The most wonderful time of the year is nearly upon us – and for retailers and brands, planning for the holiday shopping season began long ago. Did your planning include optimizing social content on your site, and using it across your marketing? If not, you’re missing one of the most important driving forces in gift buying decisions.

Here are a few ways you should be including social in your holiday efforts. For additional tips and a more in-depth look, read our 2013 Holiday Guide to Social.

Build massive UGC volume and product coverage to boost sales

Across our top performing clients, shoppers who read reviews show 104% higher conversion than those who don’t. Gathering a healthy volume of review coverage across your portfolio makes sure every product benefits from this selling power.

The very best way to increase review volume is by sending a post-interaction email (PIE) a few weeks after purchase, asking the customer to rate their products. PIE increases daily review volume by 205%, and brings past buyers back to your site, where they may buy more. Our study with a major retailer found that 87.5% of reviewers submit their feedback for altruistic reasons, so emphasize in your PIE that their opinions will help others decide.

Another way to encourage that altruism is to ask these buyers to answer open shopper questions about the product. Shoppers who read both reviews and Q&A on our top performing clients’ sites show 166% higher conversion than those who don’t view UGC. Ask your customers for their answers both through your PIE emails and on the review thank you page.

Let gift-givers filter reviews to find the right gift for others

Many shoppers have a hard time guessing what will make a good gift for someone else. Reviews and Q&A easily solve those issues, when implemented correctly. Make sure your customers’ opinions are filterable and searchable, to help gift buyers narrow opinions to people most similar to their loved ones. Add filters like age, gender, and location. Add product-specific filters like skin tone for cosmetics, expertise level for complicated electronics, age group (toddler, teens) for video and board games, etc. Bonobo Jeans, for example, lets shoppers filter their selections by body type.

Make gift shoppers’ lives even easier by curating selections of the top-rated and most popular items for certain groups. “Top-rated cameras for novices,” “Most popular dorm décor for new students,” “Top-rated stocking stuffers.”

Bring authentic opinions into the store through display and mobile

Don’t isolate this powerful social content on your website. Bring it to shoppers wherever they are by including it in all of your holiday promotions. Best Buy includes star ratings and review snippets in their paper circulars. Sephora includes reviews on their aisle displays.

And don’t neglect mobile. Seventy percent of moms use a smartphone or tablet to shop, and one-third of moms say mobile devices accounted for half their shopping time or more. Mobile traffic during the holidays grew 67% last year, and mobile sales exceeded 16% – a ~63% increase over 2011. Expect this reliance on mobile to rocket again this year.  LEGO and The Home Depot print frequently-updated star ratings on shelf tags, with URLs encouraging shoppers to check reviews and videos on their smartphones.

Holiday shoppers will lean more heavily than ever on social content this year – whether they’re buying for others or treating themselves. The content you collect over the season will continue to drive sales next year. It’s not too late to deeply integrate social into all of your holiday efforts. Read our full 2013 Holiday Guide to Social to learn how.

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