Quick-Win Marketing Strategies for the COVID Holiday Season

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It goes without saying that holiday season 2020 is going to look very different from that of previous years’. Not only are we in the middle of a pandemic that has people struggling, we’re also in the midst of an election, a postal crisis, and a fire-storm-hurricane season. Hitting your audience over the head with mass emails about discounts might not be the best strategy and could even end up looking tone-deaf.

But that’s not to say discounts are not the way to go. This year, more than ever, marketers need to be empathetic and intentional about their holiday marketing. Bringing empathy in marketing doesn’t have to be a big-budget campaign. It starts with taking a pulse of your audience, understanding what they want and then communicating with them in a way that’s helpful.

Recommended: A 2020 Retrospective on Becoming a CMO in 2020

Here are a few actionable campaign strategies for a better COVID holiday season.

Think About New Audience Segments

Segmentation should always be part of your marketing strategy. But it becomes even more important during the holiday season. Some key segmentation points to think about every year:

  • Analyze the nature of your shoppers – are there year-round shoppers vs holiday season shoppers? What can you do differently for these segments?
  • Analyze past holiday season trends. If you look closely, you’ll find shopping and search patterns in your audience – use that to send relevant emails. For eg: people tend to travel home for the holidays every year – pick a key market and segment everyone that’s searched for rooms in that market for the last few holidays and send them an email about enhanced cleaning and COVID precautions.
  • Look at changes in recent browsing activity or email engagement – did people suddenly start checking mails after a period of inactivity? Consider that they might be coupon hunting.
  • Consolidate your email cadences – send fewer, more meaningful emails instead of flooding inboxes. Sending too much all of a sudden can impact your deliverability.
  • Use predictive analytics to help with your segmentation strategy. If you use a CDP or AI-enabled marketing automation, talk to your provider to help you identify customer segments that are most likely to engage with your holiday campaigns.

For this holiday season, also consider COVID-related shopping behavior and deep discounts from earlier this year while you create your segmentation strategy.

  • Look at trends from your COVID campaigns, especially if you offered discounts – does it make sense to send less or more emails to people who bought from you then?
  • Did you see an increase in new customers this year because of COVID or work from home or people generally being at home a lot? How will you treat these newly acquired segments differently? If it is too early for a repurchase, think about other incentives – maybe an upsell? Or perhaps a referral campaign?
  • Check for signs of inactivity from previously engaged customers. Think about why this could be – could they be struggling financially? If so, should you decrease email cadence for this segment?

Acquire Smartly and Pamper Your Most Loyal Customers

A Google study this year indicated that 30% of holiday shoppers have purchased from a new business. Plus, in its 2019 holiday survey of consumers, Deloitte found that 79% shoppers were open to trying new retailers.

  • Make an informed bet on new customers with predictive analytics. CDPs can help you segment your audience based on probability of purchase within a time period (say, 90% likely to purchase within the next 2 weeks). You can then use this segment to sync with Facebook lookalike audiences to acquire high-intent users. This not only helps you get more efficient with ad money, but it actually serves your audience better to only be targeted with a product that they’re likely to be interested in.

But don’t forget your most loyal customers who are most likely to bring you better AOVs. Think about ways in which you can surprise and delight.

  • People miss talking to in-store experts. Can you replace these 1:1 personal shopping consultations with online video calls or live chats by appointment for your VIPs?
  • Offer exclusive VIP opportunities like free shipping or early access to sales and holiday edition product launches.

Make Your Emails Stand Out With Meaningful Personalization

This year has proven, once again, that email is not dead or dying anytime soon. But it also showed how terrible email can be when done wrong.

  • Make your emails mean more to your customers with personalization. Don’t just slap a first name in the subject line and call it a personalization strategy.
    • Ask your ESP to help you implement send time optimization to automatically send your campaigns at a time that a customer is likely to engage with them.
    • Use AI-enabled or rule-based recommendation engines to show personalized products to your customers. This could be based on past purchase behavior or even shopping behavior of similar customers.
    • Early this year, people were spending more time online – shopping or just browsing. Can you use that information to personalize your sale emails? Look at previously carted items or products that consumers have viewed more than a few times this year that are on sale now. Include the product name in the subject line and let people know that the thing they really wanted is now on sale.Make your emails stand out with meaningful personalization
  • Spruce up your triggered campaigns. Give your automated emails a holiday twist through language or design. Or think of creative ways to engage customers – especially with your abandoned cart emails. Consider plain text abandoned cart follow-ups like the one below from Greetabl to create a personal 1:1 touch.

1:1 Touch DivyaCreate a Seamless Online-Offline Omnichannel Strategy 

  • Ensure a safe and convenient in-store experience. Some customers, especially when it comes to gifts, need to see the physical product before buying. If you’re a business with brick-and-mortar stores and are open during the holiday season, think about ways you can reduce that in-store browsing time to ensure a safe experience for everyone. A good omnichannel strategy will help. Take a look at how Warby Parker reduces in-store time by giving customers the option to browse and save products to an online profile that they can pull up when in the store.  

Ensure a safe and convenient in-store experience

  • Highlight your exchange/returns policy. If you have a great policy for returns and exchanges, highlight it in your emails. It’s a big part of why people prefer some brands over other.

Highlight your exchange/returns policy.Be Prepared With Contingency Plans

If there ever was a year when everything that can go wrong, might actually go wrong – it’s this one. Be ahead of the game by being prepared with contingencies.

  • Prepare templates and language for apology emails and alerts in case of unexpected delays.
  • Traditional delivery providers, globally, are predicted to exceed capacity by 5% according to Salesforce. Stay on top of those shipping options!
    • Per Deloitte’s Holiday 2019 Consumer Survey Findings, far more people care about free shipping (85%) than fast shipping (15%). Make sure to let people know about the last day to get free shipping.
    • Customers who want fast shipping expect no more than 2 days. But in case of delays, over-communicate with customers. People are a lot more receptive and empathetic during the pandemic.
    • And most importantly, if you’re not accepting replies to your emails – change that now! “No Reply” emails make for a terrible customer experience.

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