If there is ever an appropriate time to apply a sports metaphor to marketing, it’s in Q4. We’re down to the wire, it’s a full-on sprint and we’re entering the home stretch. Essentially, it’s crunch time and all that preparation you’ve put in this year is finally going to pay off.
The stakes are big, too. In 2018 online holiday shopping reached a whopping $126 billion in the US, a 16.5% year-over-year increase.
In 2019 holiday retail sales (including brick and mortar stores) are forecast to grow an additional 4.5%, exceeding $1.1 trillion. Your share of that very large pie is determined by your marketing preparations.
So what can you do to ensure your marketing strategy is ready for the final quarter? I’ve put together a preparedness guide for all things Q4.
Your Q4 Holiday Preparedness Checklist
In many ways, Q4 is the time to reap the benefits of all the hard work you’ve put in over the previous nine months. From investing in customer experience (CX) improvements throughout the year to growing your CRM database and email lists — your holiday marketing campaigns are the culmination of a year of building customer loyalty.
It’s estimated that 50% of online holiday revenue comes from marketing tactics directly impacting the customer journey — and 50% of revenues come from unaided tactics such as direct traffic.
Marketing to your already loyal, interested customers can help increase that percentage and have a bigger impact on your bottom line.
This is why CRM and email campaigns are the bread and butter of your Q4 marketing preparations. Because you already have a relationship with these customers, you know what they want, and they know what you have to offer.
You’ve already built a foundation of trust with these shoppers, so when they’re looking to purchase something for their loved ones (or maybe just something special for themselves) they’re willing to listen to your holiday offers.
Focus on personalization in your holiday campaigns. BuyMac Australia personalizes product recommendations for each customer based on their past buying history. They also customize the subject line of every email they send out with customers’ first names.
Together, this personalization and customization has led to some stunning numbers: an average open rate of 24% and click-through rate of 3.64%.
Search: SEO and SEM/PPC
If customers don’t already have a relationship with your brand they must find you through search. A surprising 87% of shoppers start their product searches on digital channels such as Google and Amazon.
Because of this preference, it’s critical to hone your SEO and PPC campaigns for the holidays.
This is the time when customers are looking for something new and special — it’s unlikely anyone is hoping for dish soap or engine oil in their stocking — so it’s important to stand out from your competitors in the search results.
Create specific SEM landing pages for your holiday campaigns to speak directly to holiday shoppers. Ensure the content is relevant to year end shoppers — such as including details on gift wrapping, return policies and discounts — to boost conversion rates.
Additionally, take the time to review Google Keyword Planner to make sure you’re ranking for the phrases your customers are searching for. Updating product descriptions for holiday shoppers can make your SKUs appear higher in the SERPs as well.
Digital ads (through social, banners, and videos) are one of the most effective ways to increase your reach and boost your voice.
Catch the eye of a potential shopper through a perfectly placed advertisement and you might just make a loyal customer for life.
Research by Forrester shows that 25% of all online spending in 2018 went towards social media. Devoting your time and money to thoughtfully executed social advertisements is well worth it.
Choose an eye-catching product image and target your audience wisely. To do both it’s important to know your target market. Take a look at the Facebook ad example from Love Audry Rose. Their customers are likely either women purchasing for themselves or partners purchasing for a loved one.
The copy they included in their ad would be very different if they were targeting women or men — but Facebook allows them to segment their ad audience appropriately.
My pro tip? Focus on re-targeting shoppers who’ve already visited your site as well as those in your in-house CRM database. Because you’ve already built name recognition with these segments your ads will be much more effective.
Fulfillment and Customer Support
Once you’ve converted a browser into a customer your job is not over. Converting a one-time shopper into a loyal customer requires you to provide a great customer experience from their first visit until they’ve happily received their purchase.
It’s an often-repeated stat, but it’s 5x more expensive to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing loyal one.
Fulfillment and customer support includes everything from delivering a well-designed package on time to being available to answer any and every question about the purchase.
Returns and exchanges are a huge part of holiday purchasing — 40% of shoppers returned at least one gift they bought or received in 2018. This predilection means that customers will take a close look at the return policy where they shop, and their purchasing decisions may depend on whether (and for how long) returns are accepted.
Having a good return policy in ecommerce is table-stakes, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a retailer who doesn’t accept returns (if not for a small fee).
To provide a great customer experience after purchase focus on these three things:
- Deliver on time, and provide updates as required. Omnichannel delivery updates through Messenger, SMS, and email ensures customers know exactly where their purchases are.
- Make returns and exchanges effortless. Consider extending your standard return policy for holiday shoppers, since a 14-day window may be too short for consumers who like to do their shopping in early November.
- Be available to customers over email or live chat. Don’t hide your contact options where they’re hard to find.
While packaging isn’t necessarily a digital marketing experience, it’s still a great marketing tactic to win over customers. Beyond ensuring that your product is delivered safely in one piece, packaging can also improve the overall “unboxing” experience.
Almost 40% of consumers say they will share a picture of your product on social media if it arrives in unique or clever packaging — and that’s extremely effective social proof.
In fact, consumers are now 9.8x more swayed by user-generated content (UGC) than by influencers when making a purchasing decision.
For example, check out the picture below of BeerCartel’s advent calendar. The customer even used the appropriate #beercartelxmas hashtag to spread the joy even further.
Source: Beer Cartel Instagram
Improving your packaging needn’t cost a lot. Subtle changes can make a big difference and bring a smile to your customer’s face. Consider:
- Switching to sustainable packaging
- Including a free sample
- Providing a discount coupon for their next purchase
- Suggesting upcycling ideas for the box, the way Birchbox does:
Source: Birchbox YouTube
Through Q4, focus on reaching customers at every stage of their journey — from bringing back loyal buyers to enticing new ones into your shop.
And when customers do make a purchase, make sure to wow them with excellent customer support and unique packaging.
You’ve got plenty of ideas to get started. Armed with this preparation guide you’re well on your way to hitting Q4 out of the park.
Corinne Watson is a writer and researcher at BigCommerce, where she works directly with agency and technology partners to bring their tools, services and ideas to the commerce industry at large.