Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do

Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do

Advertising

It still feels a bit like summer in early October, and retailers are already starting to ramp up their holiday shopping promotions:

  • On September 29, Walmart announced its Top-Rated by Kids Toy List, “featuring the must-have toys of the holiday season.”
  • On September 30, Target announced that its Holiday Price Match Guarantee would kick off October 10 (earlier than ever) and that Target Deal Days would be back October 10-12.
  • Amazon quickly responded on October 4 by releasing “Black Friday-worthy deals.”

Why are these retailers getting out in front of the holiday season, and what are the implications for other advertisers?

Digging Deeper in Major Announcements

The announcements require a bit of unpacking.

Target’s Holiday Price Match Guarantee allows shoppers to request a price adjustment on all qualifying items purchased if they go on sale before December 24. This news sends a signal that Target expects shoppers to begin looking for deals earlier in the season.  On the other hand, Target Deal Days and the Walmart Top-Rated Kids Toy list (the largest ever such list by Walmart) are clearly intended to stoke shopper demand for the holidays. As Target announced, “For three full days, shoppers can get a head start checking off their holiday lists with incredible deals on favorite products like Beats, fleece, kitchen gifts and more.”

Amazon made the most overt holiday land grab with its October 4 announcement. The company’s epic-length 3,000-word press release looked like a laundry list of holiday deals and related news, ranging from discounts for “need to have electronics” to a detailed list of gift guides. The announcement was peppered with references to Black Friday – an attempt to gain the upper hand on traditional offline Black Friday events.

What the Announcements Mean

Retailers want to stoke demand now for a few reasons:

  • They want to capitalize on the anticipated surge in holiday spending resulting from pent-up demand for discretionary goods. Buoyed by stimulus checks, consumers have been confounding economists with their robust spending, showing once again how unpredictable consumer behavior can be during the pandemic.
  • Retailers also want to encourage people to buy now before the effects of the global supply chain crisis kick in. The lingering supply chain bottleneck is expected to result in higher prices and product shortages later in the holiday season. Retailers want people to spend now when consumers are more likely to find what they want.
  • Retailers are also following a practice that has prevailed since before the pandemic: extending Black Friday. For the past few years, retailers have been tinkering with the Black Friday format as holiday shopping becomes more multi-channel. Black Friday as an in-store event still matters very much, and in 2021, with shopping returning to pre-pandemic behaviors, we should see the offline Black Friday becoming more popular again. But Black Friday has changed forever: it’s an online event, too, and retailers are no longer constricted to saving Black Friday deals until the day after Thanksgiving.

So, in a sense, bellwether retailers are following a pattern they started in recent years – creating holiday shopping demand earlier – but with a newfound sense of urgency to get out in front of the impact of the supply chain bottleneck.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Realize that when big retailers launch holiday promotions, they create general consumer awareness of the holiday shopping season. As a result, retailers should expect an uptick in searches for holiday sales and promotions. Now might be a good time to capitalize on that increased search activity to activate your own campaigns.
  • Create a sense of urgency in your holiday campaigns – but don’t overplay your hand. If you expect the supply chain bottleneck to create limited inventory later this season, do get proactive about promoting deals now, and let shoppers know why they need to act sooner rather than later. But be careful with your tone. A “shop now and avoid headaches later” approach could backfire if your inventory levels are not affected as seriously as you thought they would.
  • If you’re an Amazon Advertising customer, optimize your holiday advertising now by maximizing the value of Amazon’s various advertising products, such as Sponsored Ads. Amazon also recommends experimenting with video with shoppable links, Amazon Live, and actionable ads (voice and remote). Amazon raising awareness for holiday shopping deals is like the rising tide that lifts all boats. With increased awareness for holiday deals comes more search traffic on Amazon, and you should capitalize on that.
  • Capitalize on Google advertising products. Inevitably, the increased chatter about the holidays from these big retailers will create an uptick in searches for holiday merchandise online. For example, Discovery ads are designed to show more relevant products in moments where customers are exploring their interests in Google’s feeds.
  • As shoppers respond to the holiday blitz, make sure you are using all tools at your disposal to accelerate the path to purchase. For instance, we’ve discussed on our blog the rise of social commerce options on apps such as Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok, which make it easier for shoppers to browse and shop with an easy click. Snapchat recently shared a holiday shopping guide with detailed campaign strategies. Snapchat notes that most Snapchatters start planning gift purchases and creating wishlists two-to-three months before Christmas. Snapchat urges retailers to launch holiday ads in October to stay top of mind with shoppers who are browsing for gifts and building wish lists.
  • Manage your expectations – and shoppers’, too. Yes, there will be an uptick in search and shopping behavior sooner than normal. But human nature is not going to change: many people will continue to wait until the last minute to do their shopping. Have a game plan in place to respond to shoppers who experience product shortages (if indeed predictions for the 2021 season play out as expected). Be ready for an uptick in negative reviews, and be ready to respond. Retailers should also be ready to offer top rated alternatives to products out of stock as this example shows.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we help businesses maximize their online spend all year-round, and we have deep experience managing holiday shopping campaigns online, ranging from campaigns on Google to Amazon Advertising. Contact us to learn how we can help you.

Why TikTok Has Embraced Social Shopping

Why TikTok Has Embraced Social Shopping

TikTok

TikTok has partnered with Shopify to make it possible for TikTok users to shop directly in the TikTok app. The headline here? Social shopping has become huge! Read on to learn more:

TikTok Made Me Buy It

TikTok, the video app that has taken Gen Z by storm, is perhaps best known as a go-to for short-form entertainment and memes. It’s not that products have been ignored. But up to now, TikTok has featured influencers who talk up merch—from clothing to household goods—and users could only buy those products through ads on the app.

Things have changed.

Now, with the Shopify/TikTok partnership, Shopify merchants participating in a pilot program can add a shopping tab to their profiles, then build a “mini-storefront” including prices, photos, and an “add to favorites” button. As Marketing Dive explains it, the storefront “leads users to [the brand’s] website upon checkout by syncing their product catalogs.” The shopping pilot is currently open to Shopify sellers in the U.S. and U.K., and will launch in other regions in coming months. (Merchants must have a TikTok For Business account in order to participate.)

The move is a savvy one, indicative of an understanding of a simple fact: users find merch that speaks to them on TikTok. According to The New York Times, two-thirds of TikTok users have been inspired to shop, even if that wasn’t their original intent when accessing the app in the first place. The phenomenon has gained enough attention that it even has a hashtag: #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has garnered more than 4.7 billion views on the app.

TikTok isn’t alone: apps like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter have all jumped onto the social commerce bandwagon. The data supports this trend: a recent eMarketer report reveals that social commerce sales in the U.S. have exploded, growing 35.8 percent this year, from $26.97 billion in 2020 to $36.62 billion in 2021.

Although TikTok is relatively new to this crowded field, it’s already demonstrated that it has a talent for making merch go viral. As we have blogged, TikTok collaborated with Walmart last December to host a shoppable livestream event. The response was . . . significant, with viewership exceeding expectations so spectacularly that a second event was scheduled for March 2021.

It’s also worth noting that TikTok Shopping is meant to appeal to brands large and small. As Blake Chandlee, the president of global business solutions at TikTok, said in a statement, “TikTok is uniquely placed at the center of content and commerce, and these new solutions make it even easier for businesses of all sizes to create engaging content that drives consumers directly to the digital point of purchase.” And brands are taking note. Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics is pegged to be one of the early TikTok Shopping adopters.

Why the News Matters

These developments underscore how big social shopping (also known as retail social commerce) has become. As noted above, eMarketer has acknowledged the multibillion-dollar industry retail value that social commerce represents. The market research company goes on to make a bold projection, predicting that 2020’s $26.97 billion in sales “will more than double by 2023, when we predict retail social commerce earnings will hit $56.17 billion.”

eMarketer also notes that social shopping is particularly popular with the surging Gen Z population. That’s good intel for brands hoping to reach this audience. Per eMarketer, more than half of U.S. social media users aged 18 to 24 have used a social channel to make purchases. eMarketer also says that in the United States, it’s the Millennials who are most likely to rely on social media networks as important information sources when deciding what to buy.

What Brands Should Do

How to incorporate social commerce into your marketing plan? We recommend that you:

  • Understand your audience. Are you reaching out to Gen Z? Boomers? Not all social commerce platforms are the same. TikTok resonates with Gen Z and Millennials. Boomers tend to gravitate to Facebook. Ask yourself: who am I trying to reach, and where can I find them?
  • Learn how to use the tools available to you. Each platform will have its own requirements for creating content. In addition, all of these popular sites will demand a strong understanding of how to use visuals—anymore, it’s essential that brands know how to create powerful imagery.
  • Appreciate how influencers can be a powerful ally to your brand. How might you partner with influencers to reach your audience online—and fan the flames of demand?
  • Make sure you are teed up for success. As we’ve blogged, many businesses have struggled to manage the surge in demand that can happen when they attract more shoppers with an intent to buy. Make sure your online fulfillment is up to handling an uptick in sales.

Contact True Interactive

Now more than ever, there are multiple ways brands can connect with their audience—and facilitate purchases. Contact us to learn more about leveraging the exciting digital opportunities out there.

Brands Killing It with Social Commerce

Brands Killing It with Social Commerce

Social media

As we’ve blogged, social commerce is gaining traction as a way to bring attention, and sales, to brands. Although social commerce is still in the early stages of real growth, businesses are already embracing its elements in increasingly interesting ways. Read on to learn about companies who are doing a great job in this arena and making the most of the opportunities social shopping affords:

Creating Community

So you’ve got a Facebook page set up for your brand? Don’t stop there: according to growcode.com, “[s]ome companies attribute as much as 50% of their sales to Facebook groups!” But it’s not just sales that drive these groups; it’s the opportunity for discussion that draws users in the first place.

Consider how Mokosh, a Polish natural cosmetics brand, positioned its Facebook group called MOKOSH Lovers. Customers join the group to ask for skincare advice; they also share their own experiences with the brand and suggest improvements. A meaningful exchange takes place between user and brand. And during an era still defined by the limitations of Covid, the group is also a way for users to connect and “belong” to a cohort of people who share their interests and tastes.

Some brands underline the value inherent in belonging by offering special perks to Facebook group members. The ZigZag Stripe, an online women’s clothing boutique, distributes special offers. Group members are introduced to new arrivals 24 hours before other shoppers, and they have access to exclusive products and live sales.

Engaging Shoppers from Afar

Chatbots can also create some interesting opportunities in the realm of customer engagement on social. Avon, for example, makes it possible for shoppers to “try on” different lipstick shades on camera, using Messenger. Thanks to the messenger chatbot, a special plugin, and camera filters, users can get a sense of whether a color suits them before ordering. Chatbots can also be used to share newsletters or distribute promo codes.

Wooing Youth Culture

Meanwhile, American Eagle Outfitters has pushed the social shopping envelope by partnering with Snapchat in an augmented reality experiment that focuses on denim. As reported in Yahoo! Finance, the clothing and accessories retailer worked with Snapchat to come up with a campaign that centers on American Eagle’s biggest category: jeans. Thanks to the AE x Snapchat 3D Shoppable Jeans Guide, Snapchat users can peruse different AE jeans styles and silhouettes. They might view different washes, learn styling tips, and even see 3D views of how a pair of jeans looks on different body types—by “twisting the world-facing camera on their mobile devices.”

The campaign, which features Chase Stokes and Madison Bailey, stars from the Netflix show “Outer Banks,” targets Gen Z. “Gen Z is clearly looking for new ways to shop,” notes Craig Brommers, American Eagle’s chief marketing officer, who notes that approximately 50 percent of Gen Zers use Snapchat every day. “And wherever Gen Z wants to shop is where you need to go, because if you aren’t innovative, you’ll be left behind.” To that end, shoppers can make American Eagle purchases directly through the app, and share reactions to styles with Snapchat friends.

Generating Buzz

Instagram is also a powerful social commerce channel. As reported in growcode.com, a recent Yotpo study reveals that a whopping 72 percent of respondents say that seeing a product depicted on Instagram increases the chances they’ll buy it; almost 40 percent claim they frequently buy products they see on Insta. The app’s dedicated social selling features, like the “tap to shop” function, definitely give brands a way to take advantage of these tendencies. And companies like Sephora use product tagging to make it easy for shoppers to directly access the brand’s online store. Anything a user sees in a given image, be it brow pencil or blusher, can be purchased in only a couple of taps. The process is easy and seamless, increasing the chances Sephora will earn sales from the initial buzz generated by Insta posts.

Contact True Interactive

How can your brand capitalize on the new opportunities social commerce affords? Contact us. We can help.

Social Commerce Is on the Rise

Social Commerce Is on the Rise

Advertising

Social commerce is on the rise. According to a new report from eMarketer, the pandemic has fueled a surge in e-commerce across the board, and social commerce in the U.S. has benefitted from that acceleration. By all accounts, it will continue to do so: the prediction is that social commerce will gain even more traction as platforms boost their checkout and shopping functions. What does this news mean for your brand? Read on to learn more.

The Market Is Growing

Social commerce is certainly enjoying a banner year already. eMarketer predicts that in 2021, U.S. retail social commerce sales will rise to $36.09 billion — a whopping 34.8 percent leap that would represent a 4.3 percent piece of the retail ecommerce sales pie. The prediction comes on the heels of a revised 2020 social commerce forecast: from 19.8 percent growth to 37.9 percent growth.

Social Commerce Hot Spots

Because of their focus on images, Instagram and Pinterest have a leg up on displaying merchandise; it’s probably no coincidence, then, that both platforms, as eMarketer points out, “provide the most relevant social commerce experiences for brands today.” Instagram and Pinterest have also been enjoying exceptionally strong growth. And both sites have been very proactive about developing business tools that make it easier to sell products and services online.

For example, Pinterest offers tools such as:

  • Product Pins, through which a business can connect its product catalog to Pinterest, filter and organize inventory, create shopping ads, and measure results.
  • Promoted Pins, which appear in search results and home feed as regular pins do, but are targeted and boosted to deliver more reach. Users can pin them to boards, comment on them, and share them. Note that after a Promoted Pin is shared once by a Pinner, the “Promoted” label disappears, with repins considered “earned media.”
  • Promoted Carousels, which feature two to five swipeable images. This can be a useful format for brands wishing to showcase multiple products or features.

But it’s Instagram that has really rocked social commerce by continuously offering tools that make it easier for brands to use the platform for sales. Consider features such as:

  • Instagram checkout, which facilitates simple, convenient, and secure purchases made directly from Instagram. As we’ve blogged, shopping from Instagram means protected payment information is kept in one place. So Instagrammers can shop multiple favorite brands without having to log in and enter intel multiple times.
  • Instagram Live, which allows checkout-enabled businesses to sell products through “live shopping.” In live shopping, consumers might be inspired by a creator or brand’s live video content and subsequently buy promoted products in real-time.

Platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok are also making moves to stay competitive. As we’ve blogged, TikTok has been doubling down on social commerce, especially in the arena of livestreaming. Consider the site’s recent collaboration with Walmart, in which shoppers could check out Walmart’s TikTok profile to see fashions highlighted by TikTok creators like Michael Le (it’s worth noting that categories like apparel/accessories really lend themselves to social commerce). Using mobile checkout, consumers could then buy the same products they saw in the livestream.

What You Should Do

Eager to incorporate social commerce into your marketing plan? We recommend that you:

  • Do your homework on your audience. Not all social commerce platforms are the same. Pinterest tends to appeal to Millennial women, TikTok to Gen Z and Millennials as a whole. Ask yourself: what demographics am I trying to reach?
  • Learn how to use the tools available to you. Each platform will have its own requirements for creating content. In addition, all of these popular sites will require a strong understanding of how to use visuals — it behooves you to make creating powerful imagery a strength. Finally, if you choose to get into live commerce, you’ll need to get really savvy about using livestreaming effectively.
  • Make sure you are set up for success. As we discussed on our blog in January, many businesses are struggling to manage the surge in demand that happens when they attract more shoppers with an intent to buy. Make sure your online fulfillment can handle the demand.

Contact True Interactive

How might social commerce fit into your brand’s digital marketing plan? Contact us. We can help. Read about our expertise in online shopping here.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash