Follow these actionable steps to drive higher sales and engagement during one of the busiest retail seasons of the year.
Fall brings many things – changing leaves, cooler weather and rising anticipation for the holidays. For many shoppers, October and November mark the start of seasonal sales and budgeting for annual gift-giving. For the millions of retailers whose holiday sales represent as much as 30 percent of annual revenue, this time of year also brings with it an unwelcome side effect – considerable stress.
It's easy to understand why.
In 2016, U.S. ecommerce sales topped $115 billion during the holidays, setting a new record. This year, sales are expected to surpass $129 billion. Forrester predicts 2017 holiday shoppers will spend an average of $689 online. As a result, seasonal retailers are focused more than ever before on marketing techniques to attract new customers and drive more traffic to their sites.
A recent BigCommerce survey of 1,018 online merchants found that one-third began planning for holidays one to two months earlier than in years past, with 21 percent kicking off their holiday planning in September. Interestingly, 8 percent of respondents began holiday planning in January, immediately putting into practice lessons learned from last year's holiday rush to get a jump on the competition.
With competition for attention at an all-time high, retailers must look for ways to woo holiday shoppers through any and all available avenues. Whether you began planning early or are just now strategizing for the holidays, here are some tips to maximize your 2017 holiday efforts.
Expand your sales channels.
While 44 percent of product searches now originate on Amazon, product discovery is now taking place across multiple channels, requiring retailers to think about how and where to best reach target audiences. For example, consumers are increasingly using social media channels as a source of passive product discovery and buying inspiration, and this convergence of content and commerce gives retailers additional opportunities to engage customers through new mediums and ad formats. In fact, close to one-quarter of merchants expect social channels such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to be key sales channels for them this holiday season.
Data shows that merchants who sell on at least two channels earn, on average, twice the revenue of single-channel sellers. With holiday shopping at an all-time high, merchants should capitalize on this unique sales opportunity to get in front of new audiences by expanding their presence to all the places their customers may be shopping. This goes beyond the traditional brand website and brick-and-mortar store to include social channels and marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
Establish a consistent brand to earn repeat purchases.
Selling across multiple channels is a proven strategy to rapidly expand your customer base and drive top-line growth. But that expanded presence is all for naught if you are unable to expand profitably and generate repeat business. For that reason, as you begin diversifying your channel mix, it is imperative to create as uniform a brand presence as possible, leveraging every touchpoint to create a lasting connection with customers. This consistency across channels will improve brand recall and loyalty, which in turn will result in more repeat purchases.
Don't underinvest in creative.
The average adult attention span today is a mere 8 seconds. Just imagine how that decreases during the holiday season when consumers are inundated with an excess of advertising and offers all vying for their attention. In order to compete, brands must think about how they will capture a customer's attention quickly, which is why striking visuals and creative campaigns are a must-have during the holidays. For big commerce merchants, visually dominant channels like Facebook and email have proved to be the most successful holiday marketing and advertising channels.
Differentiate through holiday promotions.
For retailers, marketing promotions are as much a part of the holidays as "Jingle Bells" and decorations. In fact, a whopping 79 percent of merchants offer some kind of discount or promotion in Q4. But not all promotions are created equal. Consumers have come to expect offerings like free shipping and no longer consider it alone as a compelling reason to buy, forcing merchants to delve further into the promotions toolkit. Rather than offering the same promotions as every other merchant, think through the ways you can separate your brand from the rest of the noise.
For example, pillow maker Kuseno Comfort Products created a December advent calendar on its Facebook page that revealed a new daylong promotion like BOGO, shipping discounts, cart-level discounts and free products every day leading up to Christmas. Customers loved the interactive element it brought to the purchase experience, and as a result, December sales grew 158 percent over the previous year.
Customer centricity always wins.
Now that your marketing is in high gear and driving visitors to your website, how do you make sure that they stay, browse and buy? When it comes to your online storefront, the holidays are not the time to test and experiment with things you've never done previously. Instead, focus on what has worked for you before, highlight your top-selling products and ensure any discounts and promotions are prominently featured.
By cluttering your website with elements that veer too far away from your brand identity, you run the risk of losing potential customers that up until that point have expressed interest in your products. And that can cause damage that lasts well beyond the holiday season ends. 21 percent of Americans shopping online cite unattractive or difficult-to-navigate websites as a major ecommerce pain point – so don't overcomplicate it.
At the end of the day, the holiday season can be chaotic and overwhelming, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Invest the time in advanced preparations both on the front and back end so that, come Black Friday, you can focus on having meaningful interactions with your customers, rather than stressing about year-end results.