Multichannel E-commerce Strategies for a Changing Holiday Season

Ecommerce Holiday Season Pandemic Lockdown COVID-19
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The idea of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a one-off blitz day has shifted  this year, as large retailers advertised Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals across the entire month of November. As a result, it has become less about cramming a one-off, single-day deal into an already crowded inbox, and more about building a longer-term strategy and relationship with customers throughout the entire holiday season, surfacing the right ecommerce opportunities at the right times using targeting online engagement channels. 

This is also a unique year in the way that the coronavirus is impacting inventory across the board. Due to manufacturing stoppages and delays, there will be shortages of much more than the annual high-demand toys. So strategically being able to understand customer interests and themes as well as tactically communicating alternatives or updates (by sending real-time, back in stock notifications, for example) will be key to convert buyer interest into purchases. 

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for a massive shift to online shopping this holiday season.

There was a 45% YoY jump in Q2 for online sales and we should expect to see similar increases in Q3 and Q4 as consumers are both more comfortable buying online and forced to due to physical store restrictions in many parts of the country.  

Source: US Census Bureau

Amazon Prime Day in October also led to a rush of competitors offering early Black Friday deals this year, creating a longer buying window beyond just a heavy shopping weekend.  

More than 25% of all retail sales will occur online by 2024 and Forrester predicts total retail sales will fall 2.5% this year. 

Source: Forrester

Taking a data-driven mindset is critical for all marketers looking to cut through the noise during busy seasons. With small businesses competing with large retailers for customer attention and sales, stores must rely on technology and personalization to think outside the proverbial box to stand out from the crowd. 

Multichannel Marketing is Crucial to Customer Engagement

Multichannel Marketing is having a consistent presence for you consumers across many channels, such as web, mobile, social and messaging. The biggest benefit is your buyer (consumer or visitor) can interact with your brand via their choice of a variety of channels, and can have a consistent, seamless experience with your brand regardless of their preferred channels. Multichannel marketing is essential in the increasingly fragmented consumption habits of today’s consumer, who have come to expect personalized, targeted marketing.  

Businesses that are best positioned are those open to evolving to the changing environment, particularly this year given the pandemic. The businesses that embrace web, mobile, and social and take advantage of a variety of messaging channels like email, push, and sms will ensure they’re present in each place a prospective buyer wants to engage.  

Multichannel isn’t just a campaign, it is a core strategy. The first step is to understand where your current consumers are engaging, and then prioritize developing a consistent experience for every visitor across each of those channels. Start with a responsive website, assuming that’s updated for accessibility across PC, Mobile and Tablet browser visitors. Then complement the primary engagement channels with similar experiences on social media destinations and all your messaging channels. This should be inclusive of SMS, push and email, and work to personalize by each consumer’s preference.  

As an example of multichannel marketing that works, we can take a look at WarbyParker: they have a more digitally savvy target consumer, they’ve built a physical and digital cohesive consumer experience. They use push notifications to engage active consumers, SMS for appointments and to re-engage users who have opted out of other channels, and use email for transactional messaging like receipts. They even use physical direct mail to highlight new styles. Each consumer touchpoint is a consistent message of their offering, with the channel carefully tailored to the purpose of the messaging.

Multichannel Marketing Best Practices

Here’re some best practices effectively reach your users and increase holiday buyers using an multichannel communication strategy: 

  • Understand where your consumers are active and invest in those channels. You can just select the right channel, since multichannel doesn’t have to mean every channel. Pick those that make the most sense for your business goals, your product, and most importantly, your customer.
  • Establish consistency. Customize everything for the channel, but maintain brand consistency and messaging across them all
  • Earn your right to market on each channel: Opt-ins and sign ups can be fleeting and users can quickly revoke that hard-won access. Make sure to follow through on your promise to provide real user value on each channel. Think about the 1:4 social media rule: for every 1 self-promotional notification, make sure you’ve sent 4 user-focused messages with real customer value. 
  • Segment, segment, segment. Batch and blast is a thing of the past, and consumers have quickly come to expect relevant and personalized messaging on every channel. Give users the option to select which content they receive on which channels. Use their activity and any behavioral data you have to personalize your messages as much as possible, while eliminating irrelevant messages.
  • Create Urgency with Time-Sensitive Promotions. For example, Run an exciting “deal of the hour” promotion, creating even more urgency by offering an additional discount on top of the standard sale price, and use this as a forum to increase the opt-in customer list for Push & SMS.  Shopify Plus retailer, InspireUplift saw a 182% increase in revenue by leveraging push notifications in their customer engagement strategy.  
  • Make your Messaging Visually Rich. Build short but impactful interactions within your messaging. On Black Friday, rich notifications can alert users of upcoming deals a few days before the big day. You can even create a countdown until Black Friday starts. Then, once the frenzy begins, you can use rich messaging to remind users how much time remains until the end of Black Friday (or whenever your deal ultimately expires).
  • Prepare In Advance Using A/B Testing. A/B Testing can be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal, testing two versions of your message against each other with similar audiences, and observing the result. Use event tracking to ensure which message drives the desired outcome (beyond just a click), and then use that to grow the campaign to your broader audience.  

There’s no doubt this is a stranger year for eCommerce, but by adapting and adhering to best practices and the right messaging and touchpoints with your customers, brands can still drive revenue successfully to stand out from the crowd. 

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