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Digital marketing leaders who properly engage with consumers will win this holiday season and beyond.

Year-end holiday spend accounts for much of every retail brand’s gross annual revenue, and with consumer shopping patterns impacted by inflation, there’s extra pressure on retailers in 4Q22. 

“Key digital marketing strategies this season span hybrid shopping, search optimization and customer experience,” says Kassi Socha, Director Analyst at Gartner. “This will generate word-of-mouth exposure for the brand, customer acquisition and revenue growth.”

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Digital marketing tips for the holidays

A recent Gartner consumer survey revealed when, why and how consumers are shopping this year-end season and digital marketing leaders should adjust their strategies accordingly.

'Tis The Season: 4 Digital Marketing Tips for Retail

Tip No. 1: Take an always-on approach

Holiday shopping has evolved far beyond big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the end-November U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Consumers now prepare for year-end holidays by shopping in early to mid fall. Gartner research shows nearly 50% of consumers will start to shop in October or November, with 16% of consumers now shopping year-round for holiday gifts. Only 9% wait until December. 

Our suggestion: Consider launching an online category dedicated to gifting that lives year-round to capture the “always shopping” or “early” consumer. This creates a destination for shoppers to use whenever they want and builds long-term SEO value for gifting-related keywords. Prior to fall, evaluate how to elevate this category within the site and app, and drive traffic through digital performance channels and in store. Learn more about in-person event production information.

Tip No. 2: Highlight price, value and free shipping

Inflation and fear of supply chain disruptions are also encouraging consumers to shop early.  With average prices rising, consumers will likely have to spend more to purchase the same items they bought a year earlier. Accordingly, they’ll either purchase fewer items or trade down to generic, store brand, simpler or discount versions.

Our suggestion: Demonstrate to shoppers how they can stretch their budgets. For shoppers who anticipate spending more, 82% note that increase reflects inflated costs, not a rise in discretionary income to spend. Categorize merchandise and organize digital gift guides by price and highlight free shipping.

Tip No. 3: Enhance your wish-list and search capabilities

According to our consumer survey, gift inspiration from recipients primarily begins with wish lists. Twenty-two percent of shoppers also turn to Google first before online reviews or brand communications. 

Our suggestion: Make your gifts prominent in search results. Optimize paid and organic search strategies to ensure you are highly visible to shoppers. Enhance and incorporate digital wish-list capabilities so consumers can easily create and share their wish lists by social, SMS or email. Not only does this encourage people to buy from your brand, you will also collect meaningful first-party data to tailor product recommendations and forecast inventory constraints or excess.

Tip No. 4: Eliminate omnichannel friction

Sixty-percent of shoppers plan to primarily shop online this holiday season and 21% plan doing so more than last year. Thirty-eight percent plan a hybrid approach, using digital and brick-and-mortar, for example, shopping online for curbside pickup or same-day delivery. 

Our suggestion: Optimize omnichannel experience. Promote your omnichannel digital offerings by adding on-site filters to find in-stock inventory and sending dedicated emails around stock available at a consumer’s local store. Expand mobile payment and expedited shipping options to increase online conversion. Think: PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Pay. Implementing these technologies both online and in store may remove friction for the customer and increase purchase speed.