The 2021 holiday season is widely expected to see record-setting ecommerce sales. The global events of this year – not least the continuation of the pandemic – have caused major and potentially lasting changes in consumer behavior, accelerating the shift to digital in remarkable ways. For example, Digital Commerce 360 reports that during the first quarter, e-commerce sales rose 39%.
While many regions are now returning to some degree of normalcy, we anticipate that people will do much of their shopping online or in apps this year, but they will also be returning to shop in store. Deloitte predicts that holiday online holiday shopping will increase between 11% to 15%.
In order to capitalize on the e-commerce growth opportunity this holiday season, marketers need a scalable, diversified, and brand-safe way to reach, engage, and convert customers. And partnership fills that need very well. Further, brands should look to partnership to reach customers at scale and at every stage of the customer journey, from seeding initial awareness and consideration to the moments just before conversion.
So, to help get you prepared for what lies ahead this holiday shopping season, here are six easy-to-implement strategies to transform partnership into a thriving profit center for your business this holiday season:
1) Start Promoting Earlier
Over the past several years, holiday partnership sales have shifted earlier and earlier. For example, 2020 data from Partnerize indicates that sales occurring on the Tuesday (11/24/20) before Thanksgiving outshined the performance in the three days following Thanksgiving—a fairly very impressive development, especially when you consider that the second period includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Tip: Work with your partners to plan and execute holiday promotions earlier. Ensure your promotions align to inventory, in case ongoing supply chain issues due to the pandemic impact product availability. Align your commissions to your specific KPIs. For example, maximizing revenue, maximizing profit, attracting new customers, driving higher AOVs, etc. Work with your technology team to ensure you are ready for increased traffic and conversions on peak days.
2) Fully Leverage Partnerships with Premium Content Publishers & Influencers
The pandemic only increased demand for quality publisher and influencer content. In addition to scaling early holiday programs by activating coupon and cashback partners, advertisers can make meaningful connections with potential customers by engaging via trusted and authoritative content.
Many content publishers have seen big increases in viewership as people spend more time at home during the pandemic. The same is true for social media influencers. A recent study of US consumers indicated that 28% are interested in shopping via social media this holiday season compared to 18% last season. According to Partnerize data, content partners have delivered a 191% revenue growth YoY just for the Tuesday ahead of Thanksgiving. In short, the opportunity to promote offers through direct publisher partnerships has never been higher.
Another reason to focus on content publishers and influencers: these environments are often less discount and offer focused than traditional affiliates. Thus, both content and traditional affiliates can play a key role in maximizing profitable revenue for the holiday. Further, data indicate that content publishers and influencers deliver strong average order values, and can significantly broaden the audience that sees and engages with your offers.
Tip: If you already work with content partners and influencers, ensure that you develop programs and plans specifically for the holidays. If you don’t, quickly diversify your partner mix purposefully to drive engagement within trusted content and influencers for your audience. If your brand’s influencer programs are managed by the social or brand marketing team, collaborate with them to determine how to leverage their traffic and credibility to drive direct sales.
3) Make Capturing All Customers a Priority
There has never been a better time to swoon new customers away from your competitors than the holiday shopping season. And with so many customers up for grabs, the depths of brand loyalty is always a question mark. Partnership provides an opportunity to efficiently reach new customers during research and exploration, and by strategically commissioning toward this goal, your partners will work hard to deliver.
Tip: Make sure you have a strong brand presence with partners that determine where people compare before they buy. Traditional affiliate categories like cashback, coupons, and comparison sites are very strong here. Shake things up with more varied offers. Communicate differentiated value to new audiences and reward partners more for attracting new customers.
4) Right-Size Offers to Ensure Partnership is a Profit Center for Your Brand
There will always be a high demand for deals and there may be multiple teams within your business building promotions, offers, and partnerships. The likelihood of running a high volume of deals across many channels brings the potential for offer stacking. This strategy is used by super-savvy shoppers looking to maximize their savings on a purchase by stacking one offer on top of another for maximum savings. If you don’t want or plan for offer stacking, it can put a serious dent in margins. Collaborate with other teams in your org to set appropriate promotion levels to achieve your targets.
Although shoppers will start buying earlier this year, this week through Cyber Monday, will prove to be big spending days. Retailers should plan enticing promotions during this period, and commission to their most important KPIs. For example, use creative commissioning to move specific inventory, pair hotter categories with less hot, acquire new customers, drive repeat purchases, or increase order value. Data, analytics, and optimization will be crucial to finetune deals during this time.
Tip: Collaborate with internal teams to ensure you prevent offer stacking. Make sure you deliver compelling offers and deals across “Cyber Week.” Carefully monitor performance and competitor activity during the “Cyber Week” and adjust offers and pricing as necessary to ensure you meet your goals.
5) Plan for Shoppers Celebrating a Partial Return to Normalcy
Relief on seemingly never-ending lockdowns and social distancing are going to have a ripple effect on how the holidays are celebrated in 2021. Family gatherings may be larger, longer, and more people are expected to travel this holiday season.
Consider how this may affect your business? For example, a luxury retailer might choose to focus on more formal/holiday attire this year while still featuring the smart (and potentially favorited) casual apparel that was such a hit in 2020. A spirits retailer might change the assortment they emphasize, and communicate flexible shipping options to distribute goods for larger gatherings. A great place to start for this sort of planning is to consider changes in your most popular items since the onset of the pandemic. Party supply companies might choose to emphasize goods assortments appropriate for larger, more long-overdue celebratory occasions. The list goes on.
For brands with current partnerships with other leading brands, consider opportunities to co-promote for the events your target audience is planning. For example, a direct-to-consumer wine retailer and apparel brand could cross-sell to each other’s customers for party provisions and attire.
Tip: A great place to start for this sort of planning is to consider changes in your most popular items since the onset of the pandemic. Using this data as a foundation, think through how changes in holiday occasions will affect the likely purchases of your customers and prospects. Look at holiday celebrations through new optics and get creative with brand partnerships that will help people truly re-connect this holiday season.
6) Brace Yourself for the Mobile Shopping Surge
While total e-commerce has accelerated during the pandemic, mobile commerce is spiking even more steeply. Mobile commerce sales are projected to top $3.5 trillion. In fact, data from Partnerize shows that holiday conversions on Singles’ Day last year alone marked a 129% YoY increase in mobile average order value (AOV).
With the expectation that consumers will buy more on mobile devices this year, delivering seamless shopping journeys on mobile sites and apps is paramount. Retailers must make it seamless for shoppers to not only convert but utilize offers and promotions on mobile web and in-app. In addition, for affiliate and partner marketers, deploying tracking that can capture these sales is important for understanding the value of each partner and optimizing accordingly.
Tip: Get your mobile house in order for the holidays before it’s too late. Invest now in technology that removes shopping friction and accurately tracks mobile partnership activity in apps or on the mobile web.
For more information on how this channel provides the perfect vehicle for the scale, diversity, and performance necessary to turn your partnerships into profit centers, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.