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Holiday Marketing Predictions: What to Expect This Year

By Chad S. White

Every holiday season is a little different because of a variety of factors, including technology trends, consumer sentiment, and the timing of the calendar. Oracle Marketing Cloud (OMC) Consulting’s experts share their thoughts and predictions on how this holiday season will be different from past ones.

Adjusting to Shorter Calendar

This year, there are just 26 shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas Day. That’s six fewer days than last year. This is likely to lead to more aggressive holiday messaging during early November, with retailers using every Friday as a warmup for the official Black Friday.

It’s also likely to result in stronger messaging around urgency after Cyber Monday, with retailers routinely reminding their customers of how few days there are until Christmas, especially from Green Monday (Dec. 9) forward. We expect plenty of countdowns—till the end of guaranteed Christmas delivery with standard shipping and expedited shipping—as well as strong in-store promotions during Super Saturday (Dec. 21) and the days following until Christmas.

More Competition in the Inbox

In part because of the unfavorable calendar, brands should expect competition in the inbox to increase this holiday season, says Peter Briggs, Director of Strategic Services for OMC Consulting.

“Looking across our North American benchmarks, volume increased 14% in November/December in 2018 over 2017,” he says. “Expect this to increase even more this year.”

That increase in email frequency is almost assuredly going to dampen engagement levels, says Briggs. “Coinciding with the volume increase, we saw unique clickthrough rates drop approximately 5% during the holidays last year compared to the June-to-October trend,” he says. “Brands should anticipate a similar trend this year as email volumes continue to climb.”

Brands can help their emails stand out by choosing the best time to send their emails and by writing subject lines that are in line with the latest trends.

Closing the Deal with Last-Minute Shoppers

Because of the shorter calendar, it will become more crucial than ever to be able to convert holiday shopping procrastinators. The ability to act on real-time data in a coordinated fashion across channels will give brands a distinct advantage, says Otilia Antipa, Principal B2B Consultant at OMC Consulting.

“Last-minute shoppers are a great example of where real-time offers and real-time content is more important than ever,” she says. “Clients who have a unified integration between social, web, and email marketing see significant conversion with the help of shared information. It helps put all the puzzle pieces together so that you can segment strategically and build an experience your subscribers can’t pass up.”

A Quiet Holiday Debut for AMP for Email

While AMP for Email is one of the new email marketing developments for 2019, I don’t think we’ll be seeing B2C marketers try to stand out during the holiday season by using it—at least not for interactivity. During the holiday season, the most effective messaging is simple and quick to digest. We’ll continue to see marketers focus on delivering that during the holiday season.

Now, the live content capabilities offered by AMP for Email will likely see some use, as that helps keep content fresh and relevant. Email frequencies are much higher than average during the holiday season, which means messages can get out of date quickly. Brands can make sure that no open is wasted on irrelevant offers by using live content.

Optimal Time for Send-Time Optimization

One email marketing technology that is set to have a breakout holiday season is send-time optimization, which examines a subscriber’s historical email open time pattern to determine the send time that’s most likely to result in engagement. Paired with aggregate open time modeling, send-time optimization significantly increases response rates.

“Among the brands that Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting has worked with, optimizing the best time to send emails results in an average lift in engagement of 10%-12% and an average lift in conversions of 5%-7%,” said Clint Kaiser, Head of Strategic & Analytics Services at OMC Consulting, in a post about the best time to send emails.

During the holiday season, when email volume often increases roughly 50%, competition for visibility in the inbox is rabid. Send-time optimization will give the retailers that use it a significant competitive advantage.

Heightened Privacy Concerns

More than ever before, privacy is top of mind for consumers—as well as lawmakers.

“Everyone has probably noticed how those little ‘Accept Cookies’ messages when visiting websites are becoming more and more common,” says Kim Roman, Senior Principal B2B Consultant at OMC Consulting. “This year marks the start of the challenge to provide a personalized, unique experience for customers while not making them feel like their privacy has been violated.”

Brands need to be aware of how they are leveraging captured data and how that might make their customers feel, she says. “For example, getting a triggered email too soon after visiting a website is likely to be a turnoff to most consumers these days,” says Roman. “Additionally, hyper-personalized advertising such as retargeting should be used with care. Consumers can easily form a negative opinion of a brand when they visit their website once and then see ads for that company all over the websites they visit and their social media feeds. There’s a big difference between that and targeting someone who keeps coming back and shows genuine interest.”

With the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) going into effect on Jan. 1, and several other states considering privacy legislation, B2C brands will need to make a permanent adjustment toward more transparency, better expectation setting, and greater reliance on first-party behavior data.

Carrying Holiday Momentum Forward

While retailers will be hyper-focused on generating immediate holiday sales, they’ll be keeping one eye on post-holiday opportunities. That’s because there’s a huge opportunity in converting holiday buyers into year-round buyers, says Kaiser.

“Retailers in particular have email subscriber bases comprised of a lot of one-time buyers—an audience that represents up to two-thirds of their email list,” he says. “Moving even a small percentage of that audience to be a multi-buyer means big revenue. I see more retailers thinking about specific strategies to put into place to move holiday-only gift buyers to year-round ones—think birthdays, graduations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Treating this audience as a specific persona to uniquely communicate with is on a lot of retailers’ wish lists this holiday.”

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