We're here - the 2012 holiday sales season. Are you ready for it?
The National Retail Federation is predicting holiday sales this year will grow 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion. That's compared to the 5.6 percent growth in 2011's actual holiday sales.
Actual 2012 holiday sales are determined by total retail industry sales generated in the past 61 days in November and December. That includes three more days in between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, because of a quirk in the calendar, and the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
So as a business manager, how will you use various marketing techniques to reach customers and drive sales during this ever-important holiday sales cycle? Your choices are more wide-ranging in 2012 than in past years. You can drive marketing messages through traditional marketing channels that have worked well in the past for your business. This could include direct mail, radio and/or TV ads, email marketing and display advertising.
Or you could try many of the new marketing avenues brought forth via social media. Sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and others offer tantalizing opportunities for marketers to offer deep discounted items, timely sales, special promotions and more to a finely-tuned, online audience. Working in this new arena involves a good understanding of SEO, online practice, social media tone and more.
Americans are still quite open to in-the-mailbox pitches, so expect to still see your usual overload of printed catalogs, fliers, brochures and sale cards in the mail over the next 60 days.
By now, your marketing team likely has a plan to offer holiday promotions for your products and services to your existing customers, as well as potential buyers. Remember these certain dates and sales conversion percentages to gain the most bang for your buck.
- Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving): 23 percent
- November 28: 17 percent
- November 30: 17 percent
- December 6: 17 percent
- Cyber Monday (Monday after Thanksgiving): 16 percent
Let's take a run through some of the top types of direct marketing techniques and their overall levels of effectiveness.
Direct mail marketing is a well-tested, well-researched medium that shows results. It's called direct for a good reason - it's targeted directly to an addressee because of location, buying habits or income levels.
Plus it works: ExactTarget's 2012 Channel Preference Survey showed 65 percent of people who receive direct mail made a purchase. That ranked it right behind email (66 %) in provoking a response to buy. Also, 50 percent of U.S. consumers preferred direct mail to email, according to a Epsilon study from Dec. 2011, and half of those surveyed felt direct mail was more trustworthy than email marketing.
There are ways to make your company's direct mail marketing stand out from all the rest. Make a great eye-catching direct mail piece, offer compelling benefits to the recipient and ask for a clear action step in return.
You may also choose to have a bit of fun this holiday season with a direct mail piece. Maybe you can use holiday photo cards for customers with a discounted sales pitch to 'come on in and say hi to the team' or something that engages them on a similar level. Have fun with your direct mail!
Some businesses are happy to use direct mail for their holiday catalog or seasonal promotion needs. It depends on the type of business you're in, but direct mail still shows its proven success with customers. According to a Target Marketing survey, direct mail (34%) beat out email (25%), SEM (10%), and affiliate marketing (8%) for which marketing channels work best to get new customers. The survey also showed higher rates of customer retention using direct mail (37%), ahead of email (31%), phone calls, (7%) and social media engagement (6%).
Email marketing isn't dead! In fact, it's more plentiful than ever. Hubspot.com notes that while there might be 1 billion Facebook users out there, more than 3.1 billion still use email regularly. It's still a powerful medium.
Forbes offers up some great email marketing tips for businesses to get newsletter subscribers - among these include:
- Make it easy to subscribe: use a simple form to gather name and email address and Facebook integration where possible.
- Tell subscribers what to expect: let subscribers know what's in store for them. Give them information in their confirmation form, or earlier.
- Design newsletters to fit your brand: Combine the look and feel of your newsletter with a brand and site. It helps keep subscribers closer with your overall brand.
As I mentioned above, many marketers are expected to expand their use of social media outlets for increasing holiday sales. Using images of products on Pinterest, offering 12 hour sales discounts on Facebook and Twitter, creating promotional clips on YouTube - all of these are terrific methods to experiment with when using social media for the holidays.
If you're looking for promotional insights using social media for holiday marketing, try this handy checklist of ideas.
Businesses who use email marketing have to acknowledge the role that mobile marketing and usage is having on open rates and click-through rates.
Email services company Return Path surveyed 500 different clients and found that open rates on mobile devices increased 82 percent between March 2011 and March 2012. While that's a small sample, it does indicate that emails are increasingly being viewed and opened on mobile devices, and that trend is expected to rise in 2013.
As your holiday marketing plans get underway, look to these solid tips above to create higher sales and more satisfied customers. You'll find that combining new marketing tools with your tested and true marketing platforms from previous years will provide a great way to achieve higher sales this holiday season.