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Guest Comment:Online lead generation can give you a Christmas sales boost in-store as well as on the web

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Marketing departments tend to be at their most creative in the run up to holidays, particularly Christmas. However, at a time when even last year’s pre-Christmas VAT cut had little or no impact on consumer spending, the creative pressure is really on this year to increase sales.

A recent survey predicted that retailers will see more site visitors and more transactions than they have in previous years because prices are falling. This means that competition between retailers is going to be at its peak. To win customers, companies not only have to offer the best money-saving deals, but they have to communicate them in the right way.

For many, Christmas shopping has evolved into a form of research, spending hours online finding gifts for their family and friends at the lowest possible prices. According to Google, this research began in August last year and as a result many major retailers are now preparing their websites for peak trading. So, if retailers haven’t done so already they will soon begin to see visitor numbers rise as shoppers research their Christmas gifts in advance of purchasing them, looking for the best value for money.

Over the last 18 months retailers and restaurants in particular have started to offer regular discount vouchers on products and services, and this has been successful in stimulating consumer activity. However, rather than expecting shoppers to track down these offers, retailers should consider implementing online campaigns which pro-actively target the right people for their offers.

One of the most effective ways to ensure potential shoppers turn into Christmas sales is to put in place attractive money-saving offers that can be downloaded or printed now and then redeemed in the run up to Christmas. New techniques in Online Lead Generation enable companies to target offers to the most appropriate potential customers – making this form of online marketing particularly effective.

Let’s take, for example, anti-ageing cream. This has become one of the most popular presents purchased at Christmas by sons and grandchildren to give to their mothers, aunties and grandmothers. A campaign that gets half-price anti-ageing cream vouchers in front of male internet users between the ages of 15 and 40 in the run up to Christmas not only provides a gift idea, but also provides an opportunity for the purchaser to make a significant saving — without the added hassle of visiting a busy shopping centre.

Shoppers receive information about the offer online and then register to use the discount, which means that they are much more likely to convert into a sale because they are already interested in the product, as well as the savings.

Christmas is one of the few times in the year when families look forward to going shopping together because of the festive atmosphere in shopping centres and department stores. Online marketing campaigns that use all the techniques of profiling and targeting prospective customers, and then give customers the option to print out a discount code for a voucher redeemable in the shops, provide an added bonus. Although vouchers are essentially saving the customers money, getting people through the doors is important to the retailer — their shops are busy and their sales teams have an opportunity to attract customers to make additional purchases.

How does online lead generation work?

Setting up and running an online lead generation campaign is very straightforward and provides an ideal marketing channel for retailers looking to get the most for their budgets. In the first phase of a campaign, we would place an offer or advertisement on the most relevant of our partner websites in the run up to Christmas. These offers would be designed for those specific consumers most likely to be interested in the retailer’s products, which optimises the volume and quality of leads collected. For example, a shoe retailer may have a prize draw to win a pair of designer shoes and have it advertised on publisher sites targeted at women aged between 18 and 40. Equally, a department store may have multiple offers across a broader range of websites.

When a consumer clicks on this offer they would then be sent our ‘Lead and Data Path’ which contains a number of relevant client-specific offers which the consumer can choose to opt-in to or ignore. These offers could include money-off or buy-one-get-one-free vouchers on certain products and gifts valid, say, until December 24th.

If a consumer opts in to the offer, their full contact details and information about the products or services they are interested in will be recorded and passed onto the retailer almost instantaneously, so it gives the retailer access to prospective customers in real-time.

Retailers have a lot of flexibility with lead generation campaigns, as they can be switched on or off according to requirements. For example, campaigns can be run for just one day – which can help retailers to stay in control of budgets and drive different sales efforts on a day-to-day basis in response to actual in-store performance.

Although budgets remain tight in the run up to Christmas — for customers and businesses alike — the advantage of a targeted Online Lead Generation campaign is that leads can be gathered to order on a cost per lead basis, specifically on the demographics that are needed, delivering an optimised return on investment. This way retailers can ensure people not only know about their discounted offers but they are also the potential customers who are going to be the most responsive — regardless of whether the final sale is on or off-line.

• Kevin Rice is the UK managing director of Clash-Media, a performance-based marketing company that connects marketers to consumers through its lead generation and affiliate networks. Clash-Media generates leads via a network of proprietary sites and relationships with leading publishers and uses a variety of online marketing strategies including search engine optimisation, email marketing and display advertising to obtain qualified leads for businesses.

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