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Building Blocks for Increasing Online Holiday Sales

Last week, we reported on tips for preparing your digital marketing efforts for the holiday season. This week, we promised a follow-up on selling.

Now that you have prepared your campaigns, it is almost time to sell your merchandise. Here are some tips to amplify your revenue based on successful sales: 

  • (1) Build Your List(s) With Promo Codes

Every brand marketer’s goal is to capture a consumer’s email address because it facilitates a 1:1 connection and is a cost-effective (it’s free!) way to communicate with them. Here are some ideas to help capture even more email addresses with your marketing campaigns:

  • – Sign-up forms from platforms like Mailchimp.
  • – Promo codes to incentivize customers to offer up their email addresses.
  • (2) Increase Site Traffic & Conversion By Creating a Sense of Urgency

We all know that being familiar with your customers is key. It ensures marketers are getting the right messages to the most relevant customers. Moreover, if the messaging is effective, interactions with merchandise increase. Here is how you can enhance these interactions:

  • – Use time sensitive countdowns to build urgency, i.e. “Only 12 hours remaining!”
  • – Send abandoned cart emails with low inventory notifications (try to be honest about this!).
  • – Utilize on-site inventory flags, i.e. “Only a few left!”
  • – Promote shipping cut-offs to create urgency for the holidays. Not only will merchandise have a better chance of arriving on time, but this will help your products get off the shelves sooner.
  • (3) Continue the Conversation & Further Grow Conversion

Continued engagement is all-important. Once you have captured a consumer’s email address and they have browsed your site and/or purchased, stay in touch! Here are couple ways you can do this:

  • – As noted above, send abandoned cart emails, but make them feel personal. 
  • – Did you know that you can drive 34x more orders by sending personal emails vs. bulk emails? (source: Mailchimp)
  • – Enlist the help of retargeting ads.
  • – Ensure you are not marketing sold out items.

While selling for the holiday season technically begins Thanksgiving weekend, it feels like it has already started. By the time December hits, there is so much to be learned not only for the next holiday season, but for Q1 2022. In December, we’ll be back with tips and tricks for learning from selling season.

Information sourced from Mailchimp eCommerce Masterclass Series.  

 

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Building Blocks for Planning a Successful Holiday Season

Retail Dive recently reported that November and December drove 30% more revenue for online retailers than non-holiday. This year, we are expecting an even higher jump online due to intense digital adoption. For these reasons, marketers everywhere are laser focused on the holiday season (especially digital) due to macro factors at play such as high demand coupled with global supply chain setbacks.

As marketers, we’re currently in ‘planning’ mode. Here are some tips to prepare your marketing efforts for this holiday season: 

  • (1) Maximize Average Order Value (AOV)

Encourage customers to purchase more than they originally planned by:

  • – Reminding them of free shipping / offering a threshold for free shipping; an effective way to get an additional $5-10 to AOV.
  • – Share personalized recommendations based on what is in their cart or what they browsed.
  • – Merchandise add-ons.
  • – Utilize pop-ups to enhance the check-out journey.
  • – Create and market gift bundles.
  • (2) Lean Into Unique Promotional Messaging
  • As online shopping continues to soar in popularity, competition will be higher than ever. Ensure that your offers are obvious not only in your marketing, but in your site experience as well. Entice customers with promotions such as:
  • – A value proposition: Do you value sustainability? Are your products ethically produced? Do you have socially responsible partnerships? Can you encourage shopping locally or small business Saturday? Customers are seeking reasons to purchase from your brand.
  • – One-click gifting: Offer filters in your navigation, demonstrate savings with a countdown, feature an easy check out experience.
  • – Point to time-saving extras such as gift-wrapping, quick delivery, BOPIS, and more.
  • (3) Get Ahead of the Rush with Site Traffic

It feels like holiday shopping has already started. Get ahead of the competition we discussed earlier and market right now – before the official start of the holiday season (Thanksgiving weekend) – using some of these tactics:

  • – Determine why customers would want to shop early; offer limited-edition collections, partnerships, limited stock messaging, brand / founder favorites, shipping incentives – anything that gives a sense of “must-have” or “buy early.”
  • – Highlight must-have items in channels that promote authenticity or feel personal such as influencer or email marketing.
  • – Use promotional emails for sales, but we recommend using sparingly.
  • (4) Build a Marketing Calendar to Facilitate Engagement

It is important to understand what you’re marketing and why. While this may seem like an internal exercise, it is reportedly one of the most impactful planning tips. A calendar will help reduce message fatigue, grow sales, enhance product variety, and strengthen customer experience. Here is what you can do:

  • – Analyze inventory to determine the largest and smallest buys.
  • – Identify products you’d like to market.
  • – Map out communications daily.
  • – Ensure there is enough product variety and that your marketing tactics mirror your merchandising efforts.
  • (5) Add a Site Merchandising Plan to Boost CTR

This will create a streamlined path to conversion. Your merchandising strategy should mirror your marketing strategy.

  • – For example, your home page should match your email marketing, which should then match your social strategy as well as the product itself. Consistency is key!

Stay tuned for next week’s post on ‘selling’ mode (hint: it’s November & December!). We will share tips for increasing sales and how to handle the end of Q4 in terms of sales strategy.

Sources include Retail Dive and Mailchimp’s eCommerce Masterclass Series.  

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What You Need to Know About Apple’s iOS 15 Updates & Its Potential Effect on Your Email Marketing Efforts

Data privacy continues to be top-of-mind for marketers especially for some of the largest – and arguably most influential – players in the digital space. Recently, Apple announced its iOS 15 software update that will significantly impact marketers. More specifically, it will influence how we measure email success.

Be In the Know

With the iOS 15 update, it is likely that email open rates will be inflated. The level of inflation will be determined by number of Apple Mail users in a company’s email file or customer-base. In 2020, about 50% of emails opened were from Apple products using the Mail feature.  

What to Expect

  • Open rates will be inflated.
    • With iOS 15, Apple Mail automatically downloads images. This then triggers the tracking pixels embedded to send an “opened” response back to the ESP server.
    • Even if a user does not open an email, this new feature will trigger an “opened” response the moment that images are downloaded.
  • Date and time could be inaccurate.
    • With Apple Mail, the “opened” signal is sent the moment the images are downloaded. Therefore, marketers will have no way of knowing that when the images are downloaded, the prospect or customer was viewing the email.
  • Triggers or workflows based on an “opened email” will be disrupted.
    • It is common practice for marketers to resend campaigns to consumers who did not open the email the first time a campaign is launched. With iOS 15, marketers will not know who specifically opened the email and therefore, would risk resending the email to the wrong individuals.
  • Location-based email targeting relying on IP address will no longer be reliable.
    • This new feature masks Apple users’ IP addresses, so their online activity and location will not automatically link.
    • The functionality of the “countdown” clock widget may be impacted, but we do not know for certain yet.

What This Means For You

We understand that this update is creating new hurdles for marketers. We are with you! However, it is important to look at the bright side:

  • This update will not impact all email subscribers. Right now, Google, Outlook and other email users make up more than 60% of the global share and they have not announced any updates.
  • Clicks and click-through-rates (CTR) will not be affected by this update, which are often even more accurate metrics to determine engagement.
  • This is a time to get creative. We can tie site traffic to an email campaign, enlist the help of clickmaps, and analyze unsubscribe rates.
  • A/B testing is still an option! Taking subject line testing as an example, marketers will still be able to determine an outlier even though open rates will be inflated. As a secondary option, clicks can also determine this winner. If a Call-to-action (CTA) is featured, marketers can measure success through conversion data or site activity.

As marketers, we understand not only the importance of data & analytics, but why keeping data privacy at the forefront of your omnichannel strategy is necessary. In fact, a couple of months ago, we published articles encouraging your proactivity regarding data privacy and how to be data compliant in 2021. However, no one can prepare for the updates that the industry’s largest players have made, and will continue to make. We can only accept these challenges, and design new systems and processes in accordance with them. We are steadfast in bringing you the most innovative and cutting-edge solutions, and we will continue to do so, even with the iOS 15 update in place. 

Sources include Lift Engine, Hubspot, Apple, and AdWeek.

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Looking Back at 2020 Holiday Shopping Digital Results & Trends

Due to the global supply chain, retail distribution has been quite challenging these days. Last month, we encouraged marketers to think about delays in terms of your omnichannel strategy for the holiday season. While we are looking ahead and preparing for what is to come, we decided it would be helpful to look back as well. Focusing on 2020 holiday shopping digital results and trends, there is a story to be told for this year’s predictions and results.

  • Annual Events & Celebratory Days

Last year, online shopping hit all-time records. Revenue grew by 32% YoY and exceeded $188.2B for the first time (source: Adobe Analytics). Thanksgiving Day resulted in a record 20%+ YoY in online sales with consumer spend $5B+. On Black Friday, consumers spent $9B, making it a top online shopping day (source: Search Engine Land). Cyber Monday spending exceeded $10B (source: Investopedia). While November and December are important months, the impact of annual events and celebratory days is unrivaled year after year.

Smartphones vs. Tablets and Desktops

In looking at the record-breaking spending on Thanksgiving day and Black Friday in 2020, much of that shopping occurred on smartphones. In fact, almost 50% of the transactions from Thanksgiving day were completed on smartphones, which was yet another record; and 40% of spending on Black Friday was executed on a smartphone (source: Search Engine Land). With digital adoption climbing, we expect smartphones to continue winning with holiday shopping this year.

  • Changing Consumer Behavior

Both physical behavior as well as interests and values are important factors to consider. In terms of physical behavior last year, hours spent on shopping apps was up 50% YoY (source: App Annie via Forbes). When discussing values, interests and what U.S. consumers bought for holiday 2020, 63% purchased products online that they had not considered before the pandemic; this number rose to 75% for millennials (source: PFS Commerce via Forbes). This year, consumers will likely focus on the technology itself; frictionless checkouts, fast load speeds and more will undoubtedly drive success for competing retailers.

Power of Social Media

Social media was the reason that 45% of consumers “discovered something new online last [holiday] season and said it was a gift for someone” (source: Big Commerce). Additionally, it was the first year that Facebook Shops became available. Since then, we have seen the power of not only Facebook Shops, but the importance of both paid and organic social as well as the power of influencer marketing in this era of intense digital adoption.  

  • Importance of Reviews, Powered by Customer Experience

Customers relied heavily on reviews and recommendations in 2020. The number of digital touchpoints that a brand has with a consumer is constantly evolving. For example, BOPIS was a huge draw for consumers with convenience and experience remaining top-of-mind. With increasing retailer competition, reviews and recommendations became that much more important. Looking at how much consumers relied on reviews last year, there is an opportunity to capitalize on those positive reviews with your marketing spend. 

In reviewing many of holiday 2020’s top digital trends, specific learnings can be applied to holiday 2021. For example, positive reviews can be included in SEM to increase paid search results; influencer marketing can both inspire purchase decisions and provide branded content; and hot new channels like Connected TV (CTV) can capitalize on smartphone usage.

All in all, if the big gift you’re asking for this holiday season is significant ROI and impactful revenue streams from your marketing campaigns, we can deliver, just put it on your list!

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The Truth About Your Campaign Metrics: Facebook Announces that Apple Data Is Skewing Conversions

As digital adoption continues to soar post-pandemic, it is evident just how interconnected we really are. This week, Facebook began to quantify the negative aspects of this interconnectivity.

On Wednesday, September 22nd, Facebook announced that it underreported ad performance due to Apple’s iPhone privacy update for its iOS operating system. Specifically, Facebook estimated that it is currently underreporting web conversions on Apple’s iOS by approximately 15% and that this could affect advertisers of various sizes in many ways.

Why This Happened

Recently, Apple made a pivotal update for its users; now iPhone and iPad users will need to opt in to being tracked when they launch an app for the first time. It is now evident how much this new parameter affected advertisers’ campaigns.

What This Means For You

Facebook Vice President of Product Marketing shared in a blog post: “We believe that real world conversions, like sales and app installs, are higher than what is being reported for many advertisers.” Therefore, the results that you are seeing are likely lower than how your campaign is actually performing. 

How We Can Help

Partnership is at our core. We understand that this is not an ideal situation, but because of our strong industry ties and media relationships, we will get through this together. In fact, our digital and data & analytics teams are already working on solutions and adjustments considering this news, which includes:

  1. Working with our Facebook reps to further understand the percentage of users/conversions being impacted across each of our individual clients, and then building models that factor in the potential data loss
  2. Leveraging our clients’ website analytics tools (Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, etc.) to measure key engagement and conversion data points to supplement data coming directly from Facebook.
  3. Researching additional technology solutions to layer on top of Facebook and website analytics platforms to help fill any gaps in the data (however, we are in the early days of these new data privacy issues, and this is more of a longer-term play).

As marketers, we always aim to keep our tech stack fresh, current, and innovative. We are looking forward to solving the challenge Facebook and Apple have presented to us. We are especially looking forward to delivering to you the positive results we know your campaign is driving towards. Stay tuned!

Sources include CNBC, Facebook, and AdAge.

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The Ultimate Lesson: How Back-to-School Can Prepare Marketers for Holiday 2021

As the global supply chain continues to struggle to keep up with consumers’ needs, the Back-to-School (BTS) market is the latest segment to be negatively impacted. With many children back to learning in-person this fall, the feared shortages for supplies unfortunately have become a reality.

 

Results showed that about 50% of consumers spent less on BTS shopping last year (source: Times Record News). While we are still waiting on this year’s results, given increasing demand for the continued shortage of BTS essentials, the numbers likely will be similar if not lower.

 

Observing the challenges that BTS shoppers have faced, there is much to be learned for the upcoming holiday season. With the recent chip shortage, not only is the BTS market suffering, but so are huge industries like automobiles. This will undoubtedly affect the types of products and offerings available for the holiday season. Video games, cell phones, cars, and home appliances all use chips. We need to be prepared for the most desired products to be more difficult to purchase.

What BTS Can Teach Marketers for Holiday 2021

Launch Your Holiday Marketing Campaigns Earlier

Tailor your marketing strategy to the 2021 calendar. This year, Thanksgiving is earlier and holiday shopping will begin sooner. We predict the buying cycle will therefore change. There will be five weeks of shopping leading up to Christmas. Consumers will be shopping earlier and longer further adding to the disruption in traditional holiday shopping habits.

 

No matter who you are targeting this year, timing is everything. We recommend keeping timing—when you want your customers viewing your products and services—at the forefront. All touchpoints will be affected, and even more reason to keep your marketing strategy fresh.  

 

Continue to Bet on eCommerce & Test New Channels

Retail eCommerce sales are projected to make up almost 19% of total holiday retail sales this year (source: eMarketer). Due to the pandemic, we saw more of an online push last year than ever before, which continued to propel marketers’ digital spend forward. This year, retailers are again putting emphasis on eCommerce, and we are expecting a similarly early start to the holiday season, especially due to rumors that Amazon will promote a second Prime day this fall. Additionally, offering earlier holiday sales would ideally help avoid fulfillment issues later in the season.

 

With increased digital adoption and more time spent online, there has never been a better time to explore other digital avenues such as Connected TV (CTV) and Digital Audio. Check out our most recent post on “Why CTV Right Now?” to learn more about this channel.   

 

Understand that Location Matters: The “Shop Local” Trend Endures.

In January, we shared retail predictions for 2021 with many of them ringing true. Specifically, “Shop Local” prevails, and will be especially important to keep in mind. With consumers’ potentially negative BTS experiences tied with last year’s holiday shopping, many will shop locally to avoid dealing with inventory issues, shipping delays or added fees.

 

Focusing on your targeted acquisition strategy as well as paid search (hint: check out geo targeting capabilities) is especially relevant this year.  

 

Increased Foot Traffic Is a Possibility.

With a pandemic that’s lasted for 1.5+ years, consumers understand what it means to shop in-store. They are now familiar with BOPIS and physically shopping in PPE. Due to the current state of the supply chain, it is possible that traffic in traditional stores may increase slightly this holiday because of consumers’ BTS shopping experiences and anticipation regarding inventory issues and shipping delays.

 

We recommend accounting for this pickup in your CRM systems, holiday promotions and marketing communications. 

 

Rely on Customer Loyalty…Keep Your Bottom-of-Funnel Customers & Prospects Close.

Being familiar with your brand, having experience with your customer service team, knowing the quality of your products and services…are all increasingly important factors. As more consumers experience delays with BTS products and gear up for holiday, they will rely on the brands they know and love. Additionally, they will likely present a higher AOV than top-of-funnel or newer customers because they trust your brand, regardless of supply chain issues or warnings about shipping delays.

 

Not sure who your target customers and prospects are or how to identify them? Uncover powerful insights with data & analytical tools like forecasting, attribution, database management, and digital operations. 

 

Overall, experts say that some of the shortages and frustrations surrounding BTS materials and equipment could have been solved by shopping earlier. In fact, they warn “start shopping online now” (source: News10). That said, the pointed execution of your marketing campaigns featuring strategy and revenue generation are our goal. Taking into account the many macro challenges this year presents, we look forwarding to ‘acing’ this test together!

Sources: Times Record News, eMarketer, ©2021 Insider Intelligence Inc., Ask Wonder, Tech Walla

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Why Connected TV (CTV) Right Now?

CTV impressions soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Channel continues to be one of the fastest growing outlets when it comes to ad spend. Last year the pandemic accelerated cord-cutting and drove 40.6% growth YoY (eMarketer, March 2021).

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It’s Not Just the Summer Weather – Direct Mail is HOT!

Almost 500 years after the end of the European Renaissance, direct mail is beginning its own Renaissance. Here is why we are seeing this revival: Forty-one percent of Americans look forward to receiving mail. Beyond that 31% used direct mail to make their most recent purchase decision. Due to this, 25% of marketers planned to raise their direct to consumer mail budget last year to account for the uptick in interest and results. We understand that “direct mail” is a very broad term. It is helpful to note that direct mail is more than just catalogs. We are seeing many types of print formats as well as a variety of specifications and volumes. These pieces complement traditional catalogs. View below more detail on the various types of mail that is sent directly to customers. These are hot right now, so you can make an informed decision as to what best suits your marketing needs.

Funded Direct Mail

Definition: Conventional direct mail without incurring the upfront capital investment. Why It’s Hot: The use of mailing directly is predicted to more than double this year. Funding accelerates your growth and profitability without the costs associated with a traditional direct to consumer mail plan. More specifically, you pay a fixed amount per customer while taking minimal risk and it frees up spend for other channels.

Programmatic

Definition: Allows brands to send triggered or automated direct to consumer mail to website visitors. Why It’s Hot: Fifty-seven percent of marketers reported that direct to consumer mail contributed a 12% increase in response rates to multichannel campaigns. By mailing directly to online shoppers, a programmatic strategy puts your brand in front of the prospect or customer multiple times for a more manageable cost.

Campaign-Based Direct Mail

Definition: Directly mailing campaigns yields a high ROI, and work even more effectively when tied to a specific event or holiday (i.e., Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, Mother’s Day, Store Opening, Anniversary, Birthday) Why It’s Hot: Campaign-based directly sent mail promotes testing at a low, all-inclusive per piece price. More specifically, it allows a brand to pivot quickly in terms of format, layout and creative if the response rate is favorable or unfavorable. In these changing times, this is a viable strategy.

Insert Media 

Definition: A pre-printed advertisement that usually features a special offer. Hundreds of brands use inserts to acquire new customers across a wide range of demographic and lifestyle segments. Insert media delivers numerous new customers at a low cost and with significant reach. Why It’s Hot: Insert Media is a cost-effective, reliable and revenue generating solution for brands. More specifically, it is targetable and measurable, drives cross-channel results, offers category exclusivity, and serves as a brand endorsement. From catalog blow-ins, package inserts, shared mail, onserts, and single-sheet inserts, to statement inserts, Insert Media is turnkey with us. What’s more: Insert Media is not affected by the postage rate increases. We understand that there is “no one size fits all” when it comes to your brand’s marketing strategy. We are here to help you determine the right direct to consumer mail “fit” to further elevate your plan and join the Renaissance happening now. In the meantime, you might be wondering: “What about all the news on the USPS rate increase that I’m reading?” We have you covered. Next week, we’ll be sharing all that you need to know about these upcoming changes and our recommendations for your continued success. Sources include Oxford Languages, Plumb Marketing, Pebble Post, and Marketing Chart.
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Why Direct Mail Today

Did you know that 83% of purchases are influenced by direct mail? (source: Pebble Post). For this reason, mailing directly is a key component of the media mix. To add perspective, here are additional facts and figures pointing to the power of direct mail.