Bernard May is the CEO of National Positions, a 5-time Inc. 500 company, award-winning marketing agency and Google Premier Partner.
The end of the year means a calendar full of holiday fun, stressful shopping, extravagant gift-wrapping and, of course, the coveted holiday season marketing article (which you’re reading right now).
Just as you can always count on the same holiday playlist to be cranked up and on repeat any- and everywhere you go, you can expect to see all kinds of holiday-oriented e-commerce tips and suggestions on business websites in these final months of the year. It provides people like me with the perfect opportunity to offer some marketing advice to e-merchants who want to capitalize on the seasonal buying frenzy. While new tips, trends and strategies do arise each year, I’ll be the first to admit that these articles usually say, more or less, the same things — that is, until 2020.
This year has been anything but normal. Therefore, some updates and adaptations to those typical end-of-year marketing strategies are in order. Simply put, the pandemic has been a game changer, making many of those tried-and-true holiday marketing strategies either ineffective or in many cases, impossible. It’s important for your brand to change with the times so you can navigate your way through a consumer landscape that has been impacted by pandemic-influenced restrictions.
What follows are five suggestions I’ve put into action for my clients that I hope you too can use to bring joy to your customers and your bottom line.
Using Curbside Pickup
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Curbside pickup — sometimes called BOPAC (buy online, pick up at curbside) — is one of those formerly little-seen commerce options that has become a necessity for many consumers. BOPAC has seen a 208% increase since the pandemic began. And its popularity will likely persist well past the holiday season.
Many customers have become accustomed to (and may prefer) the process of purchasing their products online and then simply picking them up — without ever leaving the safety of their vehicle. Ideally, you should have dedicated areas for customer curbside pickup. Not only will this help with the holiday buying crowds, but you will also be set to continue offering curbside pickup after the holidays.
The reality is that there are many customers who are going to prefer curbside pickup for the foreseeable future, and if you don’t provide this option, your competitors will.
Featuring Product Availability
Keeping your e-commerce sites operating smoothly is more important now that we’re in the middle of the holiday shopping hustle and bustle. You can do your customers a valuable favor by providing product availability information surrounding any particular retail items (e.g., in stock, out of stock, available for order, etc.), that can be clearly viewed when they are searching online. How can customers purchase online and pick it up if they don’t know if it’s even available?
Making shopping easy for your customers does not need to be a hassle for your business. Consider trying out some handy tools that help you automate all this. For instance, Facebook has a simple product availability update feature, and Google offers a similar updating tool for automating this important function.
Leveraging New Google My Business Features
Yes, Google My Business (GMB) has introduced some brand-new options in response to Covid-19, and you might be selling yourself short if you’re not using all of them. For one thing, any post that is labeled “Covid-19 update” gets approved much faster than a normal post, which can get delayed due to Google’s reduced GMB workforce. Other useful innovations include:
• ‘Temporarily Closed’ feature: If you plan to open back up post-pandemic, then you can simply mark your business “temporarily closed” and signal to customers that you haven’t gone away for good. This will not harm your local search ranking.
• Shopping options: You can — and you should — indicate whether you offer delivery, carryout or curbside pickup.
• Secondary hours: If certain parts of your store have different hours from the rest (such as a temporary drive-in service), you can now show this in your profile.
These new GMB tools let your customers know what your business is up to and when, during these (still) uncertain times.
Focusing On E-Commerce Sales Over Physical Retail Selling
Businesses this year can expect to spend less time than usual on accommodating in-store shoppers and much more on managing their e-commerce operations. In fact, online sales are expected to increase by 25% to 35% compared with last year.
You need to be ready for a surge in e-commerce activity as well as a slowdown in postal activity. Many commentators believe that, due to a combination of Covid-19 lockdowns and holiday-related consumer reactions, we could encounter substantial postal delays. Be sure to factor that into your “arriving by Christmas” shipping estimates.
Optimizing Shipping Options
To get the most out of this holiday season, you must figure out how to tackle (and give some love to) those shopping cart abandoners.
According to one study, 50% of abandoned carts end up, well, abandoned, because the customer encountered surprise shipping costs or some other hidden fee during checkout. One way to counteract this is to provide free shipping or an “all orders over $25 get free shipping” type of offer. Seeing as customers tend to purchase more during the holidays, it’s not too difficult to get customers to reach whatever (reasonable) free shipping threshold you set.
On a related note, you also want to ensure that your checkout pages load as quickly as possible — don’t give your customers time to question whether they should continue with their purchase due to a lagging website.
Are You Holiday Ready?
One thing remains as true as ever in 2020: It’s best to get ready for the holiday season as early as reasonably possible. Most shoppers don’t wait until December to get into the holiday spirit, and neither should you. Capturing those early shoppers is a vital part of the holiday sales experience. Wishing you and your team a safe, healthy holiday season filled with new orders, returning customers and some magical results.
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Author: Bernard May, Forbes Councils Member