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How to Step Up Your Marketing Strategy for the Holiday Season

6 min
First published:  
October 13, 2020
Esther Lowde
Marketing Executive @ telbee
 - a.k.a - 
Let's talk! Details at bottom of page...

It may seem like there’s still a long way to go before you need to start thinking about Christmas presents, Halloween decorations and the Black Friday rush. 

But if you want to succeed as a business during one of the biggest commercial peaks of the year, there’s a lot to be said for planning ahead. And in the world of Marketing and ecommerce, the holiday season is already well and truly upon us! 

Especially in 2020, with the pandemic still altering the way we all live and shop, it’s become more important than ever for brands to find creative ways to stand out on the internet, engage online audiences and connect with customers personally in the digital space

To find out how to do just that, we interviewed Danny Clayton; Digital Marketing Manager at Logitech and social media extraordinaire. With 8 years of experience in perfecting brands’ paid and organic social strategies on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, Danny now specialises in all things digital. From the tech market to the ecommerce industry, he’s passionate about helping businesses in all sectors to build their following, engage audiences and grow. 

So, if you’re just starting to think about how you can prepare your own Marketing strategy ready for this very different holiday season, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out Danny’s top top tips for stepping up your Marketing strategy this year: 

Firstly, how do you think this year’s pandemic will affect consumers’ shopping behaviour over the holidays?

When it comes to Christmas shopping, I think it’s fairly obvious that, given the current situation, everyone’s going to go digital this year. This is mainly because I think the reason that a lot of people went to physical stores - especially during the holidays - was for the experience. Especially in my area, which is Consumer Electronics, people flooded to stores at Christmas. 

But if you go into a department store now, things are completely different. The other day, I walked into a store and smiled at someone - and then remembered they couldn’t even see I was smiling! It’s little things like that which have totally affected the excitement of in-store shopping. The human element was the bit that people liked, and with that being removed, I think there’s going to be a monumental shift to online shopping

How do you think this shift to digital will pose challenges for Marketers during the holiday season?

Unfortunately, with the shift to digital, I think most Marketers are going to think inside the box, and simply ramp up whatever they would normally have been doing online. For example, if they were running heavy spend on Google, they’ll put even more spend there. There won’t be a lot of searching for what’s new and where the white space is. 

I can definitely see a lot of Marketers falling back on the classic Digital Marketing activities, like email and Google PPC. As a result, I think a lot of those Marketing tactics will end up being completely overwhelmed, with CPMs going through the roof

Everyone is going to be fighting over the same territory, and thousands of brands are going to get into a bidding war. From what I saw last year on Facebook, the CPM costs last year were sometimes eight times more expensive than the rest of the year - and that was before the pandemic. 

I think the biggest challenge for Marketers is going to be finding that white space, otherwise it is just going to be a case of who’s got the most money. Still, there will be a few brands who find a different, more creative way of doing things. They are going to be the people that ‘win’ at Christmas this year.

What is your best piece of advice for Marketers preparing their holiday campaigns this year? 

My biggest piece of advice is to do something different. As we just touched on, everyone’s going to be sending out Black Friday emails and bidding on the same terms this Christmas. The winner will just be whoever gets in there first or has the most money. Don’t get caught up in that race!

If you really want to get ahead of the competition, it’s all about tapping into that white space - and looking beyond the traditional, expected Marketing activities. As an example, email has become very saturated over the years. It was really cool at the beginning, and people used to open every email they got. It actually used to be exciting getting an email - in 2006, it felt like opening a letter! But I think we can all agree now that that’s no longer the case, and over the holiday season we’re bombarded by emails from brands. I counted my Black Friday emails last year (even after subscribing from everyone I could think of) and still had about 96 emails in one day - all claiming to have a slightly better deal than the one that came 10 minutes before! 

I think if you thought outside the box and sent everyone a handwritten letter announcing your Black Friday deals, you’d get a far better open rate. If I got a WhatsApp from a brand, I’d open it right now, because there’s a sense of urgency there, as it’s a platform that isn’t saturated.

Basically, I’d urge all Marketers to find different ways to communicate with their audiences. It’s all about thinking outside the box, and finding that white space where people are actually excited to open your messages.

When it comes to paid advertising, there’s also going to be huge competition for key terms. And again, if you can build your funnel a different way, you can win. I feel like most businesses will play it safe and play it expensive when it comes to Marketing this holiday season, but daring to be different will pay off hugely, as you’ll grab your audience’s attention far more

Let’s talk social media. What are your top tips for brands looking to up their social engagement over the holidays?

My first tip - and this is something which is so often overlooked by brands - is to simply ask your followers what they want to see from you. Post out a question like “What content do you want to see more of on our page?” and you’ll be surprised by the answers that you get!

Secondly, responding to and engaging with your followers is hugely important. You’d be surprised how many brands won’t reply to a single comment out of the hundred that they get on their Instagram page. People forget that social media is meant to be social. You wouldn’t start a conversation with someone and then just walk out of the room, but that’s essentially what a lot of brands are doing online! They’ll ask a question, someone will respond with another, and the brand doesn’t carry on with the conversation. 

A lot of influencers have been really clever with this because they know that the brands they work with want to see their stats, and when they reply to every single one of the 50 comments they might receive on a photo, it will show up as 100 comments to that brand as far as their stats go. So they are artificially inflating their engagement that way, which is definitely something we can all learn from. The power of responding to a customer - especially when you’ve got a large amount of followers - is huge. You can make your followers feel really special that way, which will incentivise them to engage with you more. 

Thirdly, engage with others’ posts and be part of the community. That’s how I’ve started growing my LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram pages. I find a discussion or leave my opinion, or join in a conversation that someone else - or a different brand - has started, and you’ll be surprised by how many followers you pick up just by jumping in on a conversation.

And remember: Engaging and talking to people doesn’t always have to be on your own posts - it can be on someone else’s. And this is still a huge white space at the moment, as not many brands are doing it. There've been a few really clever Premier League footballers that leave comments on viral social pages and have upped their engagement and following hugely just by being the person that people see joining in on the conversation. You can get really clever and creative with this. Just think about the kind of people you’d like to follow you and start commenting on posts and pages that they’re engaging with! 

Last but not least, whatever that platform is pushing at that point in time, that’s what you should create. Right now, for example, Instagram is pushing Reels. That means you should be creating Reels. You’ve probably seen rows of Reels coming up in your ‘Suggested’ as you scroll down your feed. You could be a brand that’s appearing for all these different people if you jump on it quick enough! 

Whenever something is important to the platform, the platform twists their algorithm to favour those who use it. This is simply to encourage more people to follow suit. The platform essentially pays you for promoting their new feature in reach. You’ve got to remember to work with the platform, not against it. This time last year, I’d have been pushing IGTV, because that was the big new thing! The year before that it was Instagram Stories, and next year it’ll probably be something totally new. Social moves so quickly, and you’ve got to move with it. It’s the same with Facebook. Whenever they launch anything new, if you jump on it first, you tend to do really well. 

Can you give us an example of a truly effective holiday Marketing campaign?

I think John Lewis have always done a fantastic job with their Christmas adverts, because they’ve now become almost synonymous with Christmas. And nowadays, even if they were to put out a pretty naff Christmas ad, people would still talk about it!

They had one or two ads that hit the mark and resonated with people emotionally, and then they started building up momentum by running those ads yearly.  They’re probably ten or fifteen years into it now, and their ads feel on a par with Home Alone at Christmas (or, for me, it’s Die Hard on Christmas Eve). It’s like waiting for the first drop of the Christmas Coca Cola advert. The first time you see that, it feels like Christmas. This kind of approach has helped John Lewis raise brand awareness by putting them front of mind at Christmas time - without even promoting any product in particular. 

It’s an extremely long-term strategy - but clearly, it does pay off. Loads of other brands are now trying to do that. But the problem for those other brands is that John Lewis did it first - and did it well!

holiday marketing
John Lewis' #MozTheMonster touched hearts across the UK in 2018

So again, I’d advise brands to take inspiration from John Lewis but continue to be different. So many other brands are trying to have an emotional Christmas ad now, but if someone was to go another way with it, you could really build up some momentum there. 

Emulate the success of the John Lewis Christmas ads not by copying John Lewis exactly, but by having something that you do every year that’s about you and represents how you want to be known as a brand

The other thing I’d say is that you need to make sure you react to what your customers want to see. A lot of the time, you see Marketers just shove things in front of people and hope that they’re going to like it. With any content, there has to be a reason for consumers to read or watch it. And when they come to love and expect it front your brand, you’ve got to keep giving them it in new forms

Last but definitely not least, what are your thoughts on the rising popularity of voice technology in Conversational Marketing, and how do you think it will come into play for Marketers this holiday season? 

There’s two pieces that I mentioned already that I think fit into this quite nicely. 

Firstly, people who are used to going into stores at Christmas still want that element of human interaction with brands around Christmas time. Having a more natural way of speaking with a business - rather than simply typing, texting or emailing - is really important as there are a lot of consumers out there who still want to get as close as they can to having a face-to-face conversation with you. 

The other important thing I want to mention is that too often, context gets lost completely when we just send emails and texts. This explains the domination of emojis in texting today. People feel like they have to emphasise where they’re going with a sentence by using an emoji, because it’s not always clear from just reading, whereas in voice it’s always much easier to understand the tone and meaning of a sentence - and the emotion behind it. 😄

In Customer Support, for example, if you were to hear a voice note from someone saying “I’m so sorry, we’re experiencing so many calls right now - I will be with you as soon as possible!”, you would immediately empathise with the person and understand, because they had taken the time to tell you personally

However, if you read that same message sent to you by a bot, it would be infuriating! Human interaction is extremely important so that meaning, emotion and humanity doesn’t get left out of the conversation.

There’s so much you can do just by talking to people - across your entire Marketing strategy. Earlier, I touched on how important it is to engage with and talk to your followers on social media. But it’s equally as important to do this in every area of your Marketing, and you can’t get much more of a personal connection than sending someone a message in your own voice

And people love to listen and speak. When you think about how popular podcasts are becoming, or voice assistants like Alexa, voice technology is clearly a huge consumer trend that you want to be getting in on as a Marketer - especially around the holiday season, when human connection is so important

As far as the future of voice in Marketing and ecommerce, I’m very interested to see how all of the different kinds of voice technology will link together and evolve to create a new normal for conversation between customers and businesses. For example, I can see customers being able to ask Alexa a question about a product or ask someone a brand a question online using Siri. 

Ultimately, Conversational Marketing is always going to be key in business because good Marketing is always about really talking to people, connecting with them and exchanging value. 

‘Tis the season to be different 

On top of all of those insights and gems of advice, Danny also sent us a vox with his #1 tip for all Marketers this holiday season. Listen to it here: 

[Transcription: My biggest bit of advice is to do something different. Think outside the box. Everyone's going to be doing the same things, except the digital space is going to be even more crowded, which means it’s going to be more expensive to compete. So try and find that white space. Whether that means doing something completely different with voice or whether it means doing something with automated messaging or chatbots and things like that. There’s plenty of different paths you can take aside from going down the standard routes of PPC, email and other traditional digital channels. If you can find a way to stand out and do something different, I think you can really win this peak.]

Find out more

We may have only had a short space of time to talk with Danny today, but you can find even more of his insights into Digital Marketing and social media success on his own social pages. 

Be sure to follow Danny on his LinkedIn and Instagram pages for more top tips on how to supercharge your own Digital Marketing strategy - throughout the holiday season and beyond!

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can stand out from the crowd this Christmas with voice messaging for business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at telbee. We’d love to hear from you!

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