- Ecommerce has become an increasingly important element of any business, but it is more important than ever going into the 2020 holiday season.
- With the plethora of brands vying for ad space online, companies must make the most of their marketing budgets by adjusting their digital strategies.
- Socium Media CEO Owen Loft offers four tips for breaking through the noise to get in front of your customers and boost sales this holiday season.
Retailers already set up for online sales had an immediate advantage, but others quickly fell behind. Instead of reaping profits from consumers who have chosen to shop from home, retailers without online infrastructures have missed out on booming sales opportunities. Online shopping was already trending upward before the pandemic, but the pandemic pushed the shift from physical to ecommerce ahead by five years.
Businesses cannot afford to overlook digital. But one question remains: How can they bolster their online presence and get in front of their target customers in the current landscape?
Holiday season 2020: A perfect storm of competition
Reaching customers who have flocked online has become more challenging (not to mention costly) as large retailers take control of valuable advertising space. And big-box stores aren’t the only ones driving up the cost of digital advertising — political candidates have sunk more than three billion dollars into campaign advertising this year.
Major retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart are taking more online-centric approaches to holiday shopping this year. Many have already announced that they will keep their physical stores closed on Thanksgiving. Some will even remain closed on Black Friday or offer limited shopping hours, pushing customers to stay home and shop online.
With the coronavirus pandemic stretching into the fourth quarter of 2020, major elections, and the holiday season, marketers have major competition for valuable online ad space.
Revamp your digital marketing strategy to reach customers at home
To break through the noise and make the most of your marketing budget in the current environment, you must adjust your digital marketing strategies. Here’s how:
1. Prepare for the early rush
In years past, Black Friday signaled the start of holiday shopping. This year, however, Amazon’s annual Prime Day — typically held in the summer — was rescheduled to early October due to the pandemic. Some experts predict this will be the starting point for holiday shopping in 2020, which amounts to roughly an extra month and a half of holiday-related advertising and deals.
Another reason for the early start? Getting ahead of anticipated shipping delays. Some businesses already have felt the coronavirus-related strain on deliveries; pair that with additional demand, and customers will probably start shopping early to make sure their gifts arrive on time for the holidays. It will be more important than ever to start your holiday marketing efforts early. You’ll also want to communicate shipping cut-off dates clearly on your website so customers can plan their purchases accordingly.
2. Leverage your email lists
With major events converging at once — COVID-19, the 2020 election, and the holidays — consumers will be bombarded with ads across the internet. Considering this perfect storm, it might be easier to reach your target customers in their inboxes. And if they subscribe to your business’s emails, it means they’ve had positive experiences and trust your brand. They’ll be more likely to order from you, a known quantity, rather than the thousands of other retailers jockeying for their attention.
3. Highlight gift-able items in your ads
Some items in your business’s inventory simply won’t wrap well, while others are practically made to be gifted. Analyze your inventory and determine which products would fit in a gift guide for your business.
To do this, harness the data you already have. Which products are popular with your customers? What were your top sellers during the 2019 holiday season? You should also research consumer trends to see what up-and-coming products will be popular this year, which will allow you to highlight them in your marketing.
Once you’re armed with that knowledge, make sure you have adequate inventory of those products — even if those items aren’t your typical bestsellers — and plan your marketing strategy around them. With high-quality images and video and updated ad copy ready to go, those products are sure to fly off the shelves.
4. Be flexible
While online shopping is by no means new, ecommerce in the time of COVID-19 is unprecedented. Retailers — even major ones — can’t predict how consumers will behave this year. With a slew of retailers staying closed during the traditional holiday shopping times, some consumers may shift to ecommerce for everything. Others may decide to play the waiting game in hopes that physical stores reopen before the holiday season kicks into gear.
Because it’s impossible to know precisely what consumers will do, your tried-and-true marketing methods may not work. If you don’t already, prepare some contingency marketing plans in case you need to pivot quickly and try a new strategy to reach your customers.
Ecommerce has steadily become an important part of business, but this year it is absolutely critical. With a veritable trifecta of competition due to the pandemic, election, and holiday season, marketers must reassess their digital marketing strategies to ensure they can reach customers and boost sales.
Owen Loft is Co-founder of Socium Media, a performance-focused digital marketing agency specializing in paid search, paid social, and SEO. He can be found on LinkedIn.