Dashing Through the Snow: 5 Ways to Drive Traffic into Stores This Holiday SeasonNovember 14, 2017 | By Ashley Chicola
Although the popularity of online shopping is projected to increase this holiday season, brick and mortar locations are still dominant with 71% of Americans planning to make their holiday purchases in physical stores. From the last-minute shopper to the aisle-browsing enthusiast, check out these tips for driving traffic into stores this holiday season.
Drive traffic into stores via direct mail
Brown paper packages tied up with strings – and other treasures you can find in your mailbox
If you’re trying to reach the 35+ set this holiday season, don’t place all your eggs in the digital marketing basket. In fact, according to Fluent data, 36% of Americans prefer physical mail to radio, TV, and online/mobile ads- with nearly a third of brand mail recipients saying they open and read all the marketing materials they get. For these “old-school” shoppers, a magazine-like catalog delivered at just the right moment, may be (almost) as exciting as receiving a gift under the tree.
1. Holiday Catalogs
If the holidays tend to strike up a sense of nostalgia, then retailers are taking advantage of this longing for the ghost of holiday shopping’s past. Last month Sears announced that it is reviving its once-annual Wish Book, last available in 2011. Adopting an omnichannel approach, Sears will be sending an email invitation to its “best” customers and Shop Your Way members to pick up a copy of the 120-page catalog in stores. This special in-store offer conveys a sense of exclusivity and is perfect for driving the 74 percent of shoppers who prefer to see items in person to their nearest Sears location.
Sears isn’t the only retailer running print this year – Walmart and Target released their 2017 toy catalogs and Neiman Marcus’ annual Christmas Book is complete with a “fantasy gifts” section. All this to say – while emails with pun-ny holiday subject lines may get lost in a flurry of promotional messaging, a direct mail piece may be just what you need to catch the attention of jaded digital media consumers – and motivate them to dash into stores.
Drive traffic into stores using location data
‘Twas the night before Christmas when…people were shopping?
Location, location, location. It matters when purchasing real estate and when reaching last minute shoppers in the busy week leading up to Christmas day; in fact, according to Fluent data, 25% of holiday shoppers are planning to purchase gifts during this time frame. The last-minute shopper is most likely to be male (we’re not just picking on men here – they willingly admit to their tendency to procrastinate when it comes to shopping ). He’s scrambling for a thoughtful, but easy-to-find gift for his girlfriend or mother and needs to know where to find it – fast.
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2. Local Ad Units
Hoping to dodge expedited shipping fees and the risk of late delivery, shoppers are most likely to use queries that signal local intent as Christmas Day approaches. Brands with physical stores should consider enabling local ad units to target shoppers after shipping deadlines pass. Google’s local inventory Ads (LIAs) include information about available products at certain retail location within a given geographic area – a time saver when shoppers are trying to determine if their local Walmart still has that pink Cuisinart stand mixer on shelves.
The relative cost-per-click of LIA traffic also rises throughout the holiday season on phones. This means that mobile, in particular, can help to bridge the gap between online and offline behavior and drive traffic into stores. According to research from Google, mobile ads generate 160 percent more incremental store visits compared to desktop and tablet, with local ad efforts such as LIAs driving an 80 percent higher rate of incremental store visits.
3. Local Search
Move over Hermey, Santa has some new “helpers” this year – and they don’t live in the North Pole. In the past six months, 35 percent of 18-34 year old’s used a virtual assistant such as Siri, Google assistant, or Alexa to make a purchase on a phone or standalone device. While virtual assistants may not be tinkering away in Santa’s workshop, they can help drive traffic into stores this holiday shopping season. For example, Google is tying local inventory data into results via Google Assistant; retailers simply need to upload their local inventory feeds to Google Merchant Center to be eligible for inclusion in local inventory search. Thanks to the help of AI backed by location data, the path to purchase may look something like this:
Shopper finds himself with 5 hours before holiday dinner with the in-laws.
Shopper asks his Google Assistant where to purchase a pre-made gift basket nearby.
Google Assistant populates a list of local inventory results for cookie towers and fruit baskets.
Shopper heads to local store in stride, avoiding yet another last-minute gift-giving catastrophe.
Drive traffic into stores using in-store perks
Reindeer games and selfies with Santa
While local ad efforts may be driving traffic into stores this holiday season, the various shopping options now available to consumers are also helping to increase in-store foot traffic. In the past 6 months, 60 percent of shoppers bought online and picked up in store while 14 percent reserved online and both paid and picked up at a brick and mortar location – a trend that is here to stay for the holiday season. For those planning to pick up an order or browse store aisles, what are retailers doing to make the in-store experience more holly-jolly?
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4. Customer Service Initiatives
Viewing a trip to the local strip mall as a social outing, 27 percent of U.S. consumers prefer shopping in physical stores. Capitalizing on the social appeal of in-store shopping, retailers can send out email invites to their subscriber lists and use a social hashtag to create buzz around events at brick and mortar locations. For example, Walmart is gearing up for the holiday rush with plans to hold more than 20,000 parties at its stores over the next two months. In addition to toy demos and selfies with Santa Claus, the big-box retailer is also adding more holiday helpers to its sales floor. These helpers will guide shoppers to checkout lines and open extra registers during busy hours — all efforts to bring ease and convenience to the shopping experience once consumers enter the store.
5. Augmented Reality
Stores are also leveraging augmented reality apps to make in-store shopping more relevant and fun for consumers. Gap’s Dressing Room app allows shoppers to see clothing styles on different body types on their mobile device’s screens via virtual mannequins. For those looking to deck the halls with new furniture this holiday season, Target, Ikea, and Anthropologie are developing apps that allow users to virtually customize and position furniture in their own homes. And for the parents that will have children in tow as they shop, Toys “R” Us has developed an AR app that allows kids to earn virtual points as they play games throughout the store.
The in-store experience will be a key step in the customer journey this holiday season – the more opportunities a consumer is given to engage with a product, the more likely they will be to make a purchase decision, especially when shopping at a brick and mortar store location.
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