Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Target Readies for Holiday Shopping

As I was writing yesterday’s post on search and social media, I was trying to recall some recent news. I thought I remembered that Target had already announced free shipping for Christmas, so of course, I searched. What I found suggests a savvy marketer who understands the changes in consumer online shopping and search behavior.

I searched “Target Christmas shipping.” I didn’t have to look for a news article; I found a paid search ad from Target as well as top organic placement for their Christmas page—ugh; Halloween was day before yesterday! But it was there, complete with a WalMart paid ad in second place. Both the pay per click ad and the organic result linked to the Christmas page on the Target site. And I was right; they have a shipping deal. Note that other sites/bloggers are already plugging the free shipping for them! I didn’t follow those to see whether it was normal buzz or whether Target was reaching out. Wonder if they have to reach out, or if they just get the buzz because they are Target . . .

It’s a well done page, but nothing particularly special. There’s email, personal pages, gift cards, and all the other holiday and gift services you’d expect from a world-class retailer. Interestingly, I didn’t see anything social on the website, so I checked out their Facebook page. Target has 567,758 fans, including some of my friends; I didn’t realize you saw people you knew when you visited a corporate Facebook page. Makes sense! No Christmas promotions, though—not yet anyway! I also looked on Twitter, but didn’t find Target there. Trying to be sure, I looked on the Target home page. No link to their Facebook page (seems like an oversight to me) and no link to a Twitter page.
I’m ambivalent about whether they’ve integrated this promotion into social media as they should. They’ve done the search, both paid and organic, well. Is it too early for holiday postings on Facebook? I think so. It will be interesting to look later in the season and see if holiday promotions begin to appear on their Facebook page and on other shopping sites; also to look at whether it’s Target doing the promotion or whether it’s their adoring shoppers writing about a retailer they love.

Also, while one role of social media is to bring consumers to the website, if Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are part of the marketing communications mix, it makes sense to put them on the home page. I’d be willing to be that there’s little activity from home pages to social nets; just call it another awareness thing.

The take aways? As the studies quoted yesterday say, search is still the main driver, but the social networks are full of brand buzz. Also, integration is key, but integration that understands the role of different media at different points in the sales funnel.


Brian Jones said...

Apparently, everyday is Christmas at Target- their holiday season promotion strategy is tough to distinguish (well, visually anyway) because of their candy-cane colored, red and white bullseye logo. And my goodness are they festive- they've even tattooed the eye of a dog for the occasion... oh, wow- okay, I just got it: (pit)bulls-eye, Target. (Duhh)
Anyway, I think Target's incorporation of their natural colors into early holiday season promotions- works for the site. While hardly subtle, the seamlessness of integration between Target.com’s trade dress, the deliberately utilized red-and white colored product exemplars (Home Décor, Appliances, etc.) and the infusion of “Christmas-iness” look and feel good.
Walmart’s site has virtually no allusions to the holiday season and seems cold by comparison. What contributes to my tolerance of Target’s early references to Christmas is that they are limited to promotions on shipping/delivery. Thus, pre-season promotions seek to provide value to those electing (key word) to do their holiday shopping early. Perhaps they did some research to determine the impact and timing of such holiday promotions.
Am I the only one who finds it irritating to hear holiday music in stores before the official start of the Christmas season (i.e. after Thanksgiving weekend)? For me, it’s as rude as second-hand smoke. Equally bad is seeing sales clerks dressed as Santa’s helpers too early- it strikes me as somewhat solicitous and obnoxious; like a thinly-veiled attempt to manufacture my generous holiday spirit. Look, I just came to buy myself a belt, don’t psycho goad me into buying Grandpa a sweater while I’m here!

Unknown said...

I took a look at Target's Facebook page after reading your post. I noticed that the Discussion tab has a discussion called 'F-k Target'. It is filled with diatribes about Target in extremely foul language by a disgruntled employee. When is it appropriate for a company to block such postings? The issues, as one commenter says, should be raised with HR. Moreover, the language alone is enough to make me think that Target should be monitoring more closely. Thoughts? Is that too 'Big Brother' for a corporation?

MaryLou Roberts said...

I hadn't looked at the Discussions tab, which is where the F...Target thread is located. You can't control what customers say, but unless you want to make the excuse of listening to your employees (and it seems to me there are better ways), I don't see why a corporation would tolerate this--big brotherish or not!
And I also agree with Brian--to early for Christmas promos--turns me off also!