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5 Ways Businesses Can Take Advantage of Global Holiday Seasons Not only is it crucial to get all your ducks in a row well before the holiday, but it's also essential to follow up with last-minute deals just after the holiday ends

By Inbal Lavi

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For U.S. retailers, last year's holiday season was a veritable goldmine, with retail merchants experiencing their best-performing season in six years. Across the globe, the weeks leading up to holidays like Christmas and Ramadan and major events like the World Cup bring a stampede of high-intent shoppers, driving significant increases in e-commerce traffic and conversion rates.

Take the upcoming celebration of Ramadan, it brings a 40 per cent boost in app installations and a 30 per cent spike in conversion rates. In shopping apps, e-commerce transactions soared by 35 per cent.

The challenge for marketers lies in finding ways to make their brands stand out and capitalize on the holiday shopping rush.

By carefully planning campaigns around such moments well in advance, marketers can ensure that holiday seasons are the gifts that keep on giving. Here are five tips for optimizing outreach to target audiences, generating ideas for effective holiday campaigns, and creating comprehensive marketing strategies that will deliver exceptional results and bring you holiday cheer.

1. Timing is Everything.

It's true: The early bird gets the worm.

While there's no shortage of consumers who leave their holiday shopping to the last frenzied minute, most people prefer to avoid the 11th-hour rush. According to a Deloitte survey, 64 per cent of consumers had started their holiday shopping by Cyber Monday in 2018, underscoring the importance of beginning your outreach well before foot traffic and e-commerce visits hit their peak.

If you're a retailer, Christmas should start in October, according to data from AdRoll. Researchers found that beginning a holiday campaign in October delivered a 7 per cent boost in ad impressions, a 12 per cent drop in CPC, and a 15 to 20 per cent decline in CPM compared to campaigns that started later.

With customers being bombarded with deals that "cannot be missed," retailers looking to stand out should emphasize promotions, coupons, and Lightning Deals. 50 per cent-off sales and buy-one-get-one-free deals rank among the highest-converting promotions.

Not only is it crucial to get all your ducks in a row well before the holiday, but it's also essential to follow up with last-minute deals just after the holiday ends. For those who forgot to buy gifts, ran out of time before their holiday travel, or are simply looking for a solid deal that fits their budget, these offers can prove highly effective.

2. Turn Mobile into a User Magnet.

The 2018 Christmas season marked a mobile milestone: For the first time ever, more e-commerce orders came from mobile devices (48 per cent) than from desktops or laptops (44 per cent). Even if customers didn't ultimately make their purchases on mobile, it was still the dominant entry point for holiday shoppers, with Salesforce finding that 66 per cent of all e-commerce traffic in the run-up to the holiday came from mobile.

To boot, the mobile's ROI is too impressive to pass up. CPC on mobile during the 2017 holiday season was 63 per cent cheaper compared to desktop. Stacked up against display campaigns, CTR was 400 per cent higher on Instagram and 54 per cent higher on Facebook. This dovetails with survey data showing that a majority of consumers say their purchasing decisions are influenced by social media, with holiday shoppers seeing social platforms as useful tools for finding recommendations and discovering products.

Marketers must leverage consumers' penchant for increased mobile and social use during the holidays to craft specialized, mobile-optimized marketing campaigns. Prepare for the incoming traffic boost by studying and segmenting your core audience members and implementing campaigns that tap into their true desires.

3. Appeal to Your Audience's Psyche.

The month before a major gift-giving holiday typically sees a marked change in consumer behaviour – and while these events are global in scale, big wins are going to be notched at the local and particular level.

Programmatic targeting of key audiences by time zone and location will deliver consumers the most relevant content that reflects their interests and behaviour. Meanwhile, promotional campaigns tailored to women – the bulk of e-commerce shoppers – will also help the bottom line at a lower cost, given that audience filtering and segmenting will be broader.

To truly connect with your audiences, it helps to remember that they're hungry – literally. After all, most big holidays come with associated food traditions. According to Google research, YouTube cooking videos increase by 30 per cent over the average during the first week of Ramadan, and recipe searches soar by 50 per cent over the average. Restaurant and delivery app marketers, for instance, can enhance their traditional food offerings and plan their campaigns to cater to these audiences.

4. Make it Memorable.

Food is the source of many fond memories, but it's not the only memorable experience marketers should plan around. Brand awareness and nostalgia go hand-in-hand; think of Coca-Cola's perennial polar bear ads, which bring charming reminders of the impending arrival of Christmas – and encourage consumers to make Coke a part of their holiday.

Such campaigns both signal brand longevity and stir warm holiday sentiments. Whether you lean into a holiday's religious significance, the importance of family, or the emotions surrounding your brand and its products, seize the opportunity to foster greater brand affinity through thoughtful campaigns that link your brand to the holiday experience.

5. Spread the Holiday Cheer to the Entire Year.

Of course, holidays are about much more than consumption; shifts in priorities, schedules, and activities also come with the territory. This, in turn, means that consumers will respond differently to your brand's messages than they likely would at any other point in the year. To craft campaigns that reflect these changing mindsets, consult your year-over-year data to ascertain any notable patterns in site traffic or campaign responsiveness by channel and approach.

Fine-tune your analytics by monitoring KPIs, which will help you better understand which traditions and outreach methodologies work best for your business. Google's data highlights the value of targeting your audiences at different times to make the most out of awareness and burst app campaigns. For example, although overall traffic spikes by 230 per cent during Ramadan, online activity peaks in the middle of the night, when people are breaking their fasts; on social media, the largest increase in time-spent is at 3 AM, with a 200 per cent peak.

Notably, the holiday season also brings a sharp increase in loyal users, with a 25 per cent increase compared to the month before Ramadan. These are users who have been attributed between your chosen time frame and have performed three or more app sessions during that time. Attract such customers during holidays, and you'll win more revenue year-round.

Understanding your audience's needs and behaviour is essential throughout the year – but given the unique dynamics of major holidays, it becomes all the more important during these moments to probe and tap into the associated changes in online behaviour, intentionality, and emotions. By preparing well before the big holiday arrives, you'll be able to implement more effective campaigns that resonate with your target audiences and deliver big results – and your brand will enjoy a holiday season worth celebrating.

Inbal Lavi

CEO of Webpals Inc.

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