Everyone’s favorite time of year is fast approaching. But with COVID-19 continuing to impact both consumers and businesses, marketers are preparing for what is likely to be an atypical shopping season.

If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that brands must listen closely to consumer needs to adapt to the changing retail landscape. To give consumers what they really want this holiday season, revamp your influencer marketing strategies with these six actionable tips.

1. Manage long-term creator relationships

When well-aligned creators work with you time and time again, their audiences can tell that they genuinely like your brand. So, for your holiday campaign, lean into long-term partners who you have worked with in the past. Since there’s established credibility and trust, seeing them promote your holiday collection comes across as authentic.

Building long-term relationships with creators is especially helpful during your big end-of-the-year push. Typically, creators are busier around this time because there’s more demand for influencer content from brands across the board. So reach out to creators who you’ve partnered with earlier in the year to increase the likelihood of getting your collaboration proposals accepted.

2. Expand your definition of who is influential

It’s not just social media influencers who can influence your audience. Affiliates can write persuasive blog posts. Customers can write compelling reviews. Industry professionals can offer recommendations backed by expertise. The list goes on.

To build a foolproof holiday content strategy, leverage your existing community to produce highly engaging content that resonates with a wide range of customers. Consumers trust other people, so featuring your real brand fans in your content will provide social proof.

Additionally, consumers are paying closer attention to inclusivity in ads than ever before, and they aren’t afraid to call out brands that lack diversity in their content. As you expand your program to include more influential sources, make sure your brand partners are diverse and represent the different members of your community. This means working with creators across genders, ethnicities, age, social class, and much more. For instance, if you’re a fashion brand, work with a diverse group of body-positive influencers to show how your brand carries different styles meant for all kinds of body types.

3. Roll out your strategy early

With the pandemic and the fate of the USPS uncertain (at the time of publishing), it’s safe to assume we can all expect shipping delays. When sending products to creators, account for the extra time needed for those products to arrive at their new homes. This year, think ahead at least 1-2 weeks to provide creators with ample time to receive the products, review them, create content, and promote.

Consumers are also looking to get into the festive spirit much earlier this year. In fact, Pinterest recently revealed that holiday searches jumped 77% year-over-year in April, with users looking for Christmas gift ideas and recipes months ahead of the holiday season. Since people want something to look forward to, get them excited about the most wonderful time of the year by rolling out your holiday campaign earlier than usual.

4. Run campaigns on multiple channels

Nearly half of American consumers have bought something based on a recommendation from an influencer, proving that driving sales via social commerce this holiday season is a must. However, it’s important to diversify your media channels — not only to avoid investing in one channel that could fall flat, but also to create multiple touchpoints with your target audience online.

The good news is that both brands and creators are leveraging multiple social media platforms this year. In fact, TikTok now has 850 million monthly active users and Pinterest is up to 426 million active users.

To build a buzz where your consumers are, diversify your advertising mix to include Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest. Have popular video creators do an “unboxing haul” of your holiday collection on YouTube and TikTok. Or, work with creatives to produce festive product imagery for Instagram and Pinterest. Then, leverage the platforms’ ecommerce tools to drive sales directly within the app as shoppers plan and research gift ideas.

5. Run give-back campaigns

‘Tis the season for giving back. Cause-driven campaigns are particularly meaningful during tumultuous times like these past few months. There are many different groups and organizations to support with funds and donations, such as the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, Black Lives Matter, and the California Wildfire Relief Fund.

73% of Americans say that a company’s charitable giving affects their purchasing decisions. To go big this year with give-back campaigns, you can take the traditional route and donate a percentage of your profits to an organization you care about or matching donations from your employees. Or use this as a chance to stand out from the sea of other cause-driven marketing campaigns by:

  • Throwing an exclusive “meet and greet” virtual event with your influencers, and give ticket sale proceeds to a designated cause
  • Running a scholarship giveaway in partnership with brand ambassadors to support customers who have been impacted by 2020 events
  • Hosting a fundraiser on IG Live with special guests, like your brand founder or long-term influencer partners

6. Incentivise shoppers with promotions

During a time of economic downturn, brand loyalty isn’t guaranteed. Dipanjan Chatterjee, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, noted there are no rules about brand loyalty during a pandemic, so brands are free to shape their own destiny.

To inspire brand loyalty, give customers deals and incentives that they actually want. Studies show that:

And get creative when you can. For example, rather than just throwing in a free product sample, include a free mask and travel-size hand sanitizer with every purchase to keep customers extra safe during this unusual holiday season. Genuine empathy towards your customers will foster brand loyalty.

Bring joy to your community

While there’s no doubt that this holiday season will be different from years past, marketers have the chance to innovate their strategies to connect with their community in deeper ways. Implement these six strategies to wrap up this year in a meaningful way.

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