Digital marketing for the holidays

August 2017—

Can furniture stores compete this season with standard digital marketing?

Want to make the case that digital marketing is king for the upcoming holiday season? Start here: Digital ad spend surpassed TV ad spend, topping $72 billion in 2016.

That’s impressive until you remember that, for the most part, digital advertising produces abysmal results. Industry-wide, click-through rates are below one percent, and response rates for display ads are just 0.09 percent. Worse, digital ads have become so annoying and intrusive that more than 25 percent of consumers are actively blocking them.

So, does ramping up digital ad spend even further this holiday season for traditional email and display advertising campaigns make sense, or are furniture retailers simply throwing good money after bad? Retail Wire’s Celeste Giampetro says that depends.

“If your plan is to simply book additional space for traditional display ads, then there’s nothing in the data to suggest you’re not spending frivolously,” she says.

But despite its shortcomings, Giampetro says digital media gives your marketing team access to a lot of useful data. “If you plan to use your “big data” trove to inform an integrated, cross-channel approach that connects with your customers in a meaningful way,” she says, “then there’s reason to believe your store can be competitive. This approach can run the gamut from programmatic direct mail to “pay it forward” social media campaigns like J. C. Penney’s “Jingle More Bells.”

Giampetro points to REI’s #OptOutside campaign as an example of one retailer’s successful holiday digital marketing campaign. In each of the last two years, REI competed with Black Friday’s retail madness by not competing. Instead, it swam against the current, closing its doors that day and encouraging its customers (and employees) to enjoy the outdoors rather than stress out at a strip mall.

As Ad Age noted, “REI’s much-lauded decision is an example of what happens when a brand has a truly empathetic understanding of its customers and uses that understanding to create experiences that customers value.”

Obviously, not every retailer can succeed by closing on Black Friday. But the point is not to copy REI’s campaign — it’s to adopt their thought process.
Now, to repeat the question posed in our headline: Can retailers hope to compete this holiday season with standard digital marketing?

The short answer from Giampetro is “No.” But the operative word there is standard. Successful digital marketing, like every other kind of successful marketing, requires innovative ideas and a cross-pollination of approaches, anchored in a bedrock of respect for customers. Food for thought as the holidays grow closer.