Online consumers are a finicky tribe, especially around the holidays. On one hand, they say they want to see more deals on social media than brands have been offering. But at the same time, research shows that shoppers tune out companies that bombard them with too many promotions during the holiday shopping season.
So should retailers go full throttle on social channel promotions during the holidays, or should they back off their social engagement efforts and connect with consumers through other marketing channels?
The answer: It depends on the type and timing of social channel promotions the brand leverages to connect with holiday shoppers.
Social channel engagement during the holidays
A recent Yesmail report, based on a consumer shopping trends survey and an analysis of the digital marketing campaigns of 20 brands over a three-month period, found that half of consumers are influenced by social media when making online purchases (compared to 42 percent for in-store purchases), and more than one in three consumers have purchased a product as a direct result of a social media promotion.
The survey also showed that consumers are most likely to interact with a brand via social media when researching a product and after getting an e-mail promotion; they are less likely to turn to social media right before they make a purchase and immediately afterward. Although nearly 60 percent of consumers prefer to interact with brands on social media between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m., the majority of brands run social campaigns during normal office hours.
Translation: While social channel promotions are clearly an effective way to connect with consumers, many brand retailers are missing opportunities because they haven’t timed and matched their social strategies to their customers’ social behaviors.
But for the holiday shopping season, the most disconcerting brand faux pas may be that holiday-themed promotions often perform worse than non-holiday promotions in terms of engagement. By tracking holiday social media campaigns against campaigns conducted in the spring and summer, the Yesmail study revealed less-than-average engagement outcomes from holiday social promotions that pushed consumers to make a purchase. However, social messaging that focused on helping followers embrace the holiday spirit performed much better.
So the takeaway for brand retailers is that social media continues to play an important role in improving customer engagement during the holidays. But rather than using the social channel to directly promote a product or sales event, brands can achieve better engagement by using the social channel to focus on what the season means to consumers.
Michael Fisher is president at Yesmail Interactive, which provides e-mail marketing solutions that seamlessly integrate with mobile, web and social channels.