August 30, 2012
How To

Holiday Marketing: 8 trending tactics and tips for 2012

SUMMARY: The holiday marketing season is rapidly approaching, and consumer marketers should be in the process of finalizing holiday strategies. Even though successful marketing tactics and strategies carry over from year-to-year, each season offers new wrinkles on old ideas and sometimes completely new marketing channels and technologies.

Read on for eight tactics from nine consumer marketing experts, covering retargeting campaigns, what’s happening in social media this year, tailoring campaigns to different devices, taking advantage of technology to personalize the website experience, and a tip on why 2012 is a year to keep a close eye on the calendar.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter

It’s that time of year again -- time to finalize those holiday marketing strategies. All the usual suspects are still valid: creating campaigns that reach across multiple channels including email, social, mobile and even traditional channels.

Of course, every holiday season brings a few trending ideas or tips that of which marketers should be aware of. To find out what Holiday 2012 is bringing, MarketingSherpa cast a wide net to provide you with eight tactics, ranging from retargeting campaigns, how to use technology and personalize the website experience, to the latest in social media, and even a few new paid search tricks. And Plus, one final tip -- the calendar in 2012 is working in your favor.

Tactic #1. Retarget the e-commerce website visitor

As a marketing tactic, retargeting is not a new concept, but it is certainly a trending consumer marketing idea for the upcoming holiday season.

Peter Geisheker, CEO of The Geisheker Group Marketing Firm, explained that retargeting is Internet advertising that targets website visitors after they leave the site. The ads are displayed on other websites visited by those potential customers.

Geisheker said, "The basic concept of retargeting is to get the customer from the first level of conversion -- their first visit to your website -- to the last level of conversion, which is the customer coming back to your website and buying a product or service from you."

He stated the way to accomplish this is automatically adding every website visitor to the retargeting audience by placing a retargeting pixel throughout the site, and transferring a cookie "tag" to those visitors so when they leave the site and visit other websites, the retargeted banner ads are displayed to them.

Geisheker offered five reasons why retargeting is a valuable advertising tool:
  1. Retargeting increases the opportunity for sales conversions. He said research has found the typical website visitor needs seven, or more, interactions with an online retailer before making a purchase. Retargeting creates these interactions even when that visitor is on another website.

  2. Retargeting advertising can be very specific in terms of the message and audience reached.

  3. Retargeting offers marketers control over the advertising aspects of the website. The retargeted audience can include every website visitor, but it also can be limited to visitors who take specific actions such as creating an account or visiting certain pages. The campaign also offers prospect insight in the form of tracking other sites they visit, as well as data on clickthrough and view-through conversions.

  4. Retargeting encourages creative advertising to recapture the attention of the potential customer.

  5. The website visitor insight gained from a retargeting campaign can be used to improve the overall strategy for Internet advertising, and can help refine the actual sales message.

Eric Tsai, Senior eMarketing Manager and Team Leader at WebMetro, added that making the retargeting message unique is a factor in the success of this tactic.

"The biggest mistake marketers continue to make with remarketing is not offering something new," he said. "The user already said, ‘No,’ so it’s time to mix it up."

Tsai also offered examples of adding uniqueness to the retargeting message:
  • Incentives

  • Promotions

  • Recommended products

  • New content

Tsai continued, "Your remarketing messages and offers should be unique and based on referral source, website behavior and shopping cart engagement."

Tactic #2. Evolve your social network strategy from 2011 to 2012

Facebook remains a key social media marketing platform, but one change most marketers need to make, according to Tsai, is getting beyond the "likes." He said last year most advertisers were attempting to gain fans and likes on Facebook, but this year the focus is shifting to actual sales and revenue from Facebook’s advertising platform.

"Despite many brands saying how much difficulty they’ve had gaining a real return from Facebook, we have advertisers moving considerable budgets to Facebook," Tsai explained.

He continued, "Using Facebook for the long-tail of micro segmentation and interest categories, advertising campaigns can perform at scale with the right tactics."

Tsai offered three examples of successful Facebook marketing:
  • One e-commerce client saw Facebook advertising beat the return from a Google Display Network spend by 18%

  • Through Facebook advertising, one client sold out of its products in less than three hours

  • Over the first two months of a client’s campaign, revenue from Facebook increased 177%, and then another 31% over the next two months

Other social media platforms are on the rise

"One trend I don’t think we should forget is the rise of Pinterest and Instagram," said Tiffany Silverberg, writer and marketing consultant. "Last holiday season, people were dabbling; now, consumers have made it a daily part of their lives."

She added, "The use of Pinterest and Instagram, with their tie-in with Facebook, speaks to a deepening integration of social media in the lives of consumers. In other words, it’s gotten more personal."

Silverberg said in previous years, social media marketing was more based around promotion, and it’s now more about becoming a resource. She stated this could come from creating meaningful content or utilizing careful product placement to create a connection with brands.

Gustavo Gomez, Director of Research and Methodology at Envirosell and Professor of Consumer Behavior at Hunter College agreed.

"This will be the season for Pinterest," he stated. "Numbers have shown that Pinterest is better at leading consumers to a site than Facebook or Twitter."

Tactic #3. Use paid search marketing to clicks

Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer of Kenshoo, said last year the company’s clients increased paid search by 31% during the holidays. Over the first half of this year, its clients' ad spend is up 46% over 2011. Moreover, Goldman said he expects to see even more paid search this holiday season.

And, not only is paid search spending trending up, but overall cost-per-click (CPC) rates are dropping.

"Over the past six quarters, there has been a steady drop in paid search CPC rates which was only abated by a small increase in Q2 of 2012. Overall, the average CPC is $0.42, which is down $0.16 from its 18-month high, representing a 28% drop," said Goldman.

These metrics were calculated on aggregate data collected on Kenshoo’s U.S. clients and represent $3 billion in annual search engine marketing spends.

He added, "As a result, look for CPCs to be less expensive this holiday season compared to the year before, despite increased competition.

Goldman attributes this to improved quality of paid search campaigns with advertisers becoming more sophisticated and implementing advanced bid strategies that achieve higher clickthrough rates.

Another area in paid search to watch this holiday season is the continued expansion of Google’s ad extensions, according to Neil Mahoney, Director of eCommerce at SIM Partners.

Marketers can take advantage of this tactic in two ways: incorporating consumer reviews and social media into AdWords ads.

"These ad extensions help make a bigger splash on search engine results pages with expanded real estate and better, more engaging product and advertiser information," Mahoney said.

"Social extensions show how many people have promoted the product with Google’s ‘+1,’ while the reviews extension compiles and displays reviews from Google users and other review sites," he added.

Tactic #4. Tailor marketing to specific devices

Gomez said, "Tablet and phone use is going to see a big uptick this holiday season. Last holiday season saw a real growth in shopping via iPads. While the total percentage is low, we are going to see a flurry of apps and websites targeting the tablet, and specifically the iPad audience."

He added that some research suggests iPad users spend more per basket and that retailers should target that device with content.

Gomez also sees e-commerce and m-commerce continuing to grow and that traditional, offline marketing media -- such as print, television and billboards -- will be used to drive shoppers to the online commerce sites.

Tsai said he is seeing tablet traffic grow at triple digits and that tablet users have higher average order values and higher conversion rates than smartphone users. He did add that holiday messages should be distributed across all devices.

"Make sure you have tablet and smartphone broken out separately, and send smartphone traffic to mobile-optimized sites or landing pages," Tsai stated.

Continuing the tablet drumbeat for this year, Brian Zaben, Display Manager at Rise Interactive, said he expects an increase in tablet-specific ads.

"Consumers increasingly use these devices for shopping, and many brands now create ads specifically designed to match the unique specifications of these devices," Zaben said.

"Media buyers need to be cognizant of what the end user is using their device for," he continued. "Most shoppers are using mobile devices to research products and comparison shop, whereas shoppers will use tablets to purchase a gift. Therefore, branding campaigns should leverage mobile devices, and direct response campaigns should be focused on tablets."

Tactic #5. Adapt to Google Shopping’s new fee structure

This tactic is based on a change expected to occur this fall before the main holiday shopping rush. Google Product Search, a previously free feature for online retailers, will be Google Shopping, and retailers will have to pay to have their products listed.

Gomez said, "I’m not sure your average shopper knows how Google lists the products, and if they did, do they care?"

"Unfortunately, the real affect is going to be felt by the small merchants who can’t, or won’t, pay to have their product listed. This means less apparent choices for shoppers," he added.

Gomez did speculate that moves such as the pay model for product listings could eventually hurt Google’s reputation as a "neutral" and trustworthy source for end users.

Mahoney said the paid listings will take over a larger portion of the search engine results page, and that marketers should be prepared to change their product search strategy to meet the new search page reality.

"Without taking action, marketers will watch the traffic that previously came from Google Product Search completely disappear," he stated. "To replace that lost traffic, marketers will need to test and analyze the paid ad formats available in Google Shopping. In some cases, marketers will choose to pay to keep the traffic flowing, but in other cases, they will find the opportunity less than profitable and pass."

He added that the change will shake up the e-commerce campaigns of advertisers large and small, and might drive advertising budgets to other channels, such as Amazon.

Tsai agreed that marketers will need to adjust strategies to meet the challenge of Google’s product listing ads. He offered one tactic in combining text ad campaigns with product listing ad campaigns to double the exposure, although multiple listings could possibly incur high incremental costs as well.

David Handmaker, CEO of Next Day Flyers, said marketers who have relied on Google Product Search as a free source of organic visitors will be most affected.

"The paid inclusion model will work well for some companies who see a boost in conversion with the paid inclusion bringing in more targeted traffic, while other organizations may rely on repeat purchases to make the program cash positive," Handmaker stated.

Tactic #6. Use marketing automation to drive traffic

Marketing automation is a solution more often considered the domain of B2B marketers, but Mahoney said this technology provides brands with a means to drive foot traffic to physical locations.

"Many major brands have recently adopted it to ensure the accuracy of its location data, and provide geographically specific messages targeted to local consumers," said Mahoney. "As search engines become more sophisticated and the use of mobile technology increases, brands turn to marketing automation technology to ensure accuracy and consistency of information about hundreds, or thousands, of physical locations with local markets for each."

Damien Acheson, Product Owner for LivePerson's LP Marketer, also sees the increasing use of technology by consumer marketers as a chance to provide segmented and customized user experiences.

Marketers can use technology to differentiate new website visitors versus returning visitors, recognize high-profile customers, and determine the geography of the website visitor.

Geotargeting is valuable for shipping offers, currency support, tax issues and even more specific offers, like branding association with local sports teams.

He said most marketers will just use the IP address to determine a location, but that sophisticated retailers map the IP address with the browser language. With this extra knowledge about the site visitor, an IP address from Texas with a browser language in Spanish allows the marketer to present a Spanish-language version of the site. A visitor from Quebec with a French browser would receive a customized French version of the site.

Acheson added that an area of possible friction on the checkout page is a box for a coupon code. If the visitor doesn’t have a code they will likely navigate away from the page to try and find a code. With higher-level segmentation, the marketer will know if the visitor is coming from an email or ad clickthrough that included that code.

Visitor who likely have a coupon code will see the code box on the checkout page. If the visitor likely does not have a code, they won’t be presented with the box.

The idea, Acheson said, is to utilize technology to highly personalize each website visitor's experience.

Tactic #7. Be prepared for price sensitive consumers

"This holiday season, I think consumers will be more price sensitive than ever before," Handmaker predicted. "I suspect this is due to the daily deal-type sites like Groupon, the increasing rise of social media, and the growing popularity and engagement provided by mobile devices."

He added that consumers are being trained to wait for a deal to appear in the email inbox, or to get social media messages from friends or companies about the latest deals. He stated that marketing materials from his clients are including more and more price-specific messaging.

Acheson said free shipping is another area of price sensitivity, but consumer marketers who are successfully segmenting their website visitors can use this information to reclaim webpage real estate. A new visitor would be told about the free shipping offer to grab their interest, but someone who is a returning visitor and possible repeat customer probably understands the company offers free shipping and wouldn’t push that message as heavily in the website experience.

Tactic #8. Keep an eye on the calendar

This tactic is very specific to the 2012 holiday season. Goldman pointed out that key calendar dates will have heavy impacts on shopping activity.

He said Thanksgiving falls on the 22ndof November, adding two days to the shopping period that begins on Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Eve.

He added, "Last year, Christmas Eve and Christmas day fell over a weekend while this year Christmas Eve is on a Monday. The result? Five full weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, one more weekend than last year."

Another key date is Monday December 17, traditionally known as "free shipping day," which marks the last day to order online and receive free shipping.

"Since Mondays have been the peak online shopping day, look for increased traffic and sales this year," Acheson explained.

To receive consumer marketing case studies and how-to articles delivered right to your inbox every other week, sign up for the free MarketingSherpa Consumer Marketing Newsletter.


Envirosell Inc.

Geisheker Group Marketing Firm


LP Marketer

Next Day Flyers

Rise Interactive

SIM Partners

Tiffany Silverberg’s website


Related Resources

Holiday Marketing: 6 tactics to help you prep for the season

Google Product Search To Become Google Shopping, Use Pay-To-Play Model -- via Search Engine Land

Holiday Marketing: 3 last-minute ideas to boost conversion

Holiday E-commerce: Make online shopping a rewarding experience for customers, not just an extension of the holiday hassle

Email Marketing: Groupon’s segmentation strategies across 115 million subscribers

Email Marketing: Reclaim abandoned shopping carts with triggered ‘remarketing’ emails

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