Wake up! We’re in the Christmas Countdown. Planning is in full swing for the 2016 holiday season.   Are you up on all of the hot trends and “must-do’s” to make the most of this holiday season?  We have compiled a quick checklist for you to consider as you finalize your 2016 Holiday marketing and technology plan.

1). Make your customer online shopping experience memorable and relevant.

Capturing first party data is absolutely key this holiday season.  The best retailers are capitalizing on their first party data to deliver a highly personalized shopping experience across devices.  A recent survey by MyBuys found that 83% of consumers see value in being recognized across devices.   By leveraging this first party data, you also know all of their past shopping behavior and can present targeted, relevant, personalized recommendations made just for them.  This is the path to higher conversion and greater sales.

The only way to make sure that you obtain first party data from customers is to ask them. While that process may seem simple, store associates may choose to skip the customer identification process during the busy holiday season, when lines get longer and pressure to hit sales numbers gets higher.  Training and prioritizing from the district managers is often the key to maintaining a high level of customer information capture during this hectic time.

2). Deliver the BEST Buy Online, Pick-up In-store Experience.

In the crazy, hectic life we lead, creating a fast and convenient shopping experience for customers who select “buy online, pickup in-store” is a huge opportunity.  Not only is it the perfect blending of the online and store shopping experiences, but it creates the potential for additional basket sales while in-store.  E-commerce sales are expected to grow 13% this holiday season but store sales are projected to be flat.  Why not take every opportunity to get those customers into the store and deliver an experience that leaves a smile on their face?  The chances of an impulse purchase while in the store increases exponentially!

How can you make sure your “buy online and pick-up in store” process really works? By experiencing that process yourself! You and your team make purchases online and go to different stores for pick up. This approach is the only way to truly understand how multichannel purchase/pick-up works for your customers.

3). Maximize The Pre-Pre Holiday Phenomenon.

Pssst!  Has your company locked down your Black Friday offers in a top secret location? Maybe at the top of Mt Kilimanjaro?  Well, you might consider a plan to “leak” your Thanksgiving Day deals and begin offering those specials early.  Why you might ask?  In 2015, Nielson reported that by the end of September, 36% of Americans had started their holiday shopping.  Ipsos and Magnetic found that 17% of customers shop all year long!  In the 90’s and 2000’s, companies went to extreme measures to protect their Black Friday offers.  Yet, they were inevitably leaked to the media.  After getting beaten at their own game, many retailers now plan for “early bird” specials, beginning in early November.

Last year, the US started hearing about a “small” event that happens in China called Singles Day (November 11th).   Do you remember?  Singles Day in China alone is nearly 5x bigger than any Black Friday the US has ever seen, checking in with sales of $14.3B in a single day!  Last year, there were tremors in the US from this Chinese holiday.  But this year, anticipate more than just tremors.  My prediction – This year we will see 11/11 will become a “pre-holiday” sales event.  Are you ready to be an early adopter this year?

4). Remember Mobile is KING!!

We have been hearing it for years, but this year, it is impossible to ignore the impact that mobile and multiple devices will have on the holiday shopping and buying habits.  According to comScore, in 2015 online shopping increased 13%, reaching $69 billion.  Within that mix, desktop shopping increased 6%, but mobile increased 59% to $12.65 billion!  What does this mean for your holiday marketing?  All of your websites need to either be built with a mobile version of be mobile responsive.  In the case with email, the new mandate is that ALL email should be mobile responsive.  With over $12 billion in sales on the table, recipients are viewing a large percentage of those emails on their phone or tablet – then clicking directly through for the purchase.  If your email is not responsive, be prepared to customer satisfaction to plummet.  And it’s not just the device that matters!  IAB’s 2015 “Holiday Shopper Playbook” says that email is more influential than broadcast TV in purchases of clothing and like categories. Take that TRP’s!

This year, we will also start seeing the early adopters using push notifications and beacon technology to impact holiday shopping behavior.  While many retailers are not there yet, you should anticipate that is the next generation of mobile technology to be main stream in 2017. To get started, marketers should experiment with text messaging (make sure you get permission first!) promotional offers. After the holidays is a good time to explore beacon technology, which is a joint project between store operations, IT and marketing – to get a pilot going for evaluation.

Are you ready for this holiday season?  Or do you have more work to do on your website and email program?

Good luck and let us know how you’re doing.