Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Vincent DeSantis, director of Retail Facebook Business Group. Views are the author's own.
There was a time not too long ago when all the best holiday gift ideas would come in a flyer in the mail or the newspaper. If you were a kid, these flyers were magical — like walking down the bright aisles of an endless toy store — full of possibility.
Even with the pandemic unresolved, supply chains in turmoil, stores and fulfillment centers stretched and shipping costs skyrocketing, this holiday shopping season is still full of possibility.
Yes, Virginia, there will be a Christmas — but it will again look very different this year. Retail sales are likely to boost, as people may spend more on goods instead of travel and experiences. Think about how your products can help increase comfort and happiness in uneasy times.
Marketers will have to be dynamic and flexible. They can't wait around for certainty or for the fog to clear. They'll have to step up to the moment, like a certain famous reindeer with an idiosyncratic nose, and lead the way.
Fortunately we learned a lot from last year – the retail industry's ability to meet customers' needs was astounding – and we can use those lessons for the current holiday season. After working with marketers throughout the pandemic, these are my best insights for the holiday season ahead.
Get yourself into your target audience's holiday consideration set by branding earliest. Keep that momentum by staying top of mind throughout the season, as consumers are switching brand loyalty more than ever.
Another major reason to promote early shopping: residential delivery costs from UPS and FedEx will go up before you discard your Jack-O'-Lantern (UPS on Oct. 31, FedEx on Nov. 1). With online shopping projected to rise in many areas, it's wise to get a head start.
With the pandemic still a major issue, the fear of going out has extended into the 2021 holiday shopping season.
Many consumers will make their purchasing decisions well before they're in your store aisles, if they enter the store at all. This is another reason why your holiday messaging has to start early, as some consumers will simply choose to shop online.
And if you have buy online, pick up in-store or curbside capabilities, you should promote them heavily, as they are still differentiators. While many retailers initially added these services last year to respond to the fear of going out, consumers grew to love them for their convenience. Plus they are good for your margins, help you fully leverage the inventory in your stores and are ideal for procrastinators that miss the last day to ship for Christmas delivery.
Mobile, of course, is the key to making this work. It's well established that mobile social media is vital for product discovery. And best in-class retailers have learned that their online shopping experience has to be, well, experiential. They've taken the "wow" factor from their stores and brought it to life in their customers' mobile feeds.
Because of supply chain issues, be ready to promote what you know is in stock. Push specials, posts and content about items that are plentiful in your inventory. This may mean a shift from promoting typical hot sellers and more emphasis on highlighting items you know customers will be able to obtain.
Now is the time to set up ready-to-populate templates to quickly promote back-in-stock products, last-minute promotions or gift cards. Keep the sales ringing by promoting brands and broader high-interest categories, instead of specific products.
However, there's a silver lining to this: shoppers will be motivated by fear of missing out on limited inventory, another reason to start your holiday messaging early.
Looking ahead at the role of commerce going forward, the trends we see today will certainly increase. As always, marketers and businesspeople of all stripes will have to adapt. And what people buy, why and when will continue to change. And I am optimistic we will be up to the challenge, from this holiday season to the next.