You’ve just stepped in from the cold, chilled air of pre-Christmas in the city to the cozy comfort of your office. You shake off the drops of frozen dew from your shoulders as the smell of Christmas cakes and spiced lattes wafts from the office canteen.
You breathe in deeply, relaxing into the idea that this is your last day of work before the holidays. Settling into the warmth of your chair, you open up your laptop, check out your webshop data and...
Holy Christmas Ghost!
Your sales have collapsed overnight. Your conversion rates are stunted. Your products are selling out FAST. Oh no. Too fast. Your in-store inventories can’t keep up either! Your customers are leaving angry reviews. Your servers can’t cope.
Christmas. Is. Ruined.
Let’s rewind. As an eCommerce marketing professional, how do you avoid this scenario of dissatisfied customers, overloaded servers, and stunted brand image? Well, first of all, your planning should have begun three months earlier.
So let’s backpedal.
This pre-season preparation will avoid you skating into your holidays feeling ho-ho-ho-horrible, with customers who can’t get their gifts in time to their loved ones.
To help you along the way, we’ve provided a step-by-step eCommerce holiday guide. Created to optimize your marketing strategies and prepare your campaigns well in time before the sales start to peak.
So don’t worry: Christmas isn’t ruined just yet.
eCommerce Holiday Marketing: Preparation
Start your Planning & Research On-Time
I know that some of you may feel like end-of-the-funnel nobodies when it comes to rolling out new products for the holiday campaigns. But it’s important to start early even if you receive the branding information late.
What you need to do is liaise with your global HQ and merchandising teams as closely as possible to get a better sense of the marketing direction you will be asked to take this holiday season.
And then: do your research! See what’s trending this year for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s (I can vouch for sequins almost every NYE party, but who saw the black slip dress trend coming?).
The Office, Season 9
Every local market will have different traditions, so invest in market research before you start rolling out campaigns like Dwight’s German Christmas across somewhere like the UK.
Doubt that will go down well.
If you’re a retailer selling apparel, you can track trends in:
- Google analytics
- Competitor’s websites
- Social media
- Influencer marketing
- Fashion weeks
Intelligence Node shows that 89% of your customers will compare retailers before buying and 87% would compare the item selling price of products. So, it’s important to always consider how you differentiate while tracking trends and competitors.
2. Identify Customer Pain Points
Secondly, let’s dish out some of that good old fashioned KYC advice. It’s the holidays, after all! KYC is your traditional, best-business practice.
In order to achieve customer-centric retailing, you should talk to your customers to understand what their pain points are in relation to your brand. To help you gather these kinds of insights you can use the following...
These are great to get an idea of what a certain segment or cohort thinks about your brand. But the social norms aspect may detract from what individuals really think.
Interviews & Surveys
Sure, not everyone has time or wants to fill out surveys. Holland & Barrett understood this so offered a cash reward to spend in-store for the lucky ones who did fill the survey out. I only bring this up because, well, I won!
These kinds of incentives that follow-through will foster brand intimacy but also be helpful for you to gather a plethora of customer insights that will inform your campaigns.
Track webshop data
There’s loads of webshop data that you can track to identify pain points from behavioral to transactional. You could use heat maps to see where your users click the most, but also the areas they pay less attention. These pain points could be removed or optimized to improve website navigation.
You should also track the reasons for cart abandonment. 56% of customers abandon carts at checkout when they are presented with unexpected costs (McKinsey). Check your data to determine drop off rates and try to find the bottlenecks to the checkout.
3. Identify Opportunities
What follows suit from identifying pain points is to identify opportunities. For example, you can:
- Identify who your target consumer is and what kind of opportunities you can create for them this marketing season
- Carry out a purchase situation analysis that looks at distribution channels, payment methods, and seasonal trends to see when people buy and why
- Carry out comprehensive competitor reviews to see where the gaps are for your campaign
- Look at untapped trends based on your campaigns’ target demographic using affiliate programs
So let’s imagine for a second that you’re a swim-suit retailer, like Banana Moon:
Your pain point during this holiday season is: how do I sell swimsuits in the cold? Banana Moon answers this by offering swimsuits for spa days, swimming laps, or tropical destinations.
They’ve identified a pain point and found a way to solve it.
If your manpower and technology are able to successfully identify opportunities to combat customer pain points this holiday season, then you will keep your customers engaged and happy.
4. Build Customer Segments
Once you’ve identified your target audiences as well as their pain points and desires, you should build appropriate segments that encompass these to deliver more tailored holiday campaigns.
For your campaigns to succeed, you need to see this as a gift-giving season. Purchasing intent and behavior hinges on this understanding. For your gifting products, it could be beneficial to create buyer personas for both your gift-givers and the lucky ones on the other end.
In other words, separate your holiday campaigns into giver/receiver.
Using interviews, focus groups, or surveys, identify the key information about your buyers and their common traits to then separate them into stock characters like Mother, Discount Chaser, Browser, or Last-Minute Shopper.
Tracking Transactional, Behavioral, Demographic & Psychographic Data
To create buyer personas you should also be looking at tracking transactional (purchases), behavioral (browser, views, etc.), demographic (age, gender, etc. of customers), and psychographic data (customer personalities).
Tracking these data points will enable you to create micro-segments to improve the relevancy of your messaging and campaigns.
But for this to work you need to be able to place relevant clusters of customers together. For example, customers with the same patterns of behavior are grouped together as a micro-segment.
You can create shopper segments based on viewed pages, source, location, or products bought and then target those segments with your holiday marketing campaigns equally.
5. Align On Your Campaign Strategy
So now you know your customers but more than that, you understand them.
Your campaign entering the supply chain based on customer insights and demands is a pull-based strategy (rather than pull), and this is a strategy will define your marketing success this season.
Everybody is talking about breaking down operational silos these days. Zappos is doing it. Amazon is doing it. It’s the way forward for customer-centricity. Therefore, in order for you to align and iterate your campaign strategy, everybody needs to get involved.
And then ask yourselves: is your campaign purpose to consolidate brand identity or to push a new product?
If it’s a campaign around a new product, you may want to show the product:
- In context (read how to apply the Endowment Effect here)
- Its positive impact on people’s lives
- As a holiday-specific function (as a gift, or how it can be used in the winter)
For instance, this Gore-Tex ad encapsulates all of the above.
The shoes are shown in action and the pain point of not being able to run in winter is directly countered. Winter is a thief (in line with their entire personification campaign). And the ad shows how that the shoes you can still run, despite being robbed of asphalt.
6. Create Hype to Boost Your Consideration Phase
If you really want your campaign to SLEIGH this Christmas - don’t use puns. Just kidding. Instead, after you’ve successfully aligned on your omnichannel strategy, create hype around your products.
Remember a time when ads were on the sides of buses? Your new side-of-bus is social media, so make sure you have a coherent strategy for Instagram, Facebook, affiliate websites, Snapchat, and whatever the kids are using these days.
Deliver Recommendations to Customers
Similarly, use your newly built and/or optimized segments to push product recommendations to your customers and create hype for your campaign already form the consideration phase.
This Twining’s campaign, for example, uses its data from last year to suggest Christmas best sellers:
Cleverly, Twinings also places a “new” Christmas product on the list to drive purchase behavior ahead of the season.
Scarcity is the psychological principle that drives purchase behavior of people who respond well to things that are limited, exclusive, running out, etc. But it's also a great way to create hype around your campaigns at the consideration phase.
Ntwrk does this well by having a countdown banner and smart notification about their new “drops”:
On your own homepage, you could leverage Scarcity in a few different ways:
- Countdown banners (for Black Friday, or Christmas)
- Limited time only offers
- Exclusive products
- Deadlines - products that are almost sold out
- Clearance sales
Armed with these tools, your pre-campaign preparation will ensure your success this holiday marketing season. What’s next is to manage your campaign effectively, from your eCommerce store and across other channels.
eCommerce Holiday Marketing Season: Campaign Management
7. Optimize Your Webshop with Holiday Spirit
Are you ready to get with the holiday spirit and decorate your webshop the way you would a wee old pine-tree?
Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
But first, you have to check with your in-house graphic designers to make sure the design is in line with your branding. Take Frank Body’s Christmas homepage as a great example of keeping in line with their brand aesthetic whilst leveraging the holiday spirit:
Lush also has a particular brand aesthetic and their banner image resonates with Christmas. They’ve also placed recommended Christmas products below the banner so that these gifts are easier to find and in line with the campaign.
Prepare For Christmas Traffic (the Webshop Kind)
In order to optimize your webshop with the holiday spirit, you also need to prepare for traffic (the kind that has customers flooding your site, not the kind that keeps you away from work in the morning. One is better than the other - guess which?).
That being said, the biggest traffic driver to your website will start on Cyber Week and continue onto Christmas and into the New Year. So make sure you load and capacity test your servers beforehand in order to cope with the influx of traffic to maximize your online sales.
Here’s a crucial website checklist for your backend, in order to effectively optimize your webshop this season:
- Is your page optimized with SEO?
- Are all broken links fixed?
- Is your search functionality working well?
- Can people find what they’re looking for in the fewest clicks possible?
- Do your shelf categories and product lister pages correspond to the holiday season (i.e. winter products on top)?
- Do you have a frictionless checkout page + local currencies/payment platforms?
Once your webshop is safely prepped, then you can be sure your campaigns will have the biggest impact.
8. Release Campaigns Omnichannel
Your website is prepared. Your campaign is pull-based and in line with customer needs. Now you're ready to release the holiday spirit across different platforms: your campaigns are ready to be released omnichannel.
For those products that are made for a specific function, push to people who have bought similar products (read how to do this with collaborative filtering). You should also be using your segments to push products to customers based on their profiles in a personalized way.
Take this Urban Outfitters email campaign.
It’s tailored for the season (including the demographics of the target audience, so Europe given coat and currency), as well as gender:
Identify Peak Selling Moments
In order to effectively release your campaign omnichannel based on your previous segments, you should also be able to identify your peak selling moments to achieve maximum impact.
These will depend on price-point and industry so it’s important to identify who you want to target and when (last year NRF data showed that 56% of shoppers leave gifts to the last minute and buy on the weekend before Christmas Eve).
Therefore, once you release your campaign you should focus on your high-level products and how they sell in their best moments.
Before Christmas in 2017, Mulberry launched a “12 days of Christmas” themed ad campaign under the hashtag #mytruelovegavetome on Instagram. The brand highlighted each of its Christmas gifts through a steady stream of social media content, successfully creating hype around their holiday products at peak moments and via an opportune channel.
They did everything right, basically.
And even if your department isn’t “in charge of social media” you should still remember the un-siloed approach and oversee social media campaigns. This is the best ways to bring your customers into the cozy world of your Christmas eCommerce store.
9. Think Mobile First
How else are you going to take full advantage of this eCommerce holiday marketing season? By making sure your holiday campaigns are optimized for mobile, another important step in managing your campaign.
Often, people browse for gifts on their mobiles but will shop online, and in 2015, mobile phone sales generated $108 billion dollars during the holiday season. So make sure your webshop is easy to use on mobiles as well.
For example, this Amazon page drives me crazy, because it’s giving me too many options (inflicting me with Choice Overload), forcing me to scroll lights I don’t need just to get to the Christmas tree options.
Instead, what Matalan does well on their mobile webshop is to create four subsections that make it easier to find what I want for the holiday season by having sub-categories for each Christmas-themed item, like decorations, gift-wrapping, etc.:
Matalan’s campaign thus looks better on mobile, whilst prioritizing their Christmas visuals and copy.
Bonus tip: minimal designs promote cognitive fluency and are easier to optimize for mobile, a bit like this Official Basso Instagram ad (that also leverages Social Norms), and is tailored to the season:
So if you want to succeed this holiday marketing season, always Think Mobile First.
eCommerce Holiday Marketing: Post-Campaign Consolidation
10. Track KPIs & Metrics
How do you track the success of your holiday marketing campaigns after roll-out? Your most important marketing KPIs for this campaign should be the usual:
- Conversion rates
And all your pages should be optimized to drive purchase behavior with these in mind. Tracking your success (inevitable, thanks to this guide) seems logical, but still a necessary step.
64% of brands are already able to track customer experiences through post-sale support and direct feedback (Clicktale). This post-campaign consolidation will help when informing your colleagues as well as next year’s data for even better eCommerce holiday marketing - so don’t forget this step!
11. When All is Said and Done, Build Loyalty
I don’t have to repeat to you the age-old sales aphorism: “It’s cheaper to re-engage old customers than acquire new ones.''
Yet, you want your eCommerce holiday campaigns to resonate with your high-value customers, and foster a sense of loyalty for next year.
So this is crucial to keep in mind.
Loyalty programs that provide your customers with discounts during the holiday season (i.e., this ASDA Christmas savings card with the promise of bonuses) are a good way to start. But you should also tailor your retargeting messages to your individual customers.
For example, you could target men aged 35-45 who are shopping in a boy’s shoes category with the message, “Buy Your Kids Our New [insert name of hip new shoe kids like these days...wheelies, anyone?]”.
This is a mature way to segment your target audience, whilst leveraging ML or AI capabilities to serve personalized messages in real-time.
We’re not saying you have to hire a tech-vendor with these capabilities, but it would help. These steps forward will maximize your campaigns by building brand loyalty and, in the long run, brand advocates.
Throughout this comprehensive eCommerce holiday marketing guide, we’ve given you eleven campaign strategies.
Here they are again, in brief:
- Pain Points
- Optimize Webshop
- Release Omnichannel
- Think Mobile-First
- Track Performance
- Build Loyalty
In fact, these strategies will guarantee the success of any campaign if you follow through carefully. But there’s no time like the holidays - this peak-moment will drive your sales and conversions, and provide your customers with a cozy moment of personalized comfort as they shop for their loved ones.
So go on...
Have a spiced latte and slice of Christmas cake as you unwind into the winter, and breathe a sense of relief, since someone out there has got your back this marketing season.