Big Picture Marketing Advice for E-Tailers This Holiday Season

The holiday season is fast approaching, and e-commerce retailers are gearing up with marketing strategies to make the most of this all-important period that, in some cases, can make or break a business.

It’s no secret that much of the money spent in retail e-commerce is transacted during the last few months of the year. That being so, businesses must take their marketing efforts especially seriously during this time.

As if things aren’t laborious enough for retailers and consumers during the holidays, this year the global supply chain disruption has sellers and shoppers on edge, with no solution in sight anytime soon.

To better understand how marketers should navigate this unusual holiday shopping season, the E-Commerce Times spoke with a variety of experts to get their perspectives on what makes for successful holiday e-commerce marketing — and how planning, implementation, and customer engagement is most important in these continually changing times.

Intense Competition

“This holiday season will be the first after companies have had time to adjust to the Covid situation, and where customers have moved much of their buying online,” said Nate Burke, CEO of Diginius.

“Demand is high, and competition is fierce, he told the E-Commerce Times. “Additionally, there are many supply chain disruptions in getting goods in the country and to customers. The e-commerce marketer that is fast and nimble has much to gain, whereas those that do not have integrated systems and ability to move quickly based on stock levels and supply chain issues stand to have a tough season.”

Marketing for this year’s holiday season will be different than any other, and there will be intense competition among e-commerce businesses.

“This holiday season is unlike any before,” said Kunal Chopra, CEO of Kaspien. “Consumers didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate as they normally would last year, which means this year, we can expect they’ll be making up for lost time and making this a holiday season to remember.”

“Not only that,” Chopra continued, “but e-commerce took off during the pandemic and has only continued to sustain its positive growth trajectory. Ultimately, this brings a new challenge: fierce competition.

“The sheer number of e-commerce businesses competing for the same customers is growing, which means online e-commerce businesses have an opportunity to leverage marketing as the secret sauce to stand out this holiday season.”

Highlight Safety

One benefit of e-commerce is that it allows customers the opportunity to shop from the safety of their own homes. As the pandemic drags on, this benefit will continue to be something for marketers to make note of, and capitalize on.

“With the pandemic still around, e-commerce marketers can use a message of ‘shop safely’ to provide an easy way to shop from home without putting themselves or others at risk,” Diaz Nesamoney, CEO and founder of Jivox, told the E-Commerce Times.

“Also, shopping from home avoids driving crowds to the stores and malls. E-commerce is also a great way to shop for friends and family they may not be able to meet even this year, especially the elderly and those with compromised health. For these more vulnerable groups, they can shop online and have the gifts shipped to them.”

Make Connections

One way that businesses can ensure the success of their holiday marketing is to strive to make meaningful connections with their customers and clients.

“My biggest piece of advice is to make sure human connection is at the forefront of your strategy,” said Chopra. “The best way to do this is by leveraging mediums that allow you to engage with your audience meaningfully — like livestreaming, for example. For e-commerce marketers, livestreaming is only getting bigger each holiday season, as consumers value video and visual engagement to drive their purchasing decisions.”

Customizing shopping experiences is one key way to make the kinds of human connections that convert to sales.

“Consumers want to shop when and where it’s most convenient to them,” explained John Federman, CEO of JRNI. “If e-commerce businesses want to remain competitive in today’s retail landscape, it’s important that they communicate the customized services they have to offer to their customers.”

“Whether it’s one-on-one virtual sales advisory appointments that help customers feel more confident about their personal holiday gift purchases or scheduling in-store or curbside pickup orders for items purchased online, this kind of flexibility and personalization can help create a positive shopping experience and, ultimately, build customer loyalty,” he suggested.

Heed Demand

Holiday marketing strategies also need to take into account the pace of the season, which demands constant and ever-evolving engagement.

“Businesses must be prepared to deal with a large influx of customers expecting timely and quality engagement during the holiday season,” Leena Iyar, chief brand officer for Moxtra, explained to the E-Commerce Times.

“In order to accommodate the increased demand during the holiday rush, businesses must be able to deliver convenient, just-in-time engagement to clients,” Iyar advised. “This method of client engagement allows businesses to offer timely responses without draining all their resources by attempting to provide instant, on-demand service.”

Keeping up with demand also means ensuring that the products that are marketed will be available when people order them.

“With basket size up and people preparing more meals at home, the marketing message needs to be more creative and suggestive. People are looking to be reminded of impulse buys, items left off the list or even new ideas that let them explore,” Paul Brenner, chief strategy officer and president of audio out-of-home (Audio OOH) for Vibenomics, told the E-Commerce Times.

“Disruptions from the supply chain have also required retailers to think outside the box on what type of products they’ll promote if any typical holiday bestseller is lower in stock or out of stock due to the disruptions,” he observed. As a lesson learned from last year, make sure you’re only marketing or highlighting products you’ll have plenty of.”

Tech Up

Engaging quickly and keeping up with demand also require that e-commerce businesses invest in their website, app, and ordering technologies.

“Ahead of the holidays, businesses need to re-examine their technology to match consumer preferences,” noted Iyar. “Clients will continue to shift to more mobile and more digital engagement with businesses, as more people prefer the convenience of digital channels over in-person interactions.”

“Businesses now need to accelerate their digital transformation efforts and continually evolve their digital strategies to accommodate these preferences and manage and streamline their operations,” she urged. “Engagement during the holidays will continue to evolve as businesses learn how to maintain a human touch over their digital channels during the time when they interact with an increased volume of clients.”

Getting the utmost out of technologies and digital platforms will ultimately help businesses see success from their holiday marketing efforts.

“Optimize your commerce page and make any necessary brand page updates,” Joe Wu, general manager of Oceanwing, told the E-Commerce Times. “Your brand page can get far more customers during the holiday season than at any other time of the year.”

Seize the Moment, Marketers

The holiday season is one time when people want to hear from marketers, and so it’s vital for e-commerce businesses to make a special effort to reach out to them.

“No matter what the clickthrough or conversion data tells us, there’s the ever-present fear as marketers that customers don’t want to hear from us,” Tasmin Singh, enterprise customer success manager for Iterable, shared with the E-Commerce Times.

“What makes the holiday season unique is that it is one of the few instances during the year that customers embrace our marketing messaging if we get it right,” Singh observed.

“If an e-commerce marketer wants to reach customers during this time, it’s incumbent on them to curate a customer-first, personalized campaign that reaches the right customer, with the right message, at the right time, and on the right channel,” she concluded.

Vivian Wagner

Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and is the author of Women in Tech: 20 Trailblazers Share Their Journeys, published by ECT News Network in May 2020. Email Vivian.

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