Do you have a retail business looking for pick-up? Or an ecommerce business that’s just booming? While the holiday season is always about making merry with loved ones, it’s always the best opportunity for businesses to capitalize on the good cheer and seasonal sales rush.
Make the lead up to Christmas the best time for you to start or to continue driving sales and customers to your business with the power of SMS marketing.
2019 recap: Key Christmas retail trends and insights
Looking back at 2019, we see early indicators for how we draw up our strategies for 2020:
- 2019 spend recap: Purchases across 2019 holiday season topped $1T for the first time.
- US shopping volume drop: 35.4% lower by October 2020
- Spend split: Consumers split their buying 59% online and 36% in-store.
- Count on discounts: 3 in 4 consumers report sales (and promoting those sales) are important or extremely important
- Free Shipping: 75% of consumers expect free shipping, even on orders under $50
- Click & Collect: 70% of consumers prefer to buy online and pick up in-store to avoid shipping costs.
- Click & Collect: Buy online, pick up in-store orders doubled globally.
- Ecommerce: Online retail sales up by 30% in the US, 17% higher globally.
- Ecommerce: 88% of consumers plan to continue purchasing gifts online and sending them to loved ones regardless of lockdown restrictions easing.
- Ecommerce: 83% of consumers likely to keep purchasing from businesses they discovered during COVID.
- COVID: 79% of consumers are more likely to buy from businesses that behaved well during COVID
- COVID: 75% of consumers feel positively towards companies that have clearly communicated service adaptations and changes throughout COVID.
- Digital: Digital advertising has increased 51% in 2020 and forecast to increase by 55% by 2022.
- Holiday spend: 70% of global shoppers aren’t planning to decrease spend on their holiday shopping.
- Holiday spend: 87% of global shoppers planning to shop for Christmas, and 57% plan to purchase during key sales dates like Black Friday.
Christmas marketing plan timeline
Christmas sales aren’t just about Christmas. In fact, the Christmas Creep happens, that is increasing week-on-week demand and interest spiking in December and suddenly dovetailing into January.
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We suggest that you plan for a holiday season that covers planning to sales opportunities from September through to January. Here’s a simple timeline to help you out:
September: Start planning out your goals and outcomes, while assessing your current state. This might look like re-evaluating your marketing strategies from last year, investing budget into new channels such as text messaging to reach new demographics or getting your website up to scratch to handle more traffic or to improve your customer journey.
Even if you’re able to open your retail store, we suggest prepping your ecommerce capabilities first or building your SMS message lists by collecting mobile phone numbers.
RELATED: Read our top 20 strategies to grow your text subscription lists.
October: For the majority of October, you should be planning and preparing but make use of October to test out some of your campaigns. Studies continually show that customers are searching for gifts and deals now as early as September and October.
Grab those early birds by getting them to subscribe to SMS or email marketing for great deals. Customers you pull in now can be remarketed to later on.
November: It’s time to start implementing! With Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Cyber Monday kicking off the seasonal rush, you want to have everything ready to go by then including all your different campaigns, segmented audiences and product lines. We also suggest ensuring you have a tight handle on inventory and shipping, with customers thoroughly pre-warned if they expect to get their purchases on time for Christmas.
December: With what you’ve learned from October and November testing, you’ll want to be making small tweaks to your current campaigns to optimize the largest run for sales yet. If they require large changes, however, you may want to hold off.
Having downtime over Christmas may turn off some customers for good. Make a huge focus for this month delivering on experience and support. And getting gifts to buyers! Leverage days such as Small Business Saturday, Free Shipping Day and others for mini-campaigns and to keep current customers coming back.
Christmas isn’t the end of it! With Boxing Day right after and the limbo period between Christmas and New Years, people will be looking to rattle up some more deals (likely for themselves) and to enjoy their time off. How can you help them do that too, and make more sales?
January: Usually the quietest month of the year, but that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t still looking for good deals. Send SMS to follow up with customers in order to solidify those relationships for long-term loyalty. Make sure to reflect on your efforts from the past five months, and think with your team about what you could have done better.
10 merry text tips for good Christmas sales
Here are 10 holiday marketing tips to get your SMS campaigns ready for the seasonal rush.
Tip 1. Keep them informed of the deer-tails
Potentially, one of the most important things you will do this holiday season to help customers and drive sales.
Delays in shipping and inventory all year have plagued shop owners and consumers alike and given rise to anxiety around Xmas-readiness. Send assurance, and help your staff and stock levels by texting them key information like extended opening times and contact details to plan ahead. Given its cut-through and responsiveness, SMS is a great way to keep customers up-to-date and informed about last-minute changes or last chance shipping dates for their country.
Top tip: Ensure you have customer’s consent to send and receive SMS first. Legal compliance regulations may change country-to-country but consent is always a must.
You can even create an automated text program on deals or basic information (who do you ship to, how much is shipping, when is your last shipping date for a specific country) which requires little monitoring and supervision from you (and very little time to set up). It’s easy to make changes to the content, and you can even push prompts or changes via text to subscribers to keep them up to date.
Tip 2. But wait…there’s myrhh giveaways!
Drawing in new customers doesn’t just have to be about cranking out the expensive advertising engine. One of the simplest ways to maximize sales and interest with little to no budget during Christmas is with a simple competition.
Some ‘text-to-win’ ideas:
- $XXX gift cards towards your store
- Get an entire product line
- Curate a collection for a specific demo: “Gifts she’ll love” “Mum’s hamper of fun” etc
- First 20 people in the store on select date get a limited edition gift
Top tip: Purchase a dedicated number so customers can simply send a text message (‘text-in’) to enter the competition. You can host signs online (social media) and off (in-store) to drum up attention. Dedicated numbers are best as they allow for inbound and outbound texting plus a whole host of other benefits.
Ensure that you always include a ‘Refer a friend’ element to your competition for a better chance to win. This helps increase your reach (without increased costing) and helps you reach targeted demos through the work of your own customers. An example might be encouraging text-subscribed customers to text the giveaway to their friends or having them @ their friends as a requirement of entry through socials.
Draw the winner before Christmas and promote them and their winnings to your current subscribers and followers. Demonstrate that loyalty is rewarded and use the opportunity to talk about your products/services or to launch a second competition for more purchases and traffic.
Using a competition to drive text subscriptions is a good investment to help you…
Tip 3. Make it so they’ll never fir-get
It will always be easier to convert customers to purchase when they have already purchased from you before.
You should be thinking about loyalty before, during and after the seasonal rush. Every sales opportunity is an opportunity to make a customer a lifetime customer rather than a one-off. Here’s how to do it with SMS:
- Make current customers happy
Already have a text subscriber list or customers who love you? Surprise, delight and reward them with what they want most. Is it an added discount, access to pre-sale deals or beta-testing a new line on them before launch?
Make sure they can share their love (and promote their exclusive access) to their friends and family to encourage them to join up and love your brand too.
- Pay attention to post-sales care
Never underestimate the value of staying in touch with customers after a purchase. Most brands forget – and it’s easy to stay in touch. Post-sales care could include a simple text asking for their feedback after a purchase.
Other brands really go the full mile by automating helpful content or refill opportunities at the right time. For example, if your customer bought a bike, can you text the giftee a voucher for a free bike maintenance workshop to help them learn how to take care of their new gift? While appearing helpful, consider the potential upsell or cross-selling opportunities here too.
- Solidify new purchase relationships
We mentioned above that January is generally always the slowest sales month of the year. That means this is a good time to nurture those relationships (such as focusing on post-sales care) you cultivated over the season period so customers continue to feel positive about your brand and will look forward to revisiting you in future.
Customer retention will be a big part of driving purchases for the year ahead. With more and more consumers relying on businesses they trust for purchases, and tempering of consumer spending, building your list and creating long-term loyalty will be a big priority going forward.
And don’t forget to always say thank you!
RELATED: Read our two-parter on how to gain customer confidence and trust with text, and the 7 simple ways you can earn customer loyalty right now.
Tip 4. Deck the halls with your collections
While discounts work a treat for SMS marketing campaigns, collections or gift guides are another way to engage customers without appearing overly promotional. Curate specific collection or catalogue pages to help advertise your sales and enable last-minute or lazy shoppers to pick something easy or fast.
It’s easy! Simply create your collection page, and then add it as a URL to your promotional text message. Here’s an example:
Top tip: Notice how the URL looks different? In this example, we used a short trackable link, which shortens long URLs (and saves on characters). It also helps us track conversions as it measures customers who click-through to purchase. Try it right now when you enable short trackable links with a free trial of our SMS service.
You could even engage customers further by sending a survey to text-subscribers or VIP members to agree on what should be included in the collection or catalogue. Making them feel special and invested in your Christmas activities means they are more likely to drive other new customers and themselves to make more purchases.
Capture more carts this Christmas!
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Tip 5. REMINDER: Your presents is requested
Earlier, we discussed the importance of keeping customers informed and up to date on any last-minute changes but what if customers miss the message, or forget?
It’s likely with everything going on this year, and the annual stress of getting Christmas ready that customers are likely to be a little more absent-minded than usual. Not only is there Christmas shopping to get done but family events to organize, school finishing up, end-of-year work parties and friends to catch up with.
Give them a helping hand by nudging them with ‘final warning’ reminders such as in the weekend before Christmas for last-minute shopping hours, deals and pick-up dates. You could also give customers the option to subscribe to text reminders – this is extremely helpful for service-based businesses who lose money from no-shows.
RELATED: If you have a retail store, include opening hours as well as other delivery options such as Click and Collect! Opening hours are likely to change week-by-week over December depending on restrictions and consumer needs.
Reminders are also helpful when it comes to ecommerce, especially in the case of abandoned carts or win backs. When it comes to certain sales dates such as Black Friday Cyber Monday, almost 7/10 sales are lost to consumers leaving their carts in search of another deal or distraction.
Automating text reminders is an easy solution to drive customers back to their purchase journey. Add time-limits and extra discounts to ensure they complete and keep coming back.
Tip 6. Spruce your sales with coupons and discounts
If you’ve ever encountered text marketing, it’s likely been through a personalized discount or coupon advertising a specific brand sale. Such sales tactics, though common, are extremely effective marketing tools.
During the Christmas rush, they are likely to be out in force to promote new products and to encourage customers to interact with the brand. Unlike the normal sale signs that you might pass as you walk through a shopping center, mobile discounts and coupons can be personalized.
They can be based on the value the brand sees in you (high-value customer who shops with us frequently will get a higher discount versus a low-value customer) or on past purchases/recent wish list items. Messaging may use your name or pull out useful, relevant data about your interactions such as location and interest. If you’ve ever encountered text marketing, it’s likely been through a personalized discount or coupon advertising a specific brand sale. Such sales tactics, though common, are extremely effective marketing tools.
Where discounts and coupons really work, via SMS, is in driving immediate conversions or sales. Customers of ours have reported 45% of recipients responding in less than 10-15 minutes. For one of our online retail business customers, 8% text subscribers have made a purchase within 10 minutes of a broadcast.
Tip 7. Sleigh on top of customer service
Your relationship with a customer is not over once the product is in their hands, or they’re waiting at your front desk to pay for your service. In fact, it goes much further than that – if you allow it to.
Customers may be unhappy with a product when it arrives. It may not be the right fit, it may have a dent, or be the wrong color. It could stop working after a week or two. How can a customer remedy the situation?
Instead of having them scramble online and become frustrated at the hoops they’ll have to jump to to get their situation fixed, pre-empt it for them as you did with the reminders.
- Automate follow-up communications
Set up a simple automated feedback message to go out after customers receive their gifts. Is it working? Are they enjoying it? What would they rate the brand?
This simply shows that you value their experience, and care about them beyond the transaction. It also shows proactivity on the part of the brand who is willing to step up should there be any issues.
- Enable customer support through text
The next thing you should do is make full use of SMS’s conversational feature – 2-way texting.
Once enabled, customers can simply message you if they have problems. With integrations into your own business management software such as NetSuite or HubSpot, these can easily be directed to your customer success agents who can get in touch – and continue chatting with the customer until the issue is resolved.
Given the unobtrusive nature of text messages, and the ability to pause and come back to it later, many businesses are seeing its value especially now so many customer agents are working from home. Past customers of ours have done this and cut their support queues by up to 50% – not to mention their much happier customers too!
Tip 8. Interact and get Santa-mental
When you invite responses to your messaging, communications become interactive, live and personal. And this can be a huge boom in the lead up to Christmas!
Most brands are more concerned about what to put out during the seasonal rush, with little consideration about what they might receive back. That’s why we back planning early so you can pull out more creative and compelling content to entice visitors and traffic.
According to DemandGen, interactive content gets 2x the engagement of static content and 77% of marketers believe it has ‘reusable’ value meaning that its creation results in repeat visitors and multiple exposures to bigger and bigger audiences.
While some brands have pulled out all the stops when it comes to interactive content such as live scavenger hunts, it can be far simpler than that – especially when it comes to text. Consider a simple poll to gauge customer sentiment towards a new product line or a quiz that guides customers towards the right gift from your inventory.
Tip 9. Be a helpful Santa elf, not a Grinch
Christmas elves work tirelessly in Santa’s workshop to help make the presents and get them safely to the many children and families across the world. That’s the exact attitude you should take with customers who are worried about gifts arriving on time. Ensure that they’re abreast of their purchases with live tracking, order confirmations and delivery notifications.
While you could send shipping alerts via email or other communication channels, keep in mind text’s greatest strength – cut-through and immediacy. If your purchase is set to arrive within an hour or a day, you need the customer to respond now. Similarly, if there’s an issue at your warehouse and you want to offer the customer a refund or other shipping option. You need an answer quickly, especially when it comes to Christmas delivery!
The simple act of thinking ahead and in the customer’s best interests will leave a long-last good impression but also assuage the customer’s fears in future that you care to deliver the best customer experience possible.
Tip 10. All I want for Christmas is unity
Like Christmas, it’s not necessarily about the presents but the experience: the joy of being with your loved ones, the carousing and jovial conversation at lunch and dinner and the charm and glow of everyone’s merriment.
Consider your customer journey in the same light. End-to-end, it’s about impressing customers with an effortless flow of functions that move together to create a streamlined purchase and delivery for your consumer.
SMS can work hard to deliver, as we’ve seen above, on many of those moments. From a quick resolve over text due to a product malfunction to SMS order confirmations to a fun text-driven quiz which pinpointed the exact mug to buy your mother.
Text can certainly help close holes in a customer journey that at times can seem disjointed or disparate. Even better however is integrating several communication channels that work together to create a strong and compelling customer experience that helps you stand out from the competition while leveraging the best of all worlds.
Final thoughts, further kringling
Regardless of where you come out during the holiday rush, you should have fun with your campaigning and sales! Make sure to also check out:
- Download our FREE ecommerce marketing calendar for the rest of 2020 and 2021.
- Learn about how to create a truly romantic (and delightful) Valentine’s Day text campaign.
- Find out how to revamp your New Year’s business messaging with these 6 smart tips.