7 essential items for every business’s holiday season to-do list

Question: What’s one of the 7 essential items for every business’s holiday season to-do list?
Answer: Ensure you have enough staff members and products to meet a sudden rush.

“With the holiday rush, ensure you are properly staffed with both people and products to meet demand when a rush comes in suddenly. Make sure you haven’t overlooked overlapping travel schedules or potential product shortages.”
Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

For the full article go to “7 essential items for every business’s holiday season to-do list” at The Business Journals.

How Holiday Planning Looks Different For Marketers And Advertisers In 2022

Question: Why Does Holiday Planning Look Different For Marketers And Advertisers In 2022?
Answer: ‘Seasonal’ Promotions Can Drive Sales All Year Long Now.

“Holiday sales and marketing have continued to expand well beyond Black Friday and Christmas, with holiday sales and promotions now starting in early fall and running through the New Year. In addition, Amazon Prime Days happen in the summer, which means there can essentially be promotions all throughout the year that drive consumer sales all year long.”
Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

For the full article go to “How Holiday Planning Looks Different For Marketers And Advertisers In 2022” at Forbes.

3 E-Commerce and Social Media Trends to Watch Through the Rest of 2022

Man looking at tablet

Credit: Getty Images by Tim Robberts

E-commerce sales have been on the upswing as a share of total sales since before 2000, and in the last decade, social platforms have played an increasing role. Then 2020 happened, driving an unprecedented spike in online sales. This year so far, we’re seeing social media mature as a force that drives e-commerce, in addition to emerging technologies like the metaverse and 5G. Here’s a look at how e-commerce and social media will intersect across three major platforms through the rest of 2022.

1. Instagram Retains its Leadership Position in the Social Commerce Sphere
This image-forward social platform is already a major player in e-commerce, with 72 percent of users reporting that they’ve made a purchase decision after seeing a post. Savvy brands have capitalized on Instagram’s visual-first design, placing content on the platform to keep consumers current on what’s new in stores or available online.

With a successful suite of e-commerce features and the No. 1 rank among social platforms consumers use to follow brands, Instagram is still in a strong position in terms of e-commerce and brand communication, and that’s unlikely to change in the months ahead. Keep an eye on new features on Instagram like variable focus and augmented reality (AR) tools.

2. Snapchat Plays Catchup
It may seem counterintuitive because Snapchat has a cutting-edge AR system, but the popular instant messaging app is losing ground in terms of active users relative to its competitors, and that makes it less of a player in e-commerce today. Instagram has well over twice as many active users, and TikTok has pulled far ahead, too. Snapchat remains popular with teens but has struggled to make inroads with older users, even as other apps have attracted new users.

That said, the platform’s Snap Scan AR scanning feature has much commercial potential and a reported 170 million users. Snapchat is also performing well financially: The company generated $2.5 billion revenue in 2020, a 47 percent increase over the previous year’s results, and in 2021, its stock value rose 350 percent over its 2020 performance, as reported by the Business of Apps. However, if Snapchat is going to live up to its early promise in the e-commerce space, it will have to play catchup with competitors in the months ahead.

3. TikTok is Set to Grow E-Commerce Revenue
Even though TikTok is the new kid on the social media block, the platform is showing incredible momentum, doubling the number of users more established competitors like Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter racked up since it came on the scene. The platform’s format is a natural for influencing purchases, and this year TikTok expanded its partnerships and added a shopping tab for business users as well as new ad options, according to TechCrunch.

TikTok has catapulted everyday users into influencers with a single video. Brands of all sizes use the platform to post content about products, and online retail giant Amazon.com got in on the act by dedicating a page to TikTok user recommendations. As TechCrunch noted, popular clothing brand Princess Polly garnered a six-fold return on ad spend and increased page visits by 50 percent using TikTok. Look for TikTok to expand its foray into e-commerce in 2022 and beyond.

Keeping an Eye on Social Media-Driven E-Commerce
No one can confidently say if new consumer buying habits formed during the pandemic will endure, but the evidence points in that direction. Even demographics that had previously been resistant to e-commerce started buying online. Smart brands are looking for ways to meet consumers where they are, and increasingly that’s on social media. Even hardware is reflecting this trend. At CES 2022, the Vivo V23 handset debuted with ultra-powerful front-facing cameras and software dedicated to high-res selfies, looking to target the selfie and influencer space, capitalizing on tech dedicated to virtual clothing try-ons, filters and other capabilities.

To stay ahead of customer trends, brand managers should keep an eye on social media-driven e-commerce in the year ahead, including Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. That’s the best way to prepare for what comes next as new features and capabilities change the marketplace again.

How to Break Through the Holiday Advertising Noise to Drive Q4 Sales

Every year, from October to December, a war for consumers’ attention ramps up significantly as businesses roll out their holiday campaigns. For about eight weeks, brands and retailers will boost advertising to drive sales in hopes that “Black Friday” converts ledger ink from red to black. Throughout all that, media rates for buying ad space increase by about 15 percent to 20 percent, media inventory becomes scarcer, and consumer attention is all the harder to capture.

Total Retail

Holiday advertising can still be incredibly effective and productive for those marketers who figure out how to break through the noise. There is a proven playbook that works — a formula that can help your Q4 efforts compete effectively (and more convincingly) for audience attention.

Audience Segmentation: Do You REALLY Understand Your Customer?

Segmentation isn’t just about determining age or location demographics. It’s about understanding the “why” behind the thoughts, behaviors and actions of your target customers. With digital media, you can go beyond traditional profile assumptions to personalize both media and creative to optimize impact. Through the right segmentation data, you can identify behavioral and attitudinal factors that indicate propensity to buy as well as select the most optimal types and mix of media channels to best capture your target customers’ attention.

Let’s say your brand sells a DIY home improvement product. In addition to factors like age and income, first- and third-party data might indicate that your ideal customer is over indexed on YouTube, so investing in ads there might give your messaging greater efficiency. If you’re specifically targeting homeowners, you can also set geo-location parameters to capture them while suppressing ads for people whose behavior indicates they aren’t in your target group, such as renters.

The right insights and data can give you a deeper understanding of the audience you’re currently advertising to, who you should be advertising to, and who you should not be advertising to.

Be Bold and Strategic: Customize to Cut Through
If you don’t have the budget or resources to allot customized marketing to specific audience segments and across multiple channels, you may consider pursuing strategic partnerships. These are unique co-promotions with complementary brands that share similar target audiences to your own. This approach can help you stand out while also providing added value to your audience. For example, instead of just promoting a percentage discount for your holiday marketing, look at also offering a free trial or product provided by another brand partner. The key is to imprint the offer with like-minded brands and messaging, and then retarget to drive conversions.

“Conquesting” is another way to break through. This approach can be quite advantageous for challenger brands or retailers with limited resources or fierce competition. To implement the conquesting playbook, it’s imperative to understand which marketing channels your competition is using. You can then leverage those same channels to run bolder, more daring creative advertisements designed to leave an impression. Doing this will build brand awareness that capitalizes on the category recognition your competitors are driving. When done correctly, you can see substantial results while only deploying a fraction of the money or time.

Savvy Media Planning: Gain Efficiency
The final and third component of the formula is savvy media planning. These days more and more brands are trying to handle buying media or placing ads in-house. However, many don’t have the expertise or resources needed to effectively do so. When it comes to successful media planning and buying, an outsourced partner can help you understand, navigate and optimize an ever-evolving marketplace, offset premium rates, make the right real-time shifts and pivots, and gain greater efficiency through informed negotiations combined with better, more specific audience targeting.

A Formula That Works for YOUR Brand
While it may seem impossible to break through holiday “noise,” rest assured it’s possible. Start with deeply understanding your audience, selecting the right advertising materials, and devising a strategy that aligns with what your customer is seeking. All of these steps will make your Q4 holiday campaign a success, driving greater return on investment on your marketing efforts and standing out from the crowd.

Cyndi McMaster is a strategic marketing and business development professional at Hawthorne Advertising with vast experience in helping brands grow, shift consumer behavior, and increase market share and revenue.