In my former job, at the nation’s leading ecommerce provider, I saw a lot of examples of holiday marketing done well and just as many as examples of holiday marketing that went horribly wrong. These are the most common reasons why holiday marketing fails every year:
The holidays tend to sneak up on people, even business owners. At this point, you should already be shoulders deep in marketing for the holidays. If you haven’t launched any holiday initiatives yet, there’s still time but you have to act fast and you’ll probably need to bring in a digital marketing professional to help.
Competition is fierce in many online industries, which means that your promotions have to be compelling and stand out, especially during the holidays. Having a holiday promotion that’s too vague will result in one of the following undesirable outcomes:
• Shoppers will become confused and quickly leave to go elsewhere
• Shoppers will add products to their carts and then discover that the promo doesn’t apply in the way that they were expecting and abandon their shopping carts
• Shoppers will add products to their carts and not realize that the promo didn’t apply until after checking out and then be disgruntled and contact customer service with their complaints
3. Overly Complicated
Complicated promotions usually result from business owners trying to achieve very specific goals like encouraging return shopping after the holidays, increasing ticket size, pushing high stock items, attracting a new demographic, etc. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to explain your holiday promotion in one breath. For example –
• Good: “25% off all orders over $100”
• Bad: “For every $100 you spend, earn $20 off your next purchase after January 1st – up to a total discount of $200.”
Complicated promotions often discourage shoppers because they give off the appearance of being deceptive or too much of a hassle.
4. Too Short of a Timeframe
Black Friday to Cyber Monday sees a lot of short term promotions (early bird discounts, one hour blowouts, half day sales, one day-only promotions, weekend discounts and so forth) but these types of sales only work if you have a high volume site. Businesses with lower volume sites will just end up wasting a lot of time if they trying to organize a bunch of these types of holiday promotions to mimic bigger sites. Before deciding what your promotion will be, consider your traffic volume and social follower base, as that will limit the effectiveness of these types of short-term sales.
5. Not Competitive
Having industry knowledge should help you determine what types of promotions to run and how to pitch your products during the holidays. Failing to keep up with your industry during the holidays can result in your products/services not being competitive enough to bring in sales.
For instance, antivirus computer software is always deeply discounted by 50% or more on Black Friday, which is why I always buy my one-year subscription the day after Thanksgiving. If you’re responsible for the marketing for a rival anti-virus company, offering $5 off isn’t going to persuade me at all shift my buying habits.
6. Lack of Press
You can have the greatest holiday promotion imaginable, but if no one knows about it, then it won’t be a success. Getting the word out about your promotion is just as important as the promotion itself. Utilize all of the channels available to you to tell your existing customers about your deals and appeal to potential customers – social media platforms, email lists and site visitors.
7. Not Targeted
Understanding who is buying your product during the holidays will help you figure out how to sell it and how to craft a promotion that appeals to that audience.
For instance, imagine you sell airsoft guns. Your target user demographic may be males aged 13-29, but during the holidays you are more likely to have parents buying your airsoft guns for their children rather than young people buying them. This means that the messaging needs to be different. Paying attention to these buying patterns is key to winning the holiday season.
8. Lack of Integration
Your promotion needs to be thoroughly integrated across all aspects of your business. Having a promotion that you announce to email subscribers or social media followers but don’t reiterate anywhere on the site won’t have nearly as big of an impact as one that you also display on the site. The reason for this, again, is because shoppers can get confused and be skeptical as to whether or not the deal is valid.
9. Site Issues & Errors
When your marketing is firing on all cylinders, the affects can be incredibly positive, but only if your site is cooperating. There have been scores of examples of businesses that planned great holiday promotions but then experienced an unexpected technical glitch that prevented shoppers from adding an item to the cart or checking out. These types of issues often cannot be predicted ahead of time, but underscore the importance of keeping a close eye on your site and your sales continually throughout the holiday shopping season to catch any issues that may arise.
10. Poor Customer Experience
During the holidays people are tired, stressed, strapped for time and shopping for a lot of people. From a customer service perspective, this poses a challenge because people tend to get impatient and have short fuses. This is why customer service is of paramount importance. Whether it’s live chat or the phone, your reps need to be ready to handle a barrage of questions from shoppers quickly to get people the information that they need to feel comfortable buying from your company. Companies that keep shoppers waiting for answers or utilize undertrained temporary staff will miss the mark, and probably the sale this holiday season!
What else have you seen? Share with us an experience that you have had or heard about that affected holiday success.
This season, if you need help with your holiday online marketing, give us a call! We’d be happy to help!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren't warned!