To say that 2020 is an unprecedented year might be the biggest understatement ever, and all signs point to a holiday season that follows suit. Between Covid-19, an election year, an uncertain economy and already-longer-than-normal shipping timelines at the post office, online retailers are up against a host of new challenges on top of the usual ones that come with peak shopping season.
Though it’s daunting, it’s not all doom and gloom for eCommerce merchants this year. In fact, experts predict it will be a banner year for online shopping. Deloitte projects eCommerce retail sales will grow between 25 and 35% from November to January, while nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults say they’ll do the majority of this year’s holiday shopping digitally. There’s a lot of opportunity for upside.
Competition among eCommerce retailers will no doubt be fierce, but the field is primed for well-prepared brands to clean up at the cash register--or for our purposes, the checkout button--this holiday season. Here are our top 10 tips to ensure your brand gets the most out of Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) in 2020, delivering a seamless customer experience from first click through order fulfillment.
1. Serve your existing customers first
Your existing customers are the low-hanging fruit in your BFCM sales strategy. They’re already brand aware and you’ve earned their trust, not to mention their email address. The cost to sell to an existing customer is about five times lower than winning a new one--those are the kinds of margins we want to capitalize on first.
Approach your existing customers like the important audience segment they are by treating them to special offers like VIP discounts and advance access to your best sales. Sell to them early and often, personalizing your message whenever possible based on the data you’ve acquired about them over time (like purchasing preferences, average order value, preferred types of discounts, etc.).
2. Distinguish yourself from the competition
This year’s holiday shoppers have one big thing going for them: options, and lots of them. If they can’t easily find the gift or the deal they’re looking for from you, they won’t waste any time finding it somewhere else.
Strengthen your messaging and differentiate yourself from the competition by getting ultra clear on how you’re different. Is it price? Service? The problem you solve? Product variety, quality, return policy, satisfaction guarantee?
Conduct an internal audit to determine your competitive advantage and spell it out in direct, customer-friendly language. Then include this language prominently on your website and in all your BFCM advertising and messaging.
Here are some examples of great, super-clear value propositions from some of our clients:
- Adorable, handmade, wholesome cookies as unique as the dogs who deserve them (Wufers)
- A one-piece swimsuit without the bathroom hassle (Wowease)
- The best side-sleeper mattress of 2020 (Nolah Mattress)
- Cruelty-free, clean hair care products free of parabens & phthalates (Eva NYC)
Any one of these statements tells you in a matter of seconds not only what the product is, but what makes it different from other similar brands.
3. Make it as easy as possible for customers to shop with you
eCommerce brands often view getting the customer to their website as the goal of their BFCM marketing efforts. In fact, though, this is only step one. Don’t just bring prospective customers to your homepage and hope for the best. Anticipate your visitor’s holiday shopping needs and proactively address them in the most frictionless way possible.
Here are just a few examples of how you can make it easy for visitors to convert:
- Feature holiday gift guides targeted by relationship, need, price point and category.
- Offer additional services that simplify gift-giving, like gift wrapping, personalized gift messages, and gift receipts.
- Prominently promote your best and fastest shipping capabilities, like overnight shipping or the ability to deliver up until 12/24.
- Remind shoppers about gift cards--it’s easy to forget they make great gifts and are perfect for hard-to-shop-for gift recipients.
- Share specific proof points to help overcome uncertainties, like ‘our most-Instagrammed item!’ or ‘more than 2,000 five-star reviews.’
4. Provide the in-store experience, online
For the last several years we’ve seen the start of Black Friday inching steadily earlier, with Thanksgiving Day shopping becoming the new norm. This year, though, many stores are reversing course, with retail giants like Walmart, Target, Macy’s and Bed Bath & Beyond announcing their doors will remain closed for the holiday.
Consumers largely prefer to stay away from crowds as the pandemic persists. As a result, physical traffic in retail stores is expected to drop by as much as 25% this year. And yet, customers still crave the delight that comes with beating out other shoppers for a great Black Friday deal. eCommerce brands can capitalize on this drive by replicating elements of the brick-and-mortar shopping experience in their online stores.
Offer convenient upsells prior to checkout to mimic the ones at the point-of-sale displays near a store’s cash register. Act the part of helpful sales associate by displaying recommended products related to what’s in the shopper’s cart or that have been purchased by similar customers. For previous customers, use historical order data to display targeted products or sales. And of course, make sure your staff is equipped to handle the influx of customer inquiries (more on this in item number 8).
5. Plan promotions around increased shipping fees
Shipping will cost more this year. To end the season in the black, it’s essential to account for the impact to your margins when planning your BFCM promotions. FedEx, UPS and USPS have all announced rate hikes, with the first two applying only to high-volume shippers and USPS changes applying to all customers.
Here’s an overview of what’s changed:
FedEx: Additional fees up to $4 on all packages shipped via FedEx Ground and as much as $5 on packages sent via FedEx Express. These charges apply to customers who ship more than 35,000 packages a week.
UPS: Additional fees up to $3 a package for ground shipments and up to $4 a package for air shipments bound for residences. These charges apply to customers who ship more than 25,000 packages a week.
USPS: Price increases ranging from $0.25 to $1.50 per parcel depending on the service used. These charges apply to all customers.
6. Have a plan in place to turn first-time customers into lifetime customers
When the sale is complete, the relationship is just the beginning. Make it as profitable as possible over the course of the customer’s lifetime by having a plan for what you’ll do after the sale.
For customers that order earlier in the season, like before December 15, ask for a second order. Use email marketing to show them what’s new since they shopped last and suggest gifts for additional family and friends, naming specific giftee groups (for dad, for the kids, for teachers, etc.). Promote your last-minute selling points, like fast and free shipping.
Next, consider what kind of experience you’re delivering on the receiving end of your shipments. After all, opening the packages you’ve ordered is the most fun part of shopping online. Create packaging inserts specifically for new customers, like a brand introduction postcard, a sheet of special offers or a mini catalog.
For gift orders, capitalize on the opportunity to reach another prospective lifelong customer--the person receiving the gift. Establish a relationship with them by including messaging on your gifting materials (like the gift message card) inviting them to follow you on social media or subscribe to your mailing list for a special discount on their own future purchase. Finally, make sure information on returns and exchanges is clear and easy to find.
7. Automate, automate, automate
We can’t overstate the importance of automation in a successful BFCM season. Automation removes the human element from essential-but-time-consuming eCommerce tasks, enabling you to fill more orders faster and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Here are just a few of the many tasks we recommend all eCommerce brands automate:
- Post-purchase emails, including order confirmation, order shipment and order delivery
- Shipping label creation
- Welcome series to new subscribers
- Abandoned cart reminders
- Reorder reminders
- Review requests
- Creation of support tickets for negative reviews
- Customer segmenting in your CRM based on browsing and purchase behavior
- Posting to social media
- Retargeting ads
- Low stock notifications (both customer facing and internally for inventory management)
One great way to identify candidates for automation is to make a list of the tasks you do over and over in your eCommerce business. Chances are most of them can be automated with the right technology.
This is our bread and butter, so if you need a hand in this area, we’d love to help out. You can also check out our list of 12 must-have Shopify apps for some of our favorite ways to increase efficiency with automation.
8. Prepare staff and infrastructure to meet the demand
Customer service inquiries jump a whopping 75% during the holiday season. This means you almost definitely need additional infrastructure and/or staffing in place to deal with the increased volume.
While customer service may seem like an afterthought in comparison to the doorbuster deals and festive social media posts you’re preparing, it’s imperative to think of it as a key driver of lifetime value. 66% of customers who have a bad service experience will turn disloyal to a brand as a result of it. Over time, that can translate into a major hit to your bottom line.
To help stem the tide of service inquiries, address as many issues as you can proactively. Include a Q&A section on your product page with users’ most frequently asked questions. Prominently feature shipping timelines and return and exchange information. Implement a self-service return tool that saves you resources and increases brand loyalty (we’ve got a whole post on this topic here).
Finally, be available on the channels where your shoppers are. Customers love self-service options...until they want to talk to a human. That’s when frustration can escalate fast. Offer a range of support options to suit various needs, including live chat, social media, and phone support.
9. Have an action plan to respond in real time to changes
It’s 2020. From your best-selling item going out of stock to your shipping timelines suddenly changing, nothing that happens should surprise us by this point. Rather than get sidelined by eCommerce snags, we should anticipate them and have a response plan in place for when they occur.
Are your staff empowered to make customer service decisions without going up a lengthy chain of command? Do you have a backup plan in place for supply chain interruptions, like a key vendor going offline? For issues that affect customers, how will you communicate the changes? What specific language will you use?
Thinking through these scenarios ahead of time isn’t meant to add needless stress to an already high-stakes season; rather, it’s meant to help you get a step ahead so that when obstacles occur--and they will--you can correct course quickly with minimal impact to operations.
10. Lean on your technology partners
From your eCommerce platform to the apps you use to run your business, your technology providers should function not just as vendors, but as partners, helping you find solutions that increase conversions, retain more customers, boost lifetime value and provide an exceptional customer experience. At no time are these relationships more important than during peak holiday shopping season.
At Parkfield, we believe that a successful Q4 is not the finish line, but the starting point to building strong customer relationships for 2021. The actions you take now will affect the repeat business you receive from all the new customers the holidays bring and the VIPs who have stuck with you through the wild ride of 2020.
If you could use some guidance building a game plan for BFCM 2020, our team of experts is eager to help with the full scope of your eCommerce marketing needs, including:
- Marketing strategy
- Paid advertising
- Conversion rate optimization
- Site design and development
- Technology planning and app integrations
- Email and social media marketing
- Data analysis
For a complimentary consultation to discuss your needs for Q4 and beyond, set up a time to chat with us today.
Check out the rest of the BFCM Last-Min Strategies:
Increase Your Subs By 7x: Yes. You read it right. Increase your subscribers 7x in the run up to BFCM with these copy and paste strategies for your pop-ups and fly-outs.
Smash Your Email ROI: 3 email templates that will up your email game during Black Friday Cyber Monday.
Maximize Your Site Conversions: Put your conversions into overdrive! 10 strategies you can use right now to build the foundation for a successful 2020 holiday season.
Grow Sales Thru Stellar Support: Turn your customer support experience into a revenue generating machine with key insights for your site and reps.
Crush Your Holiday Sales Targets: Use your customer reviews to drive sales this holiday season and beyond.
Grow Your Sales With Process Automation: See five areas where you can employ automation to simplify your operations, save time, and boost sales this holiday season.
High-Converting Templates for SMS, Facebook Messenger & More: Use these ten templates to craft engaging, high-converting messages for SMS marketing and Facebook Messenger during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Don’t Blow Your Budget!: 10 tips to help you navigate paid media strategies this Black Friday / Cyber Monday (BFCM).