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25 Holiday Marketing Ideas for E-Commerce

25 Holiday Marketing Ideas for E-Commerce

This Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) will be different from other years. Here are 25 holiday marketing ideas to help you prepare.

In a provocative headline, The Motley Fool questioned if “COVID-19 has canceled Black Friday.”

The article argues that social distancing and store capacity rules mean Black Friday won’t have anywhere near the same crowds that inspired memes like this. 

The move to online shopping for Black Friday is not a trend unique to 2020. Last year was the first time Black Friday overtook Cyber Monday as the busiest day for e-commerce. 

Still, according to a study from Google, “More than 33% of US shoppers who normally shop in stores for Black Friday say they won’t do so this year.”

COVID-19 is impacting more than just the way consumers buy. It’s also promising to lengthen the holiday shopping season with companies like Target starting sales in October and stretching them out through the season. (Amazon.com’s Prime Day launches next month.)

Both trends mean that marketers need to prepare now by optimizing their strategy for an extended holiday season with more online shopping.

We’re not going to leave you guessing as to how to optimize your holiday marketing strategy. 

Here are 25 marketing ideas for your e-commerce business broken down into the following areas.

  1. Website
  2. SMS and Email Marketing
  3. Content Marketing
  4. Conversion Rate Optimization 
  5. Advertising

Website Holiday Marketing Ideas

Here are five holiday marketing tips for your e-commerce website for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

1. Test the Traffic Capacity of Your Website

Nearly half (46%) of the retail executives in Google’s survey anticipate that online traffic during Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be significantly higher this year compared to last.

This means that your website needs to handle the expected surge. Too many requests at once can potentially crash your site.

You can test your store’s server load capacity with LoadImpact.com or Blitz.io and see what level of traffic your website can handle. 

2. Build Suspense and Create Buzz With an Announcement Bar

The countdown timer is an amazingly powerful tool for your website, and you can use it in a few different ways to create urgency. The idea is that by providing your visitors with an exact time frame to complete an action, you provide extra motivation to convert.

Source: FeraAI

3. Consider Adding COVID-19 Specific FAQs

During regular times, displaying shipping information is important. Because of COVID-19, it’s become essential.

At the bare minimum, you need to acknowledge COVID-19 and inform customers how it impacts your shipping times. You could consider adding a FAQ section, as Everlane has here.

This section of its Help Center covers everything from when their stores are opening to shipment delays.

4. Offer Product Bundles

People are more likely to impulse purchase in-store than online, as items catch their attention on their way to the till. The shift to an online Black Friday means retailers may miss out on significant revenue as consumers search for and buy only specific items.

That’s where product bundles come into play. Studies have shown that bundle offers encourage impulse buying.

There are different ways you can approach product bundles. You can use Amazon’s strategy of advertising items frequently bought together.

You can also create more traditional bundles as makeup brand Charlotte Tilbury has here.

5. Do Some BFCM SEO

On BFCM, people spend a lot of time searching for the best deals. That means lots of Googling.

For example, if you’re looking for houseplants, you might Google “best Cyber Monday deals for houseplants.” This search behavior means that it could be worth your time either a) tweaking your product titles and descriptions with relevant keywords in the days leading up to Cyber Monday or b) creating a new landing page with your BFCM deals.

Depending on your resources, the former approach might make sense, given how easy it is to tweak these elements in e-commerce platforms. 

Email and SMS Marketing Tips for Your Online Store

The best way to promote your e-commerce store revolves around your owned channels. Here’s how to take advantage of two of the most popular ones–email and SMS.

6. Create Urgency in Your Emails

Waking up on Black Friday and already seeing nine emails offering you discounts creates customer apathy.

We wrote about using countdown announcement bars to build suspense and create urgency on your website. You should do the same with email. 

That way, your email subscribers understand that there is a limit to the great deals you’re offering. 

7. Collect Phone Numbers and Emails With Text to Join

Many e-commerce stores think they need to choose between phone numbers and email addresses. What they don’t know is that with text to join, they can gather both.

Text to Join–sometimes referred to as text-to-subscribe or text to sign up—is an easy way to allow your audience to opt-in to your SMS messages or emails. You create a keyword–a word or phrase that people text to your number to subscribe to future texts–and an automatic message is triggered asking them for their email address.

Here’s what it looks like in practice.

Today 10:25 AM
BFCM
Thanks for signing up to receive our very best holiday themed deals. Reply with your email to get updates there, too.

8. Send a Series of Text Messages

One of the key takeaways from our Cyber Monday text marketing strategy is that you should send a series of text messages.

Let’s say you sell bikes online. In the lead up to BFCM, you might want to share a guide to buying bikes online.

You could then provide some information on your holiday deals or hint at what your subscribers can expect from the sale to create anticipation.

You can send your subscribers a teaser promotion as a reward for their patience a week or two before.

Then on the day, send out one text in the morning to let your subscribers know that your sale is live and another text that lets them know a specific promotion is ending soon.

9. A/B Test Your Email Marketing Campaigns

With holiday gift shopping expected to start in October, it pays to test, test, and test your emails to find the best performing design and email campaign strategy. 

Here are some ideas for the types of tests you can run before the main shopping days:

  • Does including the exact offer in the subject line help open rates and sales?
  • Which subject line increases engagement: a question or a direct call-to-action?
  • Is it better to feature multiple products or one product?
  • What’s the best time to send email campaigns?

The idea is that by the time you get to the main event–BFCM–you know what works.

10. Make Your Shopping Experience Conversational

We’ve written a lot about conversational commerce recently and how it works for direct-to-consumer text messaging.

It’s critical to your holiday marketing campaign because shoppers want to see and touch an item before buying it. This year they can’t. 

Brands that give their shoppers a voice will benefit. It means that customers can ask you for product recommendations, find their size, and compare options. 

It not only humanizes your brand but also helps overcome roadblocks to purchasing by shortening the distance between a potential customer and you. 

It also doesn’t require a massive investment in an AI chatbot. Instead, you can add a free click-to-text button to your website. 

Content Marketing Ideas

Here are five ways you can leverage content for Black Friday and Cyber Monday success.

11. Consider a Philanthropic Campaign

As Gen Z starts to shop more during BFCM, consider adding a philanthropic element to your marketing.

For example, for Black Friday in 2016, Patagonia donated 100% of its sales to grassroots environmental groups. If that sounds like a disaster for your brand’s financial survival, then you could consider teaming up with a charity.

Old Navy hosts a “Shock of a Dolla” sale where the brand offers cozy socks for $1. For each pair sold, Old Navy donates $1 to Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.

12. Create Holiday Gift Cards by Price-Point

With the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19, consumers are likely to be more price-conscious this year.

You can make it easy for people to discover options within their price-point with a gift guide that segments gifts per price range. 

Source: MailUp

13. Offer Something Beyond Discounts

Barnes & Noble once offered half-a-million autographed books from successful authors for their Black Friday marketing campaign.

If you’re a luxury brand that doesn’t want to dilute your branding ethos with discounts, you could consider offering a similarly unique experience.

Given that most brands are planning to start offering promotions in October this year, giveaways are an excellent way to add variety to your holiday marketing.

14. Create Top-of-Funnel Content

People get into the holiday spirit early. According to research from McKinsey & Company, over 70% of US shoppers plan what they want to buy before BFCM sales start. 

Not only do you need to start preparing early, but you also need to ensure that customers looking for gift ideas and information on particular products find you amongst the sea of competitors.

That’s why creating SEO-optimized content that targets these “early birds” can boost your holiday sales. For example, Firewire sells surfboards and created a surfboard volume calculator. You input your weight and skill level, and it gives you board shapes in your volume range.

15. Focus on Your Gift Wrapping and Packaging

With more and more packages arriving in our postbox this year than ever, it’s a good idea to make your brand stand out with your gift wrapping and packaging. 

For example, you could use your packaging to share your brand’s story. It’ll also make people more likely to document the unboxing experience on social media, which turns into free advertising for your brand.

Cosmetics company Rituals takes another approach and presents its gift sets in beautiful, reusable boxes. This eliminates the need for wrapping paper, and its labels encourage customers to retain the boxes as a keepsake for storing items.

CRO

The average e-commerce conversion rate is around 2.86%. Here are five ways you can improve yours.

16. Optimize Page Load Speed

A survey from Akami shows that a 100-millisecond delay is all it takes to hurt conversion rates by up to 7%.

Despite this, the average e-commerce site’s load time has increased from last year’s 7.36 seconds to 8.56 seconds.

You can test out your website’s speed using Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool. If your site’s on the lower end, then consider using Gzip or other compression software to reduce the size of the data sent to a browser.

This article explains how to optimize your Shopify website, and even if you can’t get through all the tips, tackling several will do wonders for your load speed–and your conversion rate.

17. Offer Free Shipping

Thanks to Amazon, online shoppers have come to expect free shipping, making it a must. If you think you can’t offer it because of your margins, then consider increasing your product’s prices to cover the cost of shipping.

It’s often a psychological game, and people are likely to pay more for a product if it ships for free. 

18. Rescue Abandoned Carts With SMS

Online stores’ lost sales come to a whopping $18 billion because of cart abandonment. It’s why you need a strategy to rescue abandoned carts.

While many online stores rely on email marketing to rescue abandoned carts, we’ve written before about sending abandoned cart SMS and its benefits. 

Abandoned cart text messages are a great way to encourage customers to complete their orders. Not only are they unobtrusive, but they’re far less likely to get lost or ignored among an overcrowded inbox like abandoned cart emails.

Today 2:09 PM
Hi Emma! We noticed you left a few items in your cart. We think they’d look great on you, so here’s a code for 10% off! Enter CART10 at checkout to activate.

19. Let Customers Checkout as Guests

Allow users to checkout without signing up for an account. Here’s an example from Nordstrom.

You will have their name and email address when they buy anyway, so forcing the user to register just gives them another reason to leave your store.

20. Make Your Checkout Form One Page

According to studies by Baymard, 28% of checkout abandonment results from a checkout process that’s too long or complicated.

So it’s surprising that the trend in e-commerce is toward multi-page checkouts. On page one, customers enter their personal information. On page two, they select the shipping method, and on page three, they enter their payment details.

The idea of a one-page checkout is more comfortable to complete as fewer steps appeal to time-conscious customers.

By reducing checkout to just one page, you significantly simplify the buying process, resulting in a higher completion rate.

Source: Bolt.com

BFCM Advertising

Not sure how to optimize your ad strategy for your holiday sales? Here are five ideas.

21. Use Retargeting Ad Campaigns

BFCM shoppers have incredibly short attention spans and will compare deals across multiple vendors and price comparison sites.

With Facebook, you can retarget people “who visited specific web pages.” We’ll leave it up to you whether you target specific elements of your audience who only looked at certain products, or go a little more general and target those who looked at product categories.

We recommend leaving out those who visited your thank you or confirmation pages.

To get the most out of this remarking method, you’ll need to create custom ads for each category or product. You want the ad to remind the user precisely what they’re missing out on, so don’t forget to mention the holiday sale, the impending end of the sale price, and of course, how long left they have until it’s back to full price.

Source: StitcherAds

22. Start Early With Your Ads

Tune studied over 700 million mobile ads to learn how mobile marketers tackled holiday sales. One of the report’s key findings was that marketers need campaigns not just weeks but months ahead.

Given that shoppers start looking for deals in October and this year is likely to be even earlier, the time is now to create early access campaigns.

These campaigns, promoted with online ads in the weeks before BFCM, give people access to your deals 24 hours before anyone else.

Source: Wishpond

For example, you could advertise your keyword to a lookalike audience, letting them know they’ll receive early access to your BFCM deals.

23. Focus on Mobile Search

Mobile programmatic advertising is one channel gaining steam in 2020. Still, if you don’t have time to implement an entirely new channel, you can focus on your search ads.

Business Factory found that the most significant peak in search volume is at midnight before Black Friday. People then start searching again between 7 and 8 in the morning and use mobile devices more than desktops. 

Source: Google

40.7% of queries are from cellphones, and 70% of shoppers first search on their cellphones before making a purchase.

It’s why you should use mobile bid adjustments to show your ads more frequently to those searching from mobile devices around those times. The logic behind this is that these clicks are likely to be more valuable to you. (If you’d like to learn more about bid adjustments, we recommend you check this article out.)

24. Create Video Ads

Last year videos were popular among people and businesses alike: there were 450 million views of Black Friday and other related videos on Facebook, documenting everything from shopping guides to in-store wins. 

And on Instagram, more than a third of businesses posted to Instagram Stories.

This creates a significant opportunity for businesses to drive product discovery, increase brand awareness, and ultimately generate sales through video on social advertising platforms. 

So consider incorporating video into your marketing strategy to connect with shoppers in a way that resonates with them.

25. Make Your Creative Stand Out

The British brand Gymshark is known for its unique bright photography style. In 2018 it achieved a 6x return on ad spend (ROAS) with a different approach–aggressive dark pictures.

The idea was to shock loyal fans and let them know something big was happening.

Whenever campaigns like Gymshark’s launch, the same phrase can be heard from Heads of Marketing across the land: “Why don’t we do something creative like that?”

Amid the mostly online holiday season, it will be extra challenging to get your voice heard. And while we despise vague advice, you need to take a leap of faith here and do something outside of your comfort zone.

There’s no silver bullet, but this article on creating compelling campaign creative is a good start. It’s definitely worth the extra effort. 

The Wrap on Our Holiday Marketing Ideas

This year’s holiday season is different because it will happen predominantly online and over a longer period. That’s good news for e-commerce brands who could see record sales numbers.

To get a larger slice of the pie, it’s time to implement the above ideas and get your online store ready.

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