November 4, 2020 inMedia planning

Planning media for the holiday season: What you need to do now to prepare

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This holiday season is shaping up to look a little different. Consumers will still be busy compiling lists, researching gifts and making panicked last-minute shopping trips. But it’s not going to look like any previous year.

  • Online opportunities are more lucrative
  • Clarity might edge out creativity in campaign priorities
  • Ad spend is moving online – and getting fiercely competitive

Holiday retail marketing ideas in 2020 need to adapt to this changing consumer behaviour, or there will not be many happy returns this festive season. Let’s look at how media planners can navigate the peak demand period with a focus on efficiency, engagement and profitability.

Holiday media planning in 2020: How the landscape has changed

In the US, consumer confidence is 20% lower than this time last year. Many European countries and recently the UK are locking down as coronavirus infection rates spike a second time.

So you can be forgiven for thinking it’s going to be a bleak holiday season. Look again at the US consumer confidence numbers, and you notice they’ve been climbing steadily since April. OECD data shows the same trend: confidence is low but recovering.

The bottom line is consumers are still out there. They still want to spend money – on themselves as much as loved ones – but they’re far less likely to wander into a bricks-and-mortar store as they are to research online, seek out the best deals, and buy from brands they know.

Retail marketing ideas for the 2020 holiday season

Depending on where you are in the world, the holiday season might already be in full swing. Here in Sweden, we are gearing up for December, while our friends in the US start decking the halls (and shelves) from October.

Wherever you are, the most effective way to plan a productive holiday marketing campaign is by holding up a mirror to consumer behaviour. Which, conveniently, is similar across continental borders.

The following four tips are ostensibly for media planners and marketers, but they could just as easily apply to individuals filling stockings this year.

1. Start early

Consumer analysts predict gift shopping will start earlier this year. Proactive media planning gives you a head-start on the competition by attracting those early sales. It also gives you more time to hone messaging and make mid-campaign adjustments before activity peaks in early December.

Last year in the UK, 22% of shoppers planned their purchases three to six months early with one-third of that cohort preferring to get their gifting finalised before the rush. As the country enters a lockdown due to last until at least December, idle hands may lead to online retail therapy with almost two-thirds (61%) of shoppers acknowledging the pandemic will change buying behaviour this year.

2. Consider the purchase journey

Foot traffic to retail stores is down, but Christmas is far from cancelled. Instead, consumers are spending more time and money online. And the trends might not be evident where you expect.

Knowing where your customers are and how they interact with your brand will be crucial to converting more purchases this holiday season. From there, savvy marketers will intentionally craft an integrated marketing campaign to build an engaged audience and convert sales.

Integrated campaigns are tricky without the right tools. Find out how Mediatool enables you to manage complicated campaigns.

3. Be deliberate, transparent and authentic

The holiday season is typically lauded by marketers and media planners as a profitable campaign period. But in 2020, purchase decisions will be driven by value and trust above almost everything else.

Consider these European search trends published by Google:

  • Searches for holiday opening times are rising by up to 250%
  • Local searches are up by almost 100% in some places
  • Searching for coupons, sales and deals is up between 40% and 295%
  • Up to 85% more people want to speak to a call centre

The lessons here are clear. Authenticity, value, convenience and customer service are the assets that will win your brand a larger slice of the holiday pie this year, among an uncertain and eCommerce-centric market.

Related: Our previous post “How COVID is changing media planning” has useful insights into the peri-pandemic marketing landscape.

4. Don’t wait to decide

The holiday period isn’t a time to indulge in indecisive media planning. As more of the dollar share moves online, brands will be doing the same in increasing numbers. Marketers’ 2020 Christmas ideas need to be innovative and insightful to cut through the noise.

Part of the challenge is clever creative, but the more significant component is using data to make more informed and efficient marketing decisions. Holiday media planning in 2020 cannot be set and forget. You need to keep a close eye on campaign performance to adjust course in mid-campaign. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Scour ad platforms daily (or several times daily) to collect campaign data, put it all in a spreadsheet, and try to make sense of the numbers
  2. Let Mediatool do it all for you

Mediatool brings your third-party data into a single dashboard that can be shared between remote teams, across agency-client borders and with management. Real-time data access, with visual interpretations that demonstrate how the campaign and budget are tracking against your targets, enables faster decision-making.

This unbridled access to data – both historical and real-time – is the difference between an agile marketing campaign with high ROI and a campaign that barely scrapes by.

Give your team the best gift

From initial media planning to launching optimised integrated campaigns, through to reporting and even adjusting based on real-time audience insight, Mediatool is the all-in-one marketing management platform for better campaigns.

Explore Mediatool on our website or book a free demo with our team today, to give yours the gift of a stress-free holiday period.


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