Four ways brands can embrace agility this holiday

Facebook's insights on how brands can strengthen customer connections by staying nimble

Stock image 1 (1)By: Blake Smith, Industry Manager-Emerging Disruptors, Facebook

Last year’s holiday shopping season presented many unique challenges for businesses as social distancing restrictions required them to move more (if not all) of their commerce online. This year, while brands can prepare by applying lessons learned from Holiday 2020, COVID-19 safety regulations that vary on a regional basis mean that businesses will face even more varied and complex circumstances.

The key to managing Holiday 2021 boils down to one word: agility. The following four tips will help brands stay nimble in the face of this year’s emerging uncertainties and embrace its opportunities:

  • 1. Test and learn now, early, and often — especially creative.

Create a learning agenda and plan to test everything about your marketing strategy, including how you reach audiences, craft creative and ensure effortless checkout experiences. With industry regulations restricting access to customer data, you’ll have less signal about your customers’ preferences, making creative your most effective tool for reaching audiences. Test a variety of creative formats and platforms to find what works best in a year where agile experimentation will be the norm.

  • 2. Craft a full-funnel marketing strategy. 

The line between in-store and online was blurred before COVID-19 — now it’s practically non-existent. Research estimates that 41% of people aged 14 and older who use the Internet in Canada will purchase a product online and collect it in store in 2021. That’s up by 7.2% year over year.

These consumer behaviour trends indicate that it’s critical that marketing and support services are flexible enough to reach customers whether they’re discovering, purchasing or receiving your products and services online or in person — or through a combination of channels. Be aware of regional social distancing restrictions that could impact their experience and prepare to communicate with customers about your safety measures, order fulfillment processes and shipment delays as needed.

  • 3. Engage consumers from October 1 through Boxing Week – and beyond.

With the ability to shop anytime, anywhere — as well as the memory of last year’s shipping delays staying top of mind — consumers will be primed to discover and purchase gifts early this year. In fact, 48% of people recently surveyed said that they started their holiday shopping by mid-November during the 2020 holiday season, an 8% jump from 2019.

Consumers will likely continue to make purchases throughout the season and outside of traditional sale days as well. Around the world, “Mega Sale Days” (MSDs) like Halloween, Singles Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Giving Tuesday and Boxing Week create multiple peak moments for consumers, with almost one in two holiday shoppers buying something on a MSD.

And by keeping your marketing going after the holidays into early Q1, you’ll take advantage of lower cost-per-impression (CPM) numbers and consumers’ continued interest post-holiday. Brands often see strong purchase performance and high return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) into the first weeks of January as shoppers remain in a buying mindset, potentially making use of gift cards or money received over the holidays.

  • 4. Define success and how you’ll measure it. 

In light of an evolving ad ecosystem and increased industry regulations around data privacy, marketers will need to precisely define what success looks like. By crafting their measurement strategy around true business value, they can optimize their marketing investment as they understand which strategies work best at key shopping moments.

Learnings from Holiday 2020 will help prepare marketers as we head into another holiday season during unpredictable times. However, with a competitive landscape of brands all applying these lessons and embracing experimental approaches, shoppers whose behaviour is both more dynamic and difficult to predict and pandemic-related restrictions that fluctuate on a regional basis, marketers will need to be even more agile this holiday.

Testing and learning and embracing full-funnel and full-season marketing and measurement strategies will enable brands to maximize their sales and break through the noise of what will likely be another atypical holiday season.