How DTC Brands Can Prep for the Holiday Season

2022 has been a rocky year for eCommerce brands. Rising acquisition costs, the impending death of third-party cookies, and supply chain issues, compounded by inflation and economic uncertainty, have certainly made things a bit…challenging. 

As we head into BFCM and holiday shopping season, brands need to be hyper-focused on stretching their marketing dollars efficiently. Overwhelmed by how you should prioritize your efforts? We’ve outlined key tactics for eCom brands to focus on to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty as we head into Q4.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes 

Prioritize what they want to see and buy. Understand what historically has sold well to different customer segments (new customers, existing customers, high LTV customers, and lapsed customers).

  • Ensure that what you’re pushing to new customers allows for enough sampling amongst the household, with both quantity and variants (flavors, scents, colors, etc.).
  • Design website experiences that speak to customers specifically in their stage with the brand. You wouldn’t speak to a new customer the same way you would speak to someone who’s been a subscriber before.
  • Speak to each customer cohort differently. Try to understand the data behind each cohort, and message and merchandise accordingly. 

You can make the biggest difference with the lowest lift by shifting your messaging to cater to different cohorts. Do this easily by simply changing one sentence within an email campaign that speaks to each cohort. Tag your customers and segment them through platforms like Klaviyo, Shopify Flows (if you’re on Plus), or Alloy Automation

Apply different strategies to different customer cohorts to maximize their LTV

Taking a one size fits all approach won’t fly.

  • Understand your existing customer cohorts and see what the most common second-purchase tends to be. Use that as an insight for cross-selling.
  • Focus your communications on building community, advocacy, and loyalty amongst those who have purchased from you. Don’t just rely on emails to pump revenue.
  • Reinforce the benefits and the why throughout the customer journey, even after someone has purchased. You want them to be able to answer, “Why did you buy X” with a story, not just because of the product’s functionality. 

Put in the work now to build retargeting audiences, don’t wait

Retargeting is an effective way to re-engage with specific audiences. You don’t want to be overly reliant on email. 

September & October are the months when you really want to put out content, whether you run a video ad to build a custom audience on Facebook, or a blog article you drive traffic to, or a newsletter you send to build your subscriber base -- you want to start building those audiences now so by the time Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and holiday shopping season comes along, you’re not relying on targeting or prospecting audiences, you’re going after audiences that have already become familiar with your brand and are maybe on the fence of purchase, and that promo will now get them over the fence, but you’ve done the work to get them to that point.

Optimize your landing pages

Audit & adjust your landing pages and marketing funnels - a high impact / low investment strategy to maximize revenue

  • Storytell, don’t just sell. Reduce friction with education.
  • Focus on high AOV offers, with good discounts.
  • A/B test ad copy, headlines and ad creative using ad platforms to understand the difference in CTR, AOV, and on-site conversion rate. You’ll start to recognize how different cohorts have different LTVs based on different marketing messages. Learn and iterate accordingly.
  • Build your website experiences for mobile, and above the fold.
  • Think of your PDPs as landing pages, for organic social traffic. Incorporate everything you may need directly into the PDP. They shouldn’t have to leave. 
  • Add ample amount of social proof across the website (press quotes, reviews, UGC, etc.).
  • Give shoppers the easiest way to buy to drive trial (either by discounts with subscription, or adding buy now pay later platforms like ShopPay or Affirm to your site).

If you’re on Shopify, is a great solution because it plugs right into the CMS of Shopify, and, if you use the Facebook Conversions API, it can leverage that. Unbounce is another great solution for a simple drag & drop. It lives on a subdomain so you don’t get the conversions API (you use the pixel), but it’s very easy to get set up and running.

Site speed matters

Site speed is hands down one of the most important factors for a DTC website, especially in a mobile-first world. People don't want to wait more than half a second for a website to show. If it takes longer than 1 second, you'll lose about 87% of your visitors before the site even loads.

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Give your existing creatives a holiday refresh

When budget is a constraint, simply holiday-ify & gift-ify your existing assets

  • Build copy that speaks to the holidays (i.e. “Give the gift of hydration”).
  • Include festive imagery or illustrations (i.e. ribbons, wreath, Christmas tree, etc.).
  • Create your own gift guides featuring your products and products from other brands your customers love.
  • Offers should be unique to the time of year (not repurposed or recycled from another offer prior).

Produce a piece of content you drive traffic to, instead of just a sales experience or product page which makes the cost-per-click very low (a couple of cents vs. a couple dollars). Drive dark social, essentially peer-to-peer social sharing (i.e. forwarding a gift guide to text or DM) and then you get someone else in your funnel that you may have not paid for.

Become a content engine as a brand across earned, owned, and paid media. Double-down on retention with post-purchase experiences to keep customers engaged in the future.

  • Play with different areas in the funnel to make the experience better for the customer.
  • Lead customers into a loyalty program to drive engagement and incentivize a re-order.
  • Guide customers into an email and SMS flow (using Klaviyo or Postscript) - expect to see a 99% open rate because that offer is going to your customers’ phone.
  • Utilize upsell post-purchase products, leveraging the payment token, meaning if you use an app like Disco, Shopify will hold on to that customers’ payment token for a short amount of time and then they can immediately send a complementary one-click offer, increasing AOV by ~10%. 

The first few emails and SMS messages a new customer receives after they place an order (order confirmation - delivery confirmation) have the highest open rate - this is the best time to establish yourself as a brand. Offer customers (new customers that come in through an offer) tend to have a lower LTV, especially during the holidays. If you can do a good job  showcasing your brand in your first few emails, you’ll have a much chance at securing that second purchase. 

Strategically partner up 

Identify adjacent brands to collaborate with.

  • Leverage another brand as a Gift with Purchase (i.e “Subscribe to Hydrant, and get a free Shaker Bottle, on us!”)
  • Partner with a digital product, which has lower COGs up front, but also serves as customer acquisition for the digital product. (i.e. “Subscribe to Essentia, and get 3 months of Spotify free”).
  • Sell a discounted bundle with another brand (i.e. “Buy a Spritz Society variety pack & a YETI cooler for 25% off”). 
  • Do an Audience swap!

Wondering who you should partner with? Leveraging a tool like Disco gives brands the data and insights they need to de-risk partnerships. 

Leverage new & emerging acquisition channels outside of Facebook & Instagram

With paid acquisition, it’s easy to run Facebook and Instagram because the platform they have built is easy to use. But others such as Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest have made great advancements to their platforms. You can also lean into affiliate programs, build an ambassador program, and leverage influencers for organic posting (i.e. YouTubers, Instagrammers, or TikTokers).

Some channels may have higher customer acquisition costs than others. If you leverage a channel such as affiliate where your acquisition cost is essentially 10-12% of the revenue generated, your overall cost of acquisition may be the same which allows you to still hit the gas on channels that may be more expensive, like Facebook, which may be 20-30% higher.

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