Marketing departments tend to be at their most creative during the run up to public holidays, with Christmas providing an unparalleled competitive challenge, according to Kevin Rice, managing director for Clash-Media in the UK, who suggests that targeted online lead generation techniques could boost not only online sales but also in-store retail sales.
It has been predicted that retailers will see more web site visitors and more transactions this holiday season than they have in previous years because prices are falling. However, this suggests that competition between retailers is also going to be at its peak
But, Rice argues, winning new customers and a greater 'share of wallet' is not as simple as offering money-saving deals. Instead, marketers must communicate with customers in the right way, at the right time, and through the right channels.
For many consumers, Christmas shopping has evolved into a form of research, with most spending hours on the internet looking for gifts for their family and friends at the lowest possible prices. According to Google, this 'research phenomenon' begins in August, and many major retailers have since been preparing their web sites for peak trading. Consequently, those retailers that have done so may soon begin to see internet visitor numbers rise as shoppers research their Christmas gifts before going out and making a purchase.
During the past 18 months, retailers and restaurants in particular have started to offer regular discount vouchers for products and services, and this has to some extent been successful in stimulating sales activity. However, rather than expecting shoppers to track down these offers, Rice suggests that retailers should instead consider launching online campaigns that proactively target the right people at the right time.
One way to convert shopper research into Christmas sales is to offer attractive money-saving offers that can be downloaded or printed via the consumer's home computer, and then redeemed in-store during the pre-Christmas shopping season.
The latest techniques in online lead generation allow companies to aim offers at the most appropriate potential customers. For example, anti-ageing cream has become one of the most popular presents purchased at Christmas by sons and grandchildren to give to their mothers, aunts and grandmothers. A campaign that puts half-price vouchers in front of male internet users aged 15-40 not only provides a genuinely useful gift idea but also an opportunity for the purchaser to make a valuable saving without the hassle of visiting a busy shopping centre.
Christmas is one of the few times of the year when most families look forward to going shopping together, if only because of the festive atmosphere in shopping centres and department stores. Online marketing campaigns that use all the techniques of profiling and targeting prospective customers, and then give customers the option to print out a discount code for a voucher redeemable in the shops, offer the retailer an added bonus. Although these vouchers are essentially saving the customers money, getting people through the doors ('footfall') is important to the retailer, and this is something that can't be achieved through online transactions alone.