With the holiday season right around the corner, you’re likely planning out your 2019 Holiday eCommerce strategy. This time of the year tends to be very busy for marketers, so it’s important to have a well-built strategy in place that will be sure to take advantage of all the great opportunities that are out there for your business or brand. Holiday planning typically starts up in August and September, but can even begin to take shape in the early months of the Summer. Planning out this strategy takes time, so try to start this process as early as you can. Starting your planning early will not only improve your brand’s overall performance, but it will also make it easier for you to accomplish your holiday goals.
Before starting the in-depth planning process, it’s important to first understand some recurring concepts and themes that are integral to a successful holiday season. Learning about these seven concepts will guide your 2019 strategy and better prepare you for holiday success.
1. Understand Your Shipping Cutoff Dates
Shipping cutoff dates are a simple concept to understand, yet year after year, marketers tend to forget about them when completing their holiday planning. Many ecommerce products need to be shipped and delivered to the location that the buyer is currently located at. This process takes time, and if brands wants to ensure that their products are in their consumers hands before the day of the holiday, then they need to specify a date that consumers can purchase them up until. Many times, you will see this in the form of an advertisement that reads, “Order before 12/17 to receive before Christmas,” or “Last Day for Guaranteed Christmas Delivery.” This date that ecommerce brands specify comes to be known as the shipping cutoff date.
When deciding on a shipping cutoff date for your brand, it’s important to first know how long it takes to ship and deliver your desired product. Make sure you are choosing a date that is realistic and easy for your business to accomplish. You don’t want to be advertising a date that your company can’t carry out with. This will lead to anger and distrust between the consumer and your brand, and can even lead to decreased performance in the following months.
Appointing a shipping cutoff date can also be very beneficial from a performance standpoint. Most of the time, brands will see an influx of conversions occur right before the cutoff date approaches. This signals to a brand that consumers understand the shipping limitations of the product, and are ordering them now to ensure that they can arrive before the holiday. During the week leading up to the cutoff date, brands can also expect to see higher conversion rates, as well as an increase in customer traffic. Start thinking about this day when conducting your holiday strategy so that you can begin to plan out countdown advertising and specific ad copy that will be sure to inform potential consumers about your product.
2. Know Your Customers’ Purchasing Behavior
It’s also important to understand the purchasing behavior of shoppers during the holiday season. Historical data tends to show us that a consumer’s purchasing behavior is normal and stable until the shipping cutoff date nears. In the days leading up to this day, we tend to see consumer’s purchasing behavior accelerate and the number of purchases start to rapidly increase.
However, the purchasing behavior of consumers is not always consistent across different products and brands. It’s important to study past trends and data of the vertical that your brand is currently in to truly get a sense of your target consumer and when they tend to be purchasing your products. Once you know this information, marketers can begin to push their ads more heavily during this time in hopes of capturing potential buyers.
3. Analyze Inventory Availability & Limitations
Before starting your holiday planning, talk with the manufacturers of your ecommerce product so that you can know exactly how much you are able to sell and promote. If you don’t have a lot of inventory available and may sell out before the holidays approach, then you want to make sure your brand is not paying for advertising when your product is unavailable. The last thing you want to have this holiday season are incomplete orders because you didn’t plan right and miscalculated how much inventory you were able to sell. Incomplete orders can hurt a brand’s reputation in the long term and can discourage consumers from purchasing from you again.
As a brand, it’s very valuable to understand how much product you can sell this holiday season. Knowing this will guide your marketing efforts and set you up for success.
4. Be Informed on the Historical Performance of your Brand
While this is something that brands should be doing regularly over the course of the year, it’s very important that brands are studying historical data through the duration of the holiday season. Brands should always be looking at past years’ data and analyzing their performance. If you notice in the past that more conversions took place in the month of December than November, then brands should look to adjust more of their ad spend to the busier months, rather than paying more during the slower months. If Black Friday or Cyber Monday were big revenue days in previous years, then brands may want to invest more money in the days or weeks leading up to these days, rather than evenly spreading their budget out.
Analyzing historical performance can also give you a better understanding of where you want to be spending your marketing dollars. If you notice that in the past that more conversions took place on mobile phones than over desktop, then brands might want to adjust their budgets and start heading towards a more mobile strategy. It’s better to know these types of trends and tendencies when you’re starting to plan your holiday strategy, rather than realizing them towards the end of November when the holiday season is already halfway over.
5. Stay Up to Date on Technology Changes
Every year, technology updates and changes. As a brand, it’s very important that you’re able to stay up to date on these changes and begin to explore new channels that are growing and gaining attention. Some channels for 2019 that are quickly becoming new and effective advertising tools include LinkedIn, Instagram/Facebook stories, voice applications, and Pinterest. These channels have had such immense growth during 2019 that marketers now have their eyes on utilizing them for the holiday season. By being able to adapt and shape your marketing efforts into new channels, brands can see their opportunities truly start to grow.
6. Recognize Ad Space is Going to be More Competitive
During the holiday season, ad space will not only become more expensive, but it will also become more competitive due to the presence of more online shoppers. A recent study done by eMarketer found the growing trend of online shoppers during the holiday season. The study looked at the United States as a whole, and discovered that over the past four years, U.S. holiday online sales have grown each year by an average of 15.25%. In 2015, online holiday sales totaled $80.04B and in 2018, these sales reached upwards of $123.73B. 2019 is going to be no different, and marketers need to start preparing for increased competition.
If brands are looking to obtain top page positions this holiday season, they need to plan on spending more money and producing more quality advertisements. The question you want to ask yourself is, “How do I engage the user and ensure that I stand out from my competitors?” Be sure to always be studying your competitors so that you can understand what they have done in the past, and be ready to implement a strong strategy that you know will shine and be different than what’s currently out there.
7. Know What People Are Expecting from You
If your brand has a history of running holiday ecommerce deals and promotions, then consumers are going to expect similar pricing deals the following year. It’s important that you’re able to keep or, even better, improve promotions from year to year so that brands can stay relevant in the minds of the consumer. If your brand ran a 30% off promotion last year, then potential consumers may be expecting to see that same 30% off promotion this year. If you decide not to promote that product anymore or decrease the size of your promotions, consumers may feel discouraged and end up not purchasing like they have before. Keep your pricing deals consistent, and always be introducing new promotions for the holiday season.
By staying on top of these seven concepts and starting the holiday planning process early, brands can set themselves up for success this holiday season.