7 Deadly Sins for Online Retailers to Avoid This Holiday Season
Fasten your seatbelts — it’s going to be a wild holiday shopping season. 2020 marked a profound shift in the way consumers shopped for the holiday season, from Black Friday (the biggest one of all time by a lot) to an extended and very merry Christmas for many retailers. In fact, online holiday revenue grew by 32 percent year-over-year and exceeded $188.2 billion for the first time ever.
While 2021 is still on track to be bigger, especially when it comes to e-commerce, there are also some pre-2020 shopping behaviors coming back. In a recent survey of 8,000 consumers worldwide, we uncovered a range of trends for what consumers are looking for this year — and what truly makes them click (and buy). In order to take advantage of these trends, be sure to keep the following in mind and avoid these pitfalls when planning your holiday campaigns:
Sin No. 1: Small Screen, Big Difference
Across markets, consumers are evenly divided between mobile and desktop as their preferred devices for making online purchases. Mobile has bridged the gap to desktop and plays an equal role in online shopping. Customers expect your website to be mobile optimized, with simplified checkout and payment. Be sure to optimize for this experience.
Sin No. 2: Holy Ship
More than half of consumers surveyed (52 percent) ranked speed of delivery as key, followed by 38 percent of respondents valuing free or discounted shipping. This means you can leverage delivery times as a conversion tactic in your messaging. Get ahead of the holiday rush and avoid backorders by offering discounts in tandem with speed of delivery.
Sin No. 3: Forgetting to Introduce Yourself
A majority (66 percent) of consumers want to know something about a brand before they make a purchase. Product quality (48 percent) and affordability (58 percent) are the most important things they consider. This means you need to build your brand story a little and can’t expect to sell on the spot. Establishing your brand’s reputation around quality, sustainability, customer service, reliability, etc., will help drive sales.
Sin No. 4: Lack of Trust
It’s all about trust — and personalization. The top two factors that drive engagement for consumers are trusted ads that meet their personal interests. Consumers respond more favorably to ads on trusted editorial sites (call it a “halo effect” from high-quality journalism), and ads that resonate are personalized and contextually relevant. Build on your story with multiple pieces of content and qualify intent by driving traffic to interactive pages, such as product finders or virtual testers, to personalize consumer interaction.
Sin No. 5: Cutting Back on Video
Videos are magic. Most consumers say that watching a video about a product is important to their purchase decision. Use video ads, even super short ones, to stand out this holiday season.
Sin No. 6: Showing Only Once
Images are like Tinder for shopping. Besides video advertising, consumers across all markets find "swipeable" gallery images to be the most engaging type of ad when browsing online. Showcase different products and offers to keep them swiping, and don’t forget interactive image ad units like carousels.
Sin No. 7: Starting Too Late
Our work as marketers need to start even earlier to build brand recognition and seed interest, particularly in a year when supply chain disruptions and getting gifts on time are top of mind for so many consumers. Therefore, don’t leave things to the last minute.
Finally, whatever you’re selling, get in the holiday spirit. The survey reveals customers respond best to lifestyle images that highlight happiness, smiling people and holiday-themed décor. It’s been quite a year — consumers are ready to treat themselves to some shopping cheer.
Ayal Steiner is vice president, global ad revenue at Outbrain, a web recommendation platform powered by native ads.
Related story: 3 Tips to Up Your Holiday Retail Game
After completing his Master’s of Business Administration and working for several tech-startups in Product Strategy positions, Steiner joined Outbrain in 2012, launching both the Australia and New Zealand markets. He later became the Managing Director of the APAC business and oversaw expansion into several new markets in Asia.
In 2017, he became Vice President of International Revenue, leading Commercial Strategy and Revenue across all markets outside of the United States before being promoted to Vice President.