Holiday Season Marketing Strategy: 20 tactics to get your eCommerce website ready before Cyber Monday

Many things are different about 2020, and the holidays will be no exception. eCommerce is poised for explosive growth, and companies need a digital marketing strategy that can keep pace with the competition. Due to the pandemic, online businesses have a distinct advantage over brick and mortar businesses as more people than ever will be doing their shopping online. 

This article will cover defining your marketing strategy, learning marketing tactics, and exploring the 2020 holiday season trends. 

Here is what you’re going to learn in this article. It will cover:

  • What is marketing strategy?
  • What are marketing tactics?
  • Difference between a marketing strategy and marketing tactics
  • 2020 U.S. Holiday Season Trends
  • eCommerce Marketing Strategies and sales tips for 2020 Holiday Season

Let’s get started…

What is a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy is your business’s plan for reaching consumers and converting them to customers.  A marketing strategy is most successful when it contains the key brand messaging and a company’s value proposition, which outlines the competitive advantage over its rivals. 

Marketing strategy is defined as a company’s marketing goals, objectives, and strategy to reach consumers combined into a single comprehensive plan. A marketing strategy is essential to understand the demographics and needs of their target consumers and involves implementing a plan to meet those needs better than the competition.  

You might ask yourself..

  • Which marketing strategy is most effective?
  • Which marketing strategy will you choose?
  • Which marketing strategy is best?
  • Why marketing strategy is important?

First, you have to understand marketing tactics. 

What are marketing tactics?

Marketing tactics are strategic methods to promote the goods and services offered by a business. Digital marketing tactics encompass online efforts through advertising, content creation, social media presence, and social media advertising to draw consumers to an online business. 

Good marketing tactics for eCommerce merchants include a combination of tools and methods, including, 

  • Using email to reach subscribers and potential customers
  • Content marketing to provide valuable information to potential consumers while increasing search engine optimization
  • Strategic use of social media, including using social media ads
  • Improvement of website speed, form, and function
  • Offering discounts and promotions 

We will discuss particular tactics and ways to implement them to give your company a competitive advantage later in this guide. 

What is the difference between a strategy and a tactic?

A marketing strategy is focused on the big picture and the long-term, while marketing tactics focus on the here and now and have a singular objective. For example, in strategy vs. tactics marketing, the strategy is the overall plan for how marketing will be used to grow a business. In contrast, the tactics are the immediate ways a company is using marketing to meet its goals. 

2020 U.S. Holiday Season trends

1. E-Commerce is going to the moon🚀

emarketer US Cyber Five Retail Ecommerce Holiday Shopping Season Sales by Shopping Day Graph
Credit: eMarketer

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, eCommerce is shattering records for sales in 2020, and the holiday season is expected to continue the upward trend.

According to eMarketer, “Cyber Monday and Black Friday will both surpass $10 billion in eCommerce sales, while Thanksgiving will see a dramatic 49.5% sales growth rate.”

2. Consumers behavior have shifted since the pandemic

Dr. Squatch gif about holiday season
Credit: Dr. Squatch

Everyone knows that our lives look different as we approach the end of 2020. Society is accustomed to social distancing, mask mandates, school closures, and words like “quarantine” and “distance learning” are part of our everyday vocabulary.  

Consumer behavior reflects the ongoing pandemic and the need for social distancing. More people are working remote home, which is driving a trend of new start-ups as well as established companies using remote workers whenever possible. Facebook, Aetna, Microsoft, Twitter, and Google are just a few of the big names that have a substantial amount of their workforce working remotely. 

Work is not the only thing people are doing more from home. From working out to video games, the need to spend more time at home is redefining shopping patterns and consumer behavior. More of life is happening over the internet than at any point in history. 

3. Increase in mobile apps shopping

Credit: TheSEMPost

COVID-19 has spawned a 36% increase in mobile app downloads and a 54% increase in in-app purchases since the start of the pandemic. Brick and mortar stores have pushed to increase their online presence by rushing retail apps to completion to stem the loss of revenue to online businesses. Online shopping has become such a part of everyday life that it only makes sense that more and more people are doing so from their phones. 

4. The rise of video advertising

Bubly video advertising sample
Credit: Bubly

Video advertising is continuing to grow in importance and popularity. TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube will soon be filled with video advertisements for the upcoming holiday season. Every online business needs a strong video advertising strategy, and more businesses than ever are using AI in digital marketing

Artificial intelligence drives advertising in ways that would have seemed like science fiction less than a decade ago. Consumers are on board, having been introduced to the personalized service from mainstream AI such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and other well-known AI products. Now, people expect marketing efforts to be highly customized to their particular needs. Artificial intelligence with machine learning and natural language processing plays a role in making it possible to deliver. 

Here is a to-do list to get your eCommerce website ready before the holiday season starts:

1. Run a free website speed test

Let’s face facts. Who on earth enjoys a slow website experience? We can all agree, NONE of us. For businesses, website speed is an important ranking factor on Bing or Google’s search engine results pages (SERP). Early this year, Google even announced a new ranking algorithm that is designed to rank websites based on user-centered-metrics. This set of metrics are heavily focused on page speed and usability. The last thing you want is for your business to lose search visibility and decrease conversion rates, especially during the holiday season! 

Don’t worry, no need to panic just yet, this Google update is expected to go live in 2021. However, this holiday season is the perfect excuse to do a website and performance optimization test to fix any issues. 

Luckily, there are a ton of website speed test tools that you can use, both free and some with premium features. At the start, if you are not computer-savvy or know about web development, it can be a bit confusing to understand the report. We are recommending that digital marketers, startups, and online businesses begin by using the free tools to get familiarized with the language of the report before investing in premium features. 

What is Google Pagespeed Insight?

Google Page Speed Insight blog tutorial

Google Pagespeed Insight (PSI) is a free web performance tool offered by Google. It provides an easy-to-read report on the performance of a web page for both desktop and mobile formats. After you type your web page URL, this tool will provide a score at the top of the page along with detailed recommendations on how to improve detected issues. The score is the summary of your page’s loading performance. You want your performance score to be between 100-75. If your score is below 50, “Houston we have a problem!”. This is a great insights tool for SEO purposes but does not have customization abilities and additional features as other website speed test tools.

GTmetrics

GTMetrix Marketing Strategies Tutorial

GTmetrics is also a great, easy-to-use performance measurement tool. The difference between PSI and GTmetrics is the extra features offered in their free versus premium plans. The integration of both Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Yahoo’s YSlow when running a test gives you an alternative perspective on how things work on your website. 

Other features include:

  • Setting test location
  • Tracking performance over time
  • Waterfall analysis 

The accuracy when running a test using a test location instead of a server location (PSI uses server locations) can lead to an increase in loading time. A waterfall analysis shows the time each resource on your website, such as images, stylesheets, and scripts,  takes to load and how it is positioned within the overall loading time. For access to these features, you have to create an account. The basic plan is free with limited monitoring slots, daily on-demand tests, API credit, and data retention. Premium plans start at $10 per month.  

2. Set your campaign goals and measure your website performance

In order to have a successful marketing plan, it is crucial to map out your goals and metrics. Depending on the stage of your products or service’s life cycle, a marketing campaign’s success does not always translate to monetary gains. A successful campaign can be measured by obtaining a significant amount of email subscribers, social media followers, or seeing an increase in engagement. 

You first have to figure out what you want to achieve with your campaign. Is it increasing 25% on sales by retargeting customers who previously purchased from your online store? Is it focusing on new audiences? Winter holidays are an opportunity to test those creative campaigns and branding ideas you’ve been dying to launch.

Why is conversion tracking important?

Online stores that dominate e-commerce in their sectors are the ones that: analyze, learn their consumers’ behavior, test, optimize marketing strategies, and repeat. Whether you are a lead generation blog, online retail store, restaurant, or a local business, applying measurement of media performance allows you to run A/B testing, improve ROI, and better understand your audience. 

How to measure your performance?

Determining the metrics that you use to measure performance is key. You have to focus your metrics on things that matter most for the growth you are looking to achieve. Some suggested metrics are:

  • Revenue
  • Email open rates
  • Email click rates
  • Website conversion rates
  • Average order value
  • Units per transaction

Using free tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console can assist you in leveraging analytic reports. These web analytic tools will let you gain key insights on consumer behavior, click-through rates, search queries, bounce rates, top channels, audience, and conversion goals.  

Let’s not forget about a tool like Crazy Egg that can help understand where a website’s visitor is clicking on each page. 

Set up conversion tracking for your website

Google Analytics tutorial how to set up conversion goals creative marketing agency

Conversion tracking is a vital tool that allows you to identify how an ad campaign is performing. There is a gigantic pool of online businesses that think inserting a third-party tracking code in their website builder is all they need to do and magically, it will track everything you need. Don’t we wish it worked that way? The reality is, you are going to have to do a bit of your own setup. Once you do that, you’ll be able to collect valuable information including: sales, email sign-ups, impressions, and other key insights. While there are some advanced features, the main feature you need to familiarize yourself with is conversion goals. Above you’ll find a quick step-by-step on how to set up a new goal in Google Analytics.    

This 2020 winter holiday season, if you have not done any conversion tracking setup, make sure you have the following tracking codes set in your website: 

  • Facebook Pixel
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Adwords conversion tracking

Analyze your web traffic

If you are a brand with years in the market we hope you have done your due diligence on setting up goals and metrics. Analyzing previous years’ website traffic during the holidays can guide you in planning your marketing budget. Definitely not this year. Consumers’ behavior has shifted due to COVID-19. We strongly recommend focusing on sales trends starting in March 2020. 

3. Create a Holiday content calendar

2020 Holiday Winter Marketing Calendar

We are about to enter the busiest time of the year. Holiday campaigns take a lot of moving pieces in a short period of time. Ensure you plan ahead of your marketing calendar week-by-week. Mark key holiday shopping dates and create your marketing strategy around it. Most people are going to shop online this year so it is critical to redefine your marketing strategy with multi-channel marketing campaigns. A large number of brands are running holiday-centered advertisements, only the most engaging and relevant content will catch the attention of consumers.  

Here is a brief list of holidays you should focus your marketing calendar during November and December. Make sure to check out the full breakdown of important holiday winter eCommerce dates for your 2020 marketing calendar.

  • Thanksgiving
  • Black Friday 
  • Cyber Monday
  • Giving Tuesday 
  • Green Monday
  • Christmas Day

 

4. Update your website branding with a holiday theme

Remember when we discussed the importance of page load speed and user experience in our first tactic? Google’s search algorithm has learned significant increases in consumers’ digital expectations. During this year’s third quarter, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 50.81 percent of global website traffic. This trend is far from slowing down and with all the uncertainty with Coronavirus, consumers will turn to their smartphones, tablets, or computers to shop online for promotions during the holiday season. A responsive design is critical to be competitive in what’s going to be an intensely saturated market for all sectors.  

Now let’s start with the fun part! If you use WordPress, Shopify, WooCommerce, or any other website builder, make sure to update your heading images with holiday branding and call to action. Both holiday heading graphics and call-to-action messaging for shopping will help drive sales. Your brand collateral needs to be on point. A great example is Nordstrom, they are always so ready for the holidays! 

5. Social media posts

Instagram Christmas example post marketing strategies holiday guide 2020 creative marketing agency nyc

Take advantage of the skyrocketed 2020 usage of social media platforms during COVID-19. Depending on your target audience, use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or TikTok.  Start posting about holiday topics, sales, and promotions to engage with your audience. Use social media management tools like Hootsuite and Buffer which both focus on social sharing and scheduling to alleviate your workload. Set aside one day during the week and schedule all your weekly postings. If you are just posting on Facebook and Instagram, use a free tool like Facebook Creator Studio. It provides a quick explainer video on how to use the platform.    

6. Launch an email marketing campaign

Are you dealing with a limited budget? If you have an extended email subscriber list, email marketing is the most cost-effective marketing channel to drive sales. Create newsletter campaigns to reach prospects who previously purchased from your store or those who show interest. In the next section, we’ll discuss email marketing software that automates email communication. With the right messaging and strategy, emails on special occasions can substantially increase click-through rates.  

How to effectively use email marketing to boost sales

Paid advertising during cyber weekend is expensive. Luckily this year, cyber weekend is going to look more like cyber December. You have a whole month to do paid ads. To save some marketing dollars during cyber month, combine social media ads with email marketing, and focus on retargeting ad campaigns. 

7. Use marketing automation tools

Email marketing automation tools recommendation marketing strategies holiday season 2020 creative agency nyc

There are plenty of marketing automation softwares to choose from. Picking the right ones for your business is always a struggle digital marketers have to deal with. Let’s center here on the softwares for email marketing. Mailchimp is amazing for startups and small eCommerce businesses. It offers free and paid plans, newsletter creation, automate category follow-up, and integrates with major eCommerce platforms. The free plan includes up to 2,000 contacts for email blasts and up to 12,000 emails sent per month. ActiveCampaign and Klaviyo are premium plans with more advanced features. We jokingly call them email marketing tools on steroids. An example of a good tactic is to send an abandoned cart email 2 hours after someone abandoned a shopping cart with a discount.  

8. Launch Holiday discounts and promotions

example marketing strategies holiday guide 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

Let’s assume some people saved the $1200 from the stimulus check for holiday shopping. Consumers are going to be waiting for exclusive holiday sales. Consumers are looking for the best deals possible. To incentive people to take action, discounts and promotions are highly encouraged. Do you have a surplus on a product line? Here is your chance to sell the excess on inventory. Check out some ideas below.

Create discount codes

Most eCommerce platforms have easy steps to generate coupon codes for specific products or collections. If you are running Facebook ads, it lets you set up a unique code for your next promotion. Use the ones you generated on your website and launch a traffic or conversion campaign.

Flash sales

These short period of time offers are effective to get rid of old inventory. Examples are “Limited-time holiday offer”, “Buy one get one free”, “20% last-minute sale, first 10 get an extra $10 OFF”. The goal is to draw viewers’ attention for them to take immediate action.

Daily Deals

Create a sense of urgency. Offer deals on your website consumers can’t help but click on to learn more. This will raise interest in consumers returning to your website. Send email reminders with a call-to-action (CTA) to your clients database. Remember, you don’t want to send an email every day and make sure you include the possibility to opt-out easily.    

9. Launch a Loyalty Program

Loyalty program example marketing strategies holiday season 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

Launching a loyalty or rewards program during the holiday shopping season is a strong way to turn a new or infrequent customer into a returning customer after the holidays. As people are shopping for gifts, online retailers have the opportunity to target clients through programs that provide loyalty points as part of the larger loyalty rewards programs. These programs can offer small discounts or other incentives or specials for those who join. This also creates retention through the use of segmented and personalized marketing measures to keep customers engaged beyond the holidays.

10. Segment your audience and deliver personalized user experiences

Segmentation and personalization are valuable but distinct marketing tools that can work well when used complementary to one another. Curated, personalized experiences and communications are critical to cut through the mass of generalized segmented marketing tools used in eCommerce. When used ineffectively, these strategies only make consumers more jaded towards the brands they shop from. 

What is segmentation?

Segmentation is grouping consumers together based on identifiable characteristics and/or shared experiences. This information can be more generalized because it is relevant to a larger group and doesn’t require specific personalizations, but should still make the customer feel as though the information is targeted more so to them than the general consumer base. Consumers could be segmented by age or gender for example.

What is personalization?

Personalization is the optimization of experiences/messages to the specific individual rather than the group they may be segmented into. It is critical to be narrow in the marketing here because consumers are overwhelmed with messaging that feels removed or disingenuous during the holidays. The key to personalization is the intersection of more than two consumer identities. For example, a 25-45 woman living in the suburbs. Creating an eCommerce experience that feels more holistic will register with customers and engage them in the site.

11. Create landing pages

Holiday Landing Page example marketing strategies holiday guide 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

Design holiday landing pages that include holiday sales, giveaways, or a specific promotion of a collection. Use landing pages with personalized branding and new copy based on different segmented audiences. When creating ad campaigns on YouTube, Google Adwords, Facebook, or Instagram, this tactic will allow you to analyze which audience performed the most for a specific product line. 

12. Run Facebook ads

Instagram ad example holiday guide 2020 marketing strategies

Do Facebook and Instagram ads work? The answer is a thousand percent YES! With Facebook Business Manager, you can identify and target your ideal audience. However, first, you need to fully understand how to set up campaigns to target your desired audience. What type of content is best to post? A combination of carousel ads, promotional videos, and promotions are extremely recommended to increase click-through-rates (CTR). If you are not capable of figuring out yourself, we suggest hiring a social media agency or a trusted digital marketer to avoid spending on ineffective Facebook ads. 

13. Make checkout a smooth process experience

Fast checkout example holiday season marketing strategy guide 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

In March 2020, 88.05% of online shopping orders were abandoned at the cart, according to Statista Research Department. A way to streamline the purchase experience is to ask shoppers to fill out the least amount of information possible in a maximum of 1-2 steps. The fewer steps, the better. Offer diverse payment methods and don’t be pushy adding other promotions with pop-ups during checkout. 

14. Post-purchase additional services

Gift wrapping services example marketing strategies holiday guide 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

Offering customers gift-wrapping services, gift cards with a customizable message for their gifts, and other post-purchase services add a valuable personal touch to the eCommerce experience. Customers are attracted to a comprehensive shopping experience that reduces personal stress, so a great way to promote your site as a one-stop eCommerce experience is to build capacity to take on one or more of these services. 

These kinds of services are excellent for building brand trust with new customers. It creates brand loyalty through the personalized feeling of these services and can act as a buffer if there are shipping or distribution delays that may otherwise impact a customer experience. Using these services as a strategy focused on retention is thinking longer-term past preparing for the holiday shopping season. 

15. Offer free shipping

Free Shipping example marketing strategies holiday guide 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

The cost of shipping is a major barrier to customers completing an online purchase. It is both perceived as an additional and unexpected cost by the consumer, as they are not able to see shipping costs until it is itemized as they complete an order. A little over a third of consumers surveyed about why they abandon online shopping carts cited the cost of shipping as the main reason they would leave a shopping cart. 56% of consumers surveyed also cited the presence of unexpected cost as a reason to abandon an online cart, which includes the cost of shipping. Offering free shipping significantly increases the likelihood a shopper completes their purchase.

16.Make your customer service easily accessible

live chat example marketing strategies holiday guide 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

eCommerce customer service needs to be accessible and efficient for all consumers. With an anticipated increase in online shopping as people opt out of in-person shopping, live chat options for support are critical to customer satisfaction and addressing issues as they arise. Softwares such as chatbots can be used to provide efficient customer service even as website traffic increases this holiday season. 

Live chat support is user friendly, low maintenance, and doesn’t require additional staff to run smoothly, making it a good way to get an easy edge in the online market. Customers who otherwise are used to an interactive shopping experience will appreciate the feature online as they choose eCommerce over brick-and-mortar shopping. 

17. Be more flexible with your exchange & return policy

Creating an exchange/return policy that is even just slightly more flexible than competitor policies builds brand trust. An exchange policy that feels human-centered gives the customer the psychological feeling of a mom-and-pop store with the flexibility that reflects real life. 

It is important to still maintain that the policy doesn’t put you at risk of losing money after the holiday season with a flood of returns. However, an exchange policy that grants, for example, store credit or a return policy through NYE may make consumers more interested in purchasing with you over a competitor. 

18. Turn your product categories or filters into a gift finder

Use category grouping for easy access to holiday gift purchases. Turn some of your categories into collections branded with holiday messaging to shop by occasion. Such features are something that Macy’s applies to their website. Shoppers can search for “Black Friday Specials”, “Holiday Shop”, and “The Edit Holiday Trend.”  

19. Create an effective exit-intent popup

exit intent pop up example marketing strategies holiday guide 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

An exit popup is a popup that appears on the screen when someone attempts to leave a website. This is the last attempt to maintain a user on your site. Creating a pop up with a discount offer in exchange for taking an action like an email subscription is much better than no action. You can always retarget that prospect using an email marketing campaign or a social ad campaign targeting your client’s database as the audience. There are several free and paid exit-intent popup plugins in WordPress, Shopify, and main eCommerce platforms. 

20. Give back to the community

donations example marketing strategies holiday guide 2020 creative digital marketing agency nyc

In the climate of this holiday season, community aid and charity is paramount on the list of ways eCommerce can open markets to new and infrequent users while reinforcing its value to frequent online consumers. Coordinate efforts with localized community organizations, houses of faith, and charities to provide customers the chance to contribute while they shop. Websites can utilize various tools to meet this end: A WordPress donation plugin like GiveWP, donations through Paypal (there is also a widget for this through WordPress), or a Shopify donation plugin,  among others, all provide the chance for customers to give back while they shop. We recommend using Shopify, WordPress, or Woocommerce donation plugins. 

Conclusion

Normally, for most online stores and retailers, winter holiday season is the most important time of the year. Overall, 2020 changed the game. Only by having the right digital marketing strategy and a responsive web design, will determine the competitive advantage you’ll gain against your competition. Use these recommendations and tips for the upcoming holiday shopping season and if you need any assistance, East End Yovth can help you achieve your holiday sales goals.   

Which marketing strategies are you going to use? Are there any we are missing that gave you results? Winter is coming, buckle up. We hope you are ready for the battle of the ads! Share your thoughts and questions below.