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Are holidays the season for conversion, not building relationships?

The holiday period is not the time to do marketing that is focused on building a relationship, according to an executive at Leapfrog Online, a digital marketing company. 

Instead, marketers should be focusing on conversion and leave the relationship building for the rest of the year. But many marketers are challenged to evolve their approaches during this critical time period.

?Folks want to buy the products they are researching on their mobiles,? said Helene Rosenblum, vice president of media at Leapfrog Online, Evanston, IL. ?It is all about delivering the right experience that makes it easy to research, compare and purchase your product with confidence. 

?Confidence that they are buying something of high-value, in the simplest possible manner,? she said. ?That is what they expect from mobile and that is what will drive last-mile conversion ? high-value goods, top-notch experiences and ultimate simplicity. 

?We are not looking for Flash and fancy downloads this season. We are looking for deals, steals and quick experiences.?

Shopping state of mind
Marketers need to be moving from engagement to action during the holidays because consumers are in shopping mode. They have done their research and have a list of people to buy holidays gifts for. 

Smart marketers will make sure and connect with holiday shoppers via mobile, persuading consumers to buy. 

The mobile medium?s sweet spot is its ability to drive conversion and acquisition. This is even more true during the holiday season. 

The success of a holiday marketing campaign is how many people buy, sign up or register. Brand recognition should be focused on during the year leading up to the holidays, making conversion more likely during this time of the year.

"Because you?re dealing with a high-urgency period, brand building and customer loyalty efforts that could be useful during slow shopping periods often become irritating to focused buyers during the holidays,? Ms. Rosenblum said. ?They?re looking  to get through their shopping list quickly, and to save time and money wherever possible. 

?As importantly, they?re not buying for themselves this season, so you?re not selling to your target demographic in the same way that you?re selling to them the rest of the year,? she said. 

?This means that focusing on customer loyalty at this time of year both disregards the immediate need that your mobile buyers are looking to address and puts you at risk for investing heavily in building loyalty among folks that don?t represent your highest value consumers.?  

Per Leapfrog Online, conversion rates vary dramatically by season.  

The company has seen as much as a 40-65 percent lift in conversion rate from high-performing months to low-performing months for some of its clients.  

Marketers need to ensure they are doing all they can to effectively move the consumer through the order process. 

How does one do this?

Focus on making the shopping process easy and enjoyable. 

?The series of contact points and length of time from initial consideration to purchase shrinks dramatically for most purchases during this season,? Ms. Rosenblum said. ?In addition, the desire for simplicity and ease of purchase is more highly valued than ever.  

?The goal throughout the year for marketers is to maximize conversion and the holidays are a time where it is often easy to conclude that across categories and customer segments, conversion will be higher,? she said.   

Going from engagement to conversion
It is important to consider the purchase cycle for a product or service when deciding to go from engagement to conversion marketing.  

Always remember that consumers want something different from their mobile experience than their desktop. Give the customer options, including getting them to a call center faster if that can help complete the sale.

?Look at data from previous years if a marketer has it,? Ms. Rosenblum said. ?Do behavior patterns on the Web site change during the holiday season?  

?Does the path the consumer takes differ,? she said. ?If so, what can the marketer do to adjust the online experience and how might that apply to call centers and emerging media such as mobile and tablets??

If a marketer has set the stage well they are in a position to mobilize their customers and prospects effectively during the holiday season, per Ms. Rosenblum.  

Gathering information on where and how consumers want to interact with the brand and the types of messages and information they are looking for throughout the year positions a marketer well for the opportunities the holiday season presents.  

Touch points include Web sites, call centers, thank you emails, order confirmations and other points of contact throughout the transaction process. These are opportunities to engage the consumer and gather preferences.  

Marketers can then focus their contact strategies around the holidays on moving the consumer from interest to order, Ms. Rosenblum said. 

Combining engagement and conversion
A good purchase experience is the best start or enhancement to a relationship.  

Additionally, ask customers whether they prefer SMS to email. A simple strategy like this can go a long way.

When creating apps, entertainment and engagement are important. But marketers should also consider how the app will further the customer purchase path. 

For example, make it easy to move from information and engagement into transaction with links and inclusion of phone numbers at appropriate points in the interaction. 

The main point is shoppers will be buying during the holidays. No doubt about that. 

?Focusing on conversions helps to ensure that you capture more than your fair share of buyers during this high-transaction period,? Ms. Rosenblum said.  

?It all comes down to understanding your consumers ? and then levering that understanding to create truly optimal experiences,? she said. 

?If you can deliver the right mobile experience at the right time this season ? and in the context of a broadly integrated marketing campaign, you win. If you can?t, you?re inviting valuable prospects to slip out of your sales funnel and directly into the hands of your competitors.?