips into one, we promise. We are in favor of increasing holiday marketing lead times, as long as they are kept reasonable (no Christmas sales in July, please). To get the full benefit of the lead time, make the sale memorable – putting an entire product category on sale, for example, is easier for the customer to remember than having a random hodgepodge of sale items.
The last thing to remember is that consumers are more connected that ever before. Real time feedback during a holiday sale can actually affect the outcome and success of the sale. If you can manage it, keep communication lines open, giving the customer feedback on which items are flying off the shelves, reminding them of your holiday hours, even thanking them for their fantastic show of support for your company.
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