32 million people have already begun their holiday shopping — and it’s only October! 1

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Take advantage of one of the busiest shopping days of the year by staying organized amid the flurry of promotions and events.

For local businesses looking to increase their end-of-year revenue, now is the time to develop a solid holiday marketing strategy that aligns with 2016 holiday shopping trends.

If this year’s back-to-school shopping season is any indication of shopper behavior for the 2016 holiday shopping season, there are four trends that you should build into your Q4 marketing strategy — whether for Halloween or New Year’s Eve.

If you’re hyper-focused on Black Friday, download a copy of our Black Friday Checklist.

 

When the public thinks of big sales days, Black Friday is always at the top of the list; and for good reason, too! In addition to the hype that comes from sellers, the media and shoppers, Black Friday (almost) always delivers on its holiday promises.

Here’s a few holiday sales statistics to get you motivated while you create a great Black Friday marketing plan.

  • Average person spent $403.35 in-store 2
  • Average shopper spent $159.55 on the internet 3
  • Holiday sales for 2016 are expected to increase by 3.6% to $655.8 billion 4
  • Non-store sales (online total spending — which doubled from the previous year) landed at $2,932,000,000 5

Note: these figures do not include auto, gas and restaurant sales.

While 2015 was a great year when it came to Black Friday holiday sales, the success of many businesses can be attributed to the fact that they kept shopping trends at the forefront of their mind when they were building out their Black Friday marketing plans.

Below are the top four 2016 holiday shopping trends that and strategies that you can capitalize on this season — and turn trends into profits for your business.

The top 4 2016 holiday shopping trends:

  1. Consumers are shopping early.
  2. Mobile devices are being used for research and purchases.
  3. They are using search engines to research purchases.
  4. Shoppers are being influenced by social media.

Each of these holiday shopping trends is an opportunity for your small business to boost your year-end sales. Combine these trends with the marketing tactics outlined in this article and you will attract shoppers to your local business and ring up more sales.

Top 4 2016 Holiday Shopping Trends

Trend #1: Consumers are shopping early

Experts predicted that 2015 was going be the strongest holiday retail season since 2011 with a 14% increase in e-commerce sales — and their calculations were correct. 6

Back-to-school season = sneak peak of Black Friday

If shopper patterns hold true throughout the different shopping seasons, a lot can be learned from the 2016 back-to-school shopping season (the second largest shopping season for retailers, after the winter holidays).7

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The long lines outside Apple stores are indicative of a “stock up” vs. “make do” mentality.

In 2016, back-to-school and college spending reached $75.8 billion (up from $68 billion).1 While the total amount spent is astronomical, the mindset that back-to-school shoppers went into the season with is more important than the huge sales number.

Shoppers entered this season with a freer “stock up” mentality vs. a more restrictive “make do” attitude — a big opportunity for businesses.

That being said, even though they are shopping early, the “stock up” crowd are choosy about where they will spend their money. It’s not surprising that these shoppers spend their money at different types of stores, from local and small businesses to e-commerce and catalogs.

Ultimately, shoppers will purchase from the store that makes it most convenient for them to get the products they need. Small businesses of all types (with or without a brick and mortar location) can capture the attention of online shoppers and provide them with the convenience factor they are seeking by using digital marketing and advertising.

Digital marketing and advertising strategies you can use to capitalize on the shoppers planning ahead of time:

  • Email marketing

Email marketing is another way your small business can reach shoppers using e-commerce platforms to make holiday purchases.

Position your small business as an expert by delivering a holiday shopping guide to their inboxes. Everyone has that one person that they struggle finding the perfect gift for (if that person is a coworker, check out our own gift guide). When it comes time to make a purchase, your small business will be top-of-mind with holiday shoppers who read your guide — making it more likely they’ll choose to buy from you.

  • Reputation management

It’s a fact that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Moreover, 92% will choose a local business if it has a 4-star rating on a review site.

To capture the sales of holiday shoppers on the fence about where they are going to purchase, be sure that your business’s online reputation is top-notch.

If you’re concerned about not being able to find all of your reviews or proactively manage, there are reputation management solutions you can use to protect your image without having to scour hundreds of review sites. A strong online reputation will help build the authority of your small business with holiday shoppers, many of who might be first-time customers.

Trend #2: Shoppers researching and purchasing on mobile devices

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When a customer researches products and services your business offers and visits your website, make sure that yours in mobile-friendly so that first impression is a great one.

There are currently 198.5 million smartphone owners in the U.S. Regardless of whether you are an Apple iPhone fan (along 43.6 percent of the U.S.) or an Android devotee, as a business owner you need to be able to reach shoppers on their device.8

There are a few tactics that you can use to reach all these shoppers researching for products and services (many of which your business probably offers) right from their mobile phones.

The first and most basic part is having a mobile-friendly site: Approximately 11 million consumers will rely on their mobile device at some point in their customer journey this holiday season. You want them to have the best impression possible of your business.

Mobile-friendly websites make it easy for smartphone users to take action on your site. For example, a click to call button will automatically dial your phone number. Or, your address can link to a maps app that gives the shopper with directions to your store.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you can still get one in time for the holiday rush!

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Vivial currently has a special offer where we build your mobile-friendly website for free (a $129 value). There are no upfront costs and it’s only $29 a month thereafter to maintain.

Remember, 8 out of 10 shoppers researching products and services online before making a purchase, right now is the time to make an investment that will help you increase your Black Friday sales.

Use the strategies below to maintain a strong mobile presence for your small business across all your different marketing channels:

  • Have a responsively-designed website

A responsively-designed website will display your website in the best light possible to holiday shoppers, no matter what type of device they are using (smartphone, tablet, computer, etc.). In addition, using responsive web design ensures that your site is also mobile-friendly — so you aren’t penalized by Google’s search algorithm.

By displaying your website correctly, you make it easy and convenient for holiday shoppers to spend more time on it, increasing the likelihood that those visitors will turn into paying customers.

  • Use push notifications (text messages)

Staying in touch with customers via text messaging has become a popular way for local businesses and retailers to boost sales, by taking advantage of the widespread use of mobile phones. In the past, big-box stores, like Bed Bath & Beyond, were the only businesses using push notifications to talk to their customers because it was costly to acquire the technology.

However, thanks to technology developments that have made push notifications more affordable, small businesses can now take advantage of this instant communication method to stay in touch, share coupons and deals and increase sales.

Text messages create a sense of urgency on a device that holiday shoppers are increasingly making purchases on. Incorporating push notifications into your holiday marketing strategy will certainly drive more sales for your small business this holiday season.

Trend #3: Shoppers turning to Google for the perfect gift

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SEM is a form of pay-per-click advertising, meaning you only pay for the ad when someone clicks on it.

Now that you have a great mobile-friendly website where shoppers can come to for more information about your business, it’s now time to start driving traffic there with some search engine marketing campaigns. When the time comes to research gift ideas and

When the time comes to research gift ideas and locate a business to purchase, holiday shoppers turn to search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Bing). To capture the attention of these searchers, your business needs to show up in their results’ pages.

However, getting to the top of Google organically takes time.

The solution? Search engine marketing — or SEM.

SEM is a marketing strategy that places an ad for your small business at the top of search results. Besides being an affordable option for small businesses looking for high visibility on search engines, SEM also lets you define who sees your ad. You can target on factors such as location, time of day and device used.

For businesses with a local presence, you can choose SEM factors such as:

  • Location
  • Device
  • Time of day
  • Targeted keywords
  • Call extensions
  • Customer reviews (on Google)

If your small business doesn’t show up as the first two organic results of Google, SEM is a great way to ensure that you are seen by e-commerce-minded holiday shoppers.

Trend #4: Shoppers being influenced by social media networks

A recent study revealed that 47 percent of holiday shoppers relied on social media platforms, like Facebook, for gift ideas, creating the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your small business’s products and services to an audience ready to buy.9

Encourage holiday shoppers to move from browsing to purchasing by sharing special promotions on your social media pages. You might also want to highlight different products and services to get holiday shoppers excited about their purchase. Product demos and how-to online videos (posted to your YouTube and Facebook accounts) will help turn potential customers into paying ones.

In fact, holiday shoppers do a lot more on social media than simply hunting for the perfect gift:

  • 45 percent search for coupons, discounts and sales information
  • 41 percent read reviews about products/companies
  • 40 percent browse products
  • 32 percent check with friends and family on gifts they want

The secret to spreading awareness about your business on social media networks is simple: all you need to do is has a presence on the network and actively engage with members!

Social media provides you with a perfect opportunity to connect and engage with shoppers. Last year, major retailers, like Amazon, Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s, harnessed the power of Twitter to capture the attention of shoppers during this busy shopping season.

While you might not have a huge marketing department and dedicated social media team like the major retailers, there are ways that your small business can use social media to stand out from the crowd and boost sales.

Social media ideas your small business can use during the holiday season:

  • Run a sweepstakes

T.J. Maxx ran a successful sweepstakes campaign which encouraged shoppers to post pictures of gifts they purchased at the stores on social media. Shoppers who used the hashtag #BestGiftEver would be entered to win a $1,000 gift card from the bargain retailer.

Take a page out of T.J. Maxx’s marketing book and encourage your customers to share their experiences with your small business on social media. Bonus points for images — social media enthusiasts love to post pictures of their experiences.

By participating in a sweepstakes, both you and the customer win. The customer is entered into a sweepstakes and you win because the customer is silently endorsing your small business to all his/her followers on social media.

  • Create a deal of the day

Create a stronger sense of urgency for holiday shoppers by featuring a limited-time sale on social media.

To take your standard deal of the day to the next level, use a hashtag. In addition to fostering excitement and encouraging shoppers to share your deals with their friends and family, hashtags have the added bonus of being searchable.

  • Participate in community drives

If you donate goods and services to local charities during the holiday season, encourage your customers to give back, too. Not only are you spreading awareness about your small business’s charitable nature, but you’ll also be helping a good cause during this special season.

To tie your charitable efforts to a hashtag campaign, use #GivingTuesday on Tuesday, Novmember 29, 2016. Giving Tuesday is the equivalent of Small Business Saturday for charities and nonprofits.


Holiday shopping trends are more than just passing fads; they provide insights on how your small business can attract and engage with shoppers, so you can ring up more sales. Incorporate the four holiday marketing trends we covered in this article and you’ll be on the way to finishing the year off strong.