If you were told retail stores would struggle in the 2020 holiday season back in 2019,you would be in utter disbelief. Yet, 2020 was the year where the battle against the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing. Physical stores, especially brick and mortar businesses were amongst the hardest hit with lockdown measures in place. As losses grew astronomically, businesses took to the digital realm to recoup. Setting up online stores or ecommerce platforms, businesses leveraged on their online presence to achieve sales. 

Now as we approach the end of  Q3 2021, the holiday season is right in front of us. Businesses who have continued to invest online will no doubt drive up paid advertising costs to capitalise on the upcoming holiday bonanza. Marketers will have to be more prepared this season, in the fallout of Apple’s iOS 14 update. Advertisers will find it much harder to target users pre campaign rollout due to privacy changes. To tackle this, let’s run through how to optimize digital marketing success this holiday season.

Content:

1) Capitalize on holiday content opportunities

Regardless of the pandemic, consecutive holidays and festive occasions run in abundance in the last quarter of the year. Starting with Halloween; Thanksgiving; Christmas and many more. Surprisingly, e-commerce sales for the 2020 holiday season reached $188.2 billion, a startling 32% increase year over year. A negligible figure, Brands should capitalize on the festive holiday opportunities, starting now.  

In the UK, as many as 25% of shoppers say they will have thought about Christmas shopping by the end of August in anticipation of an ordinary festive season. Sentiments are similar in the US, according to a survey 35% of shoppers say the pandemic will not impact holiday shopping this year compared to 53% in 2020. 70% of the participants also reported that their shopping journey included digital touchpoints. Affirming the role of digitalisation this holiday season. 

A mobile friendly experience.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 25% of shoppers have been shopping via mobile devices going up to 44% for grocery items. This includes app downloads, as reflected by Google the search for “online shopping app download” has grown globally by over 300% year over year. In the same mobile realm, Hubspot has provided some insights on the effects of page load time with conversions. Almost 70% of consumers consider page speed a factor when it comes to willingness to purchase online. 

This leads to the question, how fast should the average mobile page load be – 15.3 seconds according to Google. Google insights reinforces this by reporting that 50% of consumers are more likely to shop on a mobile site because they don’t want to download an app. This makes 15.3 seconds a short but precious amount of time to secure a visitor’s patronage. 

Reaching customers as they browse

Especially since 81% of consumers discover new brands online during the pandemic. Google search is an important tool for shoppers. Finding products, comparing prices, checking out reviews and even looking for potential sales, these are all part of the consumer purchasing journey.

Look towards Google ads for your various purposes, use responsive search ads to put your products on the spot light for relevant shoppers. For brands that have a catalogue of items to show, go for discovery ads to aid the ‘visual shoppers’. To achieve maximum synergy and reach up to 3 billion people across feeds on both YouTube and Google, consider these 2 best practices.

  • Simplicity works best: Images without any overlay text have a  9% higher average click through rate . 
  • Pair search and discovery ads for an average of 12% higher conversions. 

2) Mega Sales Events Opportunities & Strategies

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without Mega Sale Events. What are they you might wonder? More prominent throughout Asia, Mega Sales Event started off with Singles Day (11 November) in 2009. Over a decade later, it’s now the largest shopping festival that brings in billions of dollars in online sales. 

More importantly, Singles day has spawned numerous sale events across the year, collectively known as Mega Sales Events. Besides Singles day,12.12 and those in their respective months, big sale events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even Christmas are also part of the mega sale events. 

Point of Entry & Retention

What’s so special about these events are their significance to acquiring new shoppers. For 43% of shoppers, Mega Sale events were their first experience in online shopping. While 86% of consumers purchase products online during these events, many were purchasing from new categories. Amongst which fashion, beauty and skincare are the most popular, including smartphones and peripherals.

In terms of brand retention, 75% of Mega Sale shoppers have a likelihood of sticking to the new brand rather than reverting to old ones. This was more distinct(>60%) in categories such as smartphones & peripherals, other electronics and men’s fashion. 

Black Friday

Let’s move a little closer to upcoming events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to Adobe, Black Friday 2020 was the second largest online spending day in United States history, just behind Cyber Monday 2020. Consumers spent a total of $9 billion of which $3.6 billion was through smartphones. Smartphone spending on Black Friday led to a 25.3% YoY while pickups increased by 52%. 

Notable online discounts include those in the electronics category, computers,electronics and appliances at 28%,26%,20% respectively. Of which, hot electronic products include Apple AirPods, Air Fryers, and Fire TV

Cyber Monday

Moving on to Cyber Monday, consumers spent $2.7 billion online in 4 hours from 7-11pm Pacific Time. Totalling up to a quarter of Cyber Monday’s revenue, the peak hour had a purchasing rate of $12million per minute.

Likewise with Black Friday, electronics were in hot demand. This includes Apple AirPods and Watches, HP and Dell computers, as well as Chromecast. In addition, toys were also a popular purchase ranging from Lego sets to video games. In terms of shipping, curbside pickup saw a 30 percent growth YoY with the most preferred option being one-day shipping (45 percent). 

3) Optimise for trends

Convenience is a trend that will likely stay during 2021’s holiday season. While the pandemic still continues to upset the world’s balance, retails and brands have adapted to provide value. Some in the form of buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) or curbside pickups. BOPIS made up 1 in 4 orders during the 2020 holiday season, an increase of 40% compared to 2019. Convenience is an important factor not to miss. Searches for “curbside pickup” have risen globally by 5,000% while 78% of US shoppers say they will shop at stores that offer free shipping.

Plan ahead

As consumers continue to think and purchase in advance, marketers should respond in order. According to a study, brands that launch advertising campaigns a month earlier achieve as much as 19% in cost savings. This is in comparison to those who only launch a fortnight before. This makes sense considering the change in consumer behaviour to plan ahead or maybe just an actual FOMO moment. 

Fear of Missing Out

Performance data is extremely crucial in any holiday season. Knowing what’s hot and not in advance with preliminary findings can allow marketers to shift and adapt their strategy. Whether that means using a sense of urgency in flash sales to demonstrate the low stocks of a hot product or the unbeatable price of another. But this also means planning in advance to capitalize on the exposure. 

Scheduling

Make use of scheduling tools to optimise your outreach right down to the minute. Facebook/IG creator studio is a great way to visualise and schedule in a good flash sale post. Of course, you would have to take a look at the platform’s analytical insights and get a good grasp on the optimal times. Do also consider wide content scheduling platforms like Hootsuite, Buffer or even Canva as alternatives if you are broadcasting to many social platforms at once.

Automation

Businesses with online stores can also benefit with some form of automation especially for customer support. Chatbots in this case are an efficient way to cope with manpower and workload. You might think consumers would rather interact with a ‘live’ support staff but au contraire. Over 60% of consumers between the ages of 25-40 prefer this communication tool over traditional methods. The use  of chatbots for assisting customer enquiries can very well reduce customer service volume by 35%

Besides customer enquiries,chatbots can also be used to improve average order value(AOV). For instance, prompting the consumer that they are eligible for further discounts with a minimum spend or displaying the trending products bought in conjunction. All the while providing better user experience for the target audience above. 

User Experience

Naturally user experience will also play a part when it comes to online purchases. You should ensure that server capabilities are sufficient for the influx of traffic. This is in addition to appropriate landing pages whenever relevant. As mentioned earlier, having a mobile friendly page is essential. A responsive mobile friendly design not only allows consumers to have a consistent site experience but also boosts search engine optimization.

Having an organised page with easy to use navigation also aids consumers search for products. Consistent style, colours and fonts are also factors to take note of. You wouldn’t want to drive consumers away by making them confused. Moreover, having a search bar on all pages is an absolute necessity. Similar to navigation, make sure the search bar is easily identifiable and preferably placed in the header. If possible having these search functions can also increase the functionality of your store:

  • Auto-complete suggestions
  • Allow for search by product name
  • Support symbols & abbreviations

4) Importance of attention seeking creatives

The evolution of social channels is also part and parcel of the changing social dynamics. The rage of snackable content was something that appeared in the early 2010s with the rise and fall of Vines. Now, the crave has been picked up by the wildly popular TikTok. The idea of short form videos ranging from 15-60 seconds long was such a revitalising moment for the industry. Owing to its success, Instagram and YouTube followed suit with their own versions dubbed Reels and Shorts respectively. 

Short Form Videos

Its format of a short length video has led to many creative and bizarre moments. But this is also what makes TikTok videos so much worthy of emulation. Piecing together bits and pieces of audio and video content to a hilarious result without expensive animation effects. Creating relatable content is essential for any audience especially in a mobile setting. All it takes is one swipe for your efforts to go down the drain.

What’s definite about videos are its effects on return on investment. A study on Facebook ad campaigns found that on average,a $1 investment on videos drove 39% more sales compared to a dollar on static images. Which should prompt you to take a look at Facebook’s best practices for social video success (embed ig post). While most of it should be quite straightforward, just like TikTok creativity is also an important factor. Marketers should start taking short form videos seriously and use this advantage to reach out to various demographics. Brands that can deliver advertising in formats that audiences enjoy can achieve increased consumer engagement. 

Feeling stumped over which to start from Instagram Reels or Tiktok? Check out this experiment by Hootsuite which measured engagement over new brand new accounts. The results might be more surprising than you think.

5) First party data dominates

While many marketers are still utilising 3rd party cookies now, in the near future that will change. In a cookieless world, first party data will be even more critical for marketers to gather insights on consumer activity and behaviour. Even now browser updates are slowly changing how cookies are managed and raising the difficulty to track a consumer’s action. This is where building an email list comes into place especially during this holiday season. 

Why emails work

A key holiday shopping trend, the discount culture was identified in 2020. Email is the ideal channel for consumers to look and take advantage of discounts. Based on an American holiday season survey in 2021, marketing communications over email were favoured by the majority at 73%. Where 82% would use their primary email addresses when creating accounts. 

Personalisation in that sense is an essential feature. The authenticity factor allows consumers to sieve through spam. Moreover, flash sales,instant buys can spur even the last minute shoppers who are still on the fence. 

Emails also allow multiple dedicated landing pages. Consumers wouldn’t want to navigate a specific call to action that brings them to a homepage. This is where having a specific landing page that details the exact cta provides convenience and value. Thereby reducing friction as consumers are reassured that they have clicked on the correct cta button. 

Post holiday season, emails can still be useful in driving repeat customers. For one, they can engage and convert subscribers into repeat and long term consumers. Secondly, emails can also signal the change in holiday season and the return of the regular emails that subscribers appreciate. Lastly, the collection of first party data via surveys or feedback form can be easily done. 

Conclusion

2022 draws ever nearer as the holiday season approaches. As a marketer you should take advantage of the season to gain access to more credible first party data as preparation for the future. Don’t shirk off new and upcoming platforms for older ones. Particularly, short form videos and TikTok provides access to a younger demographic of audiences. Do plan ahead this holiday season!

Benefit Pte Ltd

Check us out on FacebookInstagramTwitter and LinkedIn. Contact us at marketing@benefit.sg for more information.

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