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Why Is Flexibility Essential For Holiday Shopping Success?

Why Is Flexibility Essential For Holiday Shopping Success?

Discover why data-driven strategies are vital for eCommerce brands in the fiercely competitive $211 billion online holiday market.

The holiday season is as big as it gets for eCommerce brands. Last year, consumers spent $211 billion online in November and December — an all-time record. Competition grows increasingly fierce among sellers as more people shop online for holiday needs.

That's one of the reasons why eCommerce brands must have solid, data-driven strategies in place if they want to stand out from the crowd. In preparation for what will likely be an active holiday season, Logical Position recently held its Partner Connect event at our new headquarters in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

This exclusive, invite-only event connected our top eCommerce clients with some of our marketing partners at organizations like Meta, Amazon, Feedonomics and MNTN. We learned a lot from this event, which is helping us shape our thinking for the season to come. 

1. Hearing directly from eCommerce brands

As we talked with our clients during the Partner Connect event, a few common factors continued to surface—the first centers around attribution. Many eCommerce brands have struggled to adjust to the switch from Google's Universal Analytics platform to Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

While Google still provides immense value, its new approach to attribution underscores the importance of prioritizing first-party customer data, like purchase and website activity or email engagement, over the third-party data Google or Facebook provides.

After all, eCommerce brands know their clients better than anyone else and can use that information to their benefit. It also became apparent during the event that eCommerce sellers should widen their horizons on where they sell their products.

Online sales have become increasingly concentrated over the years, with major players like Walmart, Target and Amazon attracting more shoppers every year. Amazon alone brought in nearly $13 billion in revenue over two Prime Days this summer.

These massive marketplaces are impossible to ignore, which is why eCommerce sellers should begin investigating sales avenues outside their own websites. The final commonality we discovered was the general uncertainty in the marketplace.

The accelerating pace of change has persuaded many eCommerce brands to prepare to deviate from even the most solidly constructed plan when encountering compelling new information. Flexibility has become an essential component of eCommerce success.

2. Planning for uncertainty this holiday season

However, considering the last few holiday seasons, we should be used to uncertainty. Between waves of COVID, inflation, geopolitical strife and everything in between, predicting consumer behavior has been challenging.

Last year, we expected that rising costs would blunt online traffic and slow holiday purchasing. But, we were pleased to see that consumers outspent our expectations. As we look ahead to the 2023 holiday season, here are a few factors that could influence online spending:

Inflation

Rising costs of goods and services were the big economic story during last year's holiday season. While inflation has waned, costs are still high. However, those higher costs are already baked into the economic equation, meaning consumers expect higher prices this year and have likely already adjusted their lifestyles to compensate.

Yet, it is still essential for eCommerce brands to acknowledge the impact of inflation and implement strategies that may help consumers who are more cost-conscious understand value.  

Interest Rates

One new factor this year is sky-high interest rates. Borrowing is more expensive now than at any time since the early 2000s. Consequently, consumers may be delaying larger purchases like new cars and homes, which could free up extra holiday spending money that would have otherwise gone elsewhere.

Brands that can offer financing options like buy now pay later services might provide consumers more value, as most of these services don't follow the traditional interest rate trend. Overall, anytime a brand can offer more value to its consumers, it'll be setting itself apart from the competition.

Consumer Sentiment

Despite persistent inflation and rising interest rates, consumer sentiment has increased throughout 2023 after falling precipitously over the last year or so. An improving view of the economy could be an encouraging sign that consumers feel more confident in their financial positions and are willing to spend more during the holidays.

This positive shift in consumer sentiment allows eCommerce brands to better leverage more receptive audiences, ideally leading to better holiday sales. 

Early Discounts

Large retailers will likely offer another round of early discounts this year. Amazon already scheduled a second Prime Day for October, and Walmart and Target could follow suit. These early sales significantly impact the market because they draw in so many consumers and reduce overall demand later in the season.

So, eCommerce sellers should monitor their larger competitors and consider mirroring promotions to leverage moments when consumers will already be spending. Furthermore, they should also explore creative strategies that will help them stand out in front of these competitors. 

3. Recommendations for your holiday strategy

Last year's holiday season demonstrated the importance of pivoting. We entered the season with a plan based on our anticipated conditions. However, when the real-time data suggested our assumptions were misplaced, we quickly shifted to take advantage of that unexpected traffic.

Every eCommerce seller should incorporate this type of flexibility into their 2023 holiday strategies. We recommend our clients focus on three more areas as they prepare for the holidays.

Get Sales While You Can

Many brands make the mistake of setting an advertising budget and holding it until the traditional holiday season begins on Black Friday. However, we recommend that our clients monitor sales and move quickly to respond with more advertising spending if shoppers start buying earlier, even if that means sacrificing spending during the period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Brands that hold their spending under the assumption that their sales will occur as usual risk missing out on changing consumer behaviors. To help build on this strategy, eCommerce brands should be monitoring real-time data to show when consumer behaviors shift. This data will help sellers identify when to adjust their advertising budget, leading to a more successful sales season.

Look to Influencers

Smaller brands can capture attention by working with social media influencers, particularly on TikTok. These creators form deep and authentic connections with their audiences, and when they use a product to solve a problem, it's an effective and relatively inexpensive advertising medium.

To succeed here, eCommerce sellers must know their audiences well, choose influencers who represent them authentically and talk about their products organically. Adding influencer marketing to the holiday strategy takes careful planning and collaboration between the brand and the influencer.

One thing brands should keep in mind during their initial planning is that influencer marketing isn't just about promoting the product. It is also a way to build organic relationships with an audience. Sellers should maximize this connection by allowing the influencer to give input on how they can share the product with their audience because they know what their audience responds to the most.

Pay Attention to Your Feeds

We see too many eCommerce sellers solely relying on their platform connections with the Google Merchant Center, assuming that is enough. They don't understand that the platform connection doesn't always display product information in a way that makes sense for Google searchers.

We recommend that eCommerce sellers use a feed system that correctly categorizes and formats their products in a way Google understands. Google will struggle to display products correctly without the right feed system, and shoppers will find what they're looking for elsewhere.

4. Be ready to abandon the plan

As we enter the 2023 holiday season, our most important advice for eCommerce sellers is to prioritize flexibility. That doesn't mean going into the fall without a plan in place. Instead, eCommerce sellers should create a plan based on their year-to-date data and their best guess about what their shoppers will do.

However, every eCommerce seller should prepare to pivot away from that plan if they see new information. If sales happen earlier, move to capture them. If a prime audience isn't responding as anticipated, shift that budget to more productive areas.

If profitable sales continue to come through even after the holiday advertising budget has been exhausted, find more money to spend. Sticking with a plan that no longer fits existing conditions will be detrimental this year.

Conclusion

As the next few months unfold, we'll all be waiting with bated breath. Will we see another year of positive results, or will economic uncertainty keep shoppers on the sidelines? Only time will tell.

Whatever unfolds, eCommerce sellers that can respond fastest and most effectively to rapidly changing conditions will have the best chance to win this holiday season.  

Ryan Garrow is the director of partnerships & client solutions at Logical Position , an Inc. 500 company headquartered in Oregon with offices nationwide. The award-winning agency offers full-service PPC management solutions for businesses large and small, including SEO, email marketing, paid social, retail media, and creative services.

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