By Darwin Liu

In 2020 the eCommerce industry saw an increase in consumer spending by 44 percent year over year because of the pandemic. While many government restrictions have relaxed, 2021’s holiday season is still expected to see exceptional growth in online sales.

Like so many things in 2021, Black Friday and other holidays are changing continuously. That is why we identified seven tips that every eCommerce marketer should know in order to focus brand energy in the right places and win the holiday shopping season.

1. Consider Shifts in Consumer Spending and Behavior

Current consumer behavior trends must be considered when creating a strategy around overall business goals. Understanding the consumer’s mindset when shopping online or in-store will help marketing initiatives when it comes down to tactics in capturing overall revenue/sales.

Consumers are hoping to get back to “normal” but are staying conscious about COVID-19 and Delta variant updates. That means making strategic online advertising more important than ever for holiday shopping.

2. Account for Fluctuation in Search Demand

Even though trends in search demand might fluctuate, actual account performance might differ. If demand is projected to be down in a relevant category or vertical, all is not lost! You can find pockets of growth.

To have the best chance of cultivating this growth, take a deep dive into each account with the following in mind:

  • Look into projections in search demand for applicable product categories;
  • Monitor performance more closely and often than usual to make adjustments based on real-time trends;
  • If possible, have fluidity in promo offering/schedule to pivot as needed with fluctuations or opportunities with demand; and
  • Audit remarketing initiatives to identify new seasonal opportunities and ensure the optimal customer experience.

3. Be Transparent about Shipping and Supply Chain Challenges

When the 2020 lockdown first began, the surge in eCommerce sales caused a scarcity of materials and shipping capacity. Even though it has been 18 months, most brands are still being affected by supply chain delays.

With all of this uncertainty, ensure that the brand does not earn a reputation of overpromising and under-delivering by being transparent with the internal team and customers. If shipping times are delayed, make sure to communicate that with the support team and customers.

Transparency with the team and consumers will not only help build trust and brand loyalty, but can also help to increase conversion rates.

4. Effectively Collect and Use First-Party Data

If your brand does not collect first-party data (email addresses, phone numbers, etc.) from current customers, start now. Stop reading this article and add an email and text collection pop-up to the site.

Even if there is no solid plan for how to use this data, having this information in the brand’s hands is becoming more crucial by the day. With all of the privacy updates being put in place and the road to the “cookie-less internet,” the ability to communicate directly with customers is going to prove to be the best way to let them know about new products and sales, as well as gather valuable feedback.

Once data is in hand, create a plan for connecting meaningfully with customers. Implementing targeted and timely email and text flows based on the behaviour of an individual customer is incredibly effective.

5. Re-evaluate Campaign Spending

A solid, well-thought-out spend plan is non-negotiable. You should start by ensuring campaigns are not being limited by budget. If they are, this likely means that campaign goals are too aggressive and the system simply cannot achieve the set target in automated campaigns. Contrary to popular belief, the first step is not to increase the budget, but to increase the goal.

Next, check if all of the campaigns are scaling spend and budget limits will not be met. It is imperative that ads are still showing leading up to promotion. Begin pushing the week before promotion and there will be less competition in the auction.

Another important step is having a plan to scale up during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Remember the budget will not pace the same throughout each day and spend will fluctuate throughout the day as traffic surges in the later hours.

Monitoring brand terms is another key item. With such aggressive promotions, competitors will be looking to capitalize on your brand. Check branded terms throughout the day and increase bids if need be. The top spot may be lost but that is less expensive due to relevancy score and it being your brand.

Strong, appealing promotions may be common sense, but during the holiday season, brands have to put their best foot forward. Shoppers will likely choose where to purchase depending on the best offer.

6. Create Loyal Customers and Cut Through the Noise with Referrals

Online brands heading into Q4 2021 have the potential for more users to come to their site and purchase products simply based on consumer shopping habits. However, with an exponential increase in competition, both new and established brands need more ways to stand out, capture traffic, and convert users. Enter the “referral program.”

Referral programs incentivize current customers to share products with friends, family and others in their circle. It allows brands to reward their most loyal customers and leverage them as brand advocates to acquire new customers.

With the increase in options of products on the digital market, new users benefit from a brand’s referral program because they know they can trust a brand recommended to them by a friend or family member and the noise of the market is cut through by a direct recommendation.

Darwin Liu is the founder and CEO of X Agency, an integrated digital marketing agency of growth engineers with offices in Boston and Nashville.

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