Last year we made the bold claim that “Black Friday was over.” 2020 absolutely changed consumer habits forever, and we’re eating our words with our turkey in 2021 because Black Friday is here to stay. Like so many things in 2021, Black Friday and Holiday 2021 are moving targets. We’ve got seven ways to prepare your business and your customers for this upcoming season. Work through each of our seven steps, and you’ll be able to focus your brand’s energy in the right places and “win” the holiday shopping season.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR:
Shifts In Consumer Spending & Behavior
Following the current consumer behavior trends must be considered when creating a strategy around your overall business goals. Understanding the consumer’s mindset when shopping online or in-store will help your marketing initiatives when it comes down to tactics in capturing overall revenue/sales.
For Paid Marketing ads, be present on all of the current channels/surfaces consumers are using. To remain competitive, increase your awareness and activity on specific platforms where your competitors are.
For SEM and SEO, stay up to date on the current search term and keyword trends so that your site and search campaigns are utilizing those specific keywords for visibility.
To stay on top of the latest trends and prepare for what’s coming next, we recommend the following:
- – Google Trends gives you consumer insights for a multitude of topics and locations.
- – Keeping an eye on shipping & inventory levels to see what’s working- and what isn’t.
- – Depending on your business and AOV, consumer spending habits are important to follow when planning/strategizing. If consumers are currently “balling on a budget” and your AOV is considered “high” (high ticketed items) you should consider excluding/blocking/adjusting your bidding strategy for HHI below 40% based on their unlikelihood of purchasing your product.
Consumers are hoping to get back to “normal” but they are staying conscious about COVID and delta variant updates and what that means for holiday shopping making strategic online advertising more important than ever.
Fluctuation In Search Demand
According to data from Q1 and Q2 of this year, some product categories are projected to perform under 2020, but above 2019, and vice versa. Of course, these forecasts vary by product category and vertical.
Even though trends in search demand might fluctuate, actual account performance might differ. If demand is projected to be down in your category or vertical, not all is lost! You can find pockets of growth. To have the best chance of cultivating this growth, we recommend taking a deep dive into your accounts with the following in mind:
- – Look into projections in search demand for applicable product categories.
- – Identify leniency in ROAS and adjust goals or bid strategies to capture additional demand and/or grow performance.
- – Monitor performance more closely/often than usual to make adjustments based on real-time trends.
- – If possible, have fluidity in promo offering/schedule to pivot as needed with fluctuations or opportunities with demand.
- – Audit remarketing initiatives to identify new seasonal opportunities and ensure the optimal customer experience.
Use this as a checklist and run your accounts through it one or two times during these final weeks of Q3 so you’re ready to roll for Q4.
Shipping + Supply Chain Challenges
When the 2020 lockdown happened, the surge in eCommerce sales caught the shipping industry off guard and certain materials were suddenly scarce. To top it off, companies who needed products shipped from China and other locations overseas couldn’t find empty, or even partially empty containers to bring products to the states. This scarcity of shipping capacity has driven freight prices up over 200% in the past year, and many expect prices to stay this way into 2023. Even though it’s been 18 months, most brands continue to be impacted by the supply chain delays.
With all of this uncertainty, transparency with your internal team and your customers is of utmost importance. If you expect shipping times will take longer than what is typically expected, make sure to communicate that with your support team and your customers via email, social media, and on your website. Providing support teams and customers with clear, readily available information about what to expect is key. Consider listing a chart on your website that shows holiday shipping deadlines based on the courier and shipping option they select. This needs to live in multiple places, for example, on the Shipping/Delivery page, Checkout Page, confirmation emails, etc. so that it is easily accessible.
Transparency with your team and consumers will not only help build trust and brand loyalty but can also help to increase conversion rates. By taking these precautionary measures, you can ensure that you do not tarnish your brand’s reputation by overpromising and under-delivering.
Collecting And (Effectively) Using First Party Data
If you haven’t started collecting first-party data (email addresses, phone numbers, etc.) from your current customers, START NOW. Stop reading this article and add an email + text collection pop-up to your site. Even if you don’t have a solid plan for how you’re going to use this data, having this information in your brand’s hands is becoming more and more crucial by the day. With all of the privacy updates being put in place and the road to the “cookieless internet,” the ability to communicate directly with your customers is going to prove to be the best way to let them know about new products and sales, as well as gather valuable feedback.
Once you have this data, create a plan for how you’re going to meaningfully connect with your customers. Implementing targeted and timely email and text flows based on the behavior of an individual customer is incredibly effective. Below are the email flows and campaign sends we suggest when creating a strong email + text marketing plan:
- – Welcome Flow
- – Abandoned Cart/Browse Flow
- – Post Purchase Flow
- – Promo Campaigns
- – Nurture Campaigns
Supplementing Facebook Testing Using Creatives
Content creation has grown to be one of the most prominent topics in the marketing industry and high-quality content is no longer expected, consumers pretty much demand it.
With the loss of certain tracking capabilities due to the iOS 14 update (see article linked in recommendation #4, above), Facebook has lost several metaphorical levers and brands are being forced to utilize every resource possible. To truly understand what resonates with your customers, brands must produce a blend of lifestyle images, product shots, short videos, gifs, and text overlay images that will allow them to test, test, and retest what works and what doesn’t.
While we wholeheartedly believe this and advocate for having an arsenal of images in your back pocket, ultimately the most important aspect of your digital marketing campaigns is the foundation: correctly-built campaigns. Thoughtful, engaging content is the icing on the cake.
A solid, well-thought-out spend plan is always necessary and in Q4 it’s non-negotiable.
Start by ensuring your campaigns are not being limited by budget. If they are, this likely means that campaign goals are too aggressive and the system simply cannot achieve the set target in automated campaigns. Contrary to what you might believe, the first step isn’t to increase the budget, but to increase the goal. For example, increase the tROAS from 200x to 300x and monitor the results to see if it lifts the limited status.
Next, check if all of your campaigns are scaling spend and budget limits will not be met. Depending on the nature of the campaign, brand or non-brand, you should expect to see an increase in CPCs as competition ramps up their spend. In the past, we’ve seen companies decrease spend leading up to the holiday season and, again, after. It’s imperative that ads are still showing leading up to promotion. If you start to push the week before a promotion, you won’t have as much competition in the auction.
Another important step is having a plan to scale up during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Remember your budget will not pace the same throughout each day and spend will fluctuate throughout the day as traffic surges in the later hours.
Monitoring brand terms should also be a key item on your to-do list. With such aggressive promotions, your competitors will be looking to capitalize on your brand. Check branded terms throughout the day and increase bids if need be. You may lose the top spot but you’ll pay less due to relevancy score and it being your brand.
Strong, appealing promotions may be common sense, but during the holiday season, brands have to put their best foot forward. Shoppers will likely choose where to purchase depending on the best offer.
Understanding how COVID-19 impacted your business is something you want to be fully prepared to address this year. We’ve only had one holiday season during COVID-19 to base and forecast performance from, but to be as prepared as possible, you’ll want to make sure to:
- – Limit out-of-stock items from being shown.
- – Have enough stock for items you are discounting or promoting.
- – Have a website that can handle the increased traffic.
- – Know how much you need to make to stay profitable with an increase in shipping costs and materials.
Referrals: Creating Loyal Customers & Cutting Through the Noise
As an online brand heading into Q4 2021, you have the potential for more users to come to your site and purchase your product simply based on consumer shopping habits. However, with an exponential increase in competition, both new and established brands need more ways to stand out, capture traffic, and convert users. Enter the “referral program.”
A referral program incentivizes current customers to share your products with friends, family, and others in their circle. It allows you to reward your most loyal customers and leverage them as brand advocates to acquire new customers. With the increase in options of products on the digital market, new users benefit from a brand’s referral program because:
- – They know they can trust a brand recommended to them by a friend or family member
- – The noise of the market is cut through by a direct recommendation
We recommend using Refersion to manage this.
A reported 85,000+ eCommerce businesses opened their digital doors during the height of the pandemic. Since then, the eCommerce industry has seen an increase in consumer spending in 2020 by almost 50% year over year. While many pandemic restrictions have relaxed, 2021’s holiday season is still expected to see a growth in online sales, and X Agency is ready to be your partner in preparedness for remarkable results.