Five online marketing strategies to gear up for Christmas

With over 60 per cent of UK consumers doing half of their Christmas shopping online, it’s time to knock it up a gear, says Tim Cameron-Kitchen.

Is your website ready for Christmas? With over 60 per cent of UK consumers doing half of their Christmas shopping online, it’s time to knock it up a gear for your Christmas marketing.

Excessive crowds are one of the main factors turning shoppers to their laptops and mobile phones, rather than braving a trip to their local shopping centres. Last year, John Lewis shoppers used their smartphones and tablets 31 per cent more than previous years, meaning e-commerce websites need to be prepared for the change in shoppers’ attitude.

What can small businesses do to compete and fight off the competition? Using these five online marketing strategies, you can put your brand and products in a position to appeal to a larger audience during one of the most demanding sales seasons.

1. Use social media and hashtags to engage your customers

John Lewis consistently delivers with its Christmas marketing. Its emotive Christmas adverts not only create a buzz of conversation but lead to sell-out products. In 2014, the famous Monty the Penguin cuddly toy sold out in 24 hours, thus creating a mark-up of 300 per cent on eBay, all due to an advert under three minutes with a great song and cute penguins.

John Lewis knows exactly how to arm its adverts with catchy hashtags to maximise the hubbub. This Christmas, the starring role goes to Buster the Boxer. The hashtag #BusterTheBoxer gained nearly 50,000 mentions on the day of the campaign’s release. Starting with the anticipation of a television advert and following the campaign through on social media means John Lewis is winning at Christmas year on year.

Even without the big budgets, small businesses can start creating a social media storm when done right. While you may not have managed to get a Christmas hashtag trending, using ones already trending on your Tweets can drive extra traffic to your page. Be wary of just jumping on any popular hashtag, though. You don’t need to jump on John Lewis’ hashtag just because it’s getting attention. Pick ones that work for your market and make sure you know exactly what the hashtag trend is about.

Use social media to highlight offers and giveaways at Christmas. Secret Escapes is a company that always promotes its special offers through Twitter to ensure followers have a reason to stay engaged and spread the word. Engaging your customers on social media is essential — especially at Christmas when many are desperately looking not just for gift ideas, but also for a deal or two to keep costs down.

2. Reach out to bloggers for extra exposure

Get in touch with relevant, reputable bloggers to run a Christmas giveaway on their blog or to get your products featured in a Christmas gift guide. Bloggers have a ready-made audience that you can tap into to massively increase social media exposure and generate click-throughs to your website during the holiday season.

Christmas shopping giveaways — Provide a product to a blogger to give away to their readers. Take Sense Organics, an organic children’s clothing brand. We contacted mummy bloggers to run giveaways with. In the second month, we had 85 per cent of bloggers agreeing to work with us, and the results were incredible.

Geek chic diary ran a giveaway for a £20 set of kid’s pyjamas from their range. The giveaway ran for five weeks and it received over 17,000 entries. Sense Organics Twitter following doubled in those five weeks and their social media visitable ability dramatically increased.

Christmas gift guides — From October-December, many bloggers will compile a list of products which are ideal Christmas gifts in the run-up to December 25th. The blogger will write a short review about a product to promote it. It’s a great way for products to get exposure, as people will be turning to their favourite blogs to find gifts for friends and family. Look out for these opportunities on the #PRrequest Twitter hashtag.

Christmas reviews — Got a service but not a product? No problem. You can still work with bloggers during the Christmas season. If you own a small bakery, for example, you could invite a local food blogger to try your special Christmas doughnuts. Agree with them beforehand to write a review of their experience and share it on social media.

3. Target niche keywords on a blog

Use Google Trends to find those keywords that are seasonal favourites, as well as those which are on the up this year. If you know something is going to be popular around Christmas time, write some blog posts targeting related long tail searches. Use these as social media fodder, get some targeted links coming in (talk to those above mentioned bloggers mentioned), and you’ll have a shot at getting your blog posts ranking for these seasonal keywords.

At Christmas, partners of vape enthusiasts will be searching for help on buying e-cigarettes as Christmas presents. These searchers have high ‘commercial intent’ (i.e. they are looking for something to buy) but might need help choosing the most suitable products as they might not be vapers themselves. Thus a buyer’s’ guide type blog post can be a smart way to both pick up rankings while generating some sales.

You can make blog posts light-hearted as well, even if your product or service is serious. A warehouse safety inspector may not see an increased demand for their service at Christmas, but by writing an entertaining blog post with niche keywords and a Christmas topic they can create something which people will be much more likely to share than a blog purely written about their business.

4. Use remarketing adverts

Remarketing is a tried-and-tested way to bring back those customers who didn’t complete their purchase on your website. Adverts reminding customers where they have been browsing will show up as they browse online, or in the form of an email from the website itself.

Remarketing emails are a powerful tool used by the very best. WHSmith found a 200 per cent conversion rate on remarketing emails when they followed up customers with a personalised email offering a 5 per cent discount on products within the next 48 hours. With those kind of results, it’s crazy not to follow up with remarketing emails, especially at Christmas.

Remarketing emails have a 50 per cent chance of being opened in December, as opposed to 44 per cent in November. Consumers tend to panic nearer Christmas and are more likely to open emails to make sure all their gifts arrive in time for the big day. They’re also more eager than ever to look out for ideas and deals to aid their festive shopping.

5. Use videos to engage your customers

Videos are more prominent than ever on the internet and engaging consumers like never before. After watching a video on an eCommerce website, 64% of consumers are more likely to buy a product.

Creating a video to demonstrate how a product is used is perfect — particularly if it’s new and buyers have to be introduced to it. Tassimo specialises in hot drink products. A coffee machine may be a new product for someone, so having a simple video to show how easy it is to use can ease customers who are uncertain about buying it.

Even online, Christmas shopping can be stressful for people trying to find the right gift so using a video is a sure way to grab customers attention and have them follow through with a sale.

Tim Cameron-Kitchen is the founder of Exposure Ninja.

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