09 Nov How to Capitalize on the Holiday Rush
When does the holiday shopping season begin? Your answer may reflect your engagement with online shopping and social media. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are so five years ago! Now that we all have smartphones and spend more of our time on social media, shopping is a 24/7 activity. Or is it? There are two trends in shopping and social media whose intersection holds potential importance for small business owners. Looking at them can help determine your best strategy for capitalizing on holiday retail sales.
The Decline of Black Friday
The last few years have seen retailers trying to combat the rise of online sales with ever-earlier and more extreme bargains on Black Friday, to the point where stores were opening on Thanksgiving Day itself, first at midnight and pushing back to as early as 6:00 pm. Some of us hadn’t even had pumpkin pie yet! Backlash began in 2015, as it was rightly pointed out that opening stores on Thanksgiving meant that workers would miss spending the holiday with family and friends. No matter that retailers insisted that working the holiday was voluntary and came with incentives – as a culture, commerce on a national holiday crossed the line. USA Today recently reported that the Mall of America announced that it will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. Granted, the individual stores can keep the hours of their choice, but mall employees will have the day off. The same article notes that pushing back the start of Black Friday merely spreads the same amount of sales over a longer period, rather than increasing total sales.
The Obsolescence of Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday was a significant shopping day only as long as it was more common to have faster internet access at work than at home. While there are geographical pockets where that might still be true, smartphones, wifi and unlimited data plans have made online shopping easy and ubiquitous. At this point, how the mainstream media reports on the holiday shopping season isn’t really how it’s working anymore.
Sales on Social Media Platforms
The other trend that will be influencing holiday shopping this year is that direct selling through social media isn’t necessarily leading to increased sales, either. Adding buying options to your Instagram or Pinterest posts doesn’t make your followers customers, especially if you’re targeting the Millennial crowd. According to this GumGum infographic, their frequent use of visually-based social media like Instagram and Snapchat is because they’re bored and they want to interact with their real friends, not with brands. In fact, the survey of Millennials on which the infographic is based found that “99 percent of respondents indicated that they had never made a purchase on Snapchat. 94 percent of Pinterest users said the same, as did 91 percent of Instagram users.” Those are very big numbers that make it clear that just adding a buying option to your social media posts is unlikely to boost your sales. Instead, think of your social media campaigns as ways to engage with and inspire your customers. Customers inspired by your online marketing will search for your products at both local and online outlets, primed with ideas and information that make your products their first choice. How can you use your social media platforms for that Q4 profit surge? We have a few suggestions that may help capture your customers.
In 2015, REI’s social media campaign, #OptOutside, caught the attention of both their customers and marketers. Instead of opening early on Black Friday or even earlier on Thanksgiving Day, the outdoor equipment outfitter chose to close all their retail locations and invited their customers to spend the day engaged in their favorite outdoor activities. They created the #OptOutside hashtag and a microsite that offered hiking trails and other suggestions for activities.
- The campaign perfectly suited the brand by promoting the activities that their products support.
- The campaign understood their customer base. REI’s customers, in general, would much rather be on a lake or trail than in the store. It made them feel like their gear supplier “got” them.
- The campaign invited their customers to participate. They could share their adventures using the #OptOutside hashtag without feeling like they were being used to promote the brand.
You can translate that idea to the crafting world in a snap. Your customer base is already dedicated more to making gifts than buying them, so create a campaign around using the rest of Thanksgiving weekend to start and complete a project. Offer patterns, templates or instructions for your craft’s project through your social media outlets and create or join in on a hashtag that promotes making rather than buying. Start now so that your customers buy your products to have at the ready for the cozy weekend they will spend sewing or beading or felting their holidays gifts or decorations.
In fact, this could be an entire movement. Couple the social aspects of crafting with the gathering of friends and relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday and add the appeal of unique handmade gifts versus mass-produced store-bought gifts and you have countered the rush of holiday retail by going in another direction. If you have a retail outlet, you could host a make-and-take event, or classes that teach the skills needed to complete a project that your customers could make for many recipients on their gift lists. Because the focus is on doing, not shopping, your customers perceive such an event as a gift from you to them.
Signature Seasonal Offering
Many brands, large and small, create a special product or branding opportunity during the holiday season, like Starbucks’ red cup. What could your brand offer and how could you use it to engage customers on social media?
Think like a crafter. What if you created a yarn- or craft-bombing campaign and invited your customers to create and install something seasonal like a snowflake, then share it via social media? Or maybe your company installs a number of small snowflakes or acorns (or whatever seasonal emblem you want to adopt) and turns it into a geocaching challenge for local customers? If you’re an online retailer, you’ll want to create an experience in which all your customers can participate instead. If you go the competition route, you can offer a gift certificate or one of your products as a prize.
Consider offering a special seasonal edition of your flagship product with a limited-time availability––an exclusive colorway from the indie dyer; a pattern for a household object from the craft designer; a unique ornament kit from the beading or felting supplier. Your customers get the satisfaction of creating something special that becomes one of a collection of annual offerings. Suddenly your company has become part of their holiday traditions. It may be a challenge to come up with something new and original every year, but it offers an additional revenue stream during the holiday rush.
Here’s another way your brand can engage your customers on social media beyond trying to sell to them. Much of the stress of the holiday season comes from the social expectations of gift-giving. People may feel obligated to give gifts to acknowledge business relationships, social ties or to distant relatives. If there’s a way your business can help them find gifts that are both appropriate and personal, you’ll win their gratitude and that can keep them loyal to your business.
Again, you have to tailor this idea to your business. Let’s say you produce and sell a range of specialty craft scissors and other cutting devices. Your goal is twofold: getting your customers to think of your products as gifts and customizing the recommendation of your products so that your customers feel like they’ve found exactly the right thing for Aunt Marjorie. How about a quiz-based campaign where a short series of multiple-choice questions results in a personalized “scissors profile” with suggested products? Depending on the extent of your product line, the questions could filter for finish, size, use and style to settle on the recommended product. So if Aunt Marjorie is a paper-crafter who like minimalist design, her scissors profile would be different from Aunt Jenny’s, who loves doing elaborate counted cross-stitch pictures of Victorian architecture. It’s individualized and interactive while still being automated. The questions don’t have to be a deep delve into the psyches of the people for whom your customer is shopping–just observational enough to save them the effort of trying to sort through all of your products.
These three ideas for holiday-centered campaigns move the focus of your social media efforts away from selling, which, the research has shown, happens rarely on most platforms, and onto making your brand and your products a fun part of your customers’ holiday preparations. You’ve become part of the family, so when they do need the products you sell, your business is the source they think of first.
If you like these ideas for social media marketing, find out what else Stitchcraft Marketing can do for your brand. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our services.