We know that 2020 was an incredibly challenging year for the service, travel and entertainment industries, but statistics show that retail sales were surprisingly strong last year, topping $1 trillion. In fact, according to Bob Smolik, director of research and category insights at Tribune Publishing, since traveling, entertainment and restaurant spending was down, even more could be devoted to shopping retail. This gives local media companies the opportunity to provide the distribution platform for retailers to prepare for the holiday shopping season. More on that in a second.
Smolik says that U.S. holiday e-commerce jumped 32.5 percent in sales following several years of growth in the mid-teens. Its share of total retail sales reached 17.5 percent, about 3.5 percentage points higher than in 2019.
“We should be talking about the holidays now and we should be thinking about starting campaigns before Thanksgiving too,” Smolik said. “In 2020, we saw a big push forward in holiday demand.”
Smaller retailers may not have an e-commerce platform, but if they can ship to someone’s home, click and collect is a great alternative - and one that could be promoted with content marketing.
“That’s a great feature they can play up in their content, they can play up in their messaging about the ability for a consumer to click on the site and then go and gather it right at the store,” Smolik said.
Other ways that 2020 changed shopping habits and why you should be in front of consumers digitally include:
⅓ of us shoppers who normally shop in store for Black Friday didn’t
⅔ of shoppers chose to shop more at local small businesses
Half of U.S. shoppers say the pandemic affected how they shopped for the holidays last year
70% of shoppers shopped earlier to avoid crowds, and 80% consolidated shopping to make fewer trips than in the past
So what about this year? Smolik says mobile commerce will continue to grow and be bigger than ever before. Mobile commerce only accounts for about 9% of retail sales, but will contribute 52.7% of retail growth. Media outlets can provide the mobile-optimized platform to help small businesses take advantage of this type of commerce. And while you’re at it, be sure to stress to retailers to start early.
“Before you even get out your pumpkins and witches, people have already done some holiday shopping,” Smolik said.
Every year, 40% of shoppers do some shopping before Halloween, and there’s an advantage to retailers because these shoppers tend to spend more and aren’t as price-sensitive.
“Attracting someone before the holiday can actually be way more valuable from a revenue standpoint for businesses,” Smolik said.
Tribune Publishing and Studio 1847 have done a remarkable job setting the stage for holiday shopping via their Celebrate the Holidays digital platform. Their shared co-branding experience allows large and small retailers to participate and is fully responsive to all experiences. In addition to being completely turnkey, there are customized options available too, says Ashley Marten, senior operations manager at Tribune Publishing.
“Keeping it holiday-centric and not around any one specific holiday was the way to go. Best to be inclusive of everyone, so we tried to keep the messaging very generic,” she said.
Celebrate the Holidays includes restaurant guides, giveaways, contests, a gift guide, best holiday pet photo section, and a kids section - allowing advertisers to gain consumer data while users are engaged. The sponsored holiday articles were easy to sell thanks to savvy sales strategy.
“One thing we found that is super helpful was instead of designing the experience around what we thought sales should sell, we worked really closely with the sales team to ask ‘What accounts do you want to go after for these articles, and we will write them accordingly?’" she said.
For example, because the team knew they’d be approaching a jewelry store, they made sure to have a jewelry-focused holiday article ready to be sponsored. The Gift Giveaway and Gift Guide receives lots of user experience and interaction, and the Restaurant Guide lets users know if they can dine indoors, have curbside pick-up, carry out and other features.
Celebrate the Holidays is heavily focused on user experience, with convenient navigation tools, beautiful imagery and lots of interaction.
To help get clients inspired, the team also created a promotional video about the holiday campaign to engage local advertisers and give sellers the chance to show it off on social media.
Have a holiday-focused custom content idea you'd like to pitch to a client now? Let's get you involved! Contact us at email@example.com.
The Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Local Media Association, the Local Media Consortium, and the Facebook Journalism Project to help facilitate additional growth, engagement, and revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.