There is no question that Q4 is the most important and challenging time of year for online retailers. This is particularly true as sellers have been seeking out ways to capitalize on the unique holiday seasons of 2020 and 2021.
While it is always essential, the necessity for possessing a robust eCommerce strategy for Q4 is only heightened by the abnormal nature of the previous and current years.
Part of what makes the holiday season for 2021 so unlike previous years is the massive uptick in eCommerce sales that began last year and extended into this one. As DigitalCommerce360 reported on U.S. eCommerce sales in 2020:
“Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up an incredible 44.0% year over year, according to Digital Commerce 360 estimates. That’s the highest annual U.S. ecommerce growth in at least two decades. It’s also nearly triple the 15.1% jump in 2019… The more than five-percentage point gain in eCommerce penetration is by far the biggest year-over-year jump for U.S. retail sales ever recorded. No other year has even reached a two percentage-point gain in digital penetration.”
In short, this means that establishing a solid eCommerce strategy for Q4 is critical for online retailers as there are likely to be more digital dollars to be captured than any year in history.
On the other hand, this also means that there is going to be more competition online than ever before. Therefore, if brands want to ensure that 2021 is a year for the record books, it is vital to start establishing an eCommerce strategy for Q4 as soon as possible.
Here are nine steps detailing how merchants can achieve that aim.
Building an eCommerce Strategy for Q4: Nine Vital Tasks for Holiday Sales Success
As with each year prior, there are a multitude of tasks that retailers must take to ensure that their company is ready for the holiday rush, including crafting promotions, procuring creative for those campaigns, ensuring proper inventory levels and more.
While all of this is still necessary, there are some key tasks that sellers will want to hone in on in 2021. Those projects include:
1. Analyze Last Year’s Performance
When formulating an eCommerce strategy for Q4, the smartest thing sellers can do is look to the previous year’s Google Analytics data to help guide the process.
One of the most informative ways for merchants to sort this data is by revenue, paying particular attention to which products gave the company the most significant returns in the previous year. This knowledge will tell retailers where to focus their efforts and provide them with a benchmark for goal-setting.
2. Ensure the Company’s Website Is Ready for the Flood
Assuming that retailers craft decent promotional campaigns this holiday season, there is likely to be a drastic uptick in traffic for their stores.
Therefore, it is vital for retailers to get eCommerce stores ready for the holiday season as part of their eCommerce strategy for Q4.
This means that it is critical to test out different pathways to purchase, optimize shopping carts, decrease load times and ensure that the site is capable of handling elevated traffic levels.
It seems that with each holiday shopping season, major and minor retailers alike see their sites crash on Black Friday and other essential shopping events.
For this reason, it is imperative that sellers ensure that their site is ready for an unusually high amount of traffic this year.
However, website readiness isn’t just about ensuring that the site won’t crash.
Retailers should also be focused on elevating the eCommerce shopping experience and optimizing their site for conversions.
There are a multitude of ways in which this can be achieved. However, since sellers are working on such a limited timeline and have so many tasks to carry out, the best course of action is to partner with an award-winning eCommerce design and development team who can help to ensure sites are retooled with conversions in mind.
3. Conduct a Competitive Analysis
Another essential task for building an eCommerce strategy for Q4 is to observe the competition via a competitive analysis by searching for business names, products or similar offerings sold on Google and Amazon.
Doing this will help sellers to see which organizations are targeting the same consumers as the brand. At the same time, retailers can also pinpoint secondary competitors, such as those who target slightly different audiences by selling budget-friendly versions of the same product.
During this process, merchants will want to analyze their competition’s marketing strategies, making notes on elements such as:
- On-site efforts
- Social media campaigns
- Product pricing
- Promotional messaging
- Shipping options
- Brand and product reviews
4. Create Video Content to Promote Products
No matter which platforms retailers utilize to get their message out, all sellers want to market their products in the most effective way possible.
Therefore, merchants will want to take the time to develop video marketing campaigns.
According to recent video marketing statistics, 66 percent of consumers prefer watching videos over reading about a product, and 55 percent use online videos while shopping in-store.
Meanwhile, those same statistics reflect that 89 percent of marketers claim that video marketing provides a good ROI, 87 percent report video content driving more website traffic and 80 percent state that video has directly helped to increase sales.
The plain fact of the matter is that video is one of the most compelling forms of content available and is fantastic in helping to simultaneously entertain and educate consumers.
That said, it is highly advisable for retailers to integrate video content into their eCommerce strategy for Q4. This means producing videos for social media posts and adverts, email campaigns and content marketing efforts.
As far as the types of videos that sellers will want to generate, it is wise to produce a panoply of different kinds. This means that social media shorts, product videos, comparison videos, how-to content, installation clips and similar types of videos are all on the table.
When it comes to formulating an eCommerce strategy for Q4, video content should be something that all brands prioritize as this will help them to better engage consumers and stand out from the slew of competitors online.
However, be aware that producing video content does not mean neglecting other sorts of content, which leads us to our next point.
5. Prioritize Content Marketing
During the holiday season, consumers require quick pathways to product discovery. To those ends, there is no better solution than earning visibility in the SERPs.
When it comes to generating such visibility, the importance of blogging for boosting rankings cannot be overstated.
The truth is that, while video ads can certainly be compelling, consumers will often block or ignore adverts altogether. Therefore, a much less spammy way of reaching folks is through excellent content.
During the holiday season, it is imperative that merchants are able to reach consumers in the research phase with content that informs, educates, compares, contrasts, inspires and drives action.
However, it takes time to see SEO results. Therefore, if merchants wish to be found in the SERPs during the holidays, it is critical to start cranking out valuable, optimized content now.
That said, even if sellers don’t invest the majority of their time in ranking on Google, content is still a critical component to an effective eCommerce strategy in Q4.
The fact is that merchants should aim to reach audiences with awesome content offerings via email, social media and even educational paid ad campaigns. Approaching content marketing in this way will not only help to drive traffic and sales, but it will also be easy for most consumers to share with their friends, family and followers, thereby begetting more of the same.
As far as the types of content retailers should focus on producing, video has already been discussed in detail. Outside of that, sellers should be promoting:
- How-to guides
- Product reviews
- Gift guides for various buyer personas and price points
- Educational blogs
- Holiday-themed lead magnets like eBooks
- Influencer campaigns
- Seasonal images
- Social media Stories announcing flash sales
6. Optimize Carts for Reduced Abandonment
Taking a moment to call back to the necessity of website optimization, according to cart abandonment data from the Baymard Institute, nearly 70 percent of consumers will abandon their carts before purchasing.
The five most frequently cited reasons include:
- Extra costs (shipping, taxes, fees) too high
- Forced account creation
- Slow delivery
- Too long or complicated checkout process
- Didn’t trust the site with credit card information
Understanding this, it is imperative for sellers to review their checkout process as part of their eCommerce strategy for Q4.
The reality of the situation is that it does not matter how fantastic a seller’s promotions are and how much traffic their site generates if the majority of those would-be buyers abandon their carts.
Thankfully, there are a variety of ways that retailers can employ UX design to optimize checkout flows and ensure that a greater percentage of shoppers complete their purchases.
Some key elements that merchants will want to implement include:
- Guest checkout options
- Security badges
- Fewer pages and information fields
- A multitude of payment options
- Fast, free delivery (at least for the holidays)
By including these elements, retailers will certainly be capable of upping their site’s conversion rates. However, for optimal results, it is still wise to partner with an experienced eCommerce development firm.
7. Clean Up and Segment Email Lists
This fall, Apple’s iOS 15 update will impact email marketing in significant ways. Two of the ways in which sellers can prepare for this update are by cleaning up their email lists and revisiting email segments.
This lines up perfectly with an essential task for crafting an eCommerce strategy for Q4 as well, so there is no reason for merchants to skip this undertaking.
Therefore, it is wise to begin running re-engagement campaigns to ensure that everyone who is interested in the brand is ready to act when the holidays hit.
Similarly, merchants will want to take the time to revisit eCommerce email segments to ensure the most relevant campaigns possible.
When revisiting email segments, retailers can divide their lists based on:
- Geographic location
- Purchase history
- Engagement level (high, medium, low)
- Loyalty program member (yes or no)
8. Set Up Abandoned Cart Email Sequences
While it is undoubtedly advisable to optimize the checkout process, the fact of the matter is that sellers will not be capable of stopping abandoned carts completely.
Therefore, it is critical to establish holiday-themed abandoned cart workflows that help to recapture those who slip through the cracks.
Sending a sequence of emails is an effective means of getting those who ditched their potential order to come back and convert, which can be a massive win when it comes to holiday sales figures.
Fortunately, there are tons of ways companies can reel consumers back in during the holidays, including:
- Focus on holiday shipping deadlines
- Highlight limited quantities of products
- Point out that sales end soon
- Offer an additional discount
This is just a tiny sampling of ways that retailers can leverage FOMO (fear of missing out) during the holidays to recapture those who initially abandoned their orders.
9. Remember Retention
While getting that initial engagement during the holidays is critical, an oft-overlooked aspect of creating an eCommerce strategy for Q4 is integrating customer retention efforts.
This means that retailers who wish to earn more throughout the year will also work to establish post-purchase marketing campaigns to go hand-in-hand with their holiday efforts.
The last stretch of the year is the single most crucial season for online retailers. Therefore, making the absolute most out of the holidays is imperative for merchants to continue to compete in the online arena.
This means that taking the time to meticulously map out an eCommerce strategy for Q4 should be at the top of all retailers’ to-do lists.
That said, there is a ton that goes into planning a successful holiday sales season. If your brand would like assistance in optimizing its website for more conversions, achieving greater visibility in the SERPs, reaching consumers with engaging content or anything else needed for a profitable Q4, reach out to Visiture for a free consultation.
Our team of eCommerce marketing experts has the skills, experience and knowledge needed to help your brand have an incredibly lucrative Q4.