For many of our retail members, planning for the holidays began back in January or February of this year. While many teams are putting together their finishing touches in July, last-minute tweaks will continue into the fall and winter months. Last month, Shop.org asked a few prominent digital retail execs their thoughts on the top marketing and merchandising tactics they’re expecting for the 2012 holiday season.
E-commerce leaders at Belk, Harry and David and Sport Chalet covered the aspects and more in last week’s Shop.org and NRF members’ only webinar,, which is still available for playback. Our panel of industry veterans discussed elements of their holiday marketing plans on everything from paid search, display advertising, social media, mobile, and the always top of mind promotional strategy of free shipping. While each topic could be discussed for hours on end, here are my four big takeaways from this powerful trifecta of brands.
Social media to drive sales? Not the way you think. Both panelists from Sport Chalet and Harry and David discussed the importance of social from the SEO standpoint. When they were asked of a retail example that uses social media effectively, Chris Rocha from Harry and David praised the Whole Foods team for the phenomenal job they have down integrating social across channels and individual stores and departments to help their consumers discover products. Just a look at the number of fans and the engagement activity on their blog, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter pages provides a snapshot of a brand that understands social media and their target shopper.
This is the year of mobile influence. Not necessarily mobile conversion, but it’s role in the marketing toolkit continues to grow increasingly more important. Mobile (in this case all things smartphone optimization) is critical for stores marketing what they have available in-store. Depending on the target consumer and brand, the most important aspect for shoppers is research. For some shoppers, the research begins at home or on the go as they wonder: “Where is the store located? Do they have the product I’m looking for? Is the product in stock in that store? If so, how do I get to the store?” According to Dawn Brokema, the typical Belk shopper that does research on their smartphone is generally in-store, looking up product information that helps them make a purchase decision. Brokema also noted that according to consumer usability studies, the Belk shopper is also looking to the mobile platforms for coupons.
Free returns to physical stores will be huge – as long as you are ready for it. For multichannel retailers with a strong number of stores, in-store free returns helps get people back into the store and is key to helping shoppers get their return processed quickly, find a replacement product, or discover new products to increase sales. For retailers set-up to handle returns in-store efficiently, free return shipping to stores is as important as ever for driving consumers into your physical store locations.
Thrifty Thursday? Cyber Thursday? Call it what you will, but shopping online on Thanksgiving Day is going to be bigger than ever. With e-commerce sites running 24/7/365 and the increase in holiday shopping online, Thanksgiving Day online sales are expected to grow again this year. For retailers that offer price matching with their physical stores, this is one of the freebie days where e-commerce teams can offer specific promotions on items across their sites. The always-connected customer, enabled with their smartphone and tablet devices, may be ready and more willing to spend due to a great holiday deal.
The 33-day eHoliday season is right around the corner. Don’t miss the latest updates, stats, trends and more on the digital front on Shop.org’s Holiday Central, and for an industry-wide view, visit NRF’s Holiday Headquarters.