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How Retailers Can Overcome the Influx of Challenges Ahead of The Holiday Season

Five recommendations for brands to optimize growth

Following a hopeful boom of vaccinations and repealed mask restrictions, the rise of the Delta variant has complicated the return to normal. As a result, consumers are becoming more cautious as they attempt to resume their normal routines depending where they live, their vaccine status and overall comfort level. 

Thus, marketers must be prepared to accommodate the needs of consumers which will be diverse and most certainly omnichannel this holiday season. Given the holiday season is arguably retail’s most important time of the year, the time is now to adjust accordingly. 

Retailers must be prepared to face the challenges of navigating shifting consumer preferences week by week, down to the local or community level. As we speak Alabama’s vaccine rate ranks amongst the lowest in the country and the ICU bed deficit ballooned to 53 recently as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Yet, at the same time one woman, Dorothy Oliver, a retired office administrator in Panola, Alabama organized a pop-up vaccination clinic and went door to door to educate and encourage vaccinations, yielding a remarkable 94% vaccination rate. 

Contrasts like this not only highlight the vast discrepancies across communities around the country but they may also account for different behaviors town by town and the challenges marketers will face this holiday season. With this in mind, marketers will need to monitor shifts in consumer behavior in real-time, be adaptable and have the ability to shift strategy and tactics quickly to address consumer needs.

Here are my top five tips for marketers on how they can win the holiday season:

  1. Dial Up In-Home Advertising: For brands that relied on traditional advertising, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their marketing efforts from strategy to tactics. With consumers limiting travel and visit frequency, dollars spent on traditional out-of-home advertisements yielded less impressions and overall bang for the buck.

At the same time, marketers who recognized this consumer shift in behavior and adapted quickly, like moving more budget to mobile and in-home advertising initiatives, were able to better connect with consumers to drive awareness, consideration, purchase and loyalty. With many of the world’s biggest companies, like Apple, postponing the return to work until the new year, In-Home Advertising—including mobile and CTV—will continue to be a channel that cannot be ignored this holiday season. Consider dialing up these initiatives now and throughout the remaining months of the year. 

  1. Take Advantage of 2020 Insights: While 2020 seemed like an anomaly at the time, it has proven to have simply expedited many retail trends that were on the rise. Keeping that in mind, it’s crucial to use the insights and data from sales, campaigns and customer experiences to guide future marketing efforts.

Leveraging behavioral and location-based insights and data to understand who your consumers are, precisely where they go, how often they go and how long they stay, can help provide your team with the necessary information to pinpoint the most efficient ways to reach and influence your respective target audiences this year.

This historical data can be used to forecast future behavior and predict whether or not consumers are likely to shift channels (in-store to online) or embrace new services like click-to-collect (in-store or curbside pickup), which will drive great efficiency, success and growth this holiday season.

  1. Prioritize Contactless Solutions and Services: Now more than ever, people are seeking convenience during the purchase process. As U.S. shoppers have tried to stay safe amid the pandemic and corresponding social distancing recommendations, we have spent $72.46 billion on click-and-collect in 2020–more than doubling 2019 sales, and that figure is expected to rise to $83.47 billion this year.

The benefits offered from these click-to-collect services are resonating with consumers and it means they are likely here to stay. As a result, marketers must work to better understand, evolve, improve and connect with these consumers to drive engagement, loyalty and growth. Invest, prioritize, develop and market to this burgeoning channel to differentiate and grow your success this holiday. 

  1. Place A Greater Focus On Measurement: As consumer behavior continues to evolve, incorporating omnichannel measurement and multi-touch attribution to all marketing efforts will help assure you are optimizing your return on advertising spend (ROAS).

 Investments in attribution tools that can measure online and offline channels and connect these channels, including tracking web to in-store or curbside pick-up, will be essential to better understanding consumer behavior, while giving marketers the ability to optimize and grow ROAS over time.

  1. Actively Adapt & Optimize: Leveraging tools that can optimize in real-time based on engagement and performance can help drive growth and ROAS efficiency.  Understanding which channels, media, creative and offer is driving engagement, conversion and sales and automating those decisions in real-time will be essential driving efficiency and a competitive advantage this holiday season.

No doubt 2020 was a difficult and challenging year for many reasons including understanding how consumer behavior was shifting. Success in 2021 has been largely based on how well a retailer can embrace change and data, innovate around consumer needs and adapt and optimize their media and marketing strategies and tactics accordingly. This will only become more essential as we enter this pivotal holiday season for retailers.  Happy Holidays!

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