Webinar Recap: Marketing and Customer Engagement Tactics for the Holiday Season

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Holiday shopping

Black Friday is a week away. Is there anything brands and merchants can do before then to make their local marketing stand out amid the holiday crush?

A Street Fight webinar Thursday, “Real-Time Location-Based Marketing Strategies for the Holidays,” sketched out how hyperlocal technology and marketing have reshaped consumer expectations before getting into some practical tactics there’s still time to implement. Sponsored by Brandify, a leader in location-based digital marketing strategies, the webinar featured analysis from an upcoming report by Dr. Phil Hendrix, founder of research firm immr, and marketing advice from Brandify CEO Manish Patel.

Reset Customer Expectations

No analyst presentation is complete without some technology waves. Hendrix summarized how local marketing and commerce are rapidly moving into what he sees as a fourth wave of mobile disruption. Marketers and merchants already are using mobile metrics to add context — i.e. adding “why” to the “who” of mobile analytics. Soon they’ll tap into big data, artificial intelligence, and deeply-linked apps to enable intelligent shopping. Hendrix cautioned that retailers and brands will have to balance the value of providing such intelligently personalized services versus consumer privacy concerns, but he thinks most customers will gladly make that trade.

As we’ve passed through these waves, consumers have increased their expectations accordingly. Hendrix laid out a framework of 12 levers marketers can pull in this environment, adding that he hadn’t seen any one company excel at all 12. He advised companies to focus on four strategies around: 1) customer experience, particularly through increasing personalization; 2) marketing alignment with multichannel shopping; 3) interpreting real-time digital signals to deliver that contextual insight; and occasionally swinging for the fences with 4) innovation that changes the game.

Hendrix cited Target as an example of a game-changer: He was impressed by how the big retailer syncs an online shopping list with in-store navigation. Later in the presentation, he called out Instacart, which had integrated with his wife’s favorite recipe site. Not only did Instacart populate a shopping list from a recipe but it also showed prices at different local grocers.


Hendrix’ chart above illustrates how marketers can help ease friction at different intersections of a typical customer shopping cycle. He and Brandify’s Patel constructed a holiday shopping “stress test” exercise against which companies should map themselves, with the objective of using location and context — past purchases, channel preferences, etc. — plus inferred or explicit intent to deliver that magic experience. As Hendrix noted, a targeted ad message isn’t intrusive if it’s relevant.

Practical Considerations for Holiday Marketing

Patel warned that misfiring on customer experiences can be disastrous. He says a consumer will blame the brand, not the channel, for flawed digital execution. The good news is there’s a lot of solid, fairly simple, practical advice in that stress test, covering web presence and social media management.

Patel cited a number of simple, effective tactics that will help retailers with SEO. These included embedding reviews on their store locators and making sure their seasonal hours are front and center. He also noted that since apps play an increasingly important role in consumer shopping, retailers and brands must not forget that Apple and Google have fundamentally different approaches to indexing information within apps. Marketers cannot ignore either, or hope for lowest-common-denominator or integrated solutions yet. That’s something we talked about on a local search panel at our recent Street Fight Summit as well.

Patel recommended that, when doing a geo-coding audit of your site, Google is by far the most important channel to check, unless you’re running a restaurant, where it’s Yelp that figures most highly. And don’t forget Apple Maps, which are no longer irrelevant. He identified Facebook advertising as the easiest way to do low-cost local re-targeting based on segments and customer profiles.

What to Do Right Now

There’s not much marketers can do to take advantage of mobile payment technology this holiday season, and both Hendrix and Patel said that whereas beacons will become omnipresent, they aren’t yet today. So what new technologies can stores and marketers implement immediately? The panel closed with some tips:

  • If you’re not already experimenting with beacons, don’t start during these holidays. But consider other location-based technology: Wi-Fi is far more widely deployed.
  • Consider new marketing and advertising tech you can use this holiday season. For example, Google is about to implement sales countdowns, and it’s adding text messaging extensions to Google Now. Apple’s deep-linking capabilities within apps are worth exploring.
  • And here’s a way to tap into personalization with minimal investment: Train your team to respond to reviews as soon as possible. That’s a personal touch that will stand out in a crowd.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.