Through global consumer surveys and internal data collected from our Search, Affiliate and Display channels, Rakuten Marketing has developed a holiday infographic roadmap. This infographic revealed some of the trends and insights we learned from the collected data and survey results. However, this post gives brands a more in-depth look to the holidays and why a full-funnel marketing approach will ensure success and year-over-year (YOY) growth for the upcoming seasons and holidays.

holiday consumer, holiday shopping, holiday marketing strategies, fall marketing tipsHow to Approach the Early Autumn Holidays

Brands should already have begun preparations in early fall for Halloween, but there’s still a lot of time left before the fall season ends in December and steps brands should take to prepare for the rest of the autumn holidays.

Late October: October may be best known for foliage, spooky attractions, and everything under the sun getting a limited edition pumpkin spice release, but don’t let the PSL excitement distract you: last year, 83% of consumers began their shopping by Halloween, according to our consumer survey data. This means that while a large majority of consumers are trying to decide between dressing up as Batman or Pennywise for Halloween festivities, brands should be working behind the scenes to get their ad purchases for the holiday season aligned. Brands who have done their due-diligence during October will not only have a much easier time executing on the rest of their holiday plans, they’ll also have better picks for things like display ads and better communication opportunities with their partners. This also gives brands a chance to lay the foundation for any crisis management situations early on. Since so many consumers will have begun their holiday shopping by Halloween, invest in display efforts such as prospecting and retargeting campaigns to spread brand recognition and continually re-engage consumers for the holidays later in the fall season and into the winter season.

Early November: Almost as soon as the last piece of candy is handed out and the last candle inside a pumpkin is extinguished, all the attention turns away from things that go bump in the night and towards the holiday season. During this period, marketers will need to start juggling different short and long term strategies. Due to most consumers not being in a rush or feeling frazzled for last-minute holiday gifts, they’ll be more likely to shop for gifts in a casual manner. In fact, 30% of consumers during this time are not driven by discounts or sales when making gift purchases. During this time, consumers aren’t typically looking for as much convenient shopping or quick and easy gifts for as cheap as possible like they are later in the year during Cyber Week and on. Our holiday report last year found consumers usually converted on the same day towards the beginning of the holiday season versus the week of Cyber Week. This time of year, consumers have the luxury of being able to browse and plan for more thoughtful gifts; when later in the year, as things start getting more hectic and overwhelming, consumers’ priorities switch to finding what’s convenient and who can offer it at the best price. With consumers leisurely shopping, this is a great time to push out Display and Search marketing efforts. Last year, consumers who engaged with display ads were 31% more likely to purchase than not. Also, consumers ranked google/bing searches as the second most popular way to find holiday shopping inspiration. Consumer journeys with display engagements also have 12% higher lifetime value. Through efforts like prospecting and retargeting, you can catch the attention of these unhurried consumers, increase the number of customers your brand will interact with, and remind them about your brand through the rest of the year, especially when shopping becomes chaotic and less leisurely.

singles day marketing tips, holiday consumer, holiday marketing strategiesSingle’s Day (November 11) and Click Frenzy (November 13) are two, maybe smaller to the US, shopping holidays that take place in early November brands can capitalize on. For both holidays, 3% of US consumers plan to purchase. Brands wanting to take advantage of this holiday will want to make sure their promotions and messaging is aligned and they’re already spreading the word. Brands who aren’t looking to participate should instead be thinking towards Thanksgiving Week while still getting their messaging (and proper placements) aligned. All marketers and brands, big and small, should be running tests to ensure that when the influx of traffic hits during Cyber Week their servers and sites will be able to handle the additional load. It is critical that brands do this testing now so that they have enough time to make any adjustments needed to their hardware.

How to Prepare for the Mid-Late Fall Celebrations

The week of Thanksgiving has become just as critical as Cyber Week itself in the past few years. Since brands are offering their Black Friday offers earlier and earlier to try and capture the attention of consumers, which has proved to be a very effective strategy. Consumers are already prepared to spend heavily later that week, so what’s a few days earlier in their mind if they find a deal they like? With consumers beginning to search for the best deals, it’s necessary to be strategic in your affiliate efforts. Although consumers aren’t typically converting as quickly during this time of the year, as the data point above proves, consumers that comes across a deal or coupon for your brand are more likely to purchase with you, even if it’s later in their shopping journey. Last year, influencer marketing created more engaged consumers for marketers and 53% of influencer touchpoints were the first touchpoint in the consumer journey.

The important thing for marketers to understand about this time of the year is that although shoppers will be looking for deals, they may also wait out for the even heavier discounts that tend to come later. According to Rakuten Marketing display data collected from the holiday season last year, site-level conversions and revenue on the day after Cyber Monday remained extremely high. This was seen across multiple categories and this day even outperformed Black Friday, which is possibly due to Black Friday shopping being better known for its in-store deals but still proves that an elongated shopping period is a solid trend for the holiday season. With this insight, it’s suggested that if your brand sees a lot of engagement but not as many conversions, they’ll want to consider readjusting their deals for more incentivizing offers during Black Friday or Cyber Monday – it could be the extra push they need for consumers to convert! Beyond deals, this period should also be used to ensure everyone knows their responsibilities and roles coming Thanksgiving and beyond, including an understanding of crisis management plans in place and what to do if something goes wrong or a site goes down.

thanksgiving marketing tips, holiday shopper, holiday marketing strategies

Thanksgiving: Turkey, football, and giant Pikachu balloons floating down 6th Avenue in New York – it must be Thanksgiving! The holiday that celebrates families coming together and giving thanks has also become the new start to Cyber Week with many brands launching their official Black Friday deals on Thursday. Many department stores have also opened their doors on Thanksgiving, rather than the usual wee hours of the morning on Black Friday, which means consumers can shop in store or online. Last year, 11% of surveyed consumers stated they planned to shop on Thanksgiving. Something marketers should plan for is mobile conversions – the Rakuten Marketing affiliate network saw high conversions in mobile purchases during Thanksgiving, and with good reason. Mobile devices are accessible to many shoppers who may be traveling or sitting with family, and can quickly make a purchase during a lull in conversation or when they’re waiting for a second portion of mashed sweet potatoes. Another interesting insight Rakuten Marketing gained last year is that Thanksgiving was also the leading peak shopping day for men, who were 65% more likely to shop on Thanksgiving than women. As always you should have advertising that speaks to all kinds of consumers; however, knowing what audiences are most likely to shop during specific times is a crucial element to successful marketing.

Black Friday: What is there to be said about the behemoth of shopping days that hasn’t already been said? Marketers know Black Friday is huge. Shoppers know Black Friday is huge. Last year, 38% of surveyed consumers expected to spend more on Black Friday than any other sales day. Our survey this year indicates that 54% of US consumers plan to make a purchase this day. With so many consumers shopping and planning to spend the most money on this peak day compared to other peak days, brands should be paying careful attention to see what’s converting and what isn’t – for themselves and their competitors. If this tactic isn’t prioritized, brands may find they were undercut in prices come Black Friday by a competitor, which will steal away potential customers. Beyond prices, competitors may also offer bigger incentives or heavier cashback deals. If this is the case, brands should work to find ways to offer more discounts or incentives come Cyber Monday. And of course, with so many shoppers leveraging digital storefronts, brands should be paying close attention to their traffic to ensure there’s no downtime or issues with the site. Shoppers are even quicker to abandon a cart if they can’t convert on a purchase during this time of the year due to a slow-loading site, so make sure that yours is keeping up with the traffic and you’re not losing shoppers!

Cyber Monday: After Black Friday and the weekend of deals, Cyber Monday is the chance for marketers to continue the momentum or put changes into effect to get shoppers to complete more purchases. The big secret to Cyber Monday is avoiding complacency from Black Friday. Good news is 33% of the consumers plan to shop this peak day this year, so there’s plenty of opportunity to continue gaining high conversions and revenue from Black Friday into Monday. However, be sure to not just replicate Black Friday deals. Customers get burnt out by seeing the same thing over and over again during this time of year. Keep your Cyber Monday deals fresh from Black Friday and make them even more enticing if you saw lower conversions on Black Friday or better deals from your competitors.

holiday consumer insights, giving tuesday, holiday marketing strategies

Giving Tuesday: Giving Tuesday is a global effort to volunteer time, donate money, or lend a hand after a rush of consumerism over the previous week. Marketers and brands looking to make an impact in a different fashion can also participate in Giving Tuesday with efforts such as donating a portion of all sales during the day to a charity. Charitable marketing is a good way to do good for those who may need it, and many charity-conscious shoppers (such as Generation Z consumers), will appreciate the gesture of good will. Just make sure that if you do participate in Giving Tuesday that you do so authentically. Shoppers are smart, and will spot an inauthentic campaign disguised as something charitable a mile away.

How to Bundle Brand Strategies for the Winter

This time of the year is most likely to encompass a large variety of shoppers since most everyone will start shopping in December. Last year, we found that 87% of consumers chose Christmas as the most popular holiday to shop for. Even the consumers who began shopping in October were already thinking about Christmas. This is the perfect time of year to hone in on an omnichannel marketing experience. Increase impressions through spanning touch points across social platforms, mobile and desktop. This is also a good time of year for publishers to promote “Gift Guides” for those still in need of gift ideas.

With Cyber Week 2018 in the books, marketers must now pivot their strategy to address two key trends. The first trend will be gaps between the Cyber Week shoppers and the late holiday shoppers. These gaps can be addressed by offering flash sales, limited-time discounts, or promoting offers based on quirky, fun holidays. The second trend will be patient consumers who are engaged but not converting. These are the consumers who believe that Cyber Week is full of good deals but brands will do better as Christmas draws closer. Brands should consider strong retargeting efforts to keep these customers engaged and alert about current offers. One important thing to note is that Hanukkah 2018 will take place during this time of the season, so brands will need to keep this Jewish holiday in mind during this period as well.

Christmas marketing tips, holiday shopping, holiday consumer, holiday marketing strategies

Mid-Late December Shoppers With Christmas coming quickly, many late holiday shoppers are going to start picking up steam and looking for bargains. In fact, by the time mid-December hits, 36% of consumers still will not have finished their holiday shopping. These shoppers are savvy and have chosen to wait for the best deals, believing they can find better discounts during this period than Cyber Week. Brands should work to communicate the best deals possible and play on a sense of urgency by incorporating more flash sales and limited time offers. Continue with an omnichannel approach but with Christmas around the corner, it’s important to highlight shipping options to ensure consumers get their gifts in time. Having a strong online to offline strategy will also help drive conversions as consumers may need multiple options, such as purchase online and pick-up in store, to be sure they finish their shopping in time. During this time of the year, Double-Twelve (China’s Cyber Monday), will take place on December 12th (or 12-12, imagine that)! Two percent of US consumers plan to shop on this day but it’s always a smart decision to optimize your website and deals to encompass all possible site visitors. Nothing wrong with gaining global consumers on holidays that aren’t as popular in the US!

Free Shipping Day: Free Shipping Day is a way of signaling to consumers that time is running out if consumers want orders delivered by Christmas. Incentivize consumers to make their purchases by offering a free shipping with no minimum offer. Shipping is critical during this time of the year, 79% of consumers said that having free shipping as an option would affect their purchasing between one brand or another, so participating in an event like this and making it clear that if customers order by this date they will be guaranteed delivery by Christmas (weather permitting, of course).

The Week of Christmas: The last week will be one that consumers go all in for if they’ve held off until now, and brands need to be ready both digitally and in-store. Shipping is now one of the biggest priorities, so brands should make certain to be specific about when a package will be expected to deliver by during the checkout process for an enhanced customer experience. Brands who do have a brick and mortar location should expect in-store shopping to increase, as well as buy online and pick up in-store purchases. Although there may be last-minute holiday shoppers filling the digital and physical shopping carts during this week, expect shoppers who have already completed the bulk of their purchases to make last-minute stocking stuffer purchases and smaller gifts to supplement those larger ones.

Boxing Day: The post-Christmas shopping period has always been big in regions like Canada where Boxing Day is the chance for customers to get heavily discounted items the same way that US-based shoppers get products during Cyber Monday and Black Friday. However, post-Christmas shopping is growing in its significance in the US as well and brands would do wise to participate in post-Christmas deals and promotions this holiday season. The reason for this growth can be attributed to returns and exchanges, as well as gift cards looking to be used. More deals have begun to surface after Christmas, so use that opportunity to carry extra momentum through the last few days of the holiday season and into the New Year celebrations.

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