This year has been unlike any other, and this holiday season is sure to follow suit. More consumers are going to need to shop online for holiday gifts, and due to issues with slow mail deliveries, they’re likely going to be doing so for a longer time frame than normal. That said, for the 2020 holidays, your ecommerce campaigns are going to be even more important than they’ve been in years past.
But even in this unprecedented year, there are some advertising and ecommerce fundamentals you need to make sure you’re covering in order to give your current and potential customers the best holiday shopping experience possible. In this post, I’m going to provide eight tips and best practices to ensure that you:
- Stand out above your competition
- Attract holiday shoppers, and
- Still see the uptick in sales that comes with the holiday season, despite the current economic and marketing landscape.
8 best practices for 2020 holiday advertising success
I’ll admit many of these are pretty basic, but with the increased online activity we're likely to see among consumers, it’s even more important to make sure you’re buttoned up on the basics so your customers can have a good experience with you—which could be enough to win them over since all the rest of the world is a dumpster fire. Let’s hop in.
1. Maintain product feeds
There is nothing more annoying than seeing an ad promoting a product either on social media or Google search, and then getting to the site and seeing that it’s out of stock. From an advertiser's perspective, this is a relatively easy fix if you’re using product feeds or catalogs, and keeping up with your inventory. Facebook, Google, and a host of others have ways for you to make sure you’re only advertising products that are in stock.
On the other side, if you’re using text ad campaigns for search or standard website traffic campaigns on Facebook, this information isn’t dynamically available. It’s up to you to make sure you’re writing ad copy that's accurate and doesn't make promises your business or ecommerce website can’t deliver on.
2. Use automation to promote holiday sales
Similar to finding a product out of stock, it’s just as frustrating when an ad teases a sale but then is nowhere to be found on the website. But never fear, ad scheduling is here. There are several platforms that allow for some form of ad scheduling, to ensure your ads with sale messages are live and paused when they need to be. They include;
- Google Ads (ad scheduling setup help here).
- Microsoft Ads (ad scheduling setup here).
- Facebook/Instagram (ad scheduling setup here).
- Snapchat (ad scheduling setup here)
- Twitter (ad scheduling setup here)
Depending on the platform(s) you’re using, be sure to check out their ad scheduling capabilities and adjust accordingly. Maybe you can only run promotions as whole-day events or maybe you can have them set down to 15 minute increments. Either way, know your options and make sure your customers are seeing an accurate message, no matter the time.
3. Be realistic with shipping expectations
As consumers, we’re generally very trusting of a website that tells us we’ll have our products by a certain date. Years of using Amazon Prime for two-day, one-day, or same-day delivery with a fairly high success rate have conditioned us this way. The bar has been set very high.
Your website needs to give a realistic expectation as to when something will be delivered. Even if something is technically called two-day shipping and that’s what your customer is paying for—if you know your are running behind schedule, you need to tell your them that.
Someone could have a perfect experience on your site, but if shipping is delayed and they didn’t realize that was a potential outcome, you'd better believe it’s going to reflect poorly on your brand just as much as, if not more than, the shipping company itself.
The bottom line: Set proper expectations, especially the closer you get to the holidays, and warn people if you don’t believe that item will be there on time. You might lose a sale in the moment, but it’s better than fighting off bad reviews after the fact.
4. Improve your site speed
With an increase in online shopping this 2020 holiday season, there is bound to be a drain on network bandwidth. Some users will have their normally-fast internet slowed by more users being on the network, while others with already-slow internet will get hit even harder. Either way, this holiday season (well, ideally beforehand) is the prime time to remove site speed hindrances from your online store and speed things up for your customers.
The best tool I’ve found for this is the Google Developer PageSpeed Insights tool.
An example of a PageSpeed Insights report using none other than Google.com.
Simply add your URL to the tool, and it’ll scan your pages on both desktop and mobile devices and return a report with highly detailed suggestions on what you can do to speed your page up. Pass these findings either to your internal team, your freelance developer, or dive into them yourself and speed things up. With one caveat: DO NOT REMOVE YOUR AD PIXELS.
DO NOT REMOVE YOUR AD PIXELS.
I can’t tell you how many times developer teams tell me that ad platform pixels are slowing down the website. Most of the time, the pixels are not the problem and there are bigger fish to fry. And during the holiday marketing season especially, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot if you remove them. You’ll have no insights into performance and no way to optimize your campaigns. So even if the ad pixels are the only things slowing your site down, do not remove them (unless they’re redundant or not being used).
5. Make your site mobile-friendly
You might be surprised by how many folks conduct their holiday shopping online while at work. Sometimes, it’s the only way they can do it without people around so as not to spoil the surprise. For others, it’s because they don’t have a computer at home large enough to really shop on. And with many people still in the work-from-home phase, we’ll likely see an even higher percentage of users coming from mobile devices in 2020. So although it’s been “the year of mobile” for more than a decade now, it’s really important to make sure your site is mobile friendly this holiday season.
Dick's Sporting Goods' mobile speed score could definitely use some improvement before the 2020 holidays hit.
6. Give users a few ways to pay
The last thing any consumer wants to do is enter our credit card information over and over again for each online purchase. Maybe it’s the tedious nature of it or maybe it’s a privacy concern. Either way, let 2020 be the year you let users pay with PayPal, Apple Pay, or some other platform rather than needing to use a credit card at your store.
There are seriously tons of different payment options out there.
Most platforms easily allow these solutions to be added to your online or eccomerce site, and from a user perspective, it’s so much easier for me to click the PayPal logo, log in, and already have my payment and shipping information available instead of typing it in over and over again.
7. Share customer reviews
Despite what you see on Twitter or the news, when it comes to online shopping, people actually do care about what others think—especially what they think about your products, so play to your strengths here and make it a priority to showcase your online reviews—before and during this holiday season. Of course, you'll need to have a steady stream of them in the first place, but there are plenty of easy and organic ways to collect and ask for reviews.
Many sites have built-in review capabilities, like Dicks’ Sporting Goods above.
If you don’t have this feature or plugin for your website, there are solutions out there to make it possible. Companies like Trustpilot or others have lots of preset tools that allow you to easily integrate reviews into your website. This social proof can go a long way when users are trying to decide between two different products or solutions.
Note: For local businesses in particular, getting Google reviews will be crucial for your holiday marketing success. The quantity and quality of reviews on your Google Business Profile directly impacts your ranking in local results, so if you want to show up first on Maps and/or Search for the holiday shopper Googling stores near them, get your Google review game in gear.
8. Use real-life photos
Similar to customer reviews, I believe seeing products in action will be a big selling point online for the holidays this year. Typically, customers would go to retail stores in droves and buy up holiday gifts. But with many consumers still being cautious due to the ongoing pandemic, normally-high in-store holiday sales are likely going to be lower than ever.
But what is the real difference between buying something online and buying it in the store? There are two:
- You get to take it home with you. To this point, we’ve already discussed real expectations for shipping, so let’s assume you’ve taken care of that.
- They get to hold it.You can touch it, see how much it weights, flip it upside down, compare it to the next model, show it to someone else, and more.
The biggest impact on someone buying something in-store vs online? They get to hold it.
The tactile experience of being in the store is something we simply can’t overcome as online retailers. So what’s the next best thing?
Give your customers all the real-world pictures they could want of a product.
The two images above are for the same thermos, but you get different information from each photo. The first is useful for seeing what the thermos looks like, but the second helps give you a reference point for its size and shows what it looks like in natural lighting. I think we all know the feeling of seeing something online, then being disappointed that it appears different when we get it in person. The bottom line is, good-quality, real-life photos can help you overcome that difference so your customers aren’t disappointed. For tips on producing high-quality product photos, check out this post.
Brumate takes this strategy even further by using a grid of Instagram user photos to showcase their products.
These images don’t have to be the only ones you use. The images with a white background certainly have their place, but in the year where we’re not as able to go hold things in a store, use your photos as a proxy for your customers and show them your products in the wild.
Focus on the online holiday shopping experience in 2020
If there has ever been a year to pay attention to your online shopping experience, this is the one. Don’t just think about things from your vantage point; think about the user experience and how you can make things simple, easy, comfortable, and pain-free for your customers and help them decide you’re the right vendor to work with this year. To wrap up, here is a full list the strategies I've covered in this 2020 holiday advertising guide:
- Maintain product feeds
- Use automation to promote sales
- Be realistic with shipping expectations
- Improve your site speed
- Make your site mobile-friendly
- Give customers a few ways to pay
- Share customer reviews
- Use real-life photos
And for more holiday marketing and advertising help, check out these posts: