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[Survey] 10 Retail Marketing Trends Just in Time for the Holiday Season

For retail marketers, the winter holidays are not the time of giving, but of competing. E-commerce marketers have to give their best during the lucrative winter season, and they spend months prepping their sites and perfecting their holiday retail marketing strategy.

So what are some of those competitive tactics, and the retail marketing trends that drive them?

We surveyed 30 in-house retailers at top e-commerce brands, discovering a slew of interesting retail industry trends just in time for the holidays:

  • 39% say organic search drives the most revenue out of all their channels, followed by paid media (30%)
  • 50% plan their content calendars 2-5 months in advance, 19% plan 6-11 months in advance
  • 69% believe targeting personas with their content is a boon to their traffic and revenue
  • Nearly a third target holiday-specific personas (28%)
  • 66% say educational holiday marketing content (not product-centric) is beneficial to their site traffic and bottom line
  • When it comes to where they’d invest their content budget, these retailers put the most stock in video (47%), followed by interactive pages (22%)

That’s just the tip of the iceberg – read on for all ten holiday retail marketing insights.

Note: These retailers job titles broke down as 6% VP or CMO, 12% directors, 42% managers, and 39% associate or specialists. This survey was conducted in September 2015.

1) Feeling upbeat: Most retailers are confident they’ll meet their holiday retail marketing goals.

The tone of this years marketing was mostly optimistic, with 64% confident they’ll meet their retail marketing goals. 18% are downright enthusiastic, saying they’ll “crush” their revenue goals. Split down the middle, the remaining 18% project they’ll stay even with last year, or, hey — it’s a tough market.

holiday-goals-data

2) The vast majority of the retailers think holiday marketing is more competitive than ever.

Marketers may be confident overall, but that’s despite the fact that most feel competition is on the rise. Compared to previous holiday seasons, 85% of the surveyed retailers agree or strongly agree that online competition is up. Only 3% disagree.

online-holiday-competition-data

3) Organic search is the #1 channel for revenue during the holidays, and paid media is #2.

What channels bring in the biggest holiday haul? When asked to rank their marketing channels, organic search came in #1 with 39%. Paid media garnered 30%, and email and affiliate marketing tied, each at 18%, for third.

The channels most commonly ranked lowest for revenue: organic social media, at 61%, and affiliate marketing, 30%.

holiday-marketing-channels-data

4) A third of retailers have dedicated content creation teams.

We know holiday content is at the fulcrum of retail marketing strategies this year. So what does the retail content creation machine look like from the inside?

We asked who primarily creates content for the retailers’ brands. The most popular answer (34%) was a dedicated content team. Second place is evenly split between copywriters, merchandizers, and outsourcing.

content-creation-data

5) Video content is the retail marketing strategy they want to invest more in.

If budget were no object, 47% of retailers would invest more in video marketing. Interactive pages were also a favorite, coming in second place at 22%. In an unusual show of uncertainty for this group, 13% just don’t know.

marketing-investment-survey

6) Half plan their holiday content 2-5 months in advance.

If you haven’t started your holiday content, you’d better hop on it if you want to keep up with this retail marketing crew.

These retailers most commonly plan their holiday content calendar 2-5 months out. 19% plan 6-11 months in advance (talk about Christmas in July!) and 9% plan over a year ahead of time. Another 9% just kind of wing it.

content-calendar-marketing

7) A third target both personas and the buyers journey as part of their retail marketing strategy.

We discovered that 34% of retailers target both personas and the buyer’s journey. 28% actually have special personas they roll out just for the holidays.

personas-buyers-journey-data

holiday-marketing-personas-data

8) The majority of the retail marketers believe targeting personas and the early stages of the buyer’s journey benefits their bottom line.

You may have noticed the retail marketing trend captured in the chart above: 31% target neither personas nor the buyer’s journey in their retail marketing strategy. That’s somewhat at odds with the revelations below:

  • 69% agree or strongly agree that targeting personas their content more effective in attracting traffic and generating revenue.
  • 66% agree or strongly agree that early-stage, educational content makes their content more effective in attracting traffic and generating revenue.

Clearly, most retailers believe that personas and the buyer’s journey make a positive impact on their bottom line. Why, do you think, is there a disconnect between what they think and what they implement?

persona-content-data

early-stage-content-pie-graph

9) Customer service is most common reason customers choose one retail brand over another.

When we asked retailers to write why customers chose their brand over their competitors, the most common answer was customer service.

10) Seven survival tips from pro retailers on surviving the holiday marketing season.

What’s your holiday retail marketing survival advice to other retail marketers, we asked? Here’s 7 great answers:

  • “Consider everything from a buyer’s perspective.”
  • “Personalize your messaging as much as possible, and keep your product-to-cart journey as short as possible.”
  • “Start early.”
  • “Load time and user experience are the most important factors to keeping a customer engaged when they are ready to purchase.”
  • “Offer your customers, or certain customer segments, a discount during holiday seasons. We always see customers utilizing their exclusive discount during the holidays.”
  • Get ahead of the planning. Look at both your and your market’s holiday trends. “Where did you miss opportunities last year? What are your goals this year and are you properly set up from a strategic and investment standpoint to meet them? Leverage your analytics!”
  • “Live up to what you tell your customers.”

It’s not too late to craft a lucrative retail marketing strategy for the holidays, and learn more from your retail marketing peers. Watch our previously-recorded webinar “A Retailer’s Guide to Holiday Web Dominance,” with Brooks Brothers.

  • Gordy Casasco

    Awesome article Charity, will definitely utilize some of these in the next few months 🙂

    • Charity

      Gordy, how’s digital marketing down under?? Glad you found this useful 🙂

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