Temperatures may be soaring across the U.S., but consumers are enjoying low prices generally associated with chilly, year-end months. It’s Christmas in July. And the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts back-to-school shoppers will spend almost $8 billion more than last year. Regardless of this predicted win, forward-thinking companies aren’t pausing to watch or celebrate. They’re planning six months ahead—in smart ways—for this year’s holiday season.
The State of the (Holiday Shopping) Union
Kiplinger reports retailers to be “on solid footing going into the second half of the year.” This includes “the all-important year-end holiday shopping season,” assuming no “big political or economic shocks.” Despite the fact this is an election year, companies shouldn’t fear. A Fox Business article does indicate that sales are likely to drop the weeks before the election. But Bill Martin, founder of retail analytics company ShopperTrak, provides encouraging insight. He says shopping funds withheld by consumers during the election are “released immediately after.” He advises to “be prepared for the weekend following the election to be a big shopping day—that will be the start of the holiday season in earnest.”
Why Companies Should Plan for Christmas in July
The holiday shopping season is starting earlier and earlier. Black Friday is now a month-long event, with retailers trying to outdo each other to win business. Competition is stiff, so organizations need to stand out.
Manufacturers must build hype around new or existing products. Retailers must go beyond deals and promotions to deliver a unique and pleasurable shopping experience (the latter which many consumers report they lack). Fortunately, either goal can be accomplished through event and experiential marketing. To be successful, companies must invest adequate time up front.
Including experiential marketing when planning for Christmas in July is one of the smartest means to achieve success. Read below to discover three ways the best companies are planning their own marketing events to ensure a prosperous holiday season.
3 Smart Ways Top Companies Approach Experiential Marketing During the Holidays and Beyond
They’re evaluating previous initiatives and historical data.
Event marketing is flush with available data. It is critical to approach each event as an opportunity to not only reach company goals, but to gather critical consumer information. Every year, companies that practice experiential marketing during the holiday shopping season are studying the previous year’s data.
Below are important points to consider when reviewing prior experiential marketing campaigns. If you are currently planning your first marketing event, ensure you gather the right data that will allow you to ask these questions once your event has concluded.
Did we meet our goal(s)?
This may be related to the sale of a particular product or total sales by location over a specified period. Or your goal may be measured in downloads or interactions. No matter the type or size of the goal, this data point allows you to measure your event’s ROI and level of success. QUICK TIP: When planning your event, ensure you are setting a goal that is both meaningful and achievable.[Tweet “When planning your event, ensure you are setting a goal that is both meaningful and achievable.”]
Did visitors enjoy themselves?
Consumer satisfaction is always an important goal. If you can answer “yes,” you may be able to revive aspects of the initiative to fit this year’s sales objective. But remember, keep your event fresh. Part of your success will be capturing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). You need to create a sense of urgency and make sure consumers see your event as a “don’t miss.”
If your answer to this question is “no,” delve deeper to learn why before considering alternatives. When gathering event data, make sure to get specific consumer feedback so you know exactly what needs to be fixed.
What key stats should we be mindful of this year?
Planning for Christmas in July means that you have time to drill into the data. For example, examine past feedback to determine peak times for traffic and sales during an in-store event. This may help you modify hours to better fit the needs of your shoppers and maximize your budgeted dollars.
A top takeaway from NRF’s 105th Annual Convention & EXPO (named Retail’s BIG Show 2016 by ShopperTrak) surrounded retailers’ abilities to evaluate the data. “Retailers who take the next step to visualize, analyze and apply the data to make decisions will see the largest gains.” This pertains to all companies wishing to maximize 2016 holiday shopping activity or any other event initiative.
2. They’re brainstorming ways to drive traffic and deliver a great experience.
You know your demographic, your goals, what has worked and what hasn’t. Now your company is ready to brainstorm unique ideas to drive your success. With event marketing and experiential marketing as your basis, the sky is the limit.
For those wishing to build hype around their brand, there are several options that have demonstrated success. Enlist street teams or brand ambassadors to speak face-to-face with consumers. Launch PR stunts to grab attention and create media noise. Pop-up shops or kiosks create FOMO around your brand and drive immediate on-site sales of new or existing products. They also allow brands to capitalize on high-traffic areas in which they otherwise do not have a presence.[Tweet “Companies must allow adequate time for planning event & experiential marketing activities.”]
Brick and mortar shops, from entire malls to individual stores, must generate excitement to stay competitive. Marketing events drive consumers to your store and supply a personal touch to earn their business. Tried and true initiatives use brand ambassadors to engage with customers and provide a memorable experience. While they are there, have them offer demonstrations and/or samples.
Another important ShopperTrak takeaway from Retail’s BIG Show 2016 surrounded shopper loyalty. When targeting consumers, both during the holiday shopping season and year-round, the key is to “create experiences that make them feel valued.” They go on to say that “loyalty will only be achieved through sustained engagement.” This is attained “through differentiated ‘enriched, personal, social, sensory and disruptive experiences’.” Experiential marketing checks all these boxes and is your path to achieving your year-end numbers.
3. They’re engaging outside solution providers to plan and execute initiatives.
We must be customer-focused to be successful. Yet, no matter how innovative or well-planned, your ability to execute your holiday event will only be as good as the people behind it.
Gallup reminds us that the holiday season not only brings stress for consumers, it’s a tough period for employees, too. This point is critical to performance and sales. Gallup notes the demonstrated link between engaged employees and “better business outcomes.” They point out that “engaged employees create engaged customers, and those engaged customers spend more money, more often with their preferred brand.”
Don’t take any chances on employee burnout this holiday season. Allow your team to focus on their jobs at hand and consider an event staffing company that can:
- Safely and intelligently supply the right talent you need for consumer engagement;
- Prove success in executing your event or experiential marketing activity, from samples and demonstrations to operating a pop-up shop;
- Handle event logistics to further ease the burden of regular employees; and
- Provide the technology you need to collect and analyze that oh-so-invaluable data.
With months of planning ahead for the holidays, when you choose an event staffing agency early in the season, you’ll realize tremendous benefits. Taking advantage of their event execution expertise early on can ultimately maximize your event’s ROI.
If you need help in staffing and executing your holiday event, or if you just want to chat as you plan for Christmas in July, EPS can help! Contact us for a free 30-minute event staffing assessment.