How can a brand stand out during the holiday season when competition is at its fiercest and everyone is fighting for a slice of consumers’ attention?
Consumers have grown accustomed to online shopping and in turn, the ecommerce market has also grown (the US retail ecommerce industry increased by 33.6% in 2020). October of 2020 saw the very much anticipated “Amazon Prime day” happen which was key to kick off an early season of online holiday shopping.
That trend is not likely to slow down anytime soon, as 2021 holiday sales are expected to increase by 11.3%.This acceleration is likely to be replicated this year as online businesses are ready to go the extra mile to work against delivery deadlines, shipping delays, and overall disruptions in the supply chain. All while enhancing their delivery experience, offering free shipping, and keeping a sharp pricing strategy.
We asked our team of marketing experts about channels and strategies to make the most of the holiday season; while driving sales up and keeping a festive mood going! These were their top three.
Start planning now and doing …YESTERDAY!
With holiday promotions starting earlier and earlier, you should think of the entirety of Q4 as the main event and focus for ecommerce. The reality is that much like last year, this holiday season is likely to look and feel different from previous years.
This requires you to anticipate and prepare for the expected demand. As a brand owner, you have a handful of weeks between now and what may be the biggest holiday season for ecommerce. Anticipation is key.
“Get ready to manage and mitigate supply chain issues and delays. Stock up properly, have multiple fulfillment and logistics providers. Don’t underestimate things like packaging, which can cause significant delays in your delivery”, suggests Agna Poznanska, CMO at DRVE.
Consumers don’t just want relevant content, they expect it. If you haven’t yet, get all your content ready and optimized early on. “One of the first things you can do is to optimize your product pages information. Align all your offline and online communications”, adds Agna.
Online content across all channels (Amazon store, social media, and the brand’s own website) can be optimized to ensure performance is flawless. Go through every step of the customer journey and check loading times, tracking, ease of purchase, and email notifications. As for the creative and marketing assets, brands should have them ready by September.
Finally, the inventory. Increasing traffic but not having inventory to fulfill your customer’s demand is a common and tricky problem for ecommerce founders. Some brands started early on and got their inventory ready by June.
Since not every company can place their orders so early on, some brands tackle this issue by prioritizing products and only importing their best-selling goods. Some others have worked around it by altering their products and choosing timeless and less seasonal collections that can be sold for a longer period of time.
In any case, the key is to budget properly and be aware of the context. For instance, shipping costs are at an all-time high which brings up delivery difficulties. For brands selling in the US, one difference between the 2020 holiday season and this year’s season is the length of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Last year, it was a five-week period whereas this year, there are only four weeks in between both dates. How does it impact your brand’s sales volume? In the case of companies based in Europe, they should also take into account that Brexit has been causing goods to be held at customs.
Set clear marketing goals & budgets
If people can’t find you, they can’t buy your product so optimize your paid media and don’t overlook any channel. Founders and marketing leaders should ask themselves: “What are we planning to spend on cost per acquisition and what are we willing to pay for?
As in previous years, brands should expect a competitive landscape and higher CPC in popular advertising channels. Brands tend to invest 30% more during this period to make sure they reach the right audience. Your brand is competing for consumer’s attention against every other brand out there and in the same channels as everyone else.
So how can brands stand out? The answer, as usual, is to diversify your spending.
Again, your best bet is to work towards CPA holistically and try to reduce budget waste that is easily created when advertising in the dark on many platforms. You may have an overlap and be paying to reach the same audiences in every channel. This can be fixed by strategizing who you are going to target and where.
Diversifying, of course, is easier said than done. For Agna, “One hack is to try to do some a/b testing to guide your ad spending decisions. For instance, take your brand’s hero product and try different themes to see what resonates with an audience on each stage of the funnel”.
Your strategy should revolve around some essential questions: At what stage of the customer journey you will meet your target audience: are they researching or are they ready to purchase? Are they searching for a product or a specific brand? What is the next action you want them to take? This will all help you define the theme of your advertising campaigns: will they be product-centric or be about lifestyle? Will you use a general message or a seasonal message?
Still, paid social is one key aspect of your online marketing strategy during the peak season but it’s not the only one. “Isn’t it nice if someone else markets your business for you?”, asks Agna as she adds that: “This is exactly the power of affiliate marketing. It can complement your efforts in other channels. So don’t forget to combine strategies and even if affiliate marketing is a slower-burn channel, it can drive significant traffic to your website”. For many brands, especially those offering products in the lifestyle categories, plugging a product in “gift guides” can really help to reach new consumers and boost sales.
That’s not the whole story, since all these strategies will need to coexist with Apple’s privacy updates and the lack of access to key data to inform ad targeting. There aren’t clear solutions for this but one way to cope with these changes is to avoid over-relying on cookies and third-party data. “Brands should definitely invest in email marketing and owned channels to reach customers and stay in control of the process”, recommends Agna.
Plan your funnel…not just your sales
“Don’t forget that you need to walk the user through all the stages – awareness, consideration, and purchase”, suggests Agna.
Holidays end when the festive days are gone but your sales funnel doesn’t end there. Indeed, this time of the year is also a great way to acquire new customers but what about retention? For Agna, “retention is also key to decrease your cost and increase effectiveness, so you should also build it in your long-term strategy”.
Should you have a strategy to get your existing customers to buy more on discount or upsell? What are the follow-up email campaigns once the holidays “are over”? These are all questions that need to be answered and built-in your strategy beforehand.
This will impact your pricing strategy and help you establish priority products and promotions, sales targets, and budgets.
Ideally, by the beginning of Q4, a brand should have tested and learned what works and what doesn’t. If it’s not the case for you, this time should be used for testing but also you can harvest your learnings from holiday dates like Prime Day and your results from Q4 2020. Data is your best friend!
Go through your numbers and focus on what people like: Which products sold best last year’s holiday season? What products did customers buy together? These answers are a few clicks away and they can help you, for instance; to set your gift bundles. The next step is to transform these valuable insights into a promotion strategy that uses bundles, coupons, BOGOFs, or a combination of these.
It’s paramount not to lose sight of the goal of your pricing strategy and what you want to achieve, beyond sales. As Agna puts it, there are a lot of questions that will converge into your strategy: “Is it about building brand awareness? Do you have new products and your promotion needs to support the launching strategy? Do you have seasonal items that need to be highlighted during this period? How does my pricing strategy impact retention”.
The holiday season is around the corner which is always an exciting and frantic time of the year for ecommerce. With more eyeballs than ever online, this may be the best ecommerce season yet. We hope these tips will enhance the experience for your brand and they will help you turn on the marketing machine and see sales pick up.