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A Marketer’s Guide to Staying Ahead This Holiday Season

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A Marketer’s Guide to Staying Ahead This Holiday Season

A Marketer’s Guide to Staying Ahead This Holiday Season

Gerry Joyce

Published on : Nov 20, 2023

Tap Omnichannel Strategy, Value, Top Categories & Measurement to Drive Success

After three abnormal holiday seasons where consumers navigated the return to normal and drastic economic pressures, retailers face the busiest in-store holiday shopping season since 2019—and it’s already begun.

The Holiday Creep arrived even earlier this year, as retailers like Target, Walmart, Amazon, and Best Buy launched new sales events to capture the attention of shoppers eager to kick off their shopping hauls. In fact, over 55% of shoppers noted they plan to start holiday shopping in October to get ahead.

While predictions of online shopping overtaking physical retails haunted retailers over the past few years, InMarket recently found that the majority of consumers (78%) will primarily visit stores to get their shopping done or pick-up gifts.

Spending on holiday gifts is also normalizing amid recent cools in inflation with 89% of shoppers planning to spend the same amount or more this year, signaling increased opportunities for retailers to drive more sales across categories.

Combined, these three factors make it critical for retailers to uplevel their marketing strategies to attract shoppers.

With holiday shopping underway, here are three tips for retailers to ensure they’re optimizing every touchpoint with consumers and maximizing their return on ad spend:

Putting Value at the Forefront of Your Messaging & Offerings

Value remains the top motivator for purchase decisions. According to an InMarket survey, value, discounts and rewards availability are the top three most important factors for gift givers this holiday season, significantly outpacing motivations like product availability and selection, brand name and product reviews.

Whether it's bundling products or ramping up deals for Black Friday, in a world of endless choices, it’s essential for retailers to highlight their value for shoppers compared to competition.

Online retailers are feeling this pressure, introducing more discounts than ever before to compete with its in-store competition. With this in mind, physical retailers cannot get too comfortable and ensure they’re consistently monitoring how competitors across both the physical retail and online landscapes are shifting their strategies and messaging to appeal to value-focused shoppers.

With value and discounts top of mind for consumers, retailers must also consider the rise of discount and dollar stores in their marketing efforts. Over 30% of gift givers who plan to shop at dollar and discount stores this season have not previously shopped there for holiday gifts, marking a huge opportunity for these low-cost retailers and increased competition for others.

The Importance of an Omnichannel Experience in the Age of Convenience

In addition to value, convenience is critical for shoppers.

Among the 78% of shoppers who plan to visit stores for holiday hauls, InMarket’s study found that 30% of gift givers plan to shop only in-store, 41% plan to use a combination of online and in-store methods like buy online and pick-up in-store and 7% will rely on curbside pick-up.

Omnichannel offerings like curbside pick-up provide that enhanced element of convenience, while continuing to offer the added benefits of in-store shopping that shoppers desire.

For example, if you’re buying a loved one a new sweater, when you pick it up in-store, you can quickly see if it meets expectations. While you’re still in the store or parking lot, you can check to make sure the size would be the perfect fit and the texture is what you had in mind. If not, you’re able to easily make an exchange or return rather than having to make an additional, dedicated trip to the store, which can feel almost impossible during the hustle of the holiday season.

It’s why we’re seeing big box retailers like Target and Walmart heavily invest in their curbside and convenience-focused solutions—they understand the importance of advancing omnichannel offerings to enhance the shopping experience, which is pivotal for driving customer loyalty. Implementing new tech like updated self-check out systems or introducing location-based mobile ads to provide the most relevant product info are additional ways to cater towards an increasingly omnichannel shopping environment.

Lean into Top Categories to Drive Sales & Clear Out Back Stock

Highlighting products in shoppers’ most desired categories is an easy way to increase appeal.

Unlike the past three years where gift cards were the top gift, clothing has surpassed gift cards for the first time since 2019, providing a huge opportunity for retailers. Managing inventory has been a significant pain point for retailers amid hiring shorages, shipping delays and inventory surpluses. In addition, retailers are dropping the prices of items they have struggled to sell in the past as the cost of goods as a whole stabilize and even come down.

With clothing as the top category for shoppers, it’s a chance to clear out the stock by leaning into promotions to ensure customers are getting the most for their buck. Think of creative ways to push items in your stockroom, even the ones that might be from last season.

Is there a creative winter vacation campaign you can do to entice shoppers heading to a tropical island for winter break to sell left-over summer items? Can you create an in-store display to tap a viral trend like showcasing red and gold or sparkly apparel to attract avid followers of the Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce saga? Are there any opportunities to bundle products with promotions, like buy one get two free, to enhance the value proposition for shoppers and clear out more space in your store?

Target the Right Customers at the Right Time

As this holiday shopping season marks a turning point for retailers after years of unforeseen hardship, it’s not only important to enhance your strategy and tactics, but it’s also pivotal to consistently monitor and analyze your brand’s performance. As shoppers are on-the-go, it’s essential to understand when and where to best engage them in order to serve them with the right message in their precise moment of need.

Inflight measurement offers a solution for understanding the moments that matter by uncovering shoppers’ motivations a.k.a. the “why.”

Implementing tactics like a lapsed/lost analysis can uncover critical insights like your brand’s most susceptible categories to competitors, empowering marketers to quickly adjust and ensure they’re staying top of mind for key customer categories by consistently meeting their needs. In fact, a recent study found that real-time measurement both helps marketers optimize campaign performance inflight and uncovers additional insights that can power smarter campaigns and drive greater demand and success.

This holiday season, use the influx in demand and spending as an opportunity to reach new audiences, increase customer engagement and loyalty, and drive brand awareness. From there, you’ll be well-positioned to thrive in retail’s busiest season and leverage unique insights to strategically adjust 2024 planning and strategies for maximum success. 

Gerry Joyce

Gerry Joyce is the Vice President, Retail Practice Lead at InMarket, bringing 20+ years of leadership and sales experience across retail and digital media. Since joining InMarket in 2022, Gerry has worked closely with our retail clients, agency partners, sales team, marketing, measurement and product team to develop drive-to-store client-based solutions, increasing return on ad spend. Previously, Gerry led the retail verticals as the VP of National Retail for Gatehouse Media and Gannett. In 2013, he launched a digital shopping platform, Retale, serving as VP of Sales. Earlier in his career, Gerry held various leadership positions at Chicago Tribune Media Group, including Advertising Director – National/Major Accounts, where he was responsible for a team of National Account Managers who sold multi-channel solutions to the company’s largest retail accounts.