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How to Navigate the COVID Holiday Season

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By Susan - October 14, 2020- in Go-Getter Blog

We’ve all seen enough memes and GIFs to grasp just how unprecedented and game-changing COVID is for everything from dining to shopping. However, unlike other industries, COVID is accelerating positive growth in the ecommerce marketplace with no signs of slowing down. This holiday season will also prove there’s an exception to everything we’ve known with more shoppers headed online & flooding the marketplace.

Anticipate a Healthy Q4

The world spent most of Q2 and Q3 of 2020 dealing with the fallout from COVID & navigating the latest restrictions and challenges. Despite brick and mortar shops and non-essential businesses shutting down, online sales continued to surge. The trends are looking promising for Q4 and holiday shopping, with consumers reporting they don’t plan to spend less this year compared to 2019. Sixty-six percent of shoppers also plan to spend more of their holiday dollars online in 2020.

Exercise Some Empathy

Ecommerce store owners are in a unique position. They can do more than just survive, but thrive during the holidays this year. However, this obviously isn’t the case for all consumers during the pandemic. It’s essential to exercise some empathy during the holiday season & remember shoppers are vulnerable & may be experiencing challenging times.
You don’t necessarily need to drop your prices during the COVID holiday season to accommodate customers, but how you communicate and position your products is essential. For example, avoid fear mongering or inflating anxieties if you’re selling decorative masks to combat COVID. Make sure to nurture your customers through your email sequences and empathize with them rather than expressing pity, fear, or ignoring the fact that they may be struggling.

Increase Consumer Awareness

With so many online stores & promotions to choose from, it’s crucial to increase consumer awareness about your brand. Focus on the channels you’re already active on and create engaging content as a pipeline of leads and potential sales. Start with email marketing to your current list or try your hand at Facebook ads.
Video content is also scoring big wins for brands looking to convert more customers. According to TechCrunch, 70% of viewers bought a brand due to seeing a YouTube ad. Paid ads aren’t the only way to compete on YouTube, working with an influencer to promote your product or releasing free tutorials are also ways to raise awareness.

Prep Your Inventory for Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Online store owners don’t need a reminder that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the main holiday shopping events. However, you should still anticipate significant changes during COVID. The opportunity for more shoppers could mean a spike in revenue, but also means more competition in the online space and potential inventory challenges.
Your inventory supply chain could be impacted by an influx in sales or issues with the manufacturer keeping up with demand. Ordering an influx of products may not be a feasible solution, depending on your ability to store it and accurately predict your sales forecast. One solution is using our ecommerce service. CustomCat users choose from our white-label products & customize them to their specifications. Next, we take care of the production, fulfillment, and shipping within a 2 to 3 business average. We even send out tracking information to the customers so you can focus on growing your store.
Aside from supply chain and fulfillment issues, you should also consider how your promotions will impact inventory. You could also consider creative, strategic products and promotions to keep your sales & inventory steady. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Sell more digital assets for instant download
  • Create virtual classes, workshops, and special events
  • Use the low stock alert app to create a sense of urgency to drive up sales
  • Create a “rainy day discount” for shoppers to pay in advance and receive the product at a later date
  • Use a live chat function to help customers find similar products that are still in stock

Strategize Shipping

Free, fast shipping still reigns for holiday shoppers and can make or break your sales. According to McKinsey & Company, 25% of consumers are willing to pay significant premiums for same or next day delivery. Not all online stores can compete year-round with Amazon’s premium shipping options, but you may need to give up some of your profits to snag a share of holiday sales. Earning new customers to sell to again & again, may be worth the trade-off.
Targeting local customers can also help offset shipping expenses. Offering local hand delivery may prove cheaper & provide a customized touch for new customers delighted by the door-to-door service.

Audit Your Site’s User Friendliness

Before you launch your holiday promotions and brace yourself for sales, take some time to audit your site’s user-friendliness. Customers don’t stick around for sluggish sites that are hard to navigate, especially when there are plenty of other online shops to choose from. A poor user experience could also predict the failure of your business. Up to 70% of online businesses that fail are offering lousy usability.
The upside is there is a strong correlation between quality user-friendliness and repeat business. A study by Google found that 74% of customers will return to a site due to its user-friendliness. Focusing on user-friendliness & giving your site an audit is straight-forward. Start by considering:

  • Website speed
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Seamless checkout
  • Communication touchpoints
  • Customer follow-up

And if you already have loyal customers, you can ask them to audit their experience and fill out a survey for feedback. In exchange, consider offering a coupon code or ability to shop holiday sales first.

Set a Promotional Budget

Even with a robust customer base, holiday promotions are the core of a successful shopping season. Advertise your products & services appropriately with your favorite ad platform, including Facebook ads, Google search ads, YouTube ads, and sponsored product placement.
Figuring out a promotional budget is challenging during the COVID holiday season, but can be done. Established ecommerce shops can look to previous years’ budget and performance as a benchmark of where to start. Regardless of if you’re a seasoned pro or new to the online selling game, it’s important to continuously keep an eye on ROI and make adjustments according to what’s working and what’s not.

A/B Test Your Advertising & Marketing Efforts

Even the most successful campaigns benefit from A/B testing; otherwise, you could be leaving money on the table. You also won’t know how COVID will impact your promotions & sales, making it more critical than ever to A/B test. The holiday shopping season can also create more urgency and a frenzy around discounts & premiums and should help shape your promotional efforts.
To start A/B testing, create at least three ads or promotions, and test each for:

  • Promotion
  • Copy
  • Images
  • Advertising platform
  • Target audience

Use each platform’s dashboard, as well as your own, to study your results. Measure the ROI of each holiday promotional spend per ad against the results. You can also use the same approach to A/B test your free marketing efforts, like an email newsletter campaign or uploading a video to your audience on YouTube. If you’re unable to effectively trace ROI directly back to your marketing, measure how much interaction & email sign-ups your efforts receive, to get an idea of what’s working.

Capture & Nurture New Customers

Ecommerce store owners dream of more revenue & sales during the COVID holiday season. And for some, it’s a necessity to catch-up on sales after a sluggish Q2 during the pandemic. However, online sales just scratch the surface of maximizing COVID’s holiday reach.
Use the influx of traffic and potential sales to capture new customer emails and nurture them through an ongoing journey. Hopefully, the pandemic will be over or winding down by the time the 2021 holiday season comes around. But you can still make the most of COVID’s ecommerce trends to set yourself up for long-term success.
Navigating the COVID holiday season is unchartered territory. It will take balancing these difficult times with nurturing online success. The good news is you can still extend empathy & care while experiencing a profitable shopping season.

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