With the beginning of a new year comes the end of the all-important holiday shopping season — and the opportunity for marketers and retailers to sit back, breathe a sigh of relief that it’s over and reflect on holiday learnings. The insights gained from new sales and customer acquisition campaigns during this busy period can help you extend your campaigns into Q1, provide sales opportunities throughout the year, and help to make your next holiday season even more successful to boot.
Here are five ways to prep yourself for success in the year ahead.
1. Debrief And Strike While The Iron’s Hot
I know: you’ve just finished up an exhausting campaign, and the last thing you want is to face the prospect of kicking off planning for something that’s 10 months away. But there’s no better time to start planning than when everything you’ve just been through is still fresh in the minds of your team.
Taking the time to debrief from this year’s campaign is the key to improving for the year ahead. A thorough debrief begins with a full evaluation of KPIs, as well as an assessment of your team’s performance against target. It should also include a qualitative phase, where team members are given an opportunity to identify the pain points you experienced, with a goal of solving for them and improving effectiveness in the future. And starting your planning process early also allows for more flexibility and innovation: the tendency to stick with the familiar and repeat old campaign tactics only grows as you get closer to a deadline.
It’s also important not to lose sight of your current initiatives during this process. According to a recent report from Blackhawk Network, 80% of consumers received a digital or physical gift card during the 2019 holiday season, making Q1 a major retail opportunity on its own.
2. Get Ahead of Working Insights into 2020 Planning
The holiday shopping frenzy is a massive anomaly, with consumer behavior shifting dramatically online. Data around everything from traffic patterns, web site behaviors and buying preferences can look unrecognizable compared to what’s expected during the rest of the year.
What this means is that marketers can run into situations where they get caught flat-footed by these unexpected patterns, without the time or resources to accommodate and/or capitalize on these shifts.
One real-world example comes from luxury furniture retailer One Kings Lane, where tabletop decor and ornaments are among their most popular categories during the holidays. But since these products weren’t otherwise top sellers throughout the rest of the year, they weren’t originally being prioritized during the beginning-of-year content planning. As a result, their marketing team found themselves needing to reuse material during holiday promotions.
The lesson here is that once they started following the data and incorporating those holiday sales insights into their planning, the team at One Kings Lane made sure they were prepared to maximize the potential of this brief but disproportionately valuable slice of the year.
3. Define And Plan For Code Freezes
For most online retailers, the holiday shopping season is a time where no site changes are permitted — minimizing the risk of bugs and lessening downtime that might impact sales. While this is an undoubted best practice, it also represents a challenge for marketers, as it means that plans and strategies must be in place well ahead of the shopping season — a fact that can be erased through early preparation.
At this point, most mature retail organizations have formal plans to deal with Code Freeze windows — but that doesn’t mean that they’re painless. Aside from the challenges of not being able to change code or add new vendors during these periods, many organizations don’t even have a standardized cross-functional definition of what Code Freeze actually means, which can lead to miscommunication between key stakeholders. In the worst cases, this can even lead to lost revenue due to misunderstandings, missed deadlines or even favor trading between marketers and tech to bypass the Code Freeze.
The solution to this is two-fold. First, companies should create and communicate a single definition of what Code Freeze means across the entire organization. Then, planning should be aligned around this definition and split into distinct phases.
The key to making all of this work: time. Setting out a specific time to clearly communicate these definitions and plans early in the year forces everyone involved to make careful, considered decisions about priorities — greatly enhancing the prospect of them actually getting delivered upon.
4. Develop Partner Opportunities
Another benefit of starting your planning early in the year is the ability to think strategically about partner relationships. Getting a head start can help partners support you in everything from generating ideas for new product lines, bundles or revenue share opportunities, to helping fix production issues and even teaming up on co-marketing campaigns.
New sales opportunities and production fixes will inevitably surface as your partner relationships progress, which means that the more time you spend working on them, the better your end results will be.
A great place to start that conversation is by checking in with existing partners to recap what you did over the recent holiday season: that will help to plant the seeds for the next season.
5. Cultivate Happier Customers Through Long-Term Planning
Everything you put in place now, from partner relationships to Code Freeze planning, is ultimately about one end goal: ensuring the most positive (and personalized) customer experience possible. From content and product availability to site speed and stability, there are serious benefits to be had from getting a head start, and serious opportunity costs to under-preparing.
As we have seen, the key to this lies first in conducting honest assessments to find out what worked and what didn’t, followed by developing long-term timelines for planning and executing your 2020 campaigns.
Having just come through a campaign, you already have everything you need to start working on improving the next one — so what are you waiting for?
In his role as the AVP of Marketing: Digital, Brand and Content at BounceX, Kris Mobayeni defines and implements the company’s core messaging and brand identity across all digital and written channels, as well as facilitating sales and strategic alignment. He previously used his passion for marketing analytics and strategic brand activation to great success at companies like Reebok and Syrinx Consulting. He is a graduate of Northeastern University with a BA in Business Administration and Marketing.