Strategic Q4 Marketing: How to Develop a Winning Holiday Strategy
For consumers, the “holiday season” is about the joy of spending time with family, having large meals made with love, and exchanging gifts. As an ecommerce retailer, this is a bit different. Q4 is oftentimes your chance to capitalize on the influx of holiday sales. If an ecommerce strategy is implemented properly, you’ll have increased short-term sales and sustain growth into the new year.
So what key elements are needed for a winning holiday strategy? It all has to do with the timing, laying the groundwork ahead of time with rich content, balancing the promotional calendar, and capitalizing on any momentum generated.
Get the Timing Right
The most critical component is timing. As with anything, taking the right action at the wrong time can be ineffective. And nailing the timing for each activity can make or break the Q4 holiday season.
Getting the timing right for Q4 marketing strategies is especially important when considering how brief the holiday season actually is.
The vast majority of holiday shopping volume takes place between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. This long weekend is collectively called the “C5” or “Cyber Five.” But you have to be ready long before then.
Components of a Winning Holiday Strategy
Laying a Strong Foundation with Content
Prepping for Q4 begins long before you flip the calendar to October. Like professional athletes, savvy brands and retailers do the bulk of their training and heavy lifting in the off-season. Some elements of the holiday strategy can be implemented ad-hoc. But developing a strong content strategy usually requires a bit more work.
Consumers face the growing digital clutter of banners and advertisements on a daily basis. Etailers need to cut through the noise to deliver high-impact, unique content. This not-so-new trend of content marketing departs from the traditional price-based incentive. Instead, it opts for organic representation of the benefits, uses, experiences, and dynamics of products.
Editorial product reviews, buying guides, how-to guides, and product videos rank among the most popular types of content for delivering rich experiences to consumers. They provide a long-tail SEO benefit to surface pages in Google searches without paying for placement. Additionally, these types of unique content are often shared by other individuals and organizations. They help add organic exposure and drive traffic back to the product pages.
The tactic of providing rich content for customers isn’t just limited to blogs or videos. Product pages can also (and most definitely should!) be a home for providing in-depth detail about the products and use cases. This helps customers stay more informed when they are in the purchase phase of shopping. It also lifts the product pages in organic search during the awareness and research phases of the funnel.
According to the Adobe’s State of Digital Advertising Summit 2018, more than half of people think online ads are easy to ignore. The same amount of surveyed respondents indicated they had only ever accidentally clicked on ads as those that intentionally clicked ads. That, with increasing CPCs, makes developing a strong content strategy pre-Q4 a tactic that sets a foundation for extended growth into the future.
Promotional Pricing: A Strategic Twist on the Default Tactic
Promotional pricing is no new holiday strategy. But retailers often get caught in the “race to the bottom”—slashing prices to the bone in hopes of netting high volumes of orders. While it may succeed in driving high quantities of orders, the margins become sabotaged.
For brands, a price reduction can be detrimental to the long-term value of their product. This can follow a product for the remainder of its lifespan. However, that isn’t to say that promotional offers are bad. With the right pricing strategy, it can be a huge boost that drives widespread awareness of the product—contributing to increased revenue down the road. The key to promotional pricing is all in the strategic approach with a key focus on the timing.
When does holiday shopping start?
Holiday shopping may peak with Black Friday. But it starts at beginning of November, which means that your holiday strategy should kick off by late October.
Furthermore, 48% of customers purchase for themselves while shopping for others. This means that even if products aren’t at the lowest prices of the season, they will be getting increased traffic before the peak shopping days—with chances for conversion. This gives retailers an opportunity to start slowly discounting prices. As the above chart illustrates, price competition is extremely stiff once Black Friday hits.
One way around a straight price discount is to offer value bundles. Creating a unique offering with core products and accessories or peripheral items can incentivize more customers. This tactic works well for retailers who want to discount certain hot items but find themselves bound by MAP restrictions. It also works for brands who want to differentiate their holiday deals across channels.
While many in retail have been letting out a collective sigh of relief for making it through the holiday shopping season, the focus is on simply “filling the gap”.
There is an inherent spike in traffic on sites the day after Christmas, as the hectic nature of the holiday has relatively subsided, consumers might have heavier pockets from extra gift cards or cash gifts, and all those unfulfilled wishlists get a second look.
A One Punch Knockout is Never Enough
Very rarely do we see a “one-punch knockout” when developing an ecommerce strategy. With that mindset, etailers should not think in terms of dedicating all the strategic holiday marketing towards one area in hopes that it will be enough. Chances are, a multi-faceted approach is necessary for a robust holiday strategy.
Part of developing a deep strategic approach to ecommerce is by diversifying your sales channels. List on marketplaces like Newegg if you have not already. In the Internet Retailer consumer survey, 60% of customers plan on purchasing from online marketplaces during the holiday season.
The value of marketplaces is that each one caters to a different demographic. While everyone is aware of Amazon’s place in the digital shopping space, there are numerous other niche marketplaces that specialize in specific products. These may be perfect for your products and can have much less competition. Additionally, when considering a marketplace strategy for Q4, it is a good idea to not just set one promotional deal calendar for all the different channels or marketplaces. Instead, try to stagger the offers to have some channel exclusivity to maximize the impact of each placement.
Multichannel strategies also becomes more optimized when you use a shipping software to view and ship all orders in a single app. We have information on what to look for in a shipping software.
While the main focus of the holiday ecommerce strategy is the time leading up to the holiday, the massive influx of shoppers is a perfect opportunity to capitalize on Q4 sales. This is a great way to build long term customers.
For brands or retailers with access to consumer and purchase data, this information can help you create relationships with customers. Sources cite thecost of acquiring a new customer as five times higher than retaining a current customer, and thinking about the new holiday shopper as a potential long-term customer can pay dividends long into the future.
Holiday Planning and the Changing Ecommerce Landscape
Q4 and beyond is bright for online retailers. With the upward trending growth of U.S. ecommerce sales as a percentage of total retail sales hitting 11.6% in 2016, 13% in 2017, and 14.3% in 2018. It paves the way for continued opportunity. Rapidly developing mobile commerce and a 3% annual growth in consumer comfort purchasing gifts online helped contribute to an overall 19.2% growth YOY from 2017 to 2018, totalling $22.55 billion during the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.
With an established ecommerce holiday strategy, merchants can prime themselves for immediate growth in Q4 and long-term compounding success for the new year ahead that capitalizes on emerging trends.
This blog was contributed by Greg Rice, Sr. Marketing Manager for Newegg Marketplace, the leading global tech marketplace with a presence in over 80 countries. Newegg Marketplace offers brands and retailers alike a robust e-commerce platform and operations suite to maximize their revenue and branding goals on a global scale.