Advertisers that are currently in the process of churning out holiday marketing campaigns in anticipation of the upcoming shopping season should take note of these five digital trends.

Holiday marketing is well underway, but it's never too late to assess what this year's season has in store.

Though it may only be October, 27 percent of consumers are already shopping for the holidays – and have been since last month.

A recent survey on holiday trends of 2015 conducted by digital marketing agency SessionM found that - in total - close to 60 percent of consumers intend to start shopping before Black Friday. Just how they do it is worth noting, too.

While 78 percent of survey respondents said they plan to shop in-store, 58 percent will go online and 43 percent will use a mobile device.

The National Retail Federation projects an increase in U.S. holiday sales of 4 percent. Research company eMarketer puts the number even higher, forecasting a 6 percent increase to reach $885 billion – the biggest boost since 2011.

Let's take a look at the trends coming down the pipe and what brands can do to ensure that they reach their customers during what promises to be a lucrative couple of months.

1. Smartphones

As SessionM suggests, consumers will be shopping with the help of their smartphones this year, just as they did in 2014. The difference is that desktop and tablet shopping remains relatively flat.

"Last year, one of the biggest days in shopping was Thanksgiving. Consumers didn’t even wait for the day after. And the reason? Smartphones," Chris Mason, co-founder and CEO of Branding Brand, told eMarketer. "Consumers are finding that if they have a chance to shop and get in front of the deals that the retailers are offering, they’ll do (Read more...)."

This means brands must give their all to improving the smartphone shopping experience. Optimized ads and faster load times should be top of mind – but don't forget those mobile triggers.

In the first quarter of this year, consumers generated 22 million QR and UPC barcode-related engagements, with the majority of scanning activity related to product information, video, e-commerce, app downloads, and CRM.

2. Personalization

The extent to which consumers appreciate a personalized shopping experience varies from audience to audience.

But when Signal asked its customers how they plan to shop this year, 54 percent said a personalized experience would get their attention. What's more, according to a study by Infosys, 86 percent of consumers say personalization has "at least some impact" on the buying decision, and 31 percent wish their shopping experience had more of it.

Email and social media are both areas to zero in on this year.

3. Email Marketing

Don't overlook the importance of email in generating holiday sales - it was the third largest channel for producing online purchases in 2014, representing more than 17 percent of orders, according to a report on mobile e-commerce by Custora.

"It is not surprising that it makes up such a large percentage of holiday sales online," James G. Brooks, founder and CEO of social video platform GlassView, says. "Email is considered deeper in the buying funnel – more direct-response focused – and is great to drive conversions as part of the long-tail."

That said, Brooks believes the majority of email sales are generated by marketers who also "focus on upper funnel branding" prior to the holiday season. "The technology exists to help bridge upper funnel and lower funnel efforts," he adds, pointing to such tactics as capturing email data directly in a video.

4. Unboxing Videos

Whether a product is being bought online or in-store, consumers anticipate the moment when they unbox it for that first look. In fact, they love it so much that they're recording the experience to share with others.

According to Google, the number of "unboxing" videos on YouTube has increased by 57 percent from 2013 to last year. Last November, YouTube counted some 20 million search results for the term.

Brands can seize this opportunity to get in front of consumers by creating unboxing videos of their own. Weird Al Yankovic did it when he unboxed his Grammy, poking fun at the genre while also calling attention to his win.

Samsung took a turn to promote its new Galaxy phones earlier this year. The brand released a series of unboxing videos that offer viewers a look at the products coupled with a fun surprise.

Together, the videos have generated hundreds of thousands of YouTube views.

5. Self-Gifting

It's natural to assume that holiday shopping is all about buying for others, but by reviewing historical data Bizrate Insights uncovered some interesting Thanksgiving weekend shopping behavior.

Although 47 percent of consumers told the company they plan to shop for others, 52 percent are out to buy a gift for themselves – particularly millennials and seniors.

Come December, they're back to buying for others. Cyber Monday was the day that marked the switch in 2014, and Bizrate says marketers can expect to see a similar pattern this year. To capitalize on this trend, Bizrate advises brands to offer special deals before and during Thanksgiving weekend.

"But keep in mind that when price is not an important factor, as may be the case for Boomers, customers will often choose brands that treated them well in the past," Hayley Silver, vice president of Bizrate Insights, says. She adds that "outstanding customer support" is vital to building affinity. "Retailers therefore should collect their customers’ perception of their experience day-in and day-out."

In other words, know exactly how your customers will be shopping this holiday season, and you'll be amply rewarded.

Article image via Flickr. 

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