Black Friday may be weeks away yet, but major retailers have already doubled down on the holiday season with a slew of online bargains. Consumer brands must prepare now to capture this year’s extended traffic spike online
Not so long ago Black Friday was a North America specific retail event that fell on the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally sounded the bell on the Christmas shopping rush. Now, Black Friday and the Monday following - Cyber Monday - has come to be a global shopping extravaganza that puts a rocket up sales for the brands and retailers involved. Last year, Adobe Analytics said that in the US in locked down 2020, ecommerce sales grew more than 30% in November and December thanks to retailers extending the holiday season - and this year hopes are once again high that new sales records will be set despite the biting supply chain headwinds dominating the news headlines.
In its Holiday Shopping forecast 2021, based on anonymised data collected from more than 1 trillion visits to US retail websites, Adobe anticipates that US consumers will spend a record-breaking $207 billion online in November and December - an uplift of 10% from last year. Deloitte also forecasts double-digit growth in ecommerce - between 11% and 15% - for the holiday period, which it views as the three months from November to January 2022. Based on Deloitte’s buoyant predictions, ecommerce holiday sales this year could reach between $210 billion and $218 billion.
This would be supported by the world’s biggest retailers, led by Amazon, starting deals as early as October in an effort to avoid the very real risk of shipping delays and supply chain out-of-stock issues. An expansive list of pre-Black Friday deals and discounts on the hottest toys, appliances and beauty products from Amazon and Walmart to Argos and Boots in the UK is up for grabs this year as retailers push shoppers to lock in their spend as early as possible.
And there is evidence that pent-up demand means holiday shoppers are only too happy to oblige. Edge by Ascential analysis of holiday specific-search terms at the product level on Amazon in the US between January and August 2020 and 2021 show the holiday shop started much earlier this year.
The aggregated frequency of the phrase ‘gifts for women’ jumped to 247 this year from 690 in 2020 during the same week while the search term ‘stocking stuffers’ jumped by more than 50,000 places. The search frequency of Christmas gifts for women and Christmas gifts for men was also much higher this year than in 2020.
Ecommerce penetration is still strong - much higher than pre-pandemic levels -and holiday shoppers are more likely to use their mobile phones, tablets and laptops as part of the purchase journey - even if they end up buying in-store.
The path to purchase is different during Cyber 5. For most of the year, Amazon is a search first platform, with about 90% of purchases coming from search. But during Cyber 5, customers visit Amazon and other retailer sites because they’re buying a gift, but not necessarily with a specific product in mind. As such, customers tend to navigate to deals pages to discover products. And discovery isn’t limited to retailer platforms - it could also happen on social media, brand apps, online adverts and of course in a physical shop.
The search will often come after the shopper has been inspired during the discovery phase and so the significance of a manufacturer being prominently visible within the first page of search cannot be underestimated.
So, what does all this mean for suppliers looking to take advantage of the extra demand?
As an early holiday gift on our side, here’s five quick takeaways to boost sales in the weeks before Cyber 5 and on the mega-days themselves.
Stay Ahead of Availability Issues:
with the continuing supply chain problems and logistical backlogs, make sure you are prepared for potential shipping delays and availability problems. Stockouts can be a real headache, particularly on Amazon where the algorithm is known to punish offenders by suppressing other ASINS, so data-driven inventory forecasting will be imperative. Our Edge Digital Shelf product has availability alert functionality that provides a daily update on stock inventory, including virtual bundles. `
A slump in sales should not be the first indicator of an out of stock (OOS) situation. Have a back-up plan ready in case a key hero item goes OOS. Having different colours of the same product will be helpful if one goes out of stock, while having products analogous with popular competitor items could also benefit you if your competitor product was to go OOS. Stay flexible to meet the customer’s needs however they want to shop, whether that’s online, pick up instore or via delivery intermediaries. Internal linking can help expose your full range of products and help prevent customers switching to alternative brands or items.
Monitor Search Behavior and Change Strategies When Priorities Change:
as mentioned above, search performance is the most important way to drive traffic and sales online. The impact of jumping from 20th to 10th in search was an incredible 21% jump in traffic for one client we recently worked with. This weekend especially, manufacturers should focus on optimising returns for key shopper terms and aim to finish inthe top 10 of search rankings. as many shoppers will not scroll past this point. But customer search behavior changes all the time and varies by search platform. Search 101 is one of our most popular webcasts, which you can listen to here.
Amazon’s Search Frequency report, which can be found in Amazon’s Vendor Central platform, is an incredibly valuable source, which will tell you what the most searched terms are over a given timeframe but also the top items purchased when that term was searched. You can - and should - also use Google Trends data to detect emerging search terms and use the data to inform advertising spend. Once you have a grasp of what customers are searching for, incorporate the most relevant keywords into product pages. For the holiday season, incorporate general gift search terms into your content, including terms behind A+ images (alt-text) and within hidden keywords as we know that customers are shopping much earlier this year.
Adjust Paid Strategies:
Consider targeting key search terms with a high search frequency and low share of search. Utilize Amazon Search Frequency report and Google Trends data to detect key search terms and pivot quickly on paid search investments. Capitalise when competitors exceed budgets at the end of the day. Amazon’s Sponsored Brands advertising can help you engage shoppers as well as direct them to non-deal ASINs. Cost per click can be expensive and so make sure your paid search approach is influenced by data.
Optimise product pages:
Incorporate holiday imagery to refresh the PDP with new and seasonal imagery. Make sure titles have the correct grammar, desired formatting and reflecting seasonal verbiage. Keep testing language on your PDP to make sure it is always aligned with consumer search behaviour. Reviews can provide direction around alternative words and phrasing and key features - for example, ‘easy to assemble’ - that align with shopper language. This particular example is really relevant in the toys category, one of the top-selling categories during Cyber 5, as shoppers who celebrate Christmas may be looking for a gift that can easily and quickly be assembled overnight as part of Santa's visit. If your brand or product has sustainability credentials make sure you are leveraging the accelerated interest in responsible consumption in your product pages.
Track Performance and Competitors:
Understand your share of search performance and competitor bidding activity over the period through real-time analytics. Monitor high performing search terms and if you’re losing to a competitor, find out if you can bid on a similar term. For example, ‘bluetooth headphones’ was the 35th most searched term on Amazon in November 2020. ‘Headphones bluetooth’, which ranked at 5,395 in the same month, had a significantly lower search frequency but was still a highly-searched term and could be an opportunity for higher conversion.
Earlier this month, Edge by Ascential and Perpetua, an Ascential company, held two holiday planning panels - one for EMEA and one for a US audience. Both cover the retailers, channels and consumer brand strategies set to win the Cyber 5 weekend and why.