Still recovering from the back-to-school shopping rush? It's time to dust yourself off and get back in the game, because busier days are ahead. With the holiday season pretty much here already, it's not just time to think about picking a Halloween costume, but also time to think about a big holiday marketing push. If you run a business with physical and e-commerce stores, you're likely planning separate marketing initiatives for each arena. This is essential for maximizing profits during the holidays. However, you may be missing a crucial third dimension to your marketing plan.

To increase public awareness and sales over the next few months, it's time to consider all the potential avenues of contact for prospective customers, and create a multipronged advertising strategy that targets customers online, in-store, and in a combined, crossover setting. Planned and implemented early and well, your all-encompassing marketing push will be sure to create a more engaged clientele and greater profits.

The three-pronged strategy

When it comes to holiday shopping in this fast-paced retail climate, it's no longer enough simply to have online advertisements and real-world promotions. Businesses also need marketing and promotions that require customers to interact both online and in-store to receive discounts and coupons.

This creates a situation in which customers can potentially end up benefiting from both internet and direct-mail marketing contact. Consider one or more of the following "crossover" advertising techniques:

  1. Online coupons. When you send a marketing email to your online customers, include a coupon the recipient can use in your online or brick-and-mortar store. Sweeten the discount (e.g., 25 percent off versus 20 percent off) depending on which location you want to encourage them to visit.
  2. In-store coupons. Even when an item they want is not in stock or available in the store, individuals who make purchases in person may still find they are looking for items you can provide. The point of sale is the perfect place to provide shoppers with a coupon for their next online purchase. You may also wish to collect email addresses at the cash register to help you broaden your email audience.
  3. Circulars and newspaper coupons. A significant number of consumers--whether they shop primarily in-store or online--continue to comb newspapers and circulars for holiday deals. Use this opportunity to provide a coupon they can use wherever they would like.
  4. Gift with purchase(s). When customers make purchases both online and in the store, offer them a special incentive they can keep for themselves or pass along as a gift. This may be as simple as a gift card to your store or as elaborate as a specialty product only you offer.

More tips to increase both foot and internet traffic

Companies with physical and digital locations have a sizable advantage over their one-dimensional competitors, and it's one that can be leveraged to particular effect during the holiday season, because each component offers its own appeal to potential shoppers: the brick-and-mortar location provides the personal touch and the online location represents convenience.

Additional ways to encourage customers to visit both locations include:

  1. Send holiday cards. As you prepare direct mail and email for your valued customers, Minted.com suggests distributing physical Christmas cards. Receiving these personalized creations will let recipients know you consider them an important part of your brand's "family." Include valuable coupons with each card as a token of your appreciation for their continued loyalty.
  2. Bring in-store events online. Plan events that take advantage of social media, such as a photo contest that focuses on Instagram pictures of in-store items. Online visitors will appreciate vivid and dynamic images and may become more likely to attend in-store events in the future.
  3. Get responsive. Since more than a quarter of last year's holiday shoppers conducted at least part of their business on mobile phones, the importance of having a website that's easy to use on any size screen is greater than ever. Work with a skilled web designer to create a responsive website at which visitors can browse, gather information, and complete purchases quickly and easily.
  4. Use an app. In keeping with the mobile theme, apps are a tried and true way to create a seamless experience for in-store shoppers. Users can pull up and display coupons on the spot, and the app can provide personalized advice for people when they're in your store.
  5. Be flexible with gift cards. Gift cards are a perfect item for businesses to promote during the holidays. Not only do they increase revenue immediately, but they also bring in new shoppers. Provide access to printable, online gift cards that recipients can use online or in-store. Given two ways to purchase, they'll be more likely to use them and discover all your business has to offer.

As your competitors begin (or continue) to plan their holiday marketing strategies, you should be developing your own multipronged approach. By keeping yourself at the front of consumers' minds in their physical and digital domains, you can expect to see massive results from Black Friday through the New Year.

What techniques are you using to encourage holiday shoppers to take advantage of online and in-store promotions?

Published on: Oct 15, 2014