To say holiday shopping will be different this year is an understatement. In the past, retailers have eagerly prepared for the influx of foot traffic coming to their locations months in advance. Now, gathering in crowds is not only frowned upon but also impractical with the lingering effects of COVID-19.
As difficult as the year has been for both businesses and consumers, the holiday season is a prime opportunity for brands to recapture lost revenue. However, in order to gain consumer’s trust and their business this holiday season, brands must be prepared to reshape their holiday marketing strategy to account for shifts in consumer behavior.
In our recent webinar, we were joined by a panel of marketing experts to discuss how to build a successful 2020 holiday marketing strategy. We were fortunate to be joined by Ross Hudgens, Founder, and CEO of Siege Media, Miranda Miller, Writer/Editor, Content & Digital Marketing Strategist, and Ezekireal Thomas, SEO Strategist with MediaHub. In an effort to help your brand better prepare your local marketing efforts for the upcoming holiday season, let’s dive into the top highlights and insights our expert panel shared.
Consumers Are Largely Adopting eCommerce and Virtual Visits
We’ve observed monumental shifts in consumer behavior over the course of this year as the pandemic continues to affect the entire country. When analyzing our local search data across more than 70,000 business locations, including more than 75 enterprise brands in the retail vertical, we saw that local search activity increased dramatically from early May to late August. In fact, we saw an 89% increase overall in search traffic and a 60% increase in total clicks during this timeframe.
According to Deloitte’s annual holiday forecast, e-commerce sales will grow by 25% to 35%, year-over-year, during the 2020-2021 holiday season, compared to sales increasing by 14.7% in 2019. It’s clear consumers will turn to search more than ever this holiday season, which in turn means you must prioritize optimizing your brand’s local presence across all your locations.
Additionally, consumers will likely continue to support minority-owned and local businesses around the holiday season. Brands can make this designation on their local listings by leveraging new attributes available to them, such as the recently added black-owned business attribute.
Local Listings Optimization Can No Longer Be Ignored
According to a recent study, 81% of consumers need to be able to trust a brand in order to buy from them. Keeping this in mind, earning the trust of your customers is essential to win business during the upcoming holiday season. Building trust starts with their first interaction with your business, which will likely take place when performing a local search.
Optimizing your local listings across all your locations is exponentially more important this year as consumers seek to learn more about who they’re spending their money with. Our expert panel recommended the following tips to better optimize local listings:
- Leverage all the GMB attributes available to you (this will be dependent on the primary category you selected for your business)
- Be proactive when responding to reviews and Google Q&A
- Update your pictures to showcase how you’re operating now
- Highlight any online offerings you have available, such as online classes or virtual appointments
- Utilize the COVID-19 Google Post type to share pertinent updates to your services or social-distancing options you have available such as curbside pickup
- Update your hours if they will vary during the holiday season
Reach Your Customers Where They’re Looking For Your Brand
Brands are noticing an influx of customer service inquiries as consumers continue to seek information related to safety protocols, revisions to your operations, procedures for returns, and service-related inquiries. Customer support will likely heighten during the holiday season and brands must be prepared with the right people, processes, and technology to help.
To arm customers with the support for a seamless shopping experience with your brand and to alleviate the burden on your support team, your brand must be prepared to share updates quickly on all the platforms you can be found on. Research where your customers are, provide consistent updates and invest in the channels your customers are using the most.
For multi-location brands, it may be beneficial to leverage the help of a local marketing partner to make quick updates to your local listings on the fly. Any misinformation you have online about your business can negatively impact a customer’s perception of your brand and result in a lost customer.
Focus On Audience Segmentation
It’s essential for brands across all verticals to focus on audience segmentation to target the right customers at the right location, especially during the holidays. Granular audience segmentation allows your business to better:
- Customize content relevant to the consumer
- Send targeted email campaigns based on past behavior to surface promotions they’re interested in
- Determine products and services of interest
- Direct the consumer to the location closest to them
Refresh Your Content Strategy
Content is integral in any marketing strategy as it can help surface critical information searchers are looking for. Fresh, new content on your local pages can also help improve your rank in search. As you prepare your local holiday marketing strategy, make your safety procedures and practices prominent both on your local listings and local pages.
Reviews also impact a brand’s ranking in search. As customers may have more questions and concerns this holiday season, we expect to see some of these concerns highlighted when they leave feedback for your brand. While the quantity and quality of native reviews carry a positive ranking signal, engagement is also a factor to consider. Integrate positive reviews into your on-page content as social proof as well as product feedback on product pages.
Listen On Your Social Channels
Social media use this year has skyrocketed. In a recent study conducted by eMarketer, they found that between 46% and 51% of US adults were using social media more since the pandemic began. As consumers continue to spend more time on social media now more than ever before, this is a prime location to share updates regarding specials, promotions, special hours of operation, and safety guidelines. Focus on frequently updating the channels your customers are using with these updates.
Knowing that 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media and 79% expect a response in the first 24 hours, your social media team should be equipped with approved responses to customer’s concerns come the holidays. Excellent customer service is the pinnacle to ensuring a seamless shopping experience, from social search to sale, and even after the sale.