The eCommerce Christmas Marketing Checklist for 2020

Contents

The COVID-19 global pandemic is one that has defined and shaped 2020, and one that will have implications and effects that surely will last throughout the next years forward. Our situation has drastically changed, from where we can go, our places of gathering dwindling to the comfort of our homes, and the rise of remote work amongst companies and employees worldwide. This holiday season will likely be spent in the confinements of our homes; with loved ones, flatmates, roommates, solo or with our pets, through video or telephone calls to distant friends and family.

With many businesses having been forced to close, amongst them like major retailers including J.Crew and Neiman Marcus in the United States filing for bankruptcy, many businesses were forced to innovate and find ways to shift towards online eCommerce and market to those in lockdown. Some companies, on the other hand, found a spike in interest and sales throughout the pandemic and lockdown with customers spending more time indoors, such as in-home appliances, video games, at-home workout products, grocery delivery, and takeout options.

We have entered an era of coming to terms with our realities of once being incredibly interconnected, to living separately amongst those connections in our environment and its surroundings. As we have seen a wave of cities and countries return into lockdown with social distancing, we have also seen how people cope with this period of isolation and uncertainty, and in no doubt, the changes in our behaviors of spending and shopping. Whether that be from the way we purchase our groceries, online retail shopping, or subscription services - the way we interact with eCommerce as a whole has changed. An OECD study found that eCommerce retail sales in European Union nations from April 2020 increased by 30% as compared to April 2019. Additionally, this year’s Black Friday sales saw a 21.6% surge in eCommerce sales in the United States, with the Covid-19 pandemic impacting a loss of 52% of in-store purchases. In turn, we are seeing an acceleration and expansion of new eCommerce retailers catering to new types of customers, products, and services to the ‘new normal’ era we have entered.

An illustration of a man preparing for Christmas in his living room. He is ticking off his gift checklist while his dog watches on.

Prepare for a longer season

With the global pandemic in full swing, the majority of the Northern Hemisphere is in some sort of lockdown or confinement at the moment. We’re in for a long season ahead with a rather homebound holiday season ahead.

According to an Adobe study on 2020 holiday predictions, it was found that:

  • Covid-19 will spur and drive forwards holiday eCommerce spending to $189 billion US dollars, accounting for a 33% growth year-on-year in 2020
  • It is predicted that smartphone consumers will account for 42% of eCommerce purchases
  • Search engines (SEO) will drive at least 8% higher shares in purchases this Christmas, lending to 46.5% of total online shopping revenues

On top of that, according to a BazaarVoice study, 61% of retailers are predicted to expect more customer engagement and sales via social media, due to Covid-19. Because of this, 55% of respondents (brands) will be investing more in their eCommerce websites for the holiday season compared to last year, whereas 54% stated the same with their social media and social commerce accounts.

We’ve created a checklist (with a download of the checklist at the bottom of this article) to best prepare you for the holiday season ahead, whether you might already have a marketing strategy in place, or not quite yet - we’re here to help.

The checklist is divided into different stages/categories to help you go from start-to-finish in your prep for the holiday season with Preparation, Christmas Marketing Tips, Customer Support, Success and Retention, and finally, Reflection.

Checklist

1. Preparation: Evaluate your current online shop experience

If you haven’t already evaluated your current store experience, now’s probably time to do so. Keeping in mind that the goal is to drive sales and thus augment your overall conversion rate, it’s all about building a personalized shopping experience for your customers. This means, getting to know your customer personas and the different types of products and categories that would best upsell or cross-sell with them.

Consider creating product recommendations towards each customer persona group, utilizing any consumer data you might have on hand to create such recommendations (such as previous searches and purchases, products left in the shopping cart, or abandoned shopping cart items). This could be sent in a form of an email, personalized landing pages, or a recommended section for each persona type/theme on your website.

Additionally, some other factors to take into consideration when evaluating your current store experience include:

  • Test your infrastructure for handling traffic/transactions
  • Check site speed
  • Evaluate third-party integrations that they are up to date
  • Enable cart abandonment notifications

2. Christmas Marketing Tips: Get into the Christmas spirit and spread the Christmas cheer

The holiday season offers an opportune time to compile and create creative content on your eCommerce site, social networks, email marketing, and blog content if you have one while being compatible on both desktop and mobile devices. Mobile-users take just 0.05 seconds to have an opinion about a specific site, with 38% of those consumers choosing to stop engaging with the site if the content or its design is unattractive. When it comes to content, think of ways your products could fit into your customer’s lives. For example, if you are a company selling lights (such as lamps), you can position your campaign around bringing light as the centerpiece of your holidays, the heart and soul of your home, whether that be in the form of images, videos, or music playlists. Most importantly, however, it is about creating a memorable experience and impression for your customers in telling the story of your brand.

An illustration as an example for a fake-advertisement image for a lamp company - the lamp is giving ambient lighting at the dinner table for a couple with their Christmas dinner

Similarly, the season also allows the time in updating your overall merchandising and branding strategy to capture your consumer’s attention. Some examples to explore not only involve personalizing your customer’s experiences through their journey, but also the simple gesture of showcasing your products in seasonal favorites, holiday gifts for specific persona-types, and fine-tuning your website’s site search navigation in hand with your SEO to stay relevant amongst customer searches.

3. Christmas Marketing Tips: Retarget your past visitors and customers

Marketing emails are known to have a 176% greater chance of gaining conversions as compared to social media platforms - yet, with the open rate of eCommerce emails being around 10%, the holiday rush risks the open rate dropping lower. The key to a great email to spread the holiday spirit is not in explicitly selling your products, but in the deeply-rooted story, you want to tell, bringing a memorable and pleasant experience to your customers. This can be in the form of gamification within your emails to spice things up, offers such as free shipping, pre-Christmas delivery dates to get gift orders in time, an email inviting your customers to add favorite items to their cart to leave a ‘hint’ to family and friends, personalization in the form of gifts and personal discounts to your valued customers, gift cards or running contests. Keep in mind to not leave these emails till the last minute - you want to capture the attention of your customers early on to not only instill awareness in their minds but also long-term over the holiday season to increase your conversions.

This also runs hand in hand with email, text messaging and integrated social media messaging reminders to your customers about abandoned carts. As the holiday season brings in hefty gift shopping across probably multiple stores throughout the season, it’s easy to misplace a product or store. A simple reminder to your customers about an abandoned cart can help boost sales while rerouting your customers back to your eCommerce site.

4. Christmas Marketing Tips: Seasonal SEO

Everyone wants to be at the top of Google search results - yet to organically rank highly amongst results, can sometimes take months. In the short-term, the holiday season helps to capture and capitalize on the opportune time of driving site traffic, helping you reduce your dependency on paid advertising while focusing on keywords that stand out amongst your brand and products.

Take some time to do some seasonal keyword research to understand what terms stand out amongst different product types, markets, geographic areas, and customer types to optimize accordingly. More than ever with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential to update these points of information to stay relevant with the current situation as holiday shopping shifts online globally, with the emergence of new demographics and customer types consequently.

For example, if you are a company selling lamps like the example in point 2 - your search queries can include and optimize accordingly for the holiday season to:

  • Eco-friendly lamps
  • Energy-saving lamps
  • Lamps for working from home
  • Lamps for studying from home
  • Lamps for desks
  • Sustainable Christmas presents
  • Christmas presents for 20-somethings / 30-somethings

5. Christmas Marketing Tips: Opt for omnichannel storytelling

It’s already a known fact that 90% of consumers, according to Google, switch on average three devices per day to complete a task. People and customers are connected and in control of the fate of their customer journeys and purchasing process more than ever before. As consumers will shift, and undoubtedly become reliant this holiday season towards shopping online, so will the competition that brands and retailers will be facing to capture a customer’s attention amongst the crowd. With 73% of consumers using multiple channels and devices throughout the customer journey to make a purchase, this addresses the importance of incorporating omnichannel practices into your brand’s campaign for the holidays and post-holidays. A study conducted by IDC indicates that customers who shop across multiple channels via omnichannel are likely to have a 30% higher lifetime value to a brand compared to those who do not do so.

Learn:

Curious to learn more about omnichannel marketing? Check out our article on Omnichannel Marketing in 7 minutes to learn more about the simply four best practices to integrate into your brand!

With the accelerated growth of online sales, an omnichannel approach allows brands to stay connected and move with their customers across multiple devices. Such a storyline would need to be integrated and joined, involving consistent branding, product availability, and pricing across not only your eCommerce site but also your social media channels, mobile text messaging, email marketing, and in-store (if that is a possibility in your location at the moment). An example of joining such elements could be the launch of a Christmas email and social media campaign, interlinking special discounts via a mobile application, to your physical store window displays, eCommerce landing page, blog articles, or YouTube videos and Instagram posts and shop.

6. Christmas Marketing Tips: Consider your store’s UX/UI

First impressions are a make-or-break factor, with 94% of first impressions on an eCommerce website being design-related - UX/UI contributes to the overall site performance, usability, and design interface of your brand and customer’s experience from start to finish. Don’t forget to take a look and review the responsiveness and optimization of your website and applications across multiple devices, whether that be desktop, smartphones, or tablet, as well as through smartwatches and VR/AR.

The takeaway here is that the better the digital experience, and seamlessness of your customer moving throughout the customer journey on your website, the more likely your customers will be loyal to your brand.

Some things to keep in mind when going through your site’s overall UX/UI haul and visioning the customer journey this holiday season are:

  • Categorize and recommend products associated with the holiday season (ie. gifts for her, gifts for him, gifts for foodies, coffee or wine aficionados, globetrotters, fashionistas, etc.)
  • Personalize your customer’s experiences based on insights of customer data (such as notifications or cookies) from previous browsing, past purchases, and product recommendations based on their customer persona-type that can be tied hand-in-hand with email marketing and personalized landing pages
  • Fine-tune your site search queries and navigation so your customers can find what they are looking for
  • Don’t forget your international customers - opt for a language integration to cater to different markets and languages as you continue to grow
  • Enable guest checkouts to customers who are looking to make quick, one-off purchases
  • Offer various payment options that are relevant to your market, whether that be debit/credit card options, but also cash-on-delivery, bank transfer, installments, or PayPal
  • Accommodate for multi-recipient functions for gift-giving - sometimes the person ordering something isn’t necessarily for them
Learn:

If you haven’t already, our latest article on eCommerce UX/UI in 7 minutes gives you the fine-tune on turning your eCommerce storefront, user experience, and interface from zero to hero

7. Customer Support: Conversational Marketing

Everyone’s worst holiday nightmare amid Christmas and New Year sales is a crashed website and disappointed customers, unable to make or continue their purchases. If you haven’t already, make sure your eCommerce platform provides 24/7 round the clock customer support.

A 2020 study conducted by Drift, found that customers’ frustrations are likely to grow if the customer service provided feels impersonal and if the brand or company is being unresponsive through email and social media. In having live chat support on your website, will provide an extra hand to your customers, but also improve the overall experience and impression for your users, visitors, and customers.

8. Customer Success: Easy returns amidst the holiday hustle

eCommerce returns are estimated on an average of 15%, whereas with some categories, such as apparel, returns make up 30% of purchases. During the holiday season, however, such returns can reach up to 40%. The cost of returns towards eCommerce retailers is substantial, with not only shipping fees, restocking fees, and inventory loss, but also the detrimental environmental impact it has of returned or excess inventory ending up in landfills.

Yet, with 96% of consumers happy to return to brands that make returns and exchanges both easy and seamless, providing an easy return facility enables your brand to strengthen your customer loyalty, but also in the long-run when done correctly, benefits your brand’s operations.

Some things to consider when clarifying your return policies in the goal of providing flexibility and convenience are:

  • Using mailing materials that are ‘peel and seal’ for reusability
  • Clear instructions for your customer and gift recipients to return or exchange goods in its original packaging
  • Include a return/exchange label in your packaging to make the return seamless to avoid friction in the return/exchange process
  • A standard 15-day or 30-day (1 month) return/exchange period (depending on the nature of your products), while allowing returning via mail or in-store (if possible)
  • Consider extending the return window until the end of January for customers to return or exchange gifts for the holiday season

9. Customer Retention: Turn your Christmas shoppers into year-round shoppers

One way to turn current customers into loyal, year-round returning customers is through establishing a rewards or loyalty program for your brand. Having such a program allows you to invest in returning customers, with the incentive of bringing in new customers, in the form of offering and staying in the loop of new offers, one-time secret sales, competitions, or giveaways.

Such a rewards program is membership-only, and can also involve a point system, with each purchase receiving points to then be used towards future purchases as a discount or free shipping. The key is to create a community amongst your customer base in engagement (whether that is through email marketing) and interaction, leading to creative incentive and value towards your store to bring in new and returning customers, as well as converting one-time gift-shopping holiday customers into lifelong ones.

10. Reflection: Looking back on the holiday period

Another aspect of such a community-based/rewards program is the ability to ask for feedback from your customers. Don’t be afraid to reach out to ask for their feedback on the overall experience they have had so far with your brand, as you strive to improve and create an experience customized to them. It not only shows that you are willing to listen and understand your customers but also take the time to invest and adjust your current procedures and experience to that of your clientele.

This offers you a moment to reflect as well on the past holiday campaign to see what went right or wrong, to set up, gear up, and prepare for the coming year. Some things to consider as you retrospectively look back on 2020 are to:

  • Gather your teams together to begin setting goals of any KPIs or objectives you’d like to reach in the coming year
  • Identify points of weaknesses, areas of improvement, and opportunities to steer your brand and teams in the right direction of reaching your set KPIs and objectives
  • Continue to innovate with original content and marketing tactics to always keep in mind your customer as they continuously move and consume into the ‘new normal’ we live in today

Key Takeaways

Whether your customers are emerging from the midst of a lockdown or coming out of one, customers are sure to remember brands and customer experiences that resonate with them - getting in touch with them, providing an easy shopping experience, and brands that actively seek to connect and understand their customer base and community.

Even in the flurry of the global pandemic, the holidays and the imminent end of the year are a time to reconnect, reassess and connect with not only your customers but also for what your brand stands for as you seek to create genuine and personalized experiences across multiple platforms, channels and continue to grow.

We would love to see you give Storyblok a try, with features to aid you in optimizing your eCommerce storefront from your customer journey, omnichannel storytelling to rocket-speed site performance and SEO!

As promised, click here to download our eCommerce Christmas checklist infographic