Vigorate Digital’s Guide to 5 Holiday Marketing Trends for 2016


Ah, holidays… For most full-time working folks, these are the few days that help us to justify how hard we work throughout the rest of the year. But for some parts of our economy (marketers, retailers, service staff, and others), the arrival of holidays can be bittersweet; rarely do they provide the relief that’s so desperately wanted and needed. What’s become the most highly competitive and revenue-driven period of the entire year just keeps getting bigger, faster, and busier as the years go by.

In fact, by the time you’re having the chance to read this post, you’ve probably already eaten more than your fair share of leftover turkey-and-dressing sandwiches (possibly including the one with your colleague’s name on it from the fridge in the office kitchen?!) Yes, Thanksgiving has just passed, and if you’re like us, you’re now ramping up to some of the busiest and most potentially lucrative months of the year. And if the first two quarters of this year were any indication, we’re in for a rocking finish to 2016.

Here at Vigorate Digital, it’s our mission to help marketing organizations stay competitive by building powerful strategies that, combined with the leading MarTech available in the industry today, lead to successful digital marketing executions. Allow us to help you to plan ahead, by highlighting the 5 Holiday Trends for 2016 that have the potential to make a significant impact on your business into the New Year and beyond.


TREND #1: On your mark, get set—start early!

According to post-holiday data collected by Google, holiday shopping begins long before Black Friday, and starts earlier and earlier every year. In fact, in 2015, many consumers started shopping before Halloween, and nearly half did most of their shopping on or prior to Cyber Monday (48%, up from 40% in 2013). And this article from USA Today claims that as of September 29, 2016, 34 million U.S. consumers are shopping for holiday bargains and 1 million consumers have already completed their holiday shopping.

Who’s doing the majority of this early shopping? Older, wealthier, secondary-school educated, female consumers. The reasoning: They have access to a better selection and often better bargains, and they’re able to avoid the rush that takes place closer to the holidays.


TREND #2: Micro-moments win more holiday gift-giving dollars.

Micro-moments—those “intent-driven I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, I-want-to-buy moments”—offer big sales opportunities for marketers: In 2015, some 82% of smartphone users in the U.S. said they consulted their phones on purchases they were about to make in-store, and a third of American consumers polled had purchased products from a company or brand other than the one he or she intended to because of information received in a micro-moment.

As this Inc. article wisely suggests, marketers need “to embrace the idea that you have but a few seconds to capture the attention of your target consumer.” Thus, it’s absolutely integral to develop smart marketing executions that deliver relevant and valuable information. Though our immediate instinct as marketers is to push promotions and discounts around the holidays, you’re more likely to get better uptake if you strike a different tone in your recipients’ inboxes.

Some ideas for leveraging micro-moments beyond the usual promotional tactics: Offer tips and tricks on how to save money when shopping for gifts or grocery essentials; outline ways to party-proof your home; feature solutions to keep kids or pets busy while adults are getting ready for festivities; educate consumers on winterizing their automobiles for the holiday storms a-brewing….


TREND #3: Go omni-channel, connecting your consumers’ mobile experiences to the store.

When it comes to leveraging holidays to bump your sales, it’s important to recognize that mobile micro-moments can provide valuable gateways to engagement and even closing of sales in other channels, including purchasing that takes place in brick-and-mortar stores.

The nature of shopping these days has become so competitive that it’s led retail giants like Target to declare “mobile as its new front door to the store.” In fact, omni-channel shoppers have become Target’s most valuable customers, spending 3x more on average than those who shop in a single channel.

The main message here: Shoppers want a fluid search-to-sales experience, whether they’re interacting with brands through mobile/social channels, in-store, or otherwise. So make sure to build continuity across your various strategic channel executions so that consumers know they’ll find the products and services they want most expeditiously at this busy time of year.

[For more case studies of successful omni-channel retail executions, see this article from Think with Google.Then, read this Harvard Business Review article on making the most of omni-channel retailing.]


TREND #4: Email continues to connect with consumers (and drive sales).

Yes, email’s been around longer than some of your junior staff members, but there’s a reason for its longevity, particularly as a marketing tool: It continues to deliver incredible ROI—upwards of 4x higher than other marketing formats (including social media, direct mail, and paid search), according to a June 2016 survey of U.S. marketers conducted by the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric (and cited by eMarketer here).

In another study, this time by Campaigner, of retailers across North America, nearly a third of whom confirmed that the average customer makes a purchase within the first 48 hours of signing up for marketing emails.

The ongoing relevancy of email as a marketing tool can be directly attributed to several factors:

  • A continuously growing user base: eMarketer estimates that email user numbers in the U.S. will grow to 258.9 million in 2020 from 240.1 million in 2016, and we expect to see similar traction among Canadian populations as well.
  • Increased recognition among marketers that relevancy matters: In our age of the empowered consumer, smart marketers know that they need to prioritize customer experience (CX). A focus on CX requires personalization, value, and above all else, relevancy. Staying relevant starts with leveraging customer insights that can be gleaned from the data you collect on your users’ activities, behaviours, wants and needs. Remember that the most valuable and actionable data comes directly from your users, including the personal details they log in preference centres, in online request forms and checkout transactions, through social authentication, and other consumer self-identification/engagement channels.
  • The rise of email opens on mobile devices: According to Movable Ink, more than half of email opens in Q4-2015 came from smartphones. And more recently, a study from Yesmail indicates that mobile devices (including tablets) drove more email clicks, orders, and revenues in Q2-2016 than a year earlier.

As smartphones and tablets continue to become more ubiquitous over time, we’ll expect to see email open rates on smart devices continue to grow. And as these conversion rates increase and marketers move to make the online, mobile, and eCommerce experience more fluid and enticing, marketers should expect to recognize increased mCommerce sales over time, too.


TREND #5: Social media channels continue to play an increasingly significant role in holiday sales.

Conversion rate attribution continues to be a sticky subject in our industry. But there’s one thing most marketers can agree on when it comes to eCommerce—social does make a difference, particularly videos on YouTube and recommendations on Twitter and Facebook.

Holiday shoppers are looking for gift ideas, and social media delivers: Based on new research from Aimia (quoted by Marketing Week), a category of consumers dubbed ‘social shoppers’ visit social networks as part of their everyday shopping behaviour and use images they see on social media sites to inspire purchases:

  • Nearly a third of online shoppers (31%) say they use social channels to browse for new items to buy. Facebook is the most popular network by a wide margin (at 26%), followed by Instagram (8%) and Pinterest (6%).

This trend is supported by other research, as well:

  • Recommendations of social media users are two times more likely to lead to a holiday gift purchase, and 80% of shoppers that received a response on a brand’s social channel went on to make a purchase from that brand.
  • According to Think with Google, shoppers watch YouTube video reviews for new products, and of people who watched online videos to help with holiday buys, 80% watched product reviews and ratings, and 68% preferred product videos from “people like me,” while 45% preferred videos from experts.
  • In research conducted by Shopify of 37 million social media visits that led to 529,000 orders: Facebook dominates as a source of social traffic and sales. Nearly two-thirds of all social media visits to Shopify stores, and an average of 85% of all orders overall, come from Facebook (particularly in Photography, Sports & Recreation, and Pet Supplies categories). Moreover, Facebook has the highest conversion rate for all social media eCommerce traffic, at 1.85%.

As we make clear above, omni-channel is the way of marketing’s present and future, and social media is a fundamental driver in making omni-channel retail sales a reality for more brands over time.

Have you shaped your holiday planning strategies to meet these trends? Or do you have your sights set on other activities that may affect your holiday retail revenues? We’d love to hear about your plans for the impending holiday season. Leave us a comment below, or drop us a line. The next pumpkin-spiced beverage is on us!