With holiday planning starting so early this year, I am already fighting the urge to prepare my house with lights and garland. ClickZ recently reported 40% of consumers actually begin holiday shopping BY Halloween. So rather than risk the mockery of friends and family for decorating early, I have focused my attention here on some key takeaways from last year’s holiday season and some insights for consumer engagement marketing.

Expect 2013 to be a big holiday spending season. More than 10% of consumers with a budget in mind plan to spend MORE this year than last year (up from 6.5% last year). However, 94% of consumers admit that a key part of their decision making is driven by deals. With more money to be spent and more competition than ever, becoming discovered and shared proves increasingly important this year. Below are 10 key takeaways from 2012 and trends for 2013:

10 Key Takeaways for Best Consumer Engagement Marketing

Multi-screen experiences are driving results.

A recent study released by Google and Nielsen indicated that 67% of consumers said it feels easier to make holiday purchases through the use of multiple devices. Mobile users are increasingly using their devices to locate a store, shop, and look for deals. In fact, those who shopped from three devices instead of one shopped in 200% more categories. This confirms that being able to shop from multiple devices allowed them to shop more frequently.

Black Friday is only a jumping off point.

With 40% of consumers shopping by Halloween, it is safe to assume that the holiday season and deal seeking will stretch past the holiday itself. The holiday is an important opportunity to leverage and build long term consumer relationships and loyalty. Build your holiday content marketing strategy around long term discoverability and engagement. Also include frequently refreshed content and deals. By setting that expectation with the consumer, you will garner more fruitful and long term visits.

Encourage and leverage sharing.

Social media is no longer as test market. In 2012, Rio SEO social marketing technology customers saw a 201% growth in influencers coupled with a 68% growth in social traffic. Those visitors on average converted into a sale three times more frequently than conventional visitors. Enabling and tracking sharing is increasingly important not just to drive brand awareness within a social network, but also to drive traffic and bottom line sales.

Don’t forget Mom.

Often a key family decision maker and gift wrapper (at my house at least) is Mom. Mothers are 61% more likely to visit Pinterest than the average visitor, and 38% more likely to follow a brand online. In fact, one in three bloggers are moms.  Ensuring you are relevant and focused on this audience will drive sales, evangelism, and discovery.

Offer deals and exclusivity.

Everyone wants a good deal – especially with so many retail options available to them. In 2012, 68% of tablet buyers (the big ticket item for last year) were looking to deals as a key driver in their decision, ranking close behind product reviews and free shipping. Consumers also share deals frequently on deal sites. These in in turn drive increased traffic, discovery, and valuable linking.  Therefore, it is important that you enable easy sharing on the relevant social channels, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Email.

Strongly consider free shipping.

Our firm’s research indicates that 49% of retailers plan to offer shipping – a HUGE miss for the other 51%. In 2012, 77% of tablet buyers indicated that free shipping was central to their purchasing decision.

Leverage user-generated content.

Reviews have long been a driver in decision making. However, visual user-generated content also drives increased sharing and discovery. In a recent campaign based around creating a personal greeting card image, Rio SEO saw 90% more social traffic than the client experienced with other content types, while social entrants were 100 times more likely to take a “shop” action than conventional visitors.  Additionally, in sentiment analysis, user generated content lent credibility to the product and message.

consumer engagement marketing Social Shopping StatsExtend visual and multi-media content across all channels.

We already know that video content is shared at 10 times the average of all content types, and images are shared 4 times the average. In a recent study looking across multiple channels, Nielsen showed that if an ad was viewed from a TV, PC, phone and tablet the consumer was nearly 33% more likely to recall it. Focusing on a multiple channel strategy with unified messaging and a visual component will drive results.

Reach and retarget your audience.

Make sure you know which consumers drive value for you. Similarly, reach out to existing and prospective consumers and influencers. Identify individuals who are sharing, talking about and purchasing your product. Then reach out to them with targeted ads and invitations to contribute reviews. (Amazon does a great job of automating this.)  Reach out to your social visitors often to drive additional traffic, purchases, and long term engagement.

Don’t be overly targeted.

If your consumer looked at a product and didn’t purchase it, consider retargeting  them with a deal in that product category rather than showing them a display ad featuring a product they already made a decision not to purchase. If an item sits in their cart, by all means consider offering a deal to convert that interest into a sale.

Most advertisers don’t begin spending in earnest on consumer engagement marketing until November. Shifting your holiday content marketing strategy to move those deals and offers during the entire season represents a long term win – even if it feels a little trigger happy to begin early.

Rachel Ullstrom / Account Director, Rio SEO