How Ecommerce Holiday Marketing Will Change This Year: 3 Marketers Share Thoughts

ecommerce-holiday-marketing-changes

Have you heard? 2020 is expected to be the largest year of ecommerce-driven sales ever, projected to top $1.1 trillion dollars for the first time in history, according to Klaviyo’s research.

This is all due to the global pandemic that unexpectedly rocked our world and impacted the world of ecommerce in ways that retailers never expected. We’re all working through this new landscape, marketers included. 

There’s a massive wave of online shopping coming this holiday season. So how can you prepare your brand to ride that wave in a sea-worthy ship instead of a dinghy? 

What worked before won’t necessarily work this year since things across the ecommerce ecosystem—everything from demand to delivery—is expected to be different. 

I recently spoke with three ecommerce industry marketers to hear their thoughts on how the holiday marketing season will be different this year and what brands can do to prepare despite so much uncertainty. They shared insights on five key ways you can adjust a business-as-usual strategy for the unique holiday marketing season ahead.

 

1 | Lean heavily into owned channels 

Now more than ever, physical and online retailers are walking a tightrope when it comes to cash management and growth. Amid a difficult economy, brands are faced with hard decisions about being smart with their operational expenses and how to capitalize on this year of historic online sales growth. 

As brands operate with a cautiously optimistic mindset, they’re turning to high return on investment (ROI) marketing channels that have the ability to produce returns at a low operational cost. 

Melissa Damas, senior email marketing strategist at Power Digital Marketing, a digital marketing agency that works with brands like Peloton, Uniqlo, and Spanx, shared some insight.

“What I’ve seen is that brands are increasingly leaning into those more ROI-intensive channels. Email and SMS have really been a key factor, and we’re seeing a large amount of monthly revenue with brands that are highly reliant on those channels,” Melissa said.

"What I’ve seen is that brands are increasingly leaning into those more ROI-intensive channels. Email and SMS have really been a key factor, and we’re seeing a large amount of monthly revenue with brands that are highly reliant on those channels."

Melissa Damas, senior email marketing strategist, Power Digital Marketing

 

2 | Be scrappy in the face of a crowded ads marketplace 

The coronavirus threw a curveball in everything, including how online advertising performed. While some brands held back on advertising spend during the early days of the coronavirus, others went full throttle and saw an even higher return on ad spend (ROAS) since consumers were on their devices more than ever and there were fewer brands to compete with. 

During this moment of continuing volatility, marketers need to watch online ad performance and costs closer than ever before. 

Nehal Kazim, CEO of Ad Pros, manages $1.3 million dollars per month in ad spend and shared some insights on what he’s seeing: 

“This is going to test how media buyers and business owners make decisions because, right now, they can’t hide behind the momentum of their brand or random quick wins that happen to work. There’s so much pressure from a financial standpoint, operational standpoint, logistical standpoint that every detail, every percentage point is so meaningful. 

We’ve seen that with CPMs (cost per mille or one thousand impressions) and cost per clicks. Those small percentage points or even 10 cent shifts make such a big impact when you’re running $500,000 to $1 million dollars in ads a month. These small adjustments become a very big deal now more than ever. 

I think there are going to be some massive winners, but I think there’s going to be massive losers, as well, from a Cyber Weekend standpoint because of the instability of marketing and the instability platforms. The level of competition that’s going to increase in the next quarter to get ready for Cyber Weekend is going to change a lot of the dynamics. 

Yes, there’s going to be more revenue online but you have to realize, as well, a lot of people are shutting down all their stores offline in order to get going online. And so I think there’s going to be a new level of competition that we haven’t seen before,” Nehal advised.

The new dynamics on ad platforms will be critical to pay attention to in order to both maximize return and avoid burning cash. As always, control what you can.

"The level of competition that's going to increase in the next quarter to get ready for Cyber Weekend is going to change a lot of the dynamics."

Nehal Kazim, CEO, Ad Pros

 

3 | Promote much earlier 

Fall is the new winter. Thirty percent of shoppers under 45 years of age will start shopping for holiday gifts in the fall and 30 percent will kick off their holiday shopping during Cyber Weekend, according to a recent survey of consumers

Consumers older than 45 show an even stronger preference for holiday shopping in the fall—33 percent are planning to shop in the fall compared to 16 percent who will begin shopping during Cyber Weekend. 

Consumers have started to expect delayed shipping timelines based on the last few months, so they’ll likely be ordering with time buffers for delivery. Don’t be shy about communicating how early they need to shop

Pre-coronavirus, 48 percent of consumers who bought products online in Quarter 4 were exposed to the brand between Quarter 1 and Quarter 3 of the same year, according to Klaviyo’s data. Get to know your customers, now. 

Joshua Behr, director of ecommerce and digital marketing at the Amerex Group had previously shared how his business was adjusting to the pandemic. Recently, he shared insights with me about the holiday marketing season, specifically. 

“It’s going to be very important for brands to start prospecting and looking for customers in September. The marketplace for holiday advertising is going to be very crowded with a lot of brands making their shift to online. Brands need to get out there early and often to find new customers. As the fourth quarter comes along and as people are spending more money, consumers will know who those brands are and will be more willing to shop with them,” Joshua said.  

By investing in marketing early, you’ll increase the chances your customer will choose your brand over another brand. You know they’re shopping early, so show your best offers sooner than later to catch the wave.

"It’s going to be very important for brands to start prospecting and looking for customers in September. The marketplace for holiday advertising is going to be very crowded with a lot of brands making their shift to online."

Joshua Behr, director of ecommerce and digital marketing, Amerex Group

 

4 | Let inventory take a front seat 

Inventory is about to take a center stage in marketing like it never has before. 

“The coronavirus has impacted how big-box retailers move seasonal inventory in and out of stores,” wrote Joe McCarthy, director of performance marketing at Klaviyo.

The pandemic has helped essential and new essential goods fly off their digital shelves. It’s caused manufacturing and fulfillment centers to slow down in order for workers to stay safe, creating a delay in production and fulfillment compared to normal times, according to NPR. These inventory implications will now dictate what marketers will sell during the holiday. 

Melissa Damas of Power Digital shared her thoughts on how brands will need to think about inventory heading into the holidays.

“We’ve seen a lot of accounts have inventory issues because they’re not able to fulfill and replenish as quickly as they thought they would. So now they’re having to switch marketing towards another product category and they’re noticing that that product category is actually doing really well. Brands will need to analyze the data they’re seeing against what inventory they have, and then push what consumers are responding to,” Melissa said. 

Marketers must be connected with the operational side of the house more than ever before, in order to move supply and react quickly to what customers are buying.

"Brands will need to analyze the data they’re seeing against what inventory they have, and then push what consumers are responding to."

Melissa Damas, senior email marketing strategist, Power Digital Marketing

 

5 | Market by generation 

If you’re still using one-size-fits-all marketing strategies, now is the time to reevaluate your approach. Online shopping has grown more than ever before and you’ve got a lot of different personas to appeal to

Some are shopping online for the first time and it will be critical that you’re meeting them where they are, on the right channels, and with the right messaging. For the Baby Boomer generation, for example, the user experience will be important. 

Melissa Damas of Power Digital shared some advice for marketers.

“Hone in on your web shopping experience. Even as stores start to reopen, people are now accustomed to shopping online. Make sure that you’re capitalizing on what that experience looks like. For example, consider the older-skewed demographic who may be used to a more traditional in-store Black Friday experience. Thinking about how you can make that experience more user-friendly on your website is going to be huge,” Melissa said.

"Hone in on your web shopping experience. Even as stores start to reopen, people are now accustomed to shopping online. Make sure that you're capitalizing on what that experience looks like."

Melissa Damas, senior email marketing strategist, Power Digital Marketing

 

Joshua Behr of Amerex Group also shared thoughts on engaging different generations.

“Baby Boomers have figured out, pretty quickly, how to transition to online shopping. They were on Facebook, for the most part anyway, so you’ll want to show them ads on Facebook and send them emails. They’re becoming more and more comfortable with shopping online, they just need trust. Using reviews and showcasing that you’re in stores they’re familiar with will create a comfort level with your brand that will be very important,” Joshua said.

At the other end of the generational spectrum are the Generation Z (Gen Z) shoppers, a generation with the largest purchasing power ever known to mankind, according to a report from Future Commerce and Klaviyo

A subset of this generation (known as C.A.R.L.Y., or the persona dubbed Can’t Afford Real Life Yet), according to this report, “thrives on impermanence—cool things come and go much quicker, and this mindset is fueled by the ephemeral, viral nature of video and chat services like TikTok and Snapchat.”

Forty-four percent of Gen Z consumers are expecting to shop more online this year than last year and 22 percent expect to shop more through social media apps than last year, according to data from Salesforce

Joshua Behr of Amerex Group shared some advice for marketers trying to reach consumers in this generation.

“Messaging for younger audiences needs to showcase the product through influencers across channels like Tik Tok. Tik Tok and Snapchat’s advertising platforms are performing well, but if you don’t have a big budget, I would stick with Instagram as a tried and true channel. Develop your creative assets in a style that’s similar to what’s popular on Tik Tok so they resonate with the customer,” Joshua said.

"Baby Boomers have figured out, pretty quickly, how to transition to online shopping. They were on Facebook, for the most part anyway, so you’ll want to show them ads on Facebook and send them emails. They're becoming more and more comfortable with shopping online, they just need trust."

Joshua Behr, director of ecommerce and digital marketing, Amerex Group

Final thoughts 

Across all these tactics, one message is clear. Stay close to your customer. Some brands are being cautious, while others are doubling down. This unique period of projected sales influx during a volatile landscape will test brands in many ways. Your ability to synchronize your marketing and operations to act as one agile unit in response to your customers will be the key to successfully navigating this historic shopping season.

Explore five predictions that will drive the ecommerce industry’s best year ever.

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