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6 strategies to help marketers win the holiday

By Iván Markman | Chief business officer

December 6, 2021 | 8 min read

Amid historic supply chain disruptions, a commercial market shifting to e-commerce at unprecedented speed and emerging technologies such as augmented reality sweeping our digital landscape, marketers require new approaches to winning over consumers during the holidays, argues Yahoo’s chief business officer Iván Markman.

Mall at Christmas time with people walking around and a Christmas tree in the center

This holiday shopping season isn’t going to be like last year’s

This year, the holiday shopping season is set to rebound from the uncertainties and anxieties of 2020 – and in a big way. Retail spending in physical stores is on track to grow more than 6% year-on-year, while e-commerce will triple that figure, at nearly 18% year-on-year growth.

The fact that holiday shopping will done online more than ever this year shouldn’t be too surprising. The pandemic reshaped consumers’ digital habits – driving people online not only to buy, but to enjoy digital versions of the shopping experiences they expect from physical stores. And these habits are here to stay. Rather than being a stopgap solution, they’re making shopping and buying more seamless and enjoyable.

With that in mind, marketers need to make the most of the opportunities that have been cracked open by this evolution in how we all shop and buy. But if any retail marketers assume that means it’s safe to revisit strategies from 2019, they’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Here’s how to meet holiday consumers in this surging digital era and drive impact for your brand.

Engage consumers with new experiences

The brands that will win the holiday are cutting through the noise and the monotony. As more buying occurs online, consumers want new experiences that excite and inspire.

Extended reality-enabled advertising – think augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – can deliver just that, giving shoppers 360° views of products and allowing them to try before they buy virtually, from the convenience of their home or phone.

Interactive connected television (CTV) ads are also a growing opportunity as the technology has improved dramatically over the last several years to unlock greater customization and data targeting capabilities. They also offer real omnichannel engagement, inviting consumers to engage with TV ads using mobile devices to accelerate their path to purchase.

At the same time, new native advertising formats – from larger, fullscreen units to dynamic video – incentivize shoppers to buy by offering discounts in imaginative, attention-grabbing ways, both for products they have already browsed and relevant products they have yet to discover. Pre-pandemic, marketers increased native spend by 24.6%. Given our new normal, contextualized shopping experiences are positioned to become even more critical.

Capture attention on screens at home and in stores

While more holiday shopping will be online than ever before this year, the experience will continue to be hybrid for most consumers, with a combination of in-store and digital buying. For this reason, an omnichannel approach is essential for retail marketers to get in front of consumers wherever they may be.

Enter digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising, which has advanced considerably in recent years to become a key part of any retail marketer’s advertising media mix. DOOH gives brands the ability to target shoppers both on-the-go – digital billboards while waiting for the train, for example – and in-store, with companies bringing ad opportunities to point-of-purchase signage and store aisles. These channels are essential for reaching and engaging consumers with holiday promotions in the moment, while connecting their digital and offline experiences in a unique way that stands out. More of this inventory is available programmatically as well, which enables deeper targeting and stronger impact. Retailers and brands need to take advantage of this shift.

Boost ROI through personalization

Speaking of personalization, don’t listen to the naysayers – consumers want ads to be targeted. In fact, 80% say they’re more likely to purchase if the brand in question provides personalized ad messaging. Right now, with so much attention in the industry on third-party cookie deprecation, it may seem as though the future of personalization is in question. But addressability will persist and thrive.

Ultimately, brands need to take control of their first-party data, make use of high-quality second-party data from trusted partners and, with the help of tech partners, lean into cookieless IDs such as hashed emails or logins. By activating these strategies, retailers and brands can still take advantage of powerful, personalized formats such as dynamic product ads and dynamic creative for their campaigns that combine tailoring and compelling media.

At the end of the day, consumers understand the trade-off of ads for free content, so they want personalized ads. The experience just has to be done the right way – maintaining privacy while delivering value.

Entice shoppers with great deals

This is an evergreen point, but it’s especially important in this moment in which economic uncertainty remains and savings are especially important in incentivizing shoppers.

Deals and discounts are especially important to gen Z consumers, whose buying power has grown considerably. Online shopping truly speeds up the process of deal discovery, facilitating browsing from multiple brands and retailers in multiple browser tabs or devices. Brand loyalty has not been in so much flux in years. Engaging digital formats are essential in this environment. Consider cross-device and cross-channel advertising, including native and dynamic creative.

Be a hub for in-store shopping

As in-store shopping continues, savvy brands and retailers can turn a consumer’s smartphone into a true IRL shopping companion. Mobile ads can become dynamic coupons, for example, with mobile-optimized branded content that can be saved in a mobile wallet. Brands can also create experiences where consumers research store reopenings and receive an offer for mapping the route to the location. Consider that the physical store is often just the point of product pick-up (think buy online, pick up in store).

Brand retailers need to move away from thinking of the ‘in-store experience’ and consider how omnichannel advertising speaks to the digital/in-store hybrid shopping methods that consumers actually implement.

Leverage in-flight analysis tools

Despite the fact that holiday sales are expected to increase in 2021, the pandemic and a variety of economic factors are creating global supply chain constraints. These challenges have been well-documented, convincing consumers to begin their shopping earlier than in previous years. Fears of inflation and higher prices are also contributing, with 40% saying they ‘expect to shop and spend earlier than they did in 2020.’

While marketers can’t directly control these issues, they can mitigate them by more accurately logging campaign performance and conversions to support planning. Traditionally, lower-funnel metrics such as sales are measured weeks after a campaign wraps up. With new in-flight sales analysis tools, however, advertisers can understand performance during a live campaign and leverage that data for managing and optimizing inventory.

This holiday shopping season isn’t going to be like last year’s – or like any other. Consumers are adjusting to a new reality, and brands must do the same. Make your holiday marketing strategy unique, engaging, omnichannel and personal and you will win customers during this competitive period.

Iván Markman is chief business officer at Yahoo.

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