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This year, with the cost of living crisis weighing heavily on many consumers, a number of e-commerce experts predict that some shoppers may delay shopping to take advantage of last-minute discounting – or not shop at all, if their budget is too tight. Other headwinds on marketers’ collective radar include labor shortages and supply chain issues.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Rio SEO and Forsta recently hosted a webinar on local holiday marketing strategies for seasonal success, and our panel had a ton of great tips to share.
Sharon Hyman, Senior Manager of Content Marketing for Rio SEO and Forsta, was joined by Winston Burton, SVP of SEO at Acronym, and Joe Sperzel, Group Director of SEO at Horizon Media. Together, they explored trends in AI-generated content, how marketers are adapting messaging to economic conditions, and lessons from big brands about delivering outstanding UX experiences for your customers.
It’s worth noting that these tips and strategies can be applied to any holiday, from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Black Friday to Easter – and of course, in advance of the lucrative Christmas and New Year holiday season. Don’t forget about regional and other locally relevant holidays, too.
Dig into the highlights and top takeaways below, and you can catch the full webinar on demand to learn more.
Strategies for keeping pace with rapidly changing consumer behavior and market conditions
Staying ahead of the curve is the name of the game. As market conditions and consumer behavior shift rapidly, businesses must adapt and innovate to thrive, Sharon noted, as the group first explored how omnichannel considerations are influencing consumers’ choices.
Joe highlighted the need for businesses to rethink their holiday marketing strategies in our dynamic post-pandemic world. People are no longer as consistently available at home as they were during the pandemic, he said, and are instead returning to the office and resuming active lifestyles.
To stay relevant, it’s crucial to offer a variety of options beyond home delivery, he recommended.
Your marketing should emphasize choices such as in-store pickup, home delivery, and curbside service. Convenience is the new norm, and businesses that adapt will thrive. Joe underscored how consumer behavior has permanently shifted, making it vital to meet customers on their terms and ensure your holiday strategies align with this new reality.
Adapting to financial uncertainty and a cost-of-living crisis
Your customers may be more reluctant to spend money if they have a reduced spending capacity. Winston noted that adapting to financial uncertainty and the cost of living crisis requires a multifaceted approach.
First and foremost, he suggests creating content that resonates with budget-conscious consumers.
Providing educational experiences that offer practical solutions and relief from financial pressures can be highly effective. Secondly, Winston stressed the importance of social media engagement. Brands should collaborate closely with their social media teams to amplify their voices and foster real-time interactions with customers. Promptly addressing concerns and challenges is vital to maintaining customer trust and loyalty.
He also highlighted the significance of targeted marketing. Analytics data helps brands segment their audience based on spending behaviors and demographics. Tailoring messages to specific segments and addressing their unique concerns is a strategic approach.
Lastly, Winston underscores the need for empathetic communication.
During uncertain times, it’s crucial to convey messages that demonstrate understanding and support for customers. Whether through paid or organic channels, empathetic messaging plays a pivotal role in building and maintaining customer relationships, he said.
Audience segmentation and tailoring marketing tactics are essential to reach specific segments effectively, Joe agreed.
By identifying which avenues and strategies resonate with each audience, Joe says, brands can optimize their messaging to cater to the diverse needs of their customer base. This targeted approach ensures efficient spending on marketing efforts during the holiday season.
In short, the panel concluded, look at adapting your messaging as a three-part process of testing, iteration, and improvements. Really drill down to what’s working and what isn’t – and what may work for some segments but not others.
Tips for overcoming labor shortages
How can brands proactively address workforce shortages and labor-related challenges to position themselves effectively in the face of these issues?
Here, Winston stressed the importance of planning as a key strategy for addressing workforce shortages and labor-related challenges during the holiday season.
Brands need an overall content strategy that includes planning well in advance for key events such as Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
From an SEO perspective, last-minute content updates can hinder rankings, so planning is essential. One notable point Winston makes is the value of retaining existing landing pages. These pages accumulate authority and equity over time, and altering them can have negative consequences. Instead, he suggests keeping the same landing pages while adjusting the messaging to align with the evolving holiday season. This approach ensures continuity and preserves the SEO benefits of established landing pages.
Joe noted that labor shortages can arise suddenly, and brands must be prepared to adapt swiftly.
While consumers may initially wait for the best deals due to financial concerns, unforeseen issues, such as delays in curbside pickup, can shift their shopping behaviors.
He also suggests that brands should plan for multiple scenarios and be agile in their approach. This includes segmenting their strategies for anticipated scenarios but also having backup plans ready. Being prepared and adaptable will enable brands to stay ahead and adjust their tactics as circumstances change. This agility ensures that brands can respond effectively while others may struggle to keep up.
Strategies for keeping customers informed & engaged
Uncertainty and misinformation can put a damper on your customer’s experience, and Google’s Helpful Content system of updates means accurate, high-quality information is more important than ever. How can brands effectively manage and communicate things like changing stock levels across various channels?
In cases where supply chain issues affect stock availability, for example, Joe recommended that brands adapt their messaging.
If you can’t stock items in physical stores but have them in a warehouse for shipping, adjusting your messaging to promote free shipping can be effective in guiding consumer choices. Joe stressed the importance of a brand understanding its own circumstances and aligning its messaging with consumer needs, a crucial factor in brand marketing decisions.
How to highlight relevant, compelling information across channels
What does this look like in action? Joe shared several strategies for effectively highlighting holiday-related information such as promotions and hours. First, businesses should use special hours to communicate extended opening times to customers. Second, making offers available within apps is crucial for accessibility and user convenience.
Joe also emphasized the importance of actively engaging in the Q&A area within Google Business Profiles.
Brands should provide accurate answers to customer queries, ensuring that other users don’t inaccurately respond on their behalf. Being present and responsive in this context not only enhances user experience but also contributes to better sentiment and reviews.
Overall, Joe encouraged brands to recognize the significance of leveraging various channels and features within business profiles to ensure that customers can easily access essential holiday information. These practices can significantly improve a brand’s online presence and customer satisfaction during the holiday season.
Keep consumers informed to prevent discontent, even when conditions aren’t ideal
Sharon shared a best practice of responding to reviews within 24 hours, highlighting the significant impact it can have, even though it might seem daunting with numerous reviews and locations.
Having a well-defined process in place, including canned review response templates for situations where immediate action isn’t possible due to limited resources, is essential.
These responses can guide customers to the right channels for assistance.
Sharon expanded on the importance of customer experience, mentioning a revealing stat. She noted that customers are more concerned about not being informed during the problem-solving process than the actual waiting time. She likened it to doctor’s visits, where moving from one waiting room to another resets the perception of time, emphasizing the need for clear communication throughout the customer journey.
Get back to basics for holiday (and year-round) success
Being able to control the conversation around your brand and avoid leaving customer inquiries unanswered, Winston said, reiterating Joe’s point.
He reiterated the importance of accurate NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information, sharing a personal experience where incorrect details led to a frustrating user experience.
For her part, Sharon reinforces the idea that the basics remain crucial, even in the era of exciting trends like TikTok. She highlights that getting the fundamentals right is foundational and should not be overlooked amid the fast-paced nature of marketing.
How can brands leverage tactics such as messaging related to free shipping to incentivize consumer purchases and address cost-of-living concerns?
Winston recommends using social media to amplify brand messaging, highlighting its synergy with SEO efforts.
He provides an example of how a new product’s landing page can benefit from collaboration between SEO and paid social teams. Running PPC ads and gaining social engagement, such as likes and mentions, can help brands boost their authority and relevance, which positively impacts SEO rankings. Creating a collaborative ecosystem where social media efforts complement SEO strategies is imperative.
Scale & engage with AI content
What role does AI-generated content play, and how can businesses effectively utilize it?
Winston highlighted AI’s role in content ideation and strategy, where it can swiftly generate content that serves as a starting point for humans to refine for factual accuracy and grammatical correctness.
From a local perspective, Winston noted how AI can help with Google Business Profiles, expediting the process of filling out attributes to optimize business profiles. He discussed experimenting with AI tools to optimize content based on keywords generated by other SEO tools, suggesting that this approach can be effective in enhancing topical relevance and speeding up the content creation process.
Overall, Winston recommends that brands seek out opportunities to apply the practicality and efficiency that AI brings to content and SEO strategies.
Joe aligns with Winston’s perspective on AI, and agreed it’s a valuable tool but requires human evaluation and refinement. He highlighted competitive analysis as a practical application, where AI can swiftly summarize competitors’ websites, offering insights into what they’re focusing on.
AI can provide an alternative viewpoint, Joe said, streamlining the process of identifying gaps in content or optimization.
It can quickly pinpoint areas where a brand’s content lacks coverage compared to competitors, providing a clear starting point for improvement, too. Iterating with AI is another strategy Joe recommends, especially for tasks like generating multiple versions of ad copy. AI can efficiently produce variations based on different messaging priorities, saving time and effort compared to creating each version from scratch.
Combat shrinking ad budgets with customer insights & community connection
Given reduced marketing budgets, what alternative channels can brands explore, considering limitations on spending for paid activities?
Winston advised that brands focus on understanding their audience and creating content tailored to specific target groups.
What resonates and ranks now is helpful, relevant, and user-centric content rather than articles that simply aim to rank in search results.
Valuable content for the holidays might include a blog post with tips on saving money during the holidays, Winston said. Simplicity and relevance are king in content creation and help to encourage user engagement, sharing, and linking. Winston also mentions the concept of “customer cares” as a valuable approach to content, emphasizing the importance of addressing what matters most to the target audience.
In essence, Winston advocated for user-centered, helpful, and meaningful content as a strategy to make the most of limited marketing budgets.
Joe pointed out that diversifying content sources and leveraging the community to reach the target audience effectively is important, and that not all content needs to originate from the brand. He encourages brands to engage with the community and actively participate in discussions and platforms where their audience seeks information and advice.
Collaborating with influencers, bloggers, or review sites to tap into their existing audience are all great ways to gain visibility. By partnering with these established sources, brands can extend their reach, especially if they have limited resources or are smaller players in the market. Be part of the community, Joe said, and understand the audience’s information sources.
Find ways to strategically collaborate with others to expand brand visibility and add diversification to your marketing strategies.
Sharon reminded attendees about the importance of identifying and engaging with niche communities and individuals who align with a brand’s products or services. Micro-influencers may not have massive followings, she pointed out, but many possess highly loyal and engaged audiences.
Brands must choose their marketing battles wisely, focusing on prudent spending and realistic tactics that align with their capabilities. Strategic and sensible approaches to marketing are imperative, especially when working with limited resources.
Craft exceptional local customer experiences
Considering the high standard set by major e-commerce players in user experience, how can smaller businesses learn from this and create a memorable user experience?
Smaller operators can learn a great deal from major e-commerce players by examining their user experience strategies, Joe pointed out.
He recommends analyzing the user journey of these larger competitors to understand how they bundle products and guide consumers through the buying process.
He also talked about the importance of adapting to consumer preferences and behaviors, especially if customers are accustomed to certain interactions on bigger platforms.
Smaller businesses should take cues from these successful models, such as offering related items, streamlining checkout processes, and simplifying the user experience.
Smaller operators can mimic the aspects of user experience that work well for major players while striving to improve upon them, just as they would in content creation.
Continuous testing and learning are key in the pursuit of a memorable user experience, Winston says. He encourages businesses to replicate successful strategies into their processes while also learning from their experiences.
Use A/B testing to refine approaches and collaborate closely with analytics and audience teams to gain a deep understanding of the target customer.
Be a purpose-driven brand
How can you leverage the shift in consumer preferences to doing business with brands that share their values?
Winston suggests leveraging consumer preferences for brands that align with their values. It’s crucial to cater to the desires of the younger generation, who place a high value on sustainability, for example.
He recommends adding sustainability as an attribute in the Google Business Profile for each location.
Joe advises brands to authentically align with consumer values and to be genuine in their efforts. He cautions against using values solely as a marketing ploy, as it can lead to backlash if not true to the brand’s identity.
He recommended openly sharing brand values on various platforms, including the Google Business Profile ‘About’ section and on the company’s website.
Joe stressed that consumers scrutinize this information to determine if a brand genuinely reflects their values. Reputation management is essential, he noted, and brands must address any false information in search results by actively engaging in the conversation and creating content to counter any inaccuracies.
As the holiday season approaches amid challenges like the cost of living crisis, labor shortages, and supply chain issues, it becomes crucial for businesses to have both the technology and people in place to be agile and responsive. The insights from the Rio SEO and Forsta webinar provide valuable strategies for adapting to rapidly changing consumer behavior and market conditions.
From embracing AI-generated content and tailoring messaging to economic conditions, to delivering outstanding user experiences, the panel of experts offers practical tips to succeed during any holiday, whether it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or Christmas. Additionally, the importance of local relevance and customer engagement should not be underestimated, even during regional holidays.
The overarching theme is that adaptation and agility are key to navigating the evolving landscape of holiday marketing. Brands must be prepared to pivot their strategies swiftly. Audience segmentation, empathetic communication, and leveraging AI for content generation are essential components of holiday marketing success in this type of environment.
Building and nurturing community connections, collaborating with influencers, and engaging with niche communities also play vital roles, especially when budgets are limited. Finally, smaller businesses can learn from major e-commerce players by analyzing their user experience strategies and adapting to consumer preferences. Continuous testing, learning, and improvement are fundamental to creating a memorable user experience.
In a world where consumers increasingly seek brands that align with their values, authenticity is paramount. Leveraging the shift in consumer preferences requires brands to genuinely reflect their values and be transparent in their messaging. The holiday season offers both challenges and opportunities for businesses. Those equipped with the right strategies, technology, and a deep understanding of their customers’ needs will be well-positioned to thrive during this festive period and beyond.