T’was a month before Black Friday and all through the industry….

The 2015 holiday retail season may be significantly higher than last year – the National Retail Federation’s annual survey of shoppers found that most intended to spend 1% more per respondent with an average spend per shopper of $805 – which is the highest in survey history for the NRF. For the 90% of shoppers who purchase in-store in this season, consumer engagement marketing is more important than ever, with more than 80% of shoppers engaging with brands and retailers online before visiting a store.

Sales are expected to increase by 3.7% in November and December. Retailers need to reach these shoppers early. They can do this with offers and content that is relevant both within their stores and online. By doing this, they ensure they capture shopper intent where brand loyalty often loses out to urgency and cost.

To drive success, many retailers are using multi-pronged and varied strategies. They are also harnessing the power of localized and centralized data warehouses. There is power in knowledge. A lot of new approaches from those insights and data as well. To that end, we have assembled a list of the 12 key strategies we are hearing about this season – both new and proven.

1. Location, Location, Location

As we all are aware, locations need to be discoverable online- at the most basic level, across devices and networks. Accurate Name/Address/Phone and hours content is KEY to the most basic consumer acquisition. Once a customer finds you, local and mobile pages, consistent and accurate data across the networks and SERPs are critical to success. This is not new, but always bears repeating.

2. Make It Easy to Contact You

A call is not exactly a success metric for most stores, and has a high personnel cost. However, 70% of local users call locations from search results. Make sure phone numbers are accurate and listed on all Search engines and relevant sites, and that your employees are prepared to address location specific consumer requests.

Think with google holiday retailSource: Think With Google 

3. With Holiday Retail, Timing is Everything

It is critical to begin holiday retail advertising before Thanksgiving. A full 40% of shoppers begin before November and two-thirds buy their last gift the week of Christmas. So it’s not too early – OR too late – to begin implementing these strategies. It is also important to know how to manage more targeted delivery campaigns – as YP’s Michael Ruben stated at Rio SEO’s Local Search Summit in April of this year, “it makes no sense to have your ads running when your local business is closed… We encourage day parting with every ad buy that we do.”

4. Real-time Inventory Management

Consumers expect you to be relevant and accurate. When inventory information isn’t available, one in four will steer clear of a nearby store altogether to avoid the risk of items not being available. Forrester recommends applying the same product feeds that drive product listing ads (PLAs) as in-stock attributes on local landing pages.

5. Localized Product Integration is a Huge Opportunity

Google integrated local inventory ads in 2012, offering a unique acquisition opportunity for high-value products or transactions. However, Google inventory ads are a significant effort to launch and maintain and not all databases allow for this kind of real-time management.

all recipes holiday retail

Integrating with publishers is another great option for short term or targeted campaigns. Allrecipes.com is leading the cooking industry in driving consumers who look at recipes to stores in their area that stock the full list of menu items. This is especially effective with users who do research with high purchase immediacy – like cooks seeking ideas for tonight’s dinner.

6. Showrooming is an Asset, Not an Enemy

Concern in past years that shoppers browse in store and purchase online appears to be out of sync with 2015 shopper intent. Recent research from PayPal shows many consumers shopping in high-value verticals prefer researching online and then buying in store. Google’s own research shows that mobile in-store experience can be critical in maintaining a positive shopper experience with 71% of in-store shoppers who use smartphones for online research saying their device has become more important to their in-store experience.

how consumers user smartphonesSource: Think With Google 

7. It’s ALL About the Benjamins

As Stephen Barr (of PWC’s Retail and Consumer team) said; “The consumer has been permanently conditioned to expect significant discounts.” In fact, PWC’s research shows that 87% of consumers look to price as their prime factor in purchase decisions.

8. Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store

With more consumers shopping online this year, recent studies suggest that buying online and picking up in store is on the rise among both consumers and brands. Forrester reports that 74% of brands offer the service as part of their omnichannel approach. In early 2015, furniture retailer Kirkland’s shared during its Q2 earnings call that those who opted to buy online and pick up in store spent nearly twice as much as those who had items shipped directly.

9. Add Review and Social Content to Your In-Store Experience

Nordstrom made headlines by adding a “Most Pinned” feature to the in-store experience, but essentially we have seen this for decades with in-store staff product recommendations. Consider adding in-store review content to your featured items, or guide your users to your own review.

pinterest holiday retail

Image source: Marketing Land

10. Offer Peace of Mind

With more retailers offering price match guarantees and hassle-free returns, remove ‘find-the-best-deal-uncertainty’. Target and Nordstrom have added price matching and online-only retailers like Zappos and Amazon offer low prices and free return shipping to entice shoppers. Even Ebay has added hassle-free returns. Flexible or expanded holiday retail return policies and price matching are increasingly important for apprehensive and value-focused shoppers. With reassurance of a great value, and ease of returns, you can keep shoppers in your stores and on your site.

11. Beacons and In-Store Experiences and Offers

This list contains a lot of ideas about in-store mobile experiences. There is no denying that beacons can offer an exciting opportunity to retailers who have the capability and consumers who are enabled. Geofencing and geotargeting are very real opportunities. Moreover, holiday shoppers make a great market with a high purchase intent, high purchase volume, and a highly dense and short season. Be sure you approach beacon strategies as digital strategies, with a focused understanding of audience and purchase intent.

12. Thank Your Shoppers

With Experian indicating that 19% of consumers engage in mobile shopping activities after exiting the store, you have a unique opportunity to reach these consumers at point of sale and exit. If you have consumer data, or an in-app experience, thank you emails or offers serve as a logical extension of the in-store experience.

When do shopers engage in shopping activities

Source: http://www.slideshare.net/ExperianMkt/five-things-we-learned-this-holiday-season

Nothing is more personal than a gift. And in 2015, we are seeing shopper intent and conversions support a more localized and personal approach to content discovery and delivery. Now more than ever, reaching your users where they are, with what they want, matters both online and offline.

There are lots of things to consider, but the recipe for success clearly points to a frictionless, multi-platform, mobile, local, and personal approach – and that can be as varied and as exciting as it sounds.

Are your holiday promotions ready? Get a Free Audit Today!

Rio SEO offers a variety of solutions focusing on both mobile and local search engine optimization. We feel confident our SEO marketing dashboard will make monitoring your holiday campaigns effective and effortless.

Let us help you convert those Searches to Sales™ this holiday retail season. Find out where your holiday campaigns could get a boost by getting a free local SEO audit report today!

Author Bio:

Rachel Ullstrom is a self-proclaimed “data nerd,” spending much of her time diving into big data to create a results-driven, data-centric approach to earned media. Rachel also has experience in education marketing and a passion for long-term audience engagement. Based out of Seattle, she spends most of her time with the world’s cutest dog and volunteering as an advisor and mentor for young women. Tweet her @rachieracherton.