In a normal holiday season, we could look to the previous year as a barometer for what to expect for the upcoming one. A brief snapshot of 2019 would tell the tale of continued eCommerce growth, the shift to mobile, and decelerating physical retail sales. Online sales on Christmas Day 2019 topped $1 billion for the first time. Smartphones drove 84 per cent of eCommerce sales in 2019. Physical retail, on the other hand, only saw a four per cent increase in 2019, all according to Adobe Digital Insights Holiday Recap 2019.
While many 2019 trends have continued this year, 2020 has shaped up to be vastly different in terms of the scale of digital acceleration due to the pandemic. Stuart Barker, Vice President EMEA of Movable Ink, gives four key strategies for digital marketers to think about and leverage during this final big month of holiday shopping and beyond.
1. Data-driven personalisation
Digital adoption has seen a surge as a result of COVID-19. In the UK, for instance, online sales as a proportion of all retailing reached a record high of 30.7 per cent in April 2020, exceeding the original record reported of 22.4 per cent in March 2020. Many customers have switched brands and retailers due to COVID-19, and about half expect to continue this behaviour.
Increased digital adoption requires data to power personalisation and engender brand loyalty. Data can power campaigns that highlight the most relevant information to customers across a variety of channels. Such campaigns can include resurfacing abandoned carted items, highlighting related products, and showing maps of a customer’s nearest store location.
2. Cross-channel activation
With every retailer trying to find their footing for this year, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding what the holidays would look like. But one thing is clear: eCommerce is playing a significant role and will continue to do so.
Before the pandemic, eMarketer predicted that during the 2020 holiday season eCommerce would account for $159.69 billion, almost 15 per cent of total holiday sales. While it’s uncertain if we’ll reach these numbers, we do know that eCommerce is the linchpin to retail’s survival.
To capture share of wallet from eCommerce growth, leveraging the right digital channels, especially in email and mobile, are pivotal during this final holiday push. For example, according to a study in Mobile Marketer, 70 per cent of mobile marketers reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has been somewhat positive for business and 75 per cent said users were highly engaged. With smartphones having driven 84 per cent of eCommerce sales in 2019, this channel will only grow in 2020, and marketers must take advantage of this.
3. Supply chain visibility
Retail and consumer products have experienced supply chain disruptions during the pandemic . According to Harvard Business Review, the world’s largest companies or their suppliers have more than 12,000 operations facilities (factories, warehouses, etc) in COVID-19 areas that have undergone extensive quarantines over the last nine months.
Even with businesses reopening, the traditional buying cycle is not being followed. Typically, June and July is when buyers place their orders for the holidays, but this has not been the case in 2020. Supply chain friction has resulted in uncertain product availability and marketing challenges. Marketers should continue to provide clear and consistent delivery communications (including BOPIS) and focus on expectation-setting, so customers know what they can get and when they can get it.
4. Value and savings visualisations
Because of COVID-19, we’ve seen an increased focus on value from the customer’s perspective. Economic uncertainty and high unemployment has weighed heavily on retail. That economic uncertainty has shifted the consumer mindset to a “Save More Spend Less” framework, and looking to the holidays, 44 per cent of consumers worldwide said they plan to spend less on holiday gifts and celebrations this year compared to last year.
One way consumers are curbing spending is by trading down from prestige and luxury products to more affordable, private-label options. Brands should be sensitive to consumer spending constraints this holiday season by demonstrating value wherever possible. They can bring deals to life with visualisations in email and in-app engagements that show customers exactly how much they can save and when deals end. Providing additional options such as digital payment instalment plans can also give customers much-needed breathing room in this economic environment.
A year unlike any before
This holiday peak season is certainly stretching marketing teams, but it also provides an opportunity to demonstrate true value, as well as prepare for the year ahead. These four strategies can help address this year’s unique pain points and the long-term trends that have been accelerating since 2019. With many brands offering deals on an ongoing basis throughout the peak holiday season, it’s important to remain agile and adjust your strategy to evolving consumer behaviour during this final month of holiday shopping and into the new year.