Win The Battle For Customer Engagement This Holiday Season

By Dave Charest, Director of Small Business Success at Constant Contact

Ready, or not, the holidays are here again — and, as always, there are new consumer behaviors to take into account as you ramp up your holiday marketing strategy.

One of the most common questions I get from small businesses during this time of year is, “what can I do to reach and engage more customers and stand out during the holidays?” This year is different than most because inflation is having a real impact on consumers. Many are now shopping earlier, spending less, and they have different expectations for how businesses should contact them. However, that doesn’t mean you need to veer away from tried-and-true marketing tactics to get their attention.

One of the best solutions is to make sure you’re leveraging multiple marketing channels to stay in front of them — including socia media, email, and text. The goal of any communication should be to help, inform, or provide value to a customer, so instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, be specific about how you use each channel to create awareness and ultimately bring people closer to your business.

If you play to the strengths of each channel, you give yourself more opportunities to win real estate on the smartphone, keep your business top of mind, and generate more revenue.

Consumers are now saying “yes” to texts from businesses

The average American checks their phone over 300 times-per-day — that’s about once every four minutes — and we have seen that screen time often spikes during the holidays. At the same time, their email inboxes are often flooded with hundreds of messages from big brands and corporations angling to get them to buy. If it feels like there has to be a better way to stand out, you’re right.

A recent Constant Contact study revealed that consumers are much more open to receiving text messages from businesses than they been have in the past — and they are quick to engage. In fact, 83 percent of consumers who received texts from a small business in the last year said they read the message, and 74 percent found the content helpful, interesting, or useful.

The great thing about text marketing is that the barrier to using it is low. Texts are quick and easy to build, and they are typically opened within minutes, or even seconds, of being received. Small businesses can use them to deliver exclusive content directly to customers in a way that stands out from traditional branded communications. This can be especially valuable during the holidays, when their intent to purchase is typically higher than other times in the year.

Don’t rely on one channel

Text marketing is certainly a new and exciting technology for engaging customers, but it needs to be leveraged alongside other marketing tactics to really be successful.

It may not sound like a revolutionary idea, but an email list is still the most effective way to grow a customer base and drive sales for a business — and during the holidays, it’s critical to be able to engage your customers without an algorithm limiting your reach.

Once people have opted in, it’s all about demonstrating value to those subscribers by delivering content they will find helpful or interesting. I see lots of small businesses sending coupons or information about store hours during the holidays, but the subject matter will change, depending on the type of business. Regardless, it should always provide value to the recipient.

Email is at the foundation of a great relationship with a customer. After they feel more comfortable, even excited, hearing from their favorite business, that is the time to activate their engagement with a holiday-themed text message campaign.

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Turning awareness into action with social media

Our research shows that texts and emails are the two most helpful communications to consumers when they are making a purchase decision — but where does social media fit in? As it turns out, social is very important to the success of a text campaign, too.

We’ve established that action cannot happen without awareness, and social media is a great way for small businesses to attract new customers. In today’s digital-first world, there’s a good chance that someone’s first experience with a brand will come via social media, so filling those feeds with fun and engaging content can help draw them in and give them a reason to visit your website or join your email list.

Still, most consumers aren’t likely to buy something just because they follow a business on social media. That’s where a tool like text marketing can make a big difference. Instead of just hoping those followers buy something this holiday season, encourage them to sign up for a text marketing list to get early access to sales, free samples, or other incentives. Social media is all about awareness, but combining it with email and text marketing converts that awareness into revenue.

Hit “send” this holiday season

It can feel overwhelming to put together a strategy for reaching customers during the holidays, but harnessing the strengths of social media, email, and text marketing can change your customers’ overall experience with your business. Each channel has strengths that complement the others and allows you more opportunities to keep your business top of mind.

By leveraging text marketing, in conjunction with other tools like email and social media, you’ll keep your customers engaged and connected all season long, and you’re likely to sell more in the process.

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