Ready For Strangers Shopping Your Site For The Holidays?
The holiday season means big sales -- and often, a whole new audience to market to. Have you adjusted your strategy accordingly?
Holiday season is everybody’s favorite time of the year; brands are looking for record sales, my daughters are looking for Santa, and the wife is looking for my credit card. Everybody is seeking to leverage the holiday spirit to increase their revenues.
This is especially true when it comes to D2C (direct-to-consumer) businesses such as e-retailers and traditional online stores.
Over the years, I have worked with a variety of brands on their digital holiday strategies. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that in order to win during the holiday season, you need to rethink your target personas (audience/buyer profiles) — strategies and tactics that work in the “normal” seasons do not work in the “gift-giving” season.
Therefore, consider adjusting your strategies based on insights you can glean from data you probably already have.
As we head into 4th quarter, there is still time to rethink how to get a winning share of the market by understanding and targeting your buyer personas. Here are some factors to keep in mind as you re-examine your existing approach and generate new persona strategies to boost sales.
1. They Are Strangers
During the holiday season (or back-to-school season), your brand will be exposed to a whole new set of eyeballs as you reach new audiences and, in many cases, new users/customers. As you can see in the example below, the rise in new users during the holiday season for this jewelry brand is clearly visible.
In my house, I go from stranger to new user in this way: my wife visits her favorite jewelry site many times a month, making purchases or checking on the latest specials. But right around holiday time, she informs me of her wishes, and I will go to that jewelry store to purchase or research an item.
I have no reason to visit it during any other season, and I become a new user at the holidays. The same could be said for families sending a child off to college for the first time, or parents who find themselves shopping for great school supply deals when they ordinarily would not pay attention to these products or brands.
2. They Are Different People
These new users are more than strangers; they often represent an entirely different demographic, with decidedly different purchase decision factors. The two charts below illustrate very diverse audience samples for the same site, which sells video games, during December and July.
|July Audience||December Audience|
This is a slightly extreme sample, but if you think about it, it makes total sense given the product.
Throughout the year, kids visit the site, watch trailers and purchase games; then when it comes to the holiday season, they put the name and often the URL on their wish list, and it’s time for the parents and grandparents to become first-time visitors to this site and purchase those games.
3. They Act Differently
Those first-time visitors do not use the same path-to-purchase or the same navigational paths as your regular users. They have never been on your site; they might not understand the difference between an iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. This is often seen by an increase in site search activity.
Let’s take a look at the jewelry site’s internal search activity.
Search activity is heavy in February, which is not surprising given that this is a jewelry store (Valentine’s Day). This might be indicative of an older audience or first-time visitor that relies heavily on search functionality to find products and make purchase decisions.
However, there are other personas, such as myself, that use various navigational paths in the course of our online shopping behavior.
For instance, I am a heavy user of Amazon; I always start with a search and then use filters to refine that search. On Apple, I know my way around the site like a native, and I navigate to precisely what I need. But our “older” generations rely heavily on search functionality; they don’t understand double sorting, exclusions and advanced filters.
4. They Search Differently
If new, the “gift givers” have not been told where to purchase the product, they will go out and search, and if they don’t have intimate knowledge of the product or category, they will search differently than an existing customer would.
If we look at the actually matched search terms, we would see a dramatic increase in the number of distinct keywords used during the holiday season.
This means that in order to reach those new customers, you need to adjust your search strategy to make sure you cover those “odd” upper funnel search terms, and make sure that your ad copy speaks to those personas that may not yet be familiar with your brand or know how to navigate your site with ease.
5. They Buy Differently
Each generation/audience shops differently within the verticals, measured by a healthy mix of transaction dates, order volume, cart size and age.
The change in purchase behavior across personas is one of the primary indicators that I believe defines the start of the holiday shopping season. The graph below shows aggregated CRM sales data from a few different shopping sites during the “gift-giving” season.As you can see, there are some clear behavioral patterns based on age group. It seems that the older the consumer, the earlier he/she purchases the majority of his/her gifts. While each segment looked very different for each site, they all tell a good story when looked at in aggregate.
You can even use the pure transaction volume to determine the “actual” start of the shopping season for your brand. The chart below shows that the “gift-giving” spree really starts in early November and, interesting to note, goes into mid-January.
Based on these dates, the brand can now establish there are shoppers that start their purchasing cycle in mid-November, which means that is the prime time to start sending out emails to last year’s “gift givers,” as well as kicking off other supporting campaigns.
6. They Have Different Motivators
These seasonal customers have different motivators than your general consumers. Most of your general consumers understand the landscape; they know where they can get the best price; they are members of loyalty programs; they comparison shop.
This generally does not apply to the seasonal customers that have been told what they should purchase, and often have been instructed where to purchase it, as well. What brands often forget is that they cannot get these seasonal shoppers to convert or buy something by offering them loyalty points or other long-term rewards.
They most likely will not become a member of your loyalty program, and in their minds, they will never have a reason to join. Offering them a coupon or discount on the next purchase will not work either; in fact, complex specials and offers will be a deterrent.
Make it simple and easy for them — believe me, when my wife tells me to buy her the golden horse necklace at Olivia’s Diamonds, I try my best to follow these instructions. She does not accept substitutes! But if the retailer gives me a hard time and makes things complicated, or I just don’t trust them, I might go somewhere else.
Based on the above findings, I believe that most businesses should rethink their holiday strategy. We are all so accustomed to planning and executing against our default persona profiles, using creative and language that appeals to them.
But during those seasons when your general customers ask others to purchase gifts for them, you need to think about who they might be asking (such as grandparent, parent or spouse) and decide how can you get these personas engaged and convert them into a sale.