Black Friday weekend is one of the biggest opportunities for ecommerce companies across the globe. This four-day weekend, ecommerce players stand a chance to double up their revenues. However, it's not as easy as running a promotional sale and hitting your sales targets with an email blast. You've got to have the right strategy and know all the best tips and tricks if you're going to beat your competitors and attract the lion's share of the market.
Retail customers in today's digital world demand hyper-personalized content and tailored experiences from their favorite brands. In fact, it has become an almost symbiotic arrangement.
For brands that have taken the time to prepare, the Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend is a real treasure trove. Here are some key takeaways that can help you extract the best from this time:
1. Use create actionable buying personas: Technology enables personalized interactions, especially critical to achieving maximum sales during the holiday season. If your customer database only offers a fragmented view of a brand's targets, then the marketing team will only be able to come up with a one-size-fits-all marketing plan that makes no distinction between customers and where they are in their buying cycles. It would be impossible for even the most talented and hardest working marketing team to manually act on data while still finding time to focus on high-level business objectives. That's why your marketing team must leverage technology to collect, store, and analyze data, draw conclusions, automate, send, recommend, and make offers, freeing you up to focus on complex creative tasks.
With all this information now readily available, it's possible to build holiday campaign strategies well in advance, and precisely target the customers most likely to make a purchase. Marketers can use unified customer profiles to communicate with those customers in a distinct way and target them with the most relevant content.
That's where the right technology, with access to strong data, helps ease the way.
2. Use artificial intelligence to create personalized offers: Unlike the snow that will cover some of the globe this holiday season, artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay. Grandiose pictures have been painted over the course of the last several years, all portraying AI as some majestic game-changing miracle eluding most marketers. Yet the practical application of AI in marketing is here, very real and usable. Scaling personalized holiday-themed messages has become a reality for marketing teams. Amazon's "might also like" feature, for instance, is one widely recognized example of machine learning in action, using pattern recognition to determine what a customer has done in the past to predict what they might do in the future.
AI runs on fuel — the data and unified profiles you've collected — and works to target customers with messages, incentives and offers specific to each individual. You can also leverage AI technology to decipher the best ways to personalize customer experiences with your brand.
AI helps to pinpoint abandoned carts, initiate customized win-back campaigns and even leverage other channels to reach customers who have opted out of email. Discounts and sales are synonymous with holiday shopping; Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone inspire some of the deepest discounts for the entire year. However, a traditional one-to-many approach to incentives creates a couple of problems for retailers and ecommerce, problems they might not even be able to identify without underlying AI capabilities.
3. Reward loyal customers: Despite the hectic pace of Black Friday, don't lose sight of the customer. By rewarding loyal customers with special deals, you can cultivate even more holiday sales and attract customers to your loyalty program. Reward your most loyal customers with an even better offer to buy during the sales period. It provides intermittent or new customers an incentive to join a loyalty program. Some examples of this include Amazon giving exclusive offers to Prime customers and Best Buy opening sales early to members.
4. Tackle the price concern with analytics and door buster sales: Consumers still see price as the most important factor related to shopping during the holiday season, according to Trustpilot. As many as 62% of shoppers cite pricing as their chief concern, well ahead of:
+ Customer service (47.5%)
+ Shipping/delivery (40.9%);
+ Product availability (36.2%); and
+ Returns policy (20.8%).
As it did in 2016, shoppers' desire for holiday bargains once again will rear its head. Retailers are going to have to continue engaging in deep discounts, simply because that's what consumers are conditioned to expect. But merchants must ensure their discounts are more personalized to encourage the customer to spend more, or else they may cut into potential profit margins.
5. Target Millennial Dads: Over the last few holidays, people have written or talked about Millennial Moms or Millennials in general. But looking at Millennial Dads, it's been observed that they use their smartphone to pay in store almost three times as much as all other shoppers (49% to 17%). They'll use wearable devices at a level of almost four times as often, and they're also three times more likely to shop using smart technology such as Alexa or Google Home. This data tells us that Millennial Dads are a demographic that retailers probably need to pay a little bit more attention to in a more deliberate way.
6. Use social media creatively and effectively: Create compelling and personalized content on social media, tailoring to specific interests and revolving around a particular holiday theme. Also, focus on using content that demonstrates higher engagement levels than images -— such as videos, carousel ads, GIFs, YouTube, and slide shows. A great way to get more organic reach is by incentivizing sharing. For instance, you can tell your audience something like, "Share this on a friend's wall and get 15% off." If you already advertise on Facebook, consider slightly increasing your ad budgets in order to push against competitors!
7. Create targeted pixels: If you use paid advertising such as Facebook Ads or Google AdWords, you should place retargeting pixels on your website so you can remarket to your holiday sale traffic.
8. Use social media listening for feedbacks or complaints: When users can't get what they need, they often turn to any available channel to voice their complaints. Voice of Customer tools like OpinionLab capture comments from customers that can help you to target issues before they become real problems. Monitoring social media for brand mentions is a no-brainer on a day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday; someone should be checking in on all major social media channels throughout the day.
9. Optimizations: Many businesses assume simply having a web presence is enough to attract and retain visitors, but most websites don't automatically make it onto Santa's nice list. Ecommerce websites need to be optimized for search, performance and usability in order to reach and engage online consumers:
• Be SEO savvy: Make sure that your site is up to date on SEO matters. SEO is important because it can help enhance your visibility and page ranking on Google. A couple of simple things you can check your website for are: title tags, meta descriptions, 404 pages and URLs. Also, use keyword-savvy text on your onsite content. Keep in mind that SEO is a long-term and ongoing process, so the earlier that you start the better!
• More and better add-ons: Plan how you will handle the extra traffic and sales. If you don't already use live chat, consider adding it to your website now. The more ways customers can contact you to get help with orders, the better. Enable your website with add-ons like voice-based and visual searches and online virtual trials. Be user friendly. The more simplified yet unique your buying process, the better chance of a conversion.
• Mobile optimization: According to Mobify, 70% of ecommerce traffic by the end of 2018 will be accounted to mobile devices. To boost conversions and revenues through mobile, etailers can start with improving webpage navigation, website speed and offering one-click purchases through mobiles. You can boost impulse purchases by reducing the amount of effort it takes to buy something. Don't make the customers wait.
• Optimize your emails for better ROI: With consumers' inboxes constantly being flooded with emails, making sure your brand stands out doesn't come without its challenges. However, transactional emails have eight times more opens and clicks than any other type of email and can generate six times more revenue. Since customers are already opening these emails at a greater rate, optimizing the emails with personalized messaging, graphics and CTA buttons will help drive repeat sales and generate brand loyalty. This could help increase your total sales by an average of 15%!
• Add Live Chat: With so many eager shoppers dying to get their hands on your products and take advantage of your Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, you can bet they'll be overly antsy and have tons of questions to ask. Which is why even if you don't have live support year round as a smaller online merchant, you should certainly consider it for the busy holiday season.
10. Fulfillment that's faster than a reindeer sleigh: Your ecommerce site is optimized, your social campaigns are a success and your inventory is under control— all leading to record holiday sales. But with increased sales comes a spike in fulfillment demands. And no other time of year is shipping expediency a bigger customer demand. I'm looking at you, last-minute shoppers!
To keep up with crazy delivery demands, make sure your holiday fulfillment strategy includes:
+ Organized and well labeled storage facility
+ Ecommerce shipping partner
+ Defined customer shipping price strategy (i.e., free shipping, flat rate, full charge)
+ Clear tracking and constant communication with your customer
11. Customer service that brings Christmas cheer: While fast fulfillment is an important factor in ensuring great customer service, businesses need to create a positive overall shopping experience to truly win big with customers. Holiday sales and promotions attract a greater number new customers, and you don't want to miss out on an opportunity to convert one-time shoppers into life-long customers. Cultivating and leveraging strong customer relationships is also an advantage smaller retailers can have over the larger, big-box stores.
Business decision makers already see AI marketing as a revolution engine. AI marketing is also a perfect framework for building and maintaining an omnichannel strategy, and going forward, marketers will need to marry AI (the enabling technology) with proprietary data (the fuel that feeds AI) to achieve one-to-one personalization through AI marketing solutions. All this personalization results in a far more accurate one-to-one targeting, while also reducing costs and generating higher marketing ROI.
About the Author
Anil Kaul, CEO of Absolutdata has over 22 years of experience in advanced analytics, market research, and management consulting. He is very passionate about analytics and leveraging technology to improve business decision-making. Prior to founding Absolutdata, Anil worked at McKinsey & Co. and Personify. He is also on the board of Edutopia, an innovative start-up in the language learning space. An in-demand writer and speaker, Anil has published articles in McKinsey Quarterly, Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing Research and International Journal of Research. He was recently listed among the ‘10 Most Influential Analytics Leaders in India' by Analytics Magazine India and has been quoted as a "Game Changer" in Research World. Anil has spoken at many industry conferences and top business schools, including Dartmouth, Berkeley, Cornell, Yale, Columbia and New York University. Anil holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Marketing degree, both from Cornell University.