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What Goldilocks Has to Do With Holiday Marketing

Pre-planning for the holiday shopping season is not new, but this year, so much remains uncertain and it seems like the stakes have never been higher.

To achieve your vision of sugarplums and record-breaking sales, we wanted to use the popular story of Goldilocks as an allegory of how to tackle a common challenge for marketers during the holidays: how to grab customer attention and incentivize their purchases.

(“Bear” with us—this will all make sense, we promise!)

You Can Learn a Lot From a Classic

You’re likely already familiar with the fairytale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but just in case, here’s a quick summary: A presumptuous little girl is wandering in the forest and breaks into a house owned by a family of bears. She eats their porridge until she finds the bowl that’s “just right,” makes herself comfortable on all their furniture, then gets caught sleeping in their bed and runs away. 

Fairytales were initially crafted to teach kids moral life lessons, but marketers can also learn a lot from the Goldilocks fable if they re-interpret it. Rather than see it as a violation of hospitality, what if we wanted to convince Goldilocks to come inside?

Try looking at it from the perspective of the customer journey:

You see, Goldilocks is a customer. She’s opinionated, jumps at the opportunity for a freebie, and is quality-conscious. The house of the Three Bears is a brand’s multi-channel presence. Each touchpoint—from the door to the bed—is an interaction between brand and customer.

To grab Goldilocks’ attention, make her feel comfortable, and want to come back, the Three Bears (the marketing team) need to craft a seamless customer journey that’s “just right.” They need to make each interaction matter by crafting messaging that serves value, is personalized and nuanced, encourages loyalty, and establishes trust.

As we approach the holiday shopping season, it’s important that brands get strategic about their holiday marketing to get ahead. After all, even ignoring the dramatic rise of pandemic-driven e-commerce, Goldilocks has plenty of houses (brands, in our case) to choose from.

In fact, her entire forest path is lined with ads, arrows, and deals. Her phone is blowing up with push notifications and door-busting social media deals. How can you capture Goldilocks’ attention and lead her to your house in a saturated market? And how can you make her stay? 

In this second installment of our three-part holiday shopping series, we explore an issue that’s plaguing every brand in the market: consumer attention scarcity.

Once Upon a Time: Grab Goldilocks’ Attention

In the Three Bears’ house, Goldilocks is on the prowl for the “perfect” bowl of porridge. She tried three bowls before settling on one: the first is too hot, the second too cold, and the third “just right.” What can marketers learn from this?

Choices matter.

Lead Goldilocks to the porridge

Choice Architecture” describes how the presentation of information affects people’s decision making. Framing is the tone and themes you employ to present options. How you frame choices to customers changes their decisions.

For example, if you want customers to buy your products or sign up for your services, you should frame a bonus, discount, or reward around the offer for those who follow through.  You have given them a choice and framed it as a bonus if they agree to it. 

Breo Box subscription plans

For subscription services like Breo Box, customers have the choice of a seasonal or annual plan. This great example of framing encourages loyalty and maximizes lifetime value.

Choice architecture is crucial in all aspects of a business model, but what does it mean specifically for your holiday shopping experience?

Marketers can also use choice to strategically remove friction, upsell and cross-sell to increase average order value, or even gamify the decision-making process altogether, as seen in Forever 21’s Black Friday promotion below.

Forever 21’s Black Friday scratch-off deal makes holiday shopping feel like winning the lottery.

What made the porridge “just right?”

A foundation of consumer marketing is the pliable nature of our decision-making process. When faced with a choice, we’re expected to be rational shoppers who will study our options and make a decision based on the information available.

Have you ever noticed that when buying software, you’re often given Basic, Middle, and Premium package options? You probably assumed that the company would prefer you buy the Premium package. They likely do, of course, but more importantly, they’re priming you for Middle.

This anchoring method is incredibly effective, and research shows that the vast majority of customers will go for the “middle” option. Why? It plays on a natural impulse: our desire to avoid extremes. The middle option is the best of both worlds—quality, and affordability. Not too hot; not too cold. It’s a perfect choice.

In crafting your holiday messaging, take heed to provide customers with options to ensure business. Marketers who can clarify the choice set with clear information may be in a position to sway consumer behavior past any habit to avoid an extreme.

Take this Black Friday email from Hush Puppies, a popular casual footwear brand. We often see selections for both men and women in apparel messaging, but Hush Puppies takes choice one step further by appealing to two women’s personality types: “Festive and flashy” and “Cute and comfy.”

Holiday promotions are usually less personalized than lifecycle campaigns because they’re reaching a much larger audience (but they certainly don’t have to be!), but this simple framing allows customers to choose the products that suit not just their needs, but their personal identities.

You know your customers best, and the holidays are an excellent opportunity to prove it with messaging that is “just right” for them.

Goldilocks’ choices in the pandemic

During a time of complete uncertainty, choice makes us feel empowered, so presenting variety builds consumer confidence and drives purchases in the first place. When given a few options, our natural impulse is to choose one of them, instead of walking away and not choosing at all.

The choices Goldilocks would make in a pandemic are based on the same factors customers appreciate right now: “health and safety […] flexibility and control, time savings and overall convenience.”

In crafting your messaging this holiday season, ensure you’re providing your customers with a variety of shopping options, whether it’s through shipping, same-day delivery, curbside pickup, or Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS). With each choice, emphasize the ease of ordering, safety, speed and efficiency.

Retailers can lean on the flexibility of other industries to deliver that “just right” message, such as food and beverage. Take a look, for instance, at how Taco Bell offers choice in ordering.

Now, Taco Bell customers can satisfy their cravings in multiple ways, through delivery with Grubhub or by ordering ahead on the app and picking up at their nearest location.

Consumer behavior is ever-changing during the pandemic, so cover all your bases with multiple ways to make that sale. Regardless of the choice that Goldilocks makes, you’ll be there to meet her needs.

Goldilocks and Your Holiday Marketing

The fable of Goldilocks and The Three Bears can teach us a lot about brand marketing—especially during a pandemic. The key to ensuring your business succeeds this holiday season? Lean on choice architecture to meet your customers exactly where they are.

Make your Goldilocks right at home by providing a flexible, comfortable and effortless experience—one that has her posting a rave review on Yelp about that incredible-tasting porridge and one-of-a-kind nap.

Need a modern growth marketing platform that’s “just right” for your organization? Request a demo and learn why leading brands trust Iterable to power their holiday campaigns.

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