It’s no secret that 2020 has been–this is putting it kindly–a dumpster fire. As we approach the final month of the year, we can at least take some solace in knowing that we get a clean slate. And what better way to start off 2021 with a bumper holiday sales season? Admittedly, we’re not out of the woods right now: consumer confidence is trending down and a government stimulus bill that puts money in the hands of millions of impacted Americans is on hold.
But people are still going to find ways to buy gifts for their loved ones. People are still going to open their wallets and spread holiday cheer. If there’s anything we’ve learned during this pandemic, it’s that there’s a path to success for ecommerce businesses especially. What are some creative ways to get your customers’ attention this holiday season? Let’s look at some telling statistics and examples so you can finish this year strong and put your business in a healthy position for 2021.
Optimize for voice search, particularly local searches
Voice search isn’t a new technology anymore–Alexa is six years old, Siri is nine, and Google Assistant is the baby of the family at just four years of age. What makes voice search so pivotal this year compared to previous years is that many of us, particularly the income bracket of people most likely to own a smart speaker, are working from home because of the pandemic. There are 83 million current smart speaker users in the US, 70% of them Alexa users. With that proximity to smart speakers, search patterns are going to be a little bit different.
Verbal searches tend to skew towards long-tail phrases. They also often incorporate modifiers such as “near me,” “open now,” or “local.” The change in search phrasing presents an opportunity for you to cater to local clientele in a way that a more broad-based ecommerce website typically does not. It’s worth adding landing pages to your site that utilize these modified keywords because there’s a better chance your ecommerce site will show up in local voice searches if you do. And hey, order fulfillment and shipping for local delivery is cheaper than long-distance!
Put customers front and center on social media
It’s never a bad time to get your customers more engaged with your brand. Your social media channels are the perfect showcase for your best salespeople–actual customers–to do the marketing legwork for you.
There are so many creative ways to get customers more involved and feel like they play a part in your brand. Whether it’s using the ever-popular polling feature of Instagram Stories or sharing customer experiences via photos or videos, you can and should leverage their enthusiasm to create buzz around your products. Never underestimate the power of using real people to sell.
Coupon codes are a big deal
Especially during an economic downturn, people want to save money. A touch ironic when the activity of holiday shopping is the 180 degree opposite of frugality, but exceptions will always be made come Christmastime. Coupons give customers the comforting balm of getting a steal, even if that’s not always the case.
Honey had almost 20 million active users when they were acquired by PayPal last year. Simply put, discounts bring the dollars in. Behavioral science tells us that merely switching the color of a pricetag in your ecommerce store from the default of black to red will trigger an impulse buy response, because shoppers have been conditioned to see prices in red as being on clearance.
You don’t necessarily have to drop your prices aggressively to see a lift in sales; just telling customers that you have a sale running, and perhaps dangling a few tasty loss leaders in front of them, might do the trick.
Use fear to your advantage
This idea is a bit extreme and should only be used in moderation, but if you’ve developed a lot of goodwill and loyalty with your customers it might be possible to create a sense of urgency by announcing that you’re not doing so well and could really use a bit of help.
The legendary Strand Bookstore in Manhattan announced that due to COVID, they were in danger of closing, and their customers bailed them out, placing 25,000 orders in a single weekend and even crashing the bookstore’s website in the process.
Unsavory? Yes. Effective? So long as you don’t make a habit of crying wolf and do your absolute best to treat customers with respect, the answer is probably yes. This crisis has brought out the worst of people in some ways, but it’s also brought out a lot of empathy and solidarity in some unexpected places. Just remember that you can’t unbreak the glass!
Craft virtual experiences
Especially if your sole focus is ecommerce and you don’t have a retail environment to layer onto the customer experience, it may seem challenging to come up with ways to engage with customers in a face-to-face manner.
Thinking outside the box and coming up with virtual experiences where you can bond with them, even if it’s just over a Zoom hangout, is a brilliant, low-budget way to build your brand. Caitlin Rethwish, founder of Etcetera Embroidery, has done exactly this.
“Before COVID, I tried to host a few in-person classes each year to teach beginners how to embroider. Once we went into lockdown, I lost that element, but heard from enough customers about their interest in a virtual class that it seemed like it would be worth the minor hassle of setting up a crafting session without the luxury of showing someone in person how to properly stitch up one of my embroidery patterns,” she said.
Rethwish said she charged a small fee for taking the class, but it’s clear that there’s more value derived from making people feel a bit of normalcy after so much of our routines have been interrupted by lockdowns and social distancing. And of course, the benefit of spending time chatting with your own customers is that you can learn a whole lot about the pros and cons of your product in a more low-key, authentic environment. Think of it like an organic focus group.
There’s a lot at stake this holiday season, but there’s no reason you can’t rise to the occasion and position your brand to gather as much momentum as possible through the end of December. Whether you tweak your marketing strategy to position yourself better in search or satisfy the cravings so many of us have for the company by hosting events on Zoom or Google Hangouts, remember that this too, shall pass. Eventually, things will return to normal, but the decisions you made to adapt this year and into the final stretch will help you build a better future for your ecommerce business.