Holiday Retail Harnesses the Power of Online Connectivity

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Customers walk outside the Shops at Rivercenter in downtown San Antonio.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Customers walk outside the Shops at Rivercenter in downtown San Antonio.

‘Tis the season for turkey, touchdowns, thankfulness, and transactions – lots of transactions. Not long after enjoying a Thanksgiving smorgasbord of food with friends and family, many deal-seeking and adventurous Americans head out to fight the crowds of consumers anxious to conquer Black Friday.

As more and more consumers migrate their purchases to online channels, many brands and retailers have been forced to compete on price – to the detriment of their own financial performance. While the real winners in this scenario have been consumers, a few inventive and resourceful companies have made the internet an asset by leveraging the breadth of social network connectivity to their advantage.

An overall challenge for the retail industry is engaging the interest of Millennials. Understandably, Millennials are much less connected to traditional advertising verticals such as print and television. So in order for a company to establish lasting customer loyalty, creating a broad, but consistent digital brand narrative is essential. Millennials value interaction, and successful brands have engaged with them by utilizing YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter, among other social networks.

Locally, we have witnessed the power and success of social connectivity. The Big Give in San Antonio will embark on its fifth annual 24-hour day of online giving to the local nonprofit community on March 22, 2018. Harnessing the idea that giving to nonprofits through online donations is quick and easy, the Big Give event successfully raised more tha $4.5 million dollars for area nonprofits in 2017. The goal for 2018 is $7 million. If you are involved in a nonprofit, make sure you register with the Big Give to participate in this exciting local, yet digital, event. The Rivard Report will once again take part in the Big Give SA in 2018.

Some of the national companies that took advantage of the power of digital media to gain rampant social media coverage might surprise you. In 2016, Dairy Queen launched a campaign for Valentine’s Day that offered a special Singles Blizzard to toast that – for the first time ever – the United States had more singles than couples. Not surprisingly, the creative campaign went viral.

Always, Procter & Gamble’s feminine hygiene products line, stole the show during the Super Bowl commercial bonanza of 2015. Its consumer base had historically viewed the brand as committed to empowering young girls, and executives realized that its message was lost on the Millennial generation. In an effort to regain its strong brand image, the comapny launched the #LikeAGirl campaign. The campaign featured documentary-style interviews with adolescent girls who were asked to act out “like a girl” actions typically considered masculine, such as a punch or a throw. Across the board, the girls did so with strength and confidence. In effect, the campaign restored Always as a leader in championing the value of young girls’ confidence. Overall, the commercial garnered viral coverage across social media and was viewed more than 85 million times on YouTube in more than 150 countries.

Many brands and retailers depend on the holiday season to generate a large portion of the sales for the year. In a creative effort to extend the shopping fervor brought on by Black Friday, retailers have doubled down on the industry-created Cyber Monday holiday But retail-created holidays haven’t stopped there. Online retailers Amazon and Alibaba have created their own massive shopping holidays. Amazon launched its first Amazon Prime Day in 2016 to mark the company’s 20-year anniversary. The most recent Amazon Prime Day generated about 60 percent more sales than its 2016 predecessor.

Alibaba, the Chinese online and mobile ecommerce giant, created its own holiday called Singles Day. Held on 11/11 – Get it? – every year, the company-created holiday celebrates young Mainland Chinese singles. The revenues generated are nothing short of astounding: Singles Day 2017 generated more than $25.4 billion in sales, 1.48 billion transactions, and more than 256,000 transactions processed per second, the latter marking a world record.

Alibaba’s sales for Singles Day 2017 dwarf combined sales generated by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day. In fact, those artificial holidays combined only make up about 30 percent of 2017 Singles Day’s total revenues generated. According to Business Insider, Alibaba generated $1 billion in sales in the first two minutes of the holiday and $12 billion within the first two hours.

As our world increasingly adopts internet-source solutions, what can be accomplished from harnessing the power of social networks seems truly unlimited. The internet is neither friend nor foe, but a tool for the enterprising company to change, enhance, or amplify their brand and purpose.

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