The National Advertisers Association predicts that the 2020 Holiday sales season will begin soon, if not already underway, due to the pandemic. They should know! Their members are the leading e-commerce and retail firms.
Rest assured that a new narrative is being developed and new innovative promotions that support social-distancing sales will be unmasked before Halloween 2020. In fact, Joel Bines of AlixPartners found that 49% of consumers will start holiday shopping prior to Halloween (ANA Oct 2020).
Big retailers are leading the way in changing the optics for in-store and online shopping. Success for the Holiday 2020 season depends on changing the blueprint of all your previously tried and true marketing tactics. Many questions floating around the industry currently are:
• How can your plans stay still when Halloween celebrations look like they are going to be spooked off, even though Halloween is on a Saturday this year?
• How can you keep your usual Thanksgiving program intact, when this traditional event is seriously impaired by pandemic rules and regulations?
• And what about your expected Black Friday sales rush? The Black Friday herd will be on its best behavior, largely shopping from home.
When we last checked, the stark majority of smaller retailers were still planning on following their seasonal advertising plans and many have not changed their promotional event program; reusing the same signs, placing the same seasonal ads, although the current pandemic has changed consumers behavior.
Like most, we are hoping that consumers will continue to behave normally and follow the typical buying patterns. Not so! Even if Christmas is Christmas and still falls on the 25th of December, your Black Friday (pre-event offer) to Holiday season promotions will need to start prior to Thanksgiving. And this year, perhaps you should consider adding more than a few tweaks to your promotional and advertising plan.
How? Here are a few ideas:
• Start your overall promo cycle now! Check what your competition is doing and respond with your promotions the same day, if possible.
• Be more aggressive with your leading promotions in early October (you read right, which means you need to get this out, like, tomorrow!). For example, promote personal calendars earlier or guide them in making really personal photobooks about a friend or family. Personalizing your promotions, especially for returning customers, is a great way to send magnetic content that will elicit an action to be taken. A communication with the subject “Natacha, here’s your year in review” along with an offer on a calendar featuring her images from over the year is a compelling example of an action-triggering promo.
• Change your Black Friday promo headings to a more accurate name, or better yet, get rid of the name altogether ( (i.e.Our formally known Black Friday event is catchy)!
• Make sure your promotion headings are aligned with the times and check your graphics and images for the same too. For example, crowd pictures of a wedding or family event may not be appropriate. Take advantage of Google and Yahoo local ads; they are easy to place and efficient. Plus, their product need not be outsourced to a specialized agency.
• Be vigilant about the volatile nature of pandemic-driven consumer behaviors and be prepared to change or tweak your offers.
• Major retailers may surprise you, make sure to follow their every marketing moves.
• Invest in local advertising opportunities. Your local newspaper, local flyers, radio, and TV networks are also COVID victims. It is worth analyzing advertising opportunities through these mediums as you could be surprised by the affordability of their rates.
• Make your website dynamic. This could be as simple as changing some headers and images weekly. Or, you may consider making a promotional landing page, which is kept up-to-date. Refer to this URL in all of your ads and supporting materials. Yes, for brick and mortar stores, that means even on your retail window posters! (Use QR codes to bridge the gap between print ads and online content).
• Review your website SEO. Make sure you optimize your listing and your keywords. Free SEO optimization tools are available to help you with Google, Microsoft Bing, and Facebook Ads
• Help your customers be savvy by publishing your key production dates, and adding messages to your communications and website about the low cost yet high emotional value of personalized gifts. Be sure to advise your customers to start making their personal gift earlier to ensure timely delivery, as most Postal services (both, public and private) will be hard-pressed to deliver fast
• Get cracking with your email program now! If they purchased from you last year, you can send them a Thank You Note, with a promotion. If they opted-in to receive emails, use that opportunity to send them ideas, promotions, and deadlines (the power of FOMO is real!). Most importantly, keep your emails relevant in all respects.
• Check the relevance of your pricing matrix daily. And if you have a retail store and produce in-house communicate this to your customer base!
Review your planned schedule and ensure it matches the new schedule that your consumers are running on. The big players like Amazon, Best Buy, and Target are already underway in promoting the holidays really (really!) early this year. Don’t let these guys get to your customers’ discretionary Holiday gifting funds before you make them an offer.
This blog was written in collaboration with Michel Lacaille. Michel brings more than a decade of varied experience in the B2B and B2C Digital Marketing Space, including over 10 years of leading demand generating campaigns in Canada. Previously, Michel was Retail Category Director for Kodak Canada and later Worldwide Advertising Manager for Eastman Kodak. He excels in exploring the pulse of audiences translating data insights into actionable retail and web programs