For many businesses, particularly those in the e-commerce and the brick-and-mortar retail space, Q4 is the most important of the year. Though holiday shopping traditionally kicks off with the end of Thanksgiving and the ever-expanding week of Black Friday sales, preparation for the holiday season should begin as early as October.

With Q4 officially underway it’s time to look ahead with ideas and tips to make the final months of 2019 the best of the year.

Start early

By the time Black Friday rolls around you may have already missed out on the chance to capture a big portion of holiday spending. Many consumers begin to research holiday purchases well before the big November sales holidays, and it pays to build a strong presence during the first month of Q4. This is the time to be pushing branding campaigns and building awareness of your business or products. That way when the sales holidays hit you will have already built an audience that’s primed for your promotions.

Even for brands that operate outside of the retail space you will do well to lock in sales before people start taking off for Thanksgiving. December is also a busy time for traveling and social commitments, and many clients may not have time or mental space to listen to a pitch for an upsell or new services.

Build from last year’s performance

The best predictor of where your brand can find Q4 success in 2019 is to look at the tactics that performed for you in 2018. Which channels drove the highest engagement, sales, and return on investment? Which areas or campaigns were softer than expected and are there improvements you could implement to boost performance in those areas?

Get specific about consumer intent

Consumer needs and mindsets in Q4 are different than during other times of the year. It’s important to develop a strong grasp of what your target consumer or customer is looking for in the months of October - December. The simple answer might be a gift for a loved one or a smart way to spend the remainder of the year’s marketing budget, but understanding the specifics of their intent will help your brand develop a more effective message. For example, what matters most to the customer in terms of gifting: price, return policy, shipping speed, quality, etc.? Build campaigns and messages around these specific ideas.

The campaigns you run in Q4 should speak directly to holiday or end-of-year needs. Doing this effectively will require updating existing campaigns or creating new ones to meet your users where they are in the final months of the year.

Be as omnichannel as possible

During Q4 more than ever, convenience is paramount. Consumers are especially busy at this time of year and decision-making often comes down to which of the many options at their disposal is the most convenient.

Ask yourself what your brand can do to deliver convenience to the consumer. Invest in exceptional customer experience by being as omnichannel as possible in your approach to marketing. Consumers don’t differentiate between the experience of a brand in one channel versus another, so a bad experience in one area of marketing can translate to a negative impression of the brand overall.

A few ways to be more omnichannel include:

  • Highlight shipping times - especially as the final delivery days before Christmas approach you should be proactive in letting users know about shipping times so they can feel confident their purchases will arrive by the 24th. You can also run free express shipping promotions in the final days which are sure to appeal to last-minute shoppers.
  • Buy online, pickup in store - another great option for last-minute shoppers is the option to order online and pick up in store. This is usually a fast option that also saves users time searching for products in the store and waiting in line to pay. The opposite option -- to order in store for home delivery of products that aren’t in-stock -- is also essential.
  • Geo-targeted promotions - tailor your promotions and sales messaging to target consumers’ geographic location to give a personal touch. Geo-targeted promotions can drive from mobile to brick-and-mortar very effectively.
  • Double down on mobile - speaking of mobile, much of your Q4 efforts should be focused there. Even if your brand still doesn’t see a large volume of sales on mobile, it certainly influences purchase decisions in a major way.

Q4 marketing takeaways

For many brands, Q4 is the biggest sales quarter of the year. Even though holiday shopping doesn’t gear up seriously until mid-November, brands should get out front of the demand by building awareness in the first half of the quarter.