First of all, I swear I write this article earlier and earlier each and every year! No one – and I mean no one, wants to be the first person to talk about Christmas and I'd usually kick this off by making comment on the Christmas paraphernalia that will be appearing in the supermarkets. But this year, the run-up to Christmas is going to be quite different and so your Christmas marketing campaigns can not be allowed to run in a rinse and repeat fashion!
The harsh reality is that (as I write) there are just 90 ‘shopping days' remaining until Santa visits. As the Coronacopia continues, many of your seasonal customers will be looking to buy online and eCommerce as a sector is continuing to ‘blow up' with a 40% increase in sales. Add to that the number of additional online retailers popping up as they see the boom as an opportunity and I'm sure you'll agree that if you haven’t already organised your Christmas marketing campaign and have your list of to-dos in place you are already falling behind.
I've been talking talking Christmas Marketing strategies at Green Umbrella since 2013, and in that time I have learnt that irrespective of what products you sell, or services you deliver, there are three key starting points for any Christmas campaign.
1. Know your dates
Create a timeline that starts now and ends on your final trading day. Identify your key dates on that timeline such as final posting dates if you are selling a product, or the timesheet deadline if you’re a recruiter.
2. Marketing methods
What will be part of your campaign? Social media, email marketing, print, Facebook ads, blogs, telephone calls, cold hard print.
3. Identify your message
What are you communicating – is it a need for staff for the busy period or the latest design of a lead product?
So now I know what I’m selling, how I can sell it and what is my time frame so I can build a plan and set my budgets. My method is to, quite literally, plot the customer journey. I create a table with my first column acting as my timeline. Each column after this represents a marketing method. I make my way through the customer journey in reverse and plot key dates or actions.
If I were the candidate of a recruitment agency submitting my timesheet on date x, I’d have received an email reminder to send it on specific dates – so that gets plotted under the email column next to the relevant date. I’d have worked between x and y dates, and before that, I would have seen a Facebook advert to tell me about the vacancy, or maybe a social media post. Perhaps it was a blog posted on the Facebook page that encouraged me to register – it all gets plotted. This is a simple example, but you get the idea. Map the journey backwards.
If I’m purchasing a product and order it last minute, I’ll have seen and heard about it ‘x’ number of times in ‘x’ number of ways. And it all gets plotted in my plan.
Realistically, Christmas is merely another event. So don’t treat it any differently. Try and allow yourself 6-8 weeks to market it before the date your ‘books close’. Know what you need to do in advance so that you don’t spend more than you should, and always make time to review and adapt your campaign in line with where you are finding success and struggling with it.
Put simply, we just don't know what's going to happen this Christmas so, as ever, we need to be ready for anything. What would I be doing right now if I ran an eCommerce business and was navigating what should be the busiest time of my year during a global pandemic?
Double down on my brand – what value do I offer. What's special about me, my business and my products and make sure that I am using the loyalty I've built through my online audience so that people WANT to support me.
If I have a physical shop, can I manage a booking system to help my most loyal customers visit at a time to suit them that also eases the flow of people through the shop and removes some Christmas shopping frustrations. It might be doing more evening shopping sessions, or starting them earlier.
How can I make browsing easier? Live video events announced in advance so my customers can ‘browse' online meaning I can replicate a scenario where I'm engaging with my customers and offer advice on purchases.
Probably one of the most critical pieces of advice I can give is that after the dust has settled, whether it is Christmas or any other event, review what you did, how you did it and when you did it. Then get things in the diary for next year so you can repeat the good stuff! I am pretty sure all retailers will discover some marketing gold as they are forced to work differently this year and discover tactics that will become core marketing activities for years to come! However, there’s little use reflecting on your Christmas Marketing campaign a year later – your memory will be skewed, and you may forget a small detail that actually had a dramatic effect on the success of your Christmas strategy so diarise it now and get it done as soon as the season is done!