Is Your Business Ecommerce Ready for the 2020 Holiday Season?

Ecommerce has gone through a period of rapid growth as a direct result of the pandemic. Online shopping habits have grown beyond digital natives, with more Gen-X and Baby Boomers shopping online and spending more money on ecommerce. With a boom in the market, there has been a boom in the competition – with some big names, like Target, getting ecommerce right and some being left behind because of slow adoption and poor user experience.

With so much uncertainty about in-person shopping, brands can’t expect or rely on pre-pandemic behaviors. Holiday season is coming, the Christmas creep keeps it coming earlier and earlier. Amazon are hoping that holiday buying will start with Prime Day in October, 2020. And 2020 will be an interesting year with some breakout superstars and a lot of businesses being left behind if they don’t adapt or rise to the occasion. It’s important, whether you are a bricks and clicks business or ecommerce only, that you plan and prepare for the busiest shopping months of the year.

What can you do to be ready for digital shopping this holiday season?

Reduce friction between online and in-person consumer experiences. Stay connected with your customers across different touch points and make communication easy. There are several benefits to using a tool like Facebook Messenger for your business – being available online to talk to your customers improves brand trust and increases user intent to purchase. According to a Facebook survey, last year 55% of global holiday shoppers had messaged a business, this had grown 8% from 2018 to 2019 with Baby Boomers showing the biggest growth of 37% YOY.

Optimize your pixels. Take advantage of Facebook’s remarketing pixel. It’s free to install on your webpage and Facebook Audience Insights can provide great data on your audience and their behavior on your website. You should set up event and conversion tracking, this will benefit any ad campaigns you run. If you’re not running ads this year, having the Facebook Pixel installed on your site will help you, going forward, by collecting good data and insights on what works.

Make sure your analytics are set up properly. Data is only good when it is measured and accurate, so make sure your Google Analytics account has been set up correctly and is showing reliable data. Spend time looking over Channel reports to see which of your revenue streams is most valuable, where there is room for improvement on issues like bounce rate, and if you use affiliates or influencers, consider setting up Custom Channels that will track your ROI.

Make sure your channels are established and optimized in Shopify. This will be how you appear in markets such as Facebook and Instagram Shops and Google Shopping, which includes Google Shopping Ads. Make sure shipping information is inputting correctly so that your products can appear online outside of your own website.

Take advantage of Facebook/Instagram Shops. Facebook and Instagram now let businesses sell directly to their followers on their platforms. Sell your catalogue of products on these sites at no extra cost with the added bonus of several additional features, including saving products for later, or contacting your business through Messenger. So optimize your social media profiles, publish high-resolution images of your products, and take advantage of user-generated content (UGC) to build your social media presence and sell more products.

Use reviews as social proof. A PowerReviews study of 400 million consumers revealed that the more reviews there are of a product, the more likely it is someone will purchase it. Work on generating positive reviews for your business, as well as responding to all your reviews (both good and bad).

Curate the shopping experience to feel like you’re in-store. Meet customer expectations from their first visit on your site by working with your web developers to make the user experience more personal. If a user found your site through a Google Search term, offer them multiple products that meet their search intentions.

The rise in self-care sales

Even seasonality won’t change the fact that consumers are online looking for things for themselves. During a downturn, where most people are tightening their belts, people aren’t just buying gifts for others or researching what they would like for themselves – they are putting themselves first. In fact, it’s been demonstrated that during a recession, self-care staples like make-up and ice cream actually grow.

Between 2008 and 2011, The “Lipstick Effect” was actually nail polish – Euromonitor research found that nail polish sales surged by over 30% in the US and 10% in Western Europe. In the same time, ice cream sales were up 11% in France, UK sugar confectionery grew 11%, in Germany, assorted boxed chocolate sales grew 12%.

Understand the importance of recession proof products, and how to deliver the right creative and copy in your promotional materials to market affordable luxuries and stay on top of market trends to see what is selling. How might a second stimulus payment affect discretionary spending in consumer behaviors? Look out for government aid and stimulus packages as they will likely cause an uptick in discretionary spending. Though hard to quantify, the stimulus package that passed in the United States in March did cause a bump in consumer spending. And though any further stimulus package has been held up in Washington D.C., if it were to pass closer to Christmas there will likely be an extra burst in spending.

In the coronavirus economy there is little need for lipstick considering we’re all mostly wearing face-masks, but sales of eye cosmetics in China increased 150% month on month from mid-February, 2020. According to the McKinsey study How COVID-19 is changing the world of beauty, luxury hand soap sales were up 800% in France during the week of March, 16 2020. In the United States, Amazon has reported that sales for nail-care products are up 218%. While Zalando, Europe’s largest fashion and lifestyle ecommerce marketplace, reported that sales of skin, nail and hair-care products rose 300% year on year.

The report posits that, “pre-COVID-19 trends will likely accelerate, with direct-to-consumer ecommerce, such as brands’ websites, shoppable social-media platforms, and marketplaces becoming more important.”

Disruption of traditional shopping behaviors means innovation

The pandemic has disrupted everyday life for most everyone, while we all find ourselves trying to contend the new normal our behaviors and habits have changed – and companies are quick to pivot to adapt to those needs. Digital disruption has been inevitable, first with a fizzle then a bang as in the state of pandemic companies are realizing just how necessary it is to have efficient and attractive online solutions for your business. Chaos in markets, supply chains, and in brick and mortars, have kept everyone on their toes as they contend with the disruption to the global economy.

People are willing to try new retail and digital experiences.

COVID-19 has spurred the adoption and prevalence of grocery deliveries especially. The trend of consumers trying new technologies and services during the pandemic was first spotted in China when the outbreak first started. A Kantar study found that the pandemic “nudged/forced many consumers to try something they’ve never used before,” 84% of respondents in their study had tried at least one new service for the first time during that time, including: “online medical consultancy (34%) and online education (33%), followed by working from home software/app (29%) and paying for digital entertainment service (26%).”

The same study also found that “during the outbreak, many new and emerging retail channels experienced explosive growth.” 55% of respondents had bought from ecommerce platforms during the lockdowns, and 42% said they would “buy more frequently from ecommerce platforms” after the pandemic is over.

Those behaviors translate in the United States, too. In the first half of 2020, Target added 10 million new digital customers and (year over year) digital comparable sales almost tripled, up 195%. Target’s quick pivot to focus on their digital options and curbside pick-up have driven the company to a very successful Q2, in which revenue totaled $22.98 billion, up from $18.42 billion last year. Digital performance doesn’t exist in a silo, comparable-store sales were also up 10.9% – showing how a better digital experience with a seamless experience between online and in-store shopping is beneficial to a company all round.

Seasonal Sales in 2020

It’s going to be impossible to solely rely on previous year sales data to predict what will happen in 2020. There will still be deals and, especially in a recession, people will flock to mega sale events for the savings, despite the inherent dangers of crowded, in-person events during a pandemic.

What’s becoming clear, however, is that holiday shopping is happening earlier this year. It’s common for retailers to try kickstart holiday shopping early, it’s called the Christmas creep, and this year Amazon moved their Prime Day sales event from Summer (when retail sales tanked and supply chains were backlogged) to October, to try and encourage an early start to seasonal spending.

Home Depot are starting their Black Friday specials on Nov. 8, Prime Day has moved to October, and now there’s 10/10a new, secretive sales day in which more than a dozen major retailers have signed on to the event. “The aim is to pull holiday shopping into October from closer to Christmas so retailers can cope with limits on both shopping capacity and available merchandise.”

In 2019, “an average of 54% of global holiday shoppers surveyed purchased something during a mega sale event, and more than 43% of respondents shop for deals on Black Friday.” And whilst this year Walmart will be closed on Thanksgiving, Black Friday has not (yet) been cancelled.

There are no guarantees in 2020, so, to encourage Black Friday events, PR and marketing efforts should be a long sell reaching people on digital devices. The organizers behind 10/10 know this and have partnered with the rewards app Shopkick.

Your brand should have the ability to search and buy sales items online, and options to either have products delivered or picked up at stores. Fostering a sense of customer safety is important, but online sales for in-person pick up might actually lead to bigger cart sizes, because if you’re going to venture out to pick something up, you want the trip to be worthwhile.

Cyber Monday will be more in demand this year than in previous years, with risk-averse deal seekers staying online for their bargains. In fact, online conversion rates in February 2020 were 8.8% higher on average than the same time in the previous year, with a buying urgency similar to Cyber Monday. So imagine the potential of Cyber Monday 2020.

With more (and older) users embracing online shopping, make sure your online sales pages provide a great shopping experience for users. Shoppers are online and ready to buy, so make sure you are doing all you can to capture this audience.

Use the build up to these big events to work on experimenting with your creative concepts and developing a strategy for how you will execute your brand message and unique selling positioning. This year will be about planning and preparation to make sure you find messaging that will resonate with your audience to encourage them to buy your product.

A key thing we’ve noticed is altruism, with people flocking to support their favorite brands and small businesses to help them survive the pandemic. So think about ways you can use Small Business Saturday to either promote your own brand or to support your partners. A lot of this will be online-driven this year, so find ways to collaborate, promote, and highlight those around you. People will respond to the values of your brand if you are actively encouraging engagement with other businesses that might be in a less-fortunate position. This kind of selflessness, when authentic, begets reciprocity.

Authenticity and trust in organic channels

With a lot going on in the world, brands that show they genuinely care about their customers will prevail this holiday season.

With the coronavirus still affecting people’s day to day lives and changing consumer behaviors, keep your messaging focussed on safety by avoiding directing consumers to malls or brick and mortars, and instead focus on online conversions. Use your organic channels to demonstrate your company culture, values and priorities during this time. And whilst you don’t have to be offering employees paid leave to work the polls, you can similarly take actions and make statements that are true to your brand.

Coronavirus consumer research cited by Facebook found that “an average of 74% of people surveyed globally want to see brand activity on facebook and instagram during holiday season (or shopping season).” And with more people becoming comfortable buying products online, social channels with the capacity to sell products will prove an important revenue stream as a surrogate to in-person consumer shopping behaviors.

Fortunately, social media platforms are making it easier to stay in touch with your customers with Messenger, and easier to sell online with ecommerce solutions like Facebook and Instagram Shops.

This is no ordinary holiday season and the messaging in your organic channels should reflect that. Whilst the holidays are a time when families come together, be cognizant that many families have lost loved ones this year, or have elderly and high-risk relatives they haven’t been able to be with. A lot of people are suffering right now, whether they’re your customers or your employees. Focus on safety and what you’re doing to help ease some of the pain that people are experiencing. Highlight the actions you’re taking to support your staff and the wider community.

Set yourself up for success

The old way of doing business is disappearing and we are on an accelerated path to a digital-first future where companies that are stubborn, ill-equipped, or too slow to pivot effectively, will be left behind.

There is still time to build an efficient and effective website that will help you drive online sales, there is still time to meet your customers expectations online.