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Make No Mistake: Retailers Need a Social Strategy for the Holiday Shopping Season

Posted by Mike Gingerich on October 26th, 2012 at 8:00 am

First, some good news: The holiday shopping season this year is projected to be more profitable than last year’s. The National Retail Federation (NRF) has forecasted $586.1 billion in retail sales in 2012, a 4.1 percent increase from 2011. Brands and retailers should prepare strategies to impress consumers and maximize results on what should be the greenest holiday season in a while.

However, the retail industry isn’t just coasting on its own momentum quite yet. Consumers are still watching their wallets, and the cautious shopper both starts browsing earlier and is willing to delay a purchase to get a better deal. According to Yahoo! surveys, last year almost a third of holiday shoppers started browsing in September, and over 60 percent started looking for post-holiday deals before November. A PriceGrabber survey of online consumers found 88 percent plan research their gift purchases in advance, angling for lower prices and deeper discounts, and 67 percent expect retailers will offer better deals this year than last year. Every retailer faces the challenge now to reach and please those deal-hungry shoppers before the competition does. But how do you do that?

Outline your goals. Do you want to expand your customer base by a specific number of new customers? Do you have a goal number of new subscribers for your email list? Do you want to sell a certain product or service to a particular number of consumers? If retail sales are going to increase across the board this year, you should think about where you want your own growth to occur and how you gauge success.

Plan your Facebook strategy. It’s 2012 — we’ve had enough time to watch the effects of social media to know there’s more to Facebook than posting a lot. There are tools available that can, if you use them well, help you hit many, if not all, of your goals, and Facebook is also a great place to share deals with customers. Your strategy should involve a cohesive approach to posts, tab apps and promos, in which those three elements work together and build on each other over time.

Build buzz with a well-timed reveal of sales or special products. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the biggest shopping day of the year, and last year the four-day Thanksgiving weekend hit record sales numbers — $52.4 billion, up 16 percent from 2010’s $45 billion. Considering how early holiday shoppers start browsing online for gifts, it’s important for retailers to make their offerings stick in customers’ minds before the crucial Black Friday mark, while thinking about the long race to the post-holiday blowout.

Here’s a sample Facebook strategy for the coming months:

  • Design a new cover image for your Facebook page, one that launches your holiday theme. (For guidance on those specials, 77 percent of shoppers have said their purchases would be influenced by free shipping, 74 percent by price cuts, 55 percent by coupons and 44 percent by blowout sales.)
  • Create a tab app showcasing upcoming specials, and include maps to brick-and-mortars. (You can do this with the TabSite Holiday Template.)
  • Offer a coupon via a tab, and include an email signup as part of the process.
  • Post one image per day to your Timeline with a text description and a smart URL linking to the coupon tab. Schedule posts for prime times to catch your fans’ attention.
  • Follow a seven-day coupon deal with a seven-day offer for free shipping with a promotional code using a share tool like Share Deal. Again, share an image in your Timeline and in the description link back to the offer tab.
  • Next, host a sweepstakes for a Gift Card and launch it with a countdown tab.
  • You might also encourage fans to upload in-store photos to Instagram around a fun visual theme. Create a tab on your Facebook page to display those photos, and post select images from it, always linking back to the tab.
  • Reach beyond Facebook to drive back to Facebook — post the images you share also on Pinterest and link each back to the tab.
  • Need more viral reach? Run a holiday photo contest — maybe one where fans share photos of your product with Santa Claus? The winner should score a gift certificate.

In such a high-stakes period as the holiday season, retailers must do all they can to reach consumers, but they shouldn’t resort to throwing everything against a wall and seeing what sticks. Through tools designed for engagement, it’s possible to strategize these efforts efficiently and effectively to maximize reach, exposure, and return.
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Mike Gingerich is a co-founder of TabSite.com, the industry leader in Facebook fan page management. TabSite offers brands the power to boost Facebook engagement while leveraging the ability to simultaneously extend reach on Platforms such as Pinterest.  Their innovative Pin Deal application for Facebook Pages that integrates a Facebook promotion with Pinterest sharing is one example of this social synergy. For more information on Tabsite, please visit www.tabsite.com.

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