Retail experts are making bold predictions about high consumer confidence this holiday shopping season. Find out what they’re saying about holiday shopping this year, and try our tips for support sales with your content.

Every fall, business publications and research organizations put out holiday shopping outlook reports. This year groups such as The National Retail Federation (NRF), Deloitte, Bain and Company, and Emarketer are forecasting a possible record-breaking year for US retail sales.

With consumer spending expected to be high, how can you make your content as successful as can be this holiday season? In this post we’ll explore the consumer outlook for this holiday season and our three tips for making sure your content is supporting sales.

Spending Surge Expected this Year

This year, the holiday forecast reports all agreed that 2018’s strong global economy will lead to a significant holiday spending surge. Strong labor and stock markets, as well as rising wages, are cited as the source for higher consumer confidence this year. Here are some of the holiday US retail sales growth predictions:

  • National Retail Federation: 4.3% to 4.8% holiday US retail growth predicted
  • Deloitte: 5% to 5.6%  holiday US retail growth predicted
  • Bain & Company: 4.8% to 5.2%  holiday US retail growth predicted
  • Emarketer: 4.1%  holiday US retail growth predicted

Consumers are expected to increase their holiday budgets as well. The NRF predicts consumers will spend 4.1% more this year, for an average of $1,007 USD each. Meanwhile, Deloitte predicts that the average household spend for the holidays will rise to $1,536 USD.

The confidence index and willingness to spend are also expected to be high this holiday season, which is a big indicator of potential sales. Bain reports that the Consumer Confidence Index in September rose 18 points from the same time last year. And similarly, they reported that the benchmark Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index rose 5 points over the same period.

So what do all these indicators mean for content marketers? Simply put, this year’s holiday season has the potential to be very lucrative for businesses. For content marketers, this means having a content strategy that drives audiences towards purchase opportunities.

Tip 1: Invest in Ecommerce and Mobile Commerce Content

The impact of ecommerce on holiday shopping trends is undeniable. This year, Emarketer reports that US holiday ecommerce sales are expected to grow 16.2% to $123.39 billion USD.

But, it’s mobile commerce that is seeing truly headline-worthy increases. This year Emarketer expects mobile commerce will rise 32.6% and account for 44% of all holiday ecommerce spending. That’s why making investments into mobile content experiences is critical for content marketers.

Make sure your ecommerce and mobile commerce images, videos, and descriptions are high quality and offer all the details a potential buyer could want to see.  You want your content to help shoppers make informed buying decisions.

Think about using the following visual formats on your ecommerce properties to help answer any buyer questions:

  • Stark product images
  • In-use and lifestyle product images
  • 360 product images
  • Images to show product variations and options
  • Product feature highlight videos
  • Alternative product use videos
  • Size comparison images

Also, ensure your images and videos are fully optimized for all ecommerce channels such as:

  • Mobile version of your ecommerce website
  • Desktop version of your ecommerce website
  • In-app experience for your owned app
  • Mobile version of  your major distributor’s website (i.e. Amazon, Ebay, Walmart)
  • Desktop version of your major distributor’s website
  • In-app experience for your major distributor’s apps

Additionally, consider investing in premium or enhanced pages with some of the top retailers. For an extra cost, Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, and others all offer more customizable and engaging content experiences on their sites. But be aware that premium retailer services can take time to set up. So if you haven’t done so yet it may be worth considering for next year’s holiday period instead.

Tip 2: Start Your Content Calendar Earlier

Our second holiday content tip for supporting sales is all about timing. This year, the US holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is the longest it can be at 32 days. By comparison, for the next three years it’s only 26 days. This year the NRF reports that over 40% of holiday shopping will occur before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Deloitte reports that holiday shoppers who begin before Thanksgiving spend 28% ($370) more than later shoppers.

All this extra time translates to more sales opportunities. It also means content marketers have to be prepared even earlier this year. To get your content prepared early, consider the following:

  • Work closely with pricing teams early on to agree on deals and promotions
  • Factor in creative resources and time for supporting your promotions
  • Evaluate whether complicated contests or charity offers will bring a return on investment
  • Build a promotional content calendar, stick to it, and automate your posting whenever you can

Also, don’t underestimate the importance of how shipping and delivery details can impact your holiday content calendar. The NRF and Deloitte rank free shipping and shipping promotions as top factors influencing online purchases this year. And there are several dates around shipping to consider when planning your content and promotions.

  • Friday, November 23: Black Friday and the beginning of the holiday shopping period
  • Monday, November 26: Cyber Monday and the beginning of lucrative Cyber Week
  • Friday, December 14: Last free shipping day for most retailers
  • Saturday, December 22: Last day to buy online with shipping before Christmas
  • Wednesday, December 26: Boxing Day in Canada, UK, and Australia

Preparing and starting your holiday content calendar early can be beneficial but challenging. Adding even just a few days to your content and promotional calendar can be beneficial for boosting extra sales. While at the same time, marketers can find it challenging to be prepared and organized early during busy fourth quarter activities.

Make sure you’re realistic about what you can accomplish with your resources. Also, don’t be afraid to take small steps. If nothing else, do tests this year and scale up for next year’s holiday season.

Tip 3: Look for Content Themes Beyond Gift Giving

This year Deloitte predicts that 66% of holiday spending will actually be on non-gift giving purchases. Non-gift giving purchases include spending on entertainment, socializing, decorations, transportation, food and drink, furnishings, and other categories. Similarly, the NRF and Deloitte report that making purchases for yourself over the holidays is growing. This year the NRF predicts US consumers will spend an average of $155 USD on “gifts” for themselves during the holidays.

This rise in non-gift giving spending brings a lot of extra sales opportunities. It’s also encouraging for businesses that don’t have physical gifts to sell during the holidays. To take advantage of this, consider these non-gift giving themes and narratives for your content this holiday season:

  • Develop content related to holiday entertaining
  • Make connections to holiday travel with your content
  • Incorporate holiday food and cooking into your content campaigns
  • Create suggestion lists for specific entertaining days such as “Hosting New Year’s Eve”
  • Promote content around self-improvement to encourage people to spend on themselves

If you’re looking for holiday content themes that are purely non-sales related in nature there are plenty to pick from. Here are a few fun ways to present content without pushing sales:

  • Show company or product history over the holidays in a Throwback Thursday
  • Present content that ties your business to inclusivity, giving, and feel-good themes
  • Publish industry recaps, or listicles focusing on best “x” from the past year
  • Come up with simple repeatable and regular holiday good cheer messages
  • Offer a sneak peek into what you’re planning for next year
  • Thank your customers for their business this year

Whatever you choose for your holiday content themes, remember to think outside the box. Your content needs to stand out to be effective during one of the most competitive times of the year.

Top image via kikovic.

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