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What Ecommerce Marketers Say Their Experience Has Taught Them About Holiday Marketing8 min read

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With the busiest shopping season of the year ramping up, you’re likely in the midst of executing your holiday marketing strategy. With so much to do and with so little time left, it’s understandable if this time of year sparks a month-long case of the Sunday Scaries—especially if you’re relatively new to ecommerce.

There’s no shortage of strategies and tips you can employ to grow your business during this time of year. But sometimes, some of the most valuable ideas can come from those who’ve been exactly where you are.

At Klaviyo:BOS 2019, we spoke with entrepreneurs and marketers from brands—big and small—about the most important lessons they’ve learned from their past Cyber Weekend experience, the strategies they’re using to approach the weekend this year, and how they plan to keep the momentum going year-round.

First up, we connected with some of the people who took the stage at Klaviyo:BOS. Read on to hear their insights and advice.

Eric Bandholz [EB]: I’m Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand. We’re a men’s grooming company.

Beardbrand started way back in 2012, first as a YouTube channel as a way to give men the tools they needed to feel confident about their beard, about their style, and really who they are.

In 2013, we launched our store and started selling products—obviously, beard grooming products—but we’ve grown beyond the beard into full men’s care so we have hair care products, body products. We do that primarily through our store at beardbrand.com and through select retail partners.

On learning from past experience: 

[EB]: Black Friday’s actually pretty tough for us. We don’t do any sales or discounts, so we’ll have good days but we don’t have amazing Black Friday days. I remember in the early days, one of the most successful Black Fridays was telling our customers that we actually don’t do sales and discounts, and that we encourage you guys to not get swept up into the consumerism that affects so many people. That actually, surprisingly, resonated really well with our audience.

On new strategies for Cyber Weekend:

[EB]: Our strategies for Black Friday, usually what we try to do is integrate a new product launch, so we don’t quite do a sale or discount but we’re bringing some excitement to the brand.

Watch Eric’s keynote at Klaviyo:BOS

Kim Lewis [KL]: Hi. I’m Kim, CEO and co-founder of CurlMix.

Alicia Ferguson [AF}: I’m Alicia Ferguson and I work for Curlmix. I’m the head of marketing.

[KL]: Curlmix is a clean beauty brand for curly hair. We help you get the best wash and go with four easy steps and non-toxic products.

On learning from past experience: 

[AF]: Be prepared. Plan ahead when it comes to promotions, when it comes to sales, and all across the board. Align your team on what the strategy is going to be so everyone can have things in place. If you have to pivot, it’s all good. You have the basic framework laid out.

[KL]: Something I’ve learned is that Black Friday is not a holiday for us in ecommerce. That means we work that weekend. That means the staff is working, you’re pre-packing—you can be prepared for Black Friday in August or September, for some people. If you’re going to do a BOGO, figure out what the offer is going to be. Something else [I’ve learned] is driving urgency—make sure you’re hitting the inbox before other people and, then when you do, give limited quantities for things. Say something like, “5 left, 10 left” or whatever—those emails got so many good opens for us last time—and then schedule them out throughout the day… it worked wonders. I would recommend that.

On new strategies for Cyber Weekend: 

[KL]: The new tactics we’re starting out are because of Alicia. I thought, “Let’s just do what we know works,” and she said, “This can work, too.” What are we trying because of you this year, Alicia?

[AF]: One thing we’re doing is having more of a campaign, a lifestyle campaign. We’re going to be using and shooting creative specifically for the sale. We could use documentary, but we know this is one of those money-generating holidays or seasons for us, so we’re putting a little extra effort behind it. We noticed that when we upped our game creatively or upped our game in the imagery, we’ve seen it pay off before so we’re treating this in that same vein—let’s go for it, let’s make the best image possible.

[KL]: We’re hosting a shoot that’s entirely focused on imagery for Black Friday. Before, we had different offers every day. This time, we’re trying the same offer earlier—the same offer for the whole week and doing it earlier, and then just giving different gifts each day. That’s going to be new for us, we’re going to see if that works. It’s a huge test.

[AF]: It’s like opening up a little earlier. Essentially, you can get ahead of people who we know everyone’s going to be hitting them [customers] for Black Friday or at least the day before. If we start ours [email offers] on a Tuesday and then, especially for our VIP audiences, opening it up early to them—they feel special, we’ve already captured those sales, they know that they’ve got the products they want, and then we can roll it out to everyone. We can still capture early sales, and test and see what’s happening. If we need to pivot somewhere in between or throw something else in there, we’ll have some good data to back that up.

On keeping sales going year-round:

[KL]: We actually take more of a content approach. We realize that content may not make you money today, but it will make you money tomorrow or next year. We’re really doubling down on that and creating content—not just content for content’s sake, but content that our customers have been asking us about or want to know more about, and then really producing a high-level, high-quality something and putting a little bit of ad spend behind it. It’s funny because I never thought making content would really drive sales, but that’s how we’re going to make money next year.

See how CurlMix uses weekly livestreams to engage consumers

Jon Palmer [JP]: My name is Jon Palmer. I am the Director of Marketing for HYLETE, which is a fitness lifestyle brand that is digitally native.

HYLETE is a digitally native fitness lifestyle-brand and what that means is we sell directly to our community instead of other third-party channels, and for that reason, owned marketing is super important to us and nurturing every step of the customer journey.

On learning from past experience:

[JP]: One of the biggest things that we’ve learned from past Black Fridays is to adjust our flow cadence. Some flows we’ll turn off completely around Black Friday to try to speed up the next repurchase or some of the more brand-building stuff we do. We take that off the table for the holiday season. We also adjust how quickly we might send other flows or the cadence to really drive and nurture that next purchase, get two or three purchases around that holiday season.

On new strategies for Cyber Weekend: 

[JP]: This Cyber Weekend, we’re going to be launching a “find your perfect short” quiz and that’s something we’ve never had before. We’re super keen to see how it shakes out for us. Hopefully, that lands people who are shopping and not sure what to get with their perfect short.

See how HYLETE scales customer relationships

Megan Whitman [MW]: My name is Megan Whitman. I work for Kopari Beauty and I’m the Chief Digital Officer. I oversee all ecommerce and direct to consumer strategies.

Kopari Beauty sells coconut-based self-care products that transport you to your paradise every day.

On learning from past experience: 

[MW]: The biggest lesson I’ve learned from previous Black Fridays has been to keep the offer simple. If you try to get too creative with the offer and you want to increase average order value while also bringing back old customers while also giving a great discount but more of a discount on certain skus, customers get confused. Keeping the offer simple has always been the strategy that we want to use to not confuse customers and make it as easy as possible to shop.

On keeping sales going year-round: 

[MW]: We’re hoping in the new year that we can get more personalized by actually pulling in more product feed data into our email marketing, as well as customizable content blocks. We do a lot of segmentation currently, but what we’re hoping to do is send less different actual emails and flows and really send the same flow, but customize the information in it more.

We are actually not a company that gets most of our sales in Q4. We really do focus most of our marketing outside of Q4. Q4 is a great gifting opportunity for us, but being a beauty product, most people are buying that for themselves. Our number one best-selling product is a deodorant. It’s not the most giftable product. Customers always need deodorant, so we actually find that Q1 and Q2 tend to be stronger periods of sales for Kopari because customers are buying products for themselves.

We’re constantly doing various high-level promotions to try to get people back into the brand, but we’re not an overly promotional brand. Between product launches, different bundling tactics, and really communicating which products work best for which season, that’s how we get people engaged year-round.

Watch Megan’s keynote at Klaviyo:BOS

This article was originally published by our friends at Klaviyo.

About the author

Steve Hutt

I'm obsessed with entrepreneurship, commerce, and Shopify. If you have the desire to implement what's working today for direct-to-consumer brands on Shopify, I'm excited you're here! Get the Shopify help you need. This industry blog and podcast is my digital brain where my guests and I share cutting-edge marketing strategy, must-have Shopify apps, and marketing platforms that will help you build and scale lifetime customer loyalty. To do this, I'm part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus and host of the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast.