Holiday 2021 is primed to be a record-breaker for eCommerce—with sales forecasted to increase 11% over last year. However, this season also will be more competitive for merchants than in the past. To help you prepare, we reached out to industry experts and eCommerce veterans for their top eCommerce holiday tips on what you can do to boost eCommerce holiday revenue.
While each person we asked shared different insights and recommendations—about email and SMS marketing, customer engagement, retention, and more—if there’s one key take-away, it’s “don’t wait!” It’s critical to start your holiday planning (powered by data) as early as possible because 1) you need time to be strategic and 2) the season itself starts earlier. Expect to see holiday shopping begin in September.
Read on for a roundup of some smart advice to spark some ideas and help you achieve your best holiday season yet:
“Focus on a robust retention strategy”
“Focus on developing a robust retention strategy to make sure you’re setting your brand up for success in 2022 and onwards. You’ll have thousands and thousands of new customers coming through your online store during BFCM and the holiday season. By having a robust email/SMS retention strategy, your customers will have a world-class customer experience and come back to make that second order.”
“Engage customers early and frequently”
-Rob Varon, Alchemy Worx
“To increase revenue during the holiday season, it is important to message your subscribers. Everyone on your list (email, SMS, etc.) should hear from you multiple times in November, long before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You should be using campaigns that get numerous opens and clicks, such as a letter from the president and/or a mystery sale. This way, when the week of Black Friday comes, your subscribers are used to hearing from you and have engaged with the brand recently.”
“Get your customers excited and maybe surprise them”
-Ben Zettler, Ben Zettler Digital Media
“Start planning YESTERDAY! Holiday promotions don’t have to be an intimidating element of your marketing schedule. Stick with the things that have worked, plan early, get your customers excited, maybe surprise them with something when the time comes—but do enough ahead of time so that you can focus on customer service and fulfillment.”
“Dial in your post-purchase experience”
-Blake Imperl, Attentive
“Dial in your post-purchase experience on SMS and email. Make sure you check the following boxes:
- Add transactional messaging to your communication strategy. If there’s anything we learned from Q4 2020, it’s that logistics can be highly unpredictable. Brands stand to make millions in Q4—make sure you avoid unnecessary frustration and cancellations by keeping your customers up to date on shipping timelines.
- Look for opportunities to make bounce-back offers and tasteful cross sells. This is peak gifting season and shoppers might also be considering gifts for themselves or others. Leveraging a segmentation tool inside a platform like Attentive can allow you to personalize offers to customers based on a variety of behavioral events like products or collections purchased, first-time versus returning customer, VIP status, and more.
- Alter your messaging to be holiday themed. Taking the opportunity to personalize the post-purchase experience with holiday-themed messaging can add that extra touch to enhance the shopping experience. This is also a great opportunity to leave breadcrumbs about additional gift-giving ideas (hint hint).
- Keep it conversational. If you offer two-way communication over SMS or email, be sure to call that out in your post-purchase messages! A simple “text us if you have any questions” can go a long way. Customers who receive replies from brands spend on average 31% more and are more likely to buy again. Don’t miss an opportunity to start a conversation.”
“Get ahead with headless commerce for Q1”
-Brian Anderson, Nacelle
“In addition to rocking holiday sales, Q4 is a huge opportunity to get ahead with headless commerce. Many merchants have the same mindset that they won’t consider any changes to their tech stack or existing site until after the holiday rush. This is exactly what you should be doing—but with one big caveat—allocate and hire resources or partner with an agency to simultaneously build a headless site in parallel. By doing so, you can eliminate the post-holiday lull, maintain momentum from the holiday season, and hold on to newfound customers by launching a performant and differentiated eCommerce site early in the new year.
“Waiting to kick off planning and building your headless store has significant drawbacks, especially if you need to hire internally or tap an in-demand eCommerce agency for build support, potentially setting your headless site launch back months. Q4 can be as strategic for the year ahead as it is fruitful for your bottom line—we recommend merchants take advantage.”
“Invest in a customer loyalty program”
-Rosa Hu, Yotpo
“Invest in long-term retention with a loyalty program. A large portion of a brand’s holiday acquisition comes from one-time shoppers. However, hoping that an outstanding holiday shopping experience will entice them to come back and shop again isn’t enough. Online merchants must go into the holiday season with a built-in retention strategy—with a loyalty program at its core.
“A loyalty program is the engine that drives long-term retention. According to Yotpo, nearly 70% of shoppers can be incentivized to buy directly from a brand with the promise of getting discounts, coupons, or points toward their next purchase. A well-executed loyalty program provides the experiences that keep customers coming back, long after the holidays are over.
“Focus on continuing to build loyalty across digital channels after a shopper’s initial purchase. Encourage shoppers to join your loyalty program for an additional holiday-inspired perk, then leverage the program to continue communicating with the new members and maximize engagement between purchases. Send them post-holiday follow-up messages via SMS or email, depending on what they prefer, and encourage them to engage across your social channels or in store to continue to rack up points.”
“Build your customer lists now”
-Michael Wadsworth, Justuno
“Our top tips for eCommerce brands preparing for the holidays are to start building your lists (email, SMS, or both) and engaging your audience ASAP. The holiday shopping season is getting longer and longer due to consumers starting earlier and earlier. Based on a Justuno survey, we found that 22% of consumers plan on starting their holiday shopping in September, 19% in October, and 24% before BFCM. That means 65% of shoppers are planning to shop before the holidays officially arrive.
“While you might have tremendous sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’ll be losing significant sales if you rely on the official holiday shopping season alone (Thanksgiving through Christmas). Lastly, don’t sleep through the rest of the Cyber Five holidays: Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday, and Small Business Saturday. Run campaigns for each to take advantage!”
“Entice customers to ‘try into your brand’”
-Nishi Shah, MarketCents Inc.
“Digital Direct to Consumer shopping is projected to grow approximately 16% in 2021 from last year, according to eMarketer. This trend will continue into the holidays as new and returning customers will increasingly visit your brand’s website. Use this critical opportunity to improve your sales and grow your customer database by enticing customers to ‘try into your brand’ using paid loss-leader efforts such as trials, smaller-sized product offerings, ‘best of’ bundles, ‘buy one, get one [for yourself]’ savings offers, and/or promoting gift card options. Remember, each purchase is an opportunity to learn more about your customer and use this data to ultimately drive-up repeat purchase rates through retargeting paid advertising, email customer journey mapping, and eventually a fully customized purchasing experience.”
“Secure your inventory in advance”
-Cilka Ovettini, Clearco
“There is nothing worse than running into inventory shortages and losing those crucial holiday sales. As you prepare for BFCM, consider doubling down and securing your inventory in advance. And, while we all wish our products would sell themselves, increasing ad spend and optimizing your holiday marketing strategy early on is key to capturing sales. Having additional cash flow for recurring costs, like marketing and inventory, can help support your success during the holidays.”
“Automate, automate, automate”
-Rodolfo Smith-Villarreal III, Skubana
“Make sure your automation (if your OMS offers it) is set up and airtight! Also, to be safe, make sure you have a team on standby during the holiday season to manage your back-office operations.”
“Test new communication approaches”
-Cassidy Monforte, Common Thread Collective
“We spend all year thinking about being ready for the holiday season and having a healthy, engaged owned audience sets you up for that Q4 success. If you’re wondering when is the right time to think about your holiday audience, the answer is now. During the holidays, you’re likely to see elevated numbers of new visitors and subscribers—being strategic about how you treat those helps them integrate into your year-round owned audience to lessen the classic post-holiday performance dip.
“And with the launch of iOS 15 approaching, what worked last year may not be the best approach this year. It’s time to look at more recent learnings around what’s driving your engagement and use that to build your Q4 plan. If you’ve leaned heavily on resends in the past, you’re going to have to re-think how those are targeted and potentially come up with fresh creative to reach the same sending cadence without resending the same content to subscribers who may have already opened it previously.
“Conversational creative is a great way to do this without putting an extra load on your creative team. Text-based messages that read as quick, personal and—most importantly—actionable communications from your team can really stand out at a moment when inboxes are dominated by design-heavy creative featuring stock imagery without much customization. Plus, text-based messages are quick and easy to produce!”
“Know your margins and stay profitable”
-Adam Kitchen, Magnet Monster
“Know your margins and don’t feel compelled to get involved in a race to the bottom with others to stay competitive if it’s not viable for your business. The holidays are a great opportunity to push timely promotions and product more aggressively, but this cannot come up at the expense of future profitability. Make sure the offers you construct make economical sense for your business first and foremost.
“From an email marketing perspective, one key piece of advice that will also mitigate customer service headaches is to audit your flows carefully and switch any discount-heavy emails to draft mode until the relevant promotions are finished. This will prevent customers attempting to stack coupon codes or receiving conflicting offers/email saturation, keeping the focus streamlined on the offers you’re delivering over the holiday period.”
Whatever your holiday plan, base it on data
Remember, when it comes to integrating any of these eCommerce holiday tips into your planning, go to the data first! Be sure to leverage your data from last year and beyond to forecast your targets and inform this year’s strategy. To help you develop a single source of data and save you time and money when it comes to analytics for the holiday season and all year round, check out Daasity. We’d love to show you a demo.