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Meet Your Customers Where They Are This Holiday Season

The holidays are fast-approaching and this year’s unique challenges are having us take a trip back to the drawing board.

Now, this doesn’t mean that retailers need to reinvent the wheel due to a global pandemic. You can still create holiday magic with the right omnichannel strategy in place.

This holiday season, create new customer touch-points and revenue streams, diversify and protect revenue from unforeseen events (e.g. COVID-19), and execute a holistic brand experience across all channels – from discovery to purchase to fulfillment.

To help you accomplish this, we’ll dive into four key components of a successful holiday omnichannel strategy:

  • Online Marketplaces
  • Paid Advertising
  • Inventory Management
  • Order Fulfillment

Online Marketplaces

Just as with your own ecommerce site, you’ll want to ensure the experience customers have with your brand on online marketplaces is as smooth as possible. Regardless of where you sell your products, here are a few things to keep in mind as you expand your reach and acquire new customers:

  • Write compelling product titles and clear descriptions
  • Feature high-quality product imagery to entice new customers
  • Integrate the channels you sell on with your ecommerce platform
  • Let your customers know where they can find your products on your ecommerce store
  • Encourage customers to opt into your email newsletter or follow you on social media

When choosing where to sell your products, you’ll need to understand the habits of your customer or target audience. Where do they shop? Creating the right channel mix can create large revenue generating opportunities for your business as marketplace channels are home to millions of customers across a number of categories.

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1. Facebook and Instagram.

When it comes to consumer reach on Facebook and Instagram, you may be both surprised and delighted. While most people perceive the two social platforms to be geared toward Millennials and Gen Z, you can actually reach many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

Whether you are a small business or a leading enterprise brand, Facebook and Instagram are two major social platforms to consider — especially as social commerce continues to gain popularity amongst consumers.

Facebook Shops

New to Facebook, Shops allows you to showcase and sell your products on your business page where followers can browse and shop your products on Facebook, and then be seamlessly transferred to checkout on your website. This creates a win-win situation for both you and your customers as they’ll have more confidence in a secure checkout and you’ll be able to track your orders and customer data flow in your BigCommerce control panel for easy management. 

Perfect for holiday, Shops also allows you to organize your products into special collections and merchandise them to shoppers on Facebook. So, be sure to take advantage of the new “Subscribe” button which sends followers a notification when you add new products. 

Checkout on Instagram

Similar to Facebook, consumers of all ages are on Instagram. But, the two platforms are used differently. Many consumers find inspiration on their Instagram feeds, which means that the holiday season is a primetime to be influenced. Making your products available to shop directly from Instagram posts makes it easier for consumers to purchase exactly what they’re looking for.

Checkout on Instagram leverages BigCommerce’s native integration with Facebook Commerce Manager. Similar to Shops, merchants can easily connect their ecommerce storefront’s catalog to Instagram and give customers the ability to buy from their favorite brands directly on Instagram—rather than navigating to a brand’s website to make a purchase—and pay using PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover. After placing an order, customers can also use the Instagram app to view their order status, estimated delivery date and tracking number, as well as cancel orders, initiate returns or request additional support.

2. Google.

While you can plan ahead with a strong, organic SEO holiday strategy, advertising on Google is another great tool to leverage – specifically, Free Listings and Buy on Google.

Let’s start with Free Listings – and, yes, it’s exactly as it sounds. Free product listings can help expand your reach on Google. This options helps your business:

  • Get more unpaid traffic on surfaces across Google, which includes Google Search, Google Images, and free product listings on the Google Shopping tab
  • Be seen by more customers: Paid Shopping Ads show your products across Google’s network (Search, Youtube, Gmail, Google Display network). Now, with free product listings, you will be eligible to show your products to more customers at no additional cost.
  • Increase your reach: Every day, hundreds of millions of people enter shopping related queries on Google, making the Google Shopping tab an attractive place for businesses to list their products

“Through our platform and partnership, BigCommerce merchants have super easy, cost-effective, and scalable ways to showcase their products on Google. In light of the fast evolving ecommerce landscape, I cannot stress enough how important it is for merchants to start taking advantage of Free Product Listings.” – Tony Capetola, Chief Marketing Officer at Sales & Orders

If you have a small budget to spend, Buy on Google is a great option to consider. Beginning at $20/month, this service gives you access to features like:

  • Automated Syncing
  • Detailed Reporting
  • Google Categories
  • Google Settings (e.g. setting up your Shipping & Tax configurations, linking your AdWords account to create campaigns)

3. Amazon.

The ecommerce empire from Seattle cannot be forgotten when it comes to creating a holiday omnichannel strategy. That being said, keep in mind that it’s not the right channel for every business.

Amazon can be a great asset to your business if you directly benefit from their Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) programs. Here’s a quick rundown.

With FBA, you benefit from:

  • Storing your products in Amazon’s fulfillment centers, who picks, packs, ships, and provides customer service for your products.
  • Amazon Prime free two-day shipping eligibility.

FBA is also a great option for businesses, especially newer ones, that are looking to rapidly reach more customers.

With FBM, you benefit from:

  • Shipping your items to each customer via your own logistics and operational processes
  • Storing your own product or with a 3PL

FBM is also a great option for businesses with large or heavier items, have reduced inventory, or a short fulfillment cycle.

Of course, listing your products on Amazon comes with a lot of competition. If you’re looking for a great logistics and operations solution to omnichannel selling, FBA is definitely an option to consider. If you know that your customers are very active on Amazon, you have a strategy for standing out from your competitors, and are confident you can manage your inventory and shipping in-house, FBM may be for you.

4. Other online marketplaces to consider.

There are many places to sell online, but it’s important to keep your focus on your customers and serve them where they spend most of their time. If you’re searching for more channels to expand your reach, here are a few to consider:

  • eBay – You can sell through this channel using apps like inkFrog or Codisto LINQ, which also connects with Amazon. 
  • Etsy – Connect via our third-party app integration. Great for small businesses and handmade craft sellers. 
  • Wish – Similar to eBay, Wish is also well known in global markets. 
  • Walmart – Another major ecommerce marketplace. Leverage BigCommerce apps like CedCommerce’s Walmart integration for easy product listings.

Paid Advertising

Organic content is king, but paid advertising can boost your brand in a saturated market. A quick place to begin is Facebook or Instagram Ads, since you can simply boost organic content. Where you’ll want to spend a little more time is search engine marketing and overall conversion

rate optimization.

Organic SEO will help you rank on Google, but, similar to social media, a paid boost can garner thousands of more views. Google Ads is key to any paid strategy as it can help drive both website and in-store visits. If you have an omnichannel approach, investing in paid advertising can help drive traffic across channels, too.

The following partners can help with advertising for Facebook, Instagram, and Google:

If you are looking adding paid advertising efforts to your Amazon, Walmart, or eBay selling strategies, check out:

Inventory Management

Without optimized inventory management, omnichannel isn’t possible. Managing your inventory during the peak holiday season can be difficult, especially in a year with so many unknowns.

As you begin to plan for the holidays, get ready to stock up — appropriately. Inventory management can make or break your success amidst the holiday rush. To prepare, study sales data from previous holiday seasons to create detailed demand forecasts.

Now more than ever, the holidays can present unpredictable challenges. Maybe your products are featured on a national news broadcast or organically endorsed by a celebrity. Real-time inventory tracking will help you navigate supply and demand challenges. Depending on your business needs, you may also consider integrating with partners like Sellbrite, Brightpearl, Zentail, or Suredone.

Order Fulfillment

Alas, we have to discuss the importance of order fulfillment. After spending the dollars and hard work to help navigate your customers through the buying journey, it’s also your responsibility to ensure their orders get fulfilled accurately and efficiently.

1. The truth behind shipping timelines.

In the days where Amazon is king, consumers expect fast shipping timelines. The two-day Prime delivery has set these expectations which can present some serious challenges for any business. Having a shipping partner you can rely on is key to executing on these customer expectations. Consider integrating a solution like Deliverr who will help you accomplish faster shipping at an affordable price and supports omnichannel selling across Facebook, Instagram, Walmart, eBay, Wish, Google, and – of course – BigCommerce.

2. The unboxing experience.

You must think of every order as a gift. The unboxing experience is very important to both your customers and marketing strategy. It’s also your only 100% guaranteed open rate.

Create an exceptional unboxing experience that inspires them to share on social media or with friends and family. Imagine, this could also serve as user-generated content to leverage for your social commerce strategies. Work with BigCommerce partners like Arka and Noissue to create custom packaging materials – and for more sustainable options, check out EcoEnclose.

3. Leverage your brick-and-mortar location.

For brands selling both online and offline, use your physical retail location to your advantage this holiday. Despite the challenges the pandemic has raised, by utilizing your offline channel as a fulfillment center, you can add efficiency to both your inventory management and order fulfillment. But, in order to do this, a point-of-sale system (POS) integration is key. BigCommerce offers integrations with Vend, Square, Springboard Retail, Clover and more.

4. Maximize your returns strategy.

Last but not least, returns. But, they don’t have to feel as dreadful as they sound. Why not take this as an opportunity to delight your customers when they least expect it?

It’s key to understand your options for product returns. Rather than viewing returns as a loss, use them as an opportunity to win back customers (and potentially acquire new ones who discovered you from a gift).

Make the return process as convenient as possible. You can work directly with your 3PL provider to create an automated process or use a returns solution, like Happy Returns, to simplify the process for customers — and earn their loyalty.

Summary

A holiday omnichannel strategy has the power to expand your reach in ways you never imagined. But, to do it right, it’s important to understand your customers – where they shop and what they expect. Remember, no matter what avenue you sell your products, your customers still tie that experience back to you. Be sure to connect your brand to the season, so customers know who you are and the value you’re providing them.

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