2021 Will Be the Biggest Marketing Season Ever. Are You Ready?
2020 was full of surprises, but perhaps the biggest surprise of all was that despite a global recession, a worldwide pandemic, supply chain headaches, and a zillion other headwinds, including giant swarms of locusts, it was also the biggest shopping season ever. That’s right, last year’s Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, rising 15.6 percent to $10.78 billion. Black Friday was big, too: Sales increased 22 percent to $8.92 billion. And total U.S. holiday retail sales increased 6.5 percent to $1.064 trillion, with e-commerce increasing by a whopping 32.5 percent.
That’s likely to continue in 2021, too. Nearly 80 percent of consumers say they plan to do most or all their shopping online this year, and only 2 percent plan to shop exclusively in stores.
All of this is a great opportunity for brands and retailers — and it means a marketer’s job is more important than ever.
So how do you cut through the noise?
We analyzed the changes to consumer behavior over the past year and throughout the pandemic, and compiled our top 10 strategies to help make your marketing campaigns as successful as possible:
- Launch early. In 2020, the holiday shopping season started early. Plan on that for 2021, too: 25 percent of consumers say they will begin shopping before or during September, and 53 percent will start before November. The sooner you can test messaging, creative and email strategies, the sooner you can adjust and improve your results. Here’s more incentive: Emails sent early in the season drive twice the conversion rates of those sent close to the holidays.
- Increase your media spend on key dates. Plan on the heaviest digital presence the week before and during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Then increase your media spend the week leading up to Christmas for those last-minute shoppers.
- Get creative with your creative. Refresh your creative with holiday or promotional messaging to emphasize the season. Consider solutions like dynamic creative optimization (DCO), which allows you to personalize the ads or messages a particular viewer or audience sees. Also, be consistent in all your creative — 74 percent of shoppers are more loyal to brands that are.
- Make it personal. The numbers don’t lie: 48 percent of people want personalized products and offers, and 77 percent are more inclined to shop with brands that personalize content across their online shopping journey. Another 55 percent of shoppers are loyal to brands that localize creative content.
- Try new formats. Connected TV and over-the-top (OTT) marketing have highly targeted, unskippable, trackable, and brand-safe ads that are guaranteed to make an impact. Private marketplaces also offer access to a more exclusive data set than buying off-the-shelf third-party audiences. Consider preferred deals to lock in a negotiated flat rate or programmatic guaranteed deals for inventory that's critical to delivering campaigns and maintaining performance. But move fast: Publishers will begin to sell out of inventory in October.
- Mix up your marketing mix. Consider adding audio, video or animations to your existing creative mix to reach audiences in new ways. You should also look at device mix and leverage cross-device targeting and tracking during this heavy retail window when buying decisions are made with tighter timelines.
- Find new customers with lookalike modeling. If you’re trying to increase your customer base, lookalike modeling is a quick and easy way to find more prospects. Identify your ideal audience and let artificial intelligence (AI) do the heavy lifting to help you find more customers.
- Get your pixels ready now. Increase spending on brand awareness tactics to have larger retargeting and lookalike pools during November and December. You can request pixels now to start building out those pools so you’re ready to go when you want to target those most likely to convert.
- Don’t ignore COVID. The pandemic continues to affect business as usual. Even if your store times haven’t changed, make them clear. If you have store policies around mask requirements, make them easy to find. And steer customers toward times when waits tend to be shorter at your stores so they can find the products they’re looking for — and avoid large crowds.
- Spend even after the holidays end. The holiday shopping season doesn’t end on Dec. 25. Although you should focus most of your budget before Christmas, since 56 percent of all shoppers buy gift cards, consumers redeeming those is another conversion opportunity. The period between Christmas and New Year’s is also a great time to reach shoppers who didn’t convert before the holidays.
With the expected boom in this year’s holiday shopping, it’s imperative that brands and marketers prepare their strategies now to capitalize on the upcoming season. Plan thoroughly, but remember to monitor performance and be adaptable. Those that provide options, remain agile, and communicate frequently are most likely to find success.
Ready to get started? Here’s to making 2021 the best holiday shopping (and marketing) season yet.
Jason Wulfsohn is the COO of AUDIENCEX, a digital advertising partner for brands and agencies.
Related story: 3 E-Commerce Tips to Win This Holiday Season