Top Tips and Lessons learned for eCommerce Business during Holiday Season

Make this holiday season your most profitable one yet with this article filled with must-have strategy and tips, lessons learned, and best practices from top DTC Brands and technology solutions providers.

Top Tips and Lessons learned for eCommerce Business during Holiday Season
Top Tips and Lessons learned for eCommerce Business during Holiday Season

During this time of year, wins can create new areas of opportunities for your business, but a loss could set you back months. Every new “at bat” has so much potential that learning from others’ mistakes can bring that extra win to your team.

We asked all of the brands that participated in our Holidays, Unwrapped Webinar Series “What’s the one lesson you learned from previous Holiday Seasons that you are sure you are going to get right this year?”

Here’s what they had to say.

Table of contents

Adam Hendle, Ballsy
Mariel Bacci-Kilroy, Lively Root
Chrisma Luster, Sassy Jones
Mike Demson, DripDrop
Caely Lybeck, Black Halo
Eric Giandelone, J & P Park Acquisitions, Inc
Shianne Smalling, Andie
Anthony Tartaro, Vincero Watches
Ryan Pamplin, BlendJet
Josh Knopman, Caraway Homes
Corrina Lynch, Hello Tushy
Raymond Mendoza, StriVectin
Yaw Aning, Malomo
Billy Mclennan, Gorgias
Steph Carcamo, Justuno
Dan LeBlanc, Daasity
Gabe Macaluso, Omnisend
Brad Redding, Elevar
Brian Anderson, Nacelle
Tim Busa, Loop Returns
Chad Rubin, Skubana
Conclusion

Every year we see eCommerce businesses gear up for the Holiday Season, similar to how a sports team would prepare for the playoffs. Promotional calendars are created, inventory forecasts are built, and the entire team dives into their Marketing Channels to find where their budgets are best spent.

The Holiday Season has always been an essential part of the year, but this year feels like we are playing in an entirely different league. Most holiday shopping in the US will happen online this year, and there is so much more potential for more sales and new customers. All of these elements combined to make the perfect opportunity to knock it out of the park. However, the unknown and added pressure can be pretty intimidating.

In these moments where it’s impossible to predict what will happen, the best path to a winning Holiday Season is to learn as much as possible from as many different sources as possible. We recently partnered with 10 of the fastest growing brands and 12 of the leading Shopify Plus Apps and Agencies to bring you the tactics they are using to get the most success.

You can catch all of these great insights into our on-demand sessions here. You’ll find expert advice and tried-and-true tips covering:

  • Holiday Strategy
  • Inventory Planning
  • Email Prep
  • Onsite Optimization
  • Last Minute Wins

Don’t have the time for a movie marathon? Not to worry. We’ve got you covered. We’ve taken the most popular tips and best lessons from these sessions and condensed them into this article. In this article, you’ll find tactical advice, creative ideas, and expert strategies that you can leverage this holiday season.

Adam Hendle, Ballsy

We dedicate a customer service person just to our Facebook ads. Obviously, that’s the most public place, and a lot of times now we’re the first place where customers go to complain or ask questions or say things when things are going wrong. So, make sure that you’re dedicating someone that’s always on your ads and putting out any fires and showing that you’re a very proactive brand because, again, this is the most public space that you’re at and ads drive a core piece of the revenue. So, don’t overlook that piece.

“Show that you’re a very proactive brand” – Adam Hendle, Founder of Ballsy.

Mariel Bacci-Kilroy, Lively Root

We’ve paid exceptional attention to corporate gifting. We have never done anything in terms of outreach for corporate gifting, and this year we hired against it, which has made this a really successful and not as expensive holiday for us already. That’s been huge. I think any brand could get involved in corporate gifting or conferences, etcetera if they find the niche that’s right for them.

“Find a niche that’s right for you” – Mariel Bacci-Kilroy, Director of Lively Root.

Chrisma Luster, Sassy Jones

The greatest lesson is point blank – communication. Setting the right expectation for the customer and making sure you follow up. If it gets to the point where we really need to get a little bit deeper into that customer experience and make the customer feel warm and fuzzy and turn them around when something hasn’t gone the way that we expected and what our culture and what our expectation is, we will get on the phone and call. Setting that expectation and training your team to help you oversee the different aspects that happen, especially during Black Friday, just giving them a realistic expectation of what’s to come.

“Making the customer feel warm and fuzzy” – Chrisma Luster, Brand Manager of Sassy Jones.

Mike Demson, DripDrop

Segmentation is one of the most important areas to focus on, especially during the holidays. We’ve paid close attention to our Q4 2019 customers and made sure that we provide personalized offers through retargeting, have an effective email strategy in place, and do some text campaigns for re- engagement.

“Personalized offers and retargeting” – Mike Demson, Senior Marketing Manager of DripDrop.

Caely Lybeck, Black Halo

Getting people to subscribe to find out what kind of promotions you’re doing is essential. We do seven days of gifting. Basically, we take a purchaser every day; we announce what the gift will be 24 hours in advance. A customer has to make a purchase within that time and be subscribed to our newsletter to be eligible.

And then they win whatever the deal is, like a percentage off or a gift card. It gets people to purchase because they want that $300, gift card or that 45% discount on top of everything else. It’s enjoyable, and people get really involved.

“Getting people to subscribe to find out what kind of promotions you’re doing” – Caely Lybeck, eCommerce & Digital Marketing Coordinator of Black Halo.

Eric Giandelone, J & P Park Acquisitions, Inc

“One of the things I really want to focus on this season is essentially utilizing the click-through rate on certain elements of the email. I can see that people are clicking through on this one product more than is clicking through on this product that’s right next to it. I have essentially created a free focus group where customers give us great information about what they feel is our most engaging product. I can push that forward on social, and I can push it forward as maybe the hero on an email and I don’t discount as heavily because there’s natural organic demand coming for that product.”

“I have essentially created a free focus group for myself where customers are giving us great information“ – Eric Giandelone, Chief of Staff, J & P Park Acquisitions, Inc.

Shianne Smalling, Andie

“We optimize all of our post-purchase flows to try to build that custom experience based on whatever suit you purchased. So if you purchase like a certain suit, you’re going to get a kind of customized post-purchase journey with information that’s kind of relevant to what you purchased to kind of combat that, ‘Did I make the right decision?’ Also making sure across the board that all of my abandonment flows have that holiday messaging — so if you come to our site during this time period you’re going to know what offers are on the site and you’re going to be reminded of it.”

“Abandonment flows have that holiday messaging” – Shianne Smalling, CRM Specialist of Andie.

Anthony Tartaro, Vincero Watches

“The biggest challenge that we’ve had from a business standpoint is international fulfilment; getting things through customs has always been a nightmare. Certain countries like Australia are cut and dry; if it’s under a thousand Australian dollars, it goes through customs unchecked. Then you’ve got countries like Germany, for example, who, if the customs officer is having a bad day, they’re stopping your package, and they’re going to review it as strong as they can. So, we partnered with a company called GE, and they’ve helped us with that kind of last bit of the delivery part. They take over the checkout process, including customs fees and duties, and then provide ATP shipping which has been huge for us.”

“Partner with companies that can help” – Anthony Tartaro, Head of Operations, Vincero Watches.

Ryan Pamplin, BlendJet

“You’ve got to forecast appropriately and get capital in place — Make sure you have enough inventory. You should expect that whatever happened last holiday season, this holiday season will be like that but even better because people can’t go to the traditional brick and mortar retailers that they would for that shopping. Try to have more than enough inventory to satisfy demand and if you don’t have enough inventory, start taking pre-orders.”

“if you don’t have enough inventory, start taking pre-orders.” – Ryan Pamplin, CEO/ Founder of BlendJet.

Josh Knopman, Caraway Homes

I’m personally a huge fan of starting as early as possible where it makes contextual sense. I’ve been in the position in the past where we tried to launch everything on Black Friday and essentially what that means is your platforms don’t have time to optimize. By optimizing everything ahead of time, you’re going in there much much more prepared than other advertisers. So, I think that has probably been one of my biggest learnings in the past is to optimize, optimize, optimize ahead of time.

“Optimize, Optimize, Optimize” – Josh Knopman, Growth Lead of Caraway Homes.

Corrina Lynch, Hello Tushy

“Shipping well and shipping from the right place is going to be the key to maximizing profits. Being set up to minimize the cost of sales and prepare for any unknown issues that are going to arise in the final stretch of 2020 as logistics networks are known to be overwhelmed. So, have backup options so that your inventory is well spread and close to the customer to maximize margins.”

“Shipping well and shipping from the right place “ – Corrina Lynch, Head Of Operations, Hello Tushy.

Raymond Mendoza, StriVectin

Set the customers’ expectations now. Right around April when Covid and shipping constraints started happening, many brands were posting all over to expect carrier delays. Your product hasn’t even shipped out yet, and they’re making sure that the consumer really understands that when they place their order and in the checkout, the order will be shipped out in five days, and then they have to allow another seven days for shipping.

“Set the customers’ expectations now” – Raymond Mendoza, Director of eCommerce, StriVectin.

Yaw Aning, Malomo

Customers on average check shipment tracking 4 times. So, if you’re sending 1,000 shipments as a brand, you’re giving 4,000 brand impressions.

With the holidays approaching and COVID causing major shipping delays, consumers will be checking their order tracking three times as much. When customers are most excited about your brand, you’re either amplifying a really positive experience, or you’re amplifying an inferior experience. Customers expect more from brands when it comes to posting purchase, so the best brands out there are using shipment tracking to build their brand, not destroy it.

“You’re either amplifying a really good experience or you’re amplifying a really bad experience as the customer tracks their package” – Yaw Aning, CEO/Founder at Malomo.

Billy Mclennan, Gorgias

There is a lot of opportunities to support emails. Like adding offers in your support signature. So whenever you respond to someone say during black Friday weekend, they can see your offer in the email. You’re creating more calls to action when people are reaching out to you.

“Adding offers in your support signature” – Billy Mclennan, Strategic Partnerships, Gorgias.

Steph Carcamo, Justuno

I’m a huge fan of exit offers or exit intent messages. In those cases, I really like to show a review making sure the customer knows why this is a highly bought offer and maybe what they’re missing. Some people will be looking at the reviews, but most people will not make an effort if they’re not excited about the site experience. So this is another way to catch them with that messaging, or even a quick offer to add to their cart.

“Exit intent messages — I really like to show a review making sure the customer knows why to buy a specific product..” – Steph Carcamo, Customer Success Manager, Justuno.

Dan LeBlanc, Daasity

One thing that was really interesting from a previous D2C holiday experience, as soon as somebody became a holiday purchaser, we automatically put them into another bucket because they’d already made that holiday purchase. So, we were focused on figuring out how we get them to make a second one. That messaging is very, very different than trying to get somebody to buy for the first time. It’s important to be very micro-targeted around that in terms of segmentation. Something to think about is how you create different buckets of individuals based on their different journeys to segment them, create specific campaigns easily, and really leverage that to improve your open rates and click to open rates.

“Being very microtargeted… in terms of how do I segment?” – Dan LeBlanc, CEO/Founder, Daasity.

Gabe Macaluso, Omnisend

The big thing that we’ve been encouraging our brands to work with basically has different stories or timelines to help increase your sends’ cadence. One of the homeware brands we’re working with, we’ve set up a schedule with them where it’s, you know, prepping your home for holidays is their first campaign. So you’re starting to see those emails not necessarily just calling out the discount for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, but just about the timeline.

So prepping your home for a holiday then as we get closer, it’s buying gifts for your friends and family and then as we get even closer it’s about treating yourself. So we’ve created a three-part sort of story if you will as we don’t just go straight for discount, but create the story to make sure that they’re all set up so when the holiday comes, they’re all set. They’ve treated themselves. They bought gifts for others, and they’ve got their home all prepped for whatever holiday events are going to hold.”

“We’ve kind of created a three-part sort of story if you will as we don’t just go straight for discount” – Gabe Macaluso, Director Customer Success, Omnisend.

Brad Redding, Elevar

Managing user expectations is a big mind shift this year. For example, being clear that this is the lowest price you’re going to get, or this product is really in stock (to prevent users worrying about the dreaded back order email after purchase. Yes. It’s really in stock. It’s not on backorder. There are so many proactive user expectation management permutations that I think we’re seeing people be more transparent this year. Consider previous holidays: if you walk into a retail store, you can ask somebody your questions. This year it’s trying to simulate that in-store experience that most people are not going to have. Users want to feel smart. Like they got the best deal. Or they timed it just right; they did everything perfectly versus buying it and then having buyer’s remorse or “I can’t believe that it’s 10 per cent lower than what it was when I purchased”.

“Being clear that this is the lowest price you’re going to get” – Brad Redding, Co-Founder of Nacelle

Brian Anderson, Nacelle

How do you convert a Black Friday sale into a lifetime customer? For D2C brands, it’s really about the messaging, brand story and resonating with that shopper directly. That’s a tough thing to do if it takes a long time for your eCommerce store to load and the mobile experience is subpar. This is especially true if the customer comes from a mobile app, like Facebook or Instagram, where the experience is speedy and smooth. If you have optimized for performance and mobile, you will be able to tell your story and connect with the shopper exceptionally well during this holiday period and beyond.

“Optimize for performance and optimize for mobile” – Brian Anderson, CEO/Founder of Nacelle.

Tim Busa, Loop Returns

We see that the majority of returns happen in the first 10 days after purchase. If you look at the early days of eCommerce, or even just a few years ago, all dollars, resources, and people… everything was put into acquisition versus retention. This meant very few brands were putting enough thought into their return policy, and most end up choosing a 30-day return window based on nothing but copying someone else. We have seen the most forward-thinking brands start to offer more generous return windows and even offer longer windows for exchanges and shorter ones for refunds. A refund tends to be the end of the relationship. We’re starting to see exchanges be more normal and it’s in part that it’s all now automated and not manual and labour intensive.

“The majority of returns happen in the first 10 days after purchase” – Tim Busa, VP, Marketing, Loop Returns.

Chad Rubin, Skubana

Operating Profit per SKU, per channel, is the Holy Grail of data for eCommerce operators. This considers discounts, shipping costs, platform fees, and other variables that can impact your bottom line. This should always be done on a channel-by-channel basis. Your operating profit per SKU might be different on Amazon versus Shopify. To get this value, you need to have a platform like Skubana to unify real-time data from multiple endpoints 24/7.

Lastly, you need automation working for you, not against you. In the race to fulfil orders, replenish warehouses, and manage returns, it’s easy to experience human error. An operations platform should give you the automation, clarity and flexibility to manage complex multichannel, multi-fulfilment workflows with ease.

“Operating profit per SKU is the holy grail of data for eCommerce brands.” – Chad Rubin, CEO/Founder, Skubana.

Conclusion

With so many great tactics and lessons, it can feel like there’s a lot to do quickly. Find one or two insights that will drive your business’s most value over the next week to a month. One or two more big wins this year will continue to propel your success into 2021.

Thank you for allowing us to share these great lessons with you all. Thank you for allowing us to share these Holiday Lessons with you on behalf of all our partners. It’s an honour to be able to provide you all with the insights.

Source: Daasity