Digital Pivots May Save Brands this Holiday Season

Shutterfly launches funny end-of-2020 digital cards

It’s no secret that the pressure is on for brands and retailers this holiday season. And whether you are a small brick-and-mortar business or a megastore conglomerate, everyone is feeling the pinch. 

COVID-19 surges have altered consumer habits, with fewer shoppers browsing in stores. Unemployment has led many to spend less on the holidays, holding assets closer to home. As of mid-November, 40 percent of consumers expect to spend less, 50 percent say their spending will stay the same and only 10 percent expect their spending to increase, according to an Influence Central survey of 580 consumers.

So, the challenge is real for brands is to focus on a season that usually makes or breaks their fiscal year. And because of COVID-19 and economic issues, they are trying new things to appeal to consumers, pushing sales earlier than ever. One could find holiday-related email promotions from Crate & Barrel, West Elm and Anthropologie, among others, in September. 

In addition, Black Friday and Cyber Monday may have carried less weight than in years past because of promotions since the early fall. One example is Amazon, which moved its Prime Day to October.

Companies are learning flexibility and following consumers' leads. With more families staying home to avoid the pandemic, ecommerce is the buying method of choice. How can brands stand out in a sea of online options? 

Embrace Social Commerce 

If you haven’t been served an ad on Instagram or Facebook, and thought, 'Wow, they really have my number,' then you haven’t been paying attention. 

Social media commerce provides solutions, as well as inspiration, for small businesses and brick-and-mortar stores with less foot traffic. Social provides a new way to engage with shoppers—who may normally see and find trends in the outside world—through school, work, or friends. People are turning to TV and magazines, but mostly social media to see the latest and greatest.

Chris Emme, chief revenue officer of Tsū, a social media app known for paying its content creator users, said brands should see social commerce as a big opportunity with a controlled and creative message.

“Investing in social discovery, letting your product out into the wild, giving it a voice, having authentic fans endorse it and supporting it with great customer service are all critical aspects of how brands can successfully embrace social commerce [since]...that is how consumers are finding and then buying your product,” Emme said.

“It is this convergence between discovery and purchase that makes up true social commerce. Simply putting your products on a website...enabling that to be eCommerce. Creating content around your product, putting it in the hands of influencers, building awareness of your product online, allowing it to be shared and then connecting that to a commerce engine is what social commerce is."  

And consumers are embracing the social outreach. Influence Central CEO Stacy DeBroff said, “49 percent of consumers report that...Facebook leads as the most likely social platform for them to click through to shop a brand. Instagram follows, with 25 percent looking to shop via the popular app.”

Engaging to Inspire

As Emme said, it’s not enough to put a brand or product on social media. There’s a nuanced strategy for catching consumers' attention. An example of an industry inspiring purchases through its content? DIY.

With most people still spending the majority of their hours at home amid work-from-home and social distancing, home projects lingering on the back burner have come roaring to life,” DeBroff said. “Sixty-one percent of all consumers have undertaken a DIY home project this year, so expect gifting in this category to be strong. Brands have a unique opportunity to market to these DIY-ers with an array of relevant products accompanied by inspiring online project ideas and step-by-step instructions.”

Home Depot collaborated with Pinterest to promote meaningful, homemade gifts. Shutterfly created tongue-in-cheek 2020 holiday cards for families to distribute their real feelings about the past year. Sur La Table flaunts tantalizing Christmas "Charcuterie" boards on Instagram. 


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A post shared by Sur La Table (@surlatable)

So who needs a storefront? Hop on digital to make a real brand impact this holiday season. 

“With more isolation, people will crave an infusion of holiday spirit after a year of upheaval, set-backs, loss, uncertainty and anxiety,” DeBroff said. “Brands can capitalize on this through uplifting messaging, infused as a part of their promotions and marketing efforts.”

Nicole Schuman is a senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal