first frost
PHOTO: Maria Mekht

Are your marketers and customer experience professionals ready for the 2020 holiday season? They ought to be. Salesforce predicts 30% year-over-year growth in overall global digital commerce this holiday season (up from 8% growth in 2019) and 34% growth in the U.S. (up from 12% in 2019). Customers are predicted to spend a record $940 billion globally in digital sales and $221 billion in the U.S., according to Salesforce.

Overall, when factoring all sales, physical and digital, customers will not spend that much more than they did in 2019: $5.1 trillion worldwide and $730 billion in the U.S. This despite the massive digital commerce growth with Amazon Prime Day (Oct. 13-14), Black Friday (Nov. 27) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) being the centerpieces of the digital holiday season. Some major businesses are even going with a Black Friday in October.

Businesses that survive the onslaught successfully will be those that make shopping easy and safe, including convenient digital ordering, creative and efficient fulfillment and responsive customer service, according to Rob Garf, VP of industry insights for retail and consumer goods at Salesforce.

Throw Out the Prior Marketing Playbook

So what are the ways marketers and CX professionals can brace for the 2020 holiday season? It’s the first season of digital commerce during a major pandemic, mind you.

“Consumers’ habits, behaviors and preferences have changed since the pandemic, which is why it’s crucial that marketers don’t rely solely on campaigns or tactics that have worked in previous holiday seasons,” said Drew Burns, head of product marketing, for Adobe Target. “Brands must focus on delivering personalized experiences at every customer touch point.”

Some examples that Burns shared include providing accurate recommended content, auto-personalizing the order of the top navigation on app or online and building dynamic countdown clocks alongside the recommendations. While this may be a little more geared toward the B2C marketers, but, nonetheless, it will help you create a unique experience that feels like a virtual sales clerk. “And in our current environment,” Burns added, “optimizing when to show return policies and personalizing safe local pickup via geo-location are a must this holiday season.”

Related Article: Meeting Customer Needs This Holiday Season

Ensure the Right Measurement Infrastructure

Marketing campaigns are only as good as their data, and having the right data is a make or break for successful Q4 campaigns, according to Mar Brandt, senior vice president and head of sales for North America for AppsFlyer.

According to Brandt, granular measurement is key and should be centered on:

  • Multiple events based on your most common pipeline, but not too many. “We’ve found 16 to 20 is the sweet spot,” she said.
  • Measuring rich in-app events to understand not only that users made a purchase, but also what they bought, the cost, their customer user ID, etc.
  • Having deep linking in place to drive customers directly where they want to go.

Allocate Resources To App Store Optimization (ASO)

Competition this holiday season is expected to be fiercer than ever, especially with Prime Day shifting to October, Brandt said. “As a result, app discovery in the app stores becomes a significant challenge with each keyword generating more results, and users becoming increasingly indifferent to the various apps, installing well-known brands ranked in higher positions,” said Brandt. “Focus on the right keywords and make sure your app store page uses lots of visuals and is optimized to drive installs.”

Incentivize your web consumers to install your mobile app. Data shows that in-app performance is substantially higher than mobile web thanks to a superior native user experience and the ability to use push notifications, according to Brandt. “By incentivizing mobile web users to download your app through your owned media channels — for example by offering a discount on their first in-app purchase — you will be able to build a loyal and satisfied user base.”

Make the UX Perfect

Consumers in 2020 have zero tolerance for apps with a sloppy flow, unintuitive browsing, complicated payment processes, etc. “Make your onboarding seamless and payments as easy as pie,” Brandt said. “Don’t forget deep linking to maintain a friction-free flow from promotion to purchase. Remember that many brick-and-mortar shoppers are going digital for the first time, which means some need more guidance to navigate the mobile app experience.”

Related Article: Preparing for a Holiday Shopping Season Like No Other

Invest in BOPIS

Isabella Mongalo, director of digital solutions for Sitel Group, said that with many consumers leery of spending extensive time in stores as the pandemic hit continues through the holidays, B2C marketers and CX pros should focus energy on their buy-online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) experiences. Target’s Drive Up curbside pickup option grew more than 700% YoY in Q2 2020.

“By developing a streamlined BOPIS strategy,” Mongalo said, “brick-and-mortar retailers will have the opportunity to transition their usual in-store influx of holiday customers to an integrated physical and ecommerce approach.”

Balance Tech CX With the Human Touch

Superior digital CX is key for B2C brands this holiday season, but that doesn’t mean they should forget about the human aspect, Mongalo said. “The right balance, and seamless integration between tech and the human touch, is important for brand success throughout the rest of the year, and beyond,” she said. “Brands should reevaluate their customer base, how their consumers prefer to interact and how this has changed during the pandemic.”

For example, the desire for communication via social media and mobile apps has risen, she added, citing her own company’s study. “For consumer brands, understanding the customer journey and utilizing data to uncover which issues are best addressed by a digital assistant, or though self-service technology, versus which are best addressed by a human agent,” she added, “is critical to creating an experience that keeps customers coming back for holiday seasons to come.”

Make Search Easier

Ensure search is optimized for word/product variance and lean into machine learning to support predictions and drive shoppers to items they are most likely to buy, said Litha Ramirez, executive director of product management and user experience at SPR. Offer discounts to customers while they are on the site. Don’t wait for them to leave, and if they do, have a programmatic ad program to remind them of the products they found of interest.

“When it comes to closing out the transaction, don’t make shoppers wait until they are near the end of purchase to see the delivery date,” Ramirez said. “Instead, provide that information upfront on the catalog or product details page, or better yet, surface that information on the product search result snippets.”