Brands are bolstering their in-person and online interaction with customers to make this holiday shopping season less of a hassle.
For the past three years, battery brand Duracell has showcased its products through pop-up events in New York at which it invited consumers to pedal on special bikes to generate energy for the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square. Yet the company declined to repeat that initiative this year in favor of embracing online customer outreach.
Its previous holiday campaign performed well, but the company wants to build a stronger emotional connection with consumers, especially parents, notes Chris Hayes, group director at Duracell AOR Citizen Paine.
“That led us away from doing something splashy like the New Year's Eve ball drop,” says Hayes. “This year, it's really more about focusing on the different stages consumers go through when gift-buying.”
Those include figuring out what toys to buy for children, deciding how to wrap those gifts, and finding a place to hide them. Duracell is answering these questions on its Facebook page, through recommendations provided by both children and industry experts. The brand also enlisted singer Chris Daughtry to promote the “Holiday Insurance Program” initiative.
The fledgling economic recovery also prompted Duracell to change its approach, notes Kurt Iverson, global external relations manager at the company.
“We pay a lot of attention to the economy, which is why we are giving some of the advice we're giving,” he explains. “When families try to save money, it's not that they aren't going to spend anything at all, but they want to buy the best because they can't afford to have any product that fails, including their batteries.”
Iverson says the increased focus on social media also helps Duracell maintain an ongoing dialogue with consumers throughout the entire holiday period, when approximately 25% of its annual sales occur.
“Social media is a program that is always on,” he asserts. “It really helps build our community.” More than 600,000 consumers have “liked” Duracell on Facebook.
Electronics retailer Best Buy gave media members a sneak preview of “Cyber Monday” deals this year, emphasizing value. Erin Bix, manager of PR for the consumer electronics chain, notes that “customers are looking for bargains even earlier” this holiday shopping season.
“Best Buy has gathered a selection of gifts for any budget – under $25, $50, and $100 – and we've centered our PR efforts on highlighting these values to our customers,” she says. “We are also promoting our price-match guarantee this year, as well as our free shipping offer on BestBuy.com.”
The company is also focusing on creating a more enjoyable shopping experience both online and in-store. On Thanksgiving night, for instance, select stores hosted a free screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2 before opening at midnight for Black Friday shopping.
Best Buy worked with a number of event agencies for the screenings, while Edelman provided PR support, Bix notes.
Meanwhile, e-commerce company eBay is using another strategy this holiday season to gain exposure, moving away from relying on gift guides. The company is employing shopping data for key holiday dates, such as Black Friday, to generate coverage.
“Over the years, we've sharpened our understanding of what media want over the holidays,” says John Pluhowski, VP of corporate communications for eBay. “Many constantly crave real-time, compelling data. Not only did we reach out to individual press with shopping insights and results, but this year we established a custom holiday news hub that captures all our official data and information in one spot.”
The company also shares data for eBay Mobile, which helps to create press attention for its mobile shopping service.
“We want to ensure that PR is showing real results – moving the needle for the business and cutting through a crowded holiday news cycle,” says Pluhowski.