How and When to Position Your Ecommerce Strategy for the Holidays
The following blog was written by guest author Alex Borzo, a content contributor at Amber Engine, a software company passionate about eCommerce. The company’s fast and simple PIM software gets sellers, distributors and brands to market in weeks instead of months.
More than ever, people have taken to the internet for their purchases this year. Your brand might already be on ecommerce marketplaces. Whether you’re already there or not, however, you’re looking into a playing field that’s more competitive than ever. Just about every brand is online, and with holiday shopping already here, every one of those brands just turned up the heat! To stand out, you need to know when and how to position your ecommerce strategy. We have answers here!
- Why you need strategy first
- Consider your channels
- Your product data
- Your existing clients and email marketing
- Your promotional offers
- Your competition
You’re shopping for multiple gifts. You thought you had a good idea of what might work for your mother, but after perusing the options online, nothing has convinced you. So instead, you start searching for your brother.
An hour later, with three virtual shopping carts chock-full of items you might or might not buy, you feel like you’ve made enough progress for now. You’ll come back to the task with a fresh head tomorrow since you still have to find something for your daughter. It will feel better to buy everything in one fell swoop.
The to-dos of holiday shopping aren’t what they used to be. Arguably, they’re much better. Everything has been streamlined for the simplest user experience. With payment information stored, plus website cookies for predictive results, not to mention innumerable marketplaces and extensive product data to find exactly what we want, we can buy pretty much anything online easier than we would in-store. And unsurprisingly, 2020 is projected to be the biggest year in ecommerce sales ever with $1.1 trillion dollars projected by the end of the year, according to recent Klaviyo research.
But you’re not just a consumer. You’re here because you’re also a brand, retailer, or a seller. There’s opportunity for your business in the new status quo, and as a shopper you can appreciate it. As a business person, though, it sometimes feels like this ecommerce gig is just another thing you have to do.
This is your last chance to take the pressure off while also making real waves in e-commerce this year. You can beat the stress while coming out with better results with one simple word: strategy. But how do you position that strategy? When and how’s it done? Keep reading for those answers and more.
Why you need strategy first
There are some successful brands and sellers who have done quite well this year, despite the global impact of the pandemic (such as Peloton, Mistobox, Sproul’s Furniture and many others). These are brands that had a presence online already, in most cases. They’re like the bishops and the rooks on the chess board, while most other brands are setting themselves at the front line as seemingly-identical pawns.
The trick, thus, is differentiating your brand from the rest. By getting an ecommerce strategy in place first, you position your brand to take a bigger step forward than the rest this holiday season. It’s like that two-square leap a pawn can take when first entering the fray—and you can be the one to do it. You could jump into some exciting times this year if your strategy is thought through. Cyber weekend sales alone are predicted to reach over $51 billion (according to the same Klaviyo research cited above).
Your ecommerce strategy should do the following:
- Get you where your customers want to buy
- Get the right products under the noses of the people who want them
- Market to your existing customers with relevant messaging
- Get consumers the very best deals you can offer
- And differentiate you from the rest
According to Shopify, over a quarter of businesses start their holiday marketing plans in September. That’s already come and gone! And another third start between June and August. If you’re wondering when to get your strategy together and launch holiday sales this year, the answer is “yesterday.” But if you’re reading this now, you can still act if you act fast.
Consider your channels
It’s important to carefully strategize which ecommerce channels you’ll be selling on. This might include a proprietary website, multiple ecommerce marketplace storefronts, or by way of other sellers you wholesale your products to.
Whatever the case, you can calculate the cost in time and dollars invested associated with each channel in order to project what your return on investment could be. This will steer you in the direction of investing more time and resources into the channels that make sense for you.
To calculate this, take the cost in dollars invested to maintain a specific storefront as well as the time of those employees who are needed (and the cost of their time). Then, take the estimated traffic and conversion rate from that channel. The traffic divided by that conversion rate can be compared directly to the money you’re putting in. Is it worth it?
If you’re still not sure which marketplaces make sense for you, we talk more about the factors to consider in a recent article.
Some additional channels that could be worth considering include:
- Partnerships with businesses whose services or products complement your own
- Social media platforms that have shopping modules
- Bloggers who could earn affiliate income from sending you referral traffic
Ecommerce is a balancing act between marketing and operations. You want to focus on getting your message out, but you also want to consider where you’ll have the greatest visibility—and in the context of sales in 2020, that means multiple carefully-selected channels. To stand out in that line-up of pawns on the board, you can move two squares forward instead of settling for a “one-and-done” channel strategy.
Your product data
Optimized product listings will mean something different platform-to-platform. And if you’re selling on multiple platforms at once, that means enriching your product information and product description appropriately for each.
But…the holidays are already here! Managing and versioning all your product data now would be a beast of a task. Between the inventory on your ERP and the sales in your CRM, not to mention all those spreadsheets across departments, what really is a practical strategy to get data ready in time?
Solutions like Product Information Management (PIM) software are designed to do just that. Instead of spending months digging up and compiling product data from across your organization, you can be ready with cleaned-up and optimized product data in weeks.
If you neglect your product data and leave listing information inaccurate or complete, you might still sell stuff this holiday season, but those sales will be quickly deflated with customer returns. Optimizing your product listings is as much an art as a science, so read more if you feel this is a weak point in your own ecommerce strategy.
Your existing clients and email marketing
Previous customers should occupy a big part of your ecommerce strategy over the holidays for three reasons:
- First, this is a group of consumers who’ve proven they have a need for your products
- Second, you have that entire group’s contact information
- And third, you can get behavioral insights from them to attract more like-customers
Looking at this rationale, there are two parts of your ecommerce strategy that should point back to existing customers. Number one is that you want to market to them, of course! And number two is that you can also position your overall marketing better based on what you learn from existing customer conversion rates.
When marketing to your existing customers, email is king. You already have their email addresses (and in many cases have even been whitelisted), so wield that power! Reach out to remind them what they bought before. Trigger their memory. Then offer them related products or special discounts as a “thanks” for being part of the family.
Which leads us to…
Your promotional offers
As you work your magic with emails to existing customers, you can experiment (by split-testing or segmenting) to test the conversions on multiple different kinds of promotions, like:
- Product bundling
- Tiered discounts
- And spending-threshold promotions
Based on the feedback, you can position your public-facing promotions accordingly. Holiday sales are fundamentally built on promotions. The very words “Black Friday” carry with them an immediate expectation of great deals.
Whatever promotions pan out, position them as the great deals that customers can’t get any other time of the year!
Pricing on any channels you own (such as your website) should not be too competitive with any of the storefronts you have on other channels, either, or you risk rendering other channels moot. Consumers are becoming more loyal to the online marketplaces they know and like, and so if the difference in cost is marginal, consumers will still prefer to buy on the channels they’re familiar with. Also assess whether you’ll be offering special deals to certain distributors (if you have any). This could provide a segment of your target consumers an “insider deal” that they’ll be excited by.
Promotions are the fun part of your ecommerce strategy over the holidays! It’s the stage where your pawn zig-zags across the board, weaving accordingly around behavioral data that helps you refine your strategy over the season. Are you ready to play?
Ah yes, the competition. Be prepared for more of it this year. According to research by Nasdaq in 2017, 95% of shopping will in some way be facilitated by ecommerce by 2040—and that was before we saw what COVID-19 would do to the world.
In the face of the global crisis we’ve undergone this year, consumers have mercifully been able to continue buying online in most cases. This has acted like a life vest for the market, not to mention consumer sanity. Consequently, just about every brand is selling online now—they really had no other option.
To position your ecommerce strategy just right, be prepared for more competition than ever this holiday season. But also be considerate of the reality everyone is facing in the world: one of uncertainty, fear, loss, and blistering negativity. So don’t undercut your competition in your marketing. Just speak louder to the consumer. Optimize your product listings so that you’re the one they find first, and be smart about the platforms you sell on. If your strategy is done right, you don’t have to mention the other guys at all.
The insights above are all about getting your ecommerce strategy “just right” for the holiday sale season this year. Some consumers will do their shopping entirely online, and more brands than ever are getting geared up to make waves.
Plan your holiday marketing strategy right away and get started on any missing pieces! If you’re already on ecommerce marketplaces, crafting a strategy now can still serve to optimize your storefronts and listings so that you’re the first one consumers find.
A little bit of strategy goes a long way, especially in this market. Give your customers a memorable holiday shopping experience, and in return they’ll give you their loyalty for future purchases after the holidays, too!