Challenges and solutions for eCommerce during peak shopping season in our new normal

Christopher Lowe

Mar 23, 2020

With the peak shopping season fast approaching, we reached out to several industry leaders to find out what their plans are. After an unprecedented year that saw online shopping and eCommerce explode, we’ve experienced a big shift in the way consumers are searching for and buying goods. 

Marketing tools are adapting to this new global shift. Expectations, brand loyalty, and fulfilment have been key areas of focus for all marketers and consumers. Great strides have been made in curtailing the global pandemic, but it’s not yet over. 

With variants wreaking havoc at a time when most expected the world to be mostly back to normal, we’re experiencing uncertainty with returning to regular in-person retail shopping. This has only helped eCommerce. 

On the flip side? With seemingly every company ramping up their online shopping experiences, there is a great deal of competition. So, where do things stand? What are marketers doing to address the new normal? What do they predict the future will bring?

We asked three questions to get a pulse on what marketing and eCommerce managers are doing this peak shopping season vs. last year.

  1. Are you doing anything different this peak holiday shopping season? Have you changed your marketing or eCommerce approach? Why?

  2. What do you predict will happen this year vs. last year’s peak shopping season in terms of traffic, revenue, channels, etc.?

  3. Is there anything else you want to share about your approach to peak shopping season marketing (multichannel and/or omnichannel) tactics, insights, etcetera?

Table of Contents
  1. Question One: Are you doing anything different this peak season?

  2. Question Two: What do you think will happen this peak season vs. last season?

  3. Question Three: What is your approach to peak season marketing?

Question One: Are you doing anything different this peak holiday shopping season? Have you changed your marketing or eCommerce approach? Why

From Mathew Maxton at Hypernia:

“There is an essential element to a peak shopping season that allows it to happen. In our experience, peaks happen around holidays or paydays. It is important to know the cause of these peaks. Because, if we know the reason why customers flock, we can adjust our marketing campaign so that we can attract them. If it is Christmas or Black Friday, we adapt our marketing accordingly.”

From Douglas Liantonio, marketing outreach analyst for Gravy:

“Traffic will have taken a bit of a hit because of the rise of subscription services. People have gotten their online shopping needs established due to Covid. 

Being that Amazon has had an increase in sales since Covid you might want to boost up your social media to get some inbound traffic to your website. Do this through PPC and community building.”

“We have actually changed our entire strategy and approach for the peak season. Last year we noticed that consumer engagement was low despite offering discounts and deals. So this year we’ve decided to gamify the customer experience on our website. We’ll be using short interactive games to lure customers towards specific products and discounts. For example, playing a short quiz will get them a discount on their purchase if they get 3 out of 5 questions right. This will increase user engagement and the overall interactivity of our e-commerce platform,” says Scott Keever, Founder at Scott Keever SEO. 

From Christian Velitchkov of TWIZ LLC:

“The channels that I will use for marketing and selling will be similar to last year. When the pandemic struck, the e-com business was majorly affected by the lockdown and the restricted spending power of consumers.

Now that the lockdown is over, people have started working again with a renewed sense of spending urgency. The channels for marketing will be the same as last year. I expect the revenue and the traffic to be far more than 2020.

Last year, my business had a more conservative approach to curb our marketing and spend less on advertising. This year, we are spending more freely and are leaving no stone unturned to bring the lost revenue back.”

Julie Woon from Codal says:

“We’ve seen a lot of changes within the eCommerce space over the past year and a half. Last year’s BFCM was record breaking. But with recent retail sales reports, we’re seeing consumers heading into the holiday season with lower confidence in the economy.”

From Clare Jones at NEON:

“In 2020 our peak holiday promotion time was from 10/1/20 to 12/1/20.  During this time, we increased our Google ad spend budget by 12.59%, an investment that led to a 31.42% increase in conversions and a 15% decrease in cost per conversion, when compared to the previous two-month period. In addition, our advertisements during this period resulted in a 30.82% increase in conversion rate and 10.90% increase in click-through rates when compared to the previous period.

2020 saw an increase in online shopping across the board over the course of November, as retailers launched promotions and discounts well prior to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We were able to heavily capitalize on these premature buyer behaviors, largely due to the aforementioned lead time dictating that we initiate the majority of our holiday marketing campaigns early.”

From Cale Loken, Business Consultant & the CEO at 301 Madison Consulting:

“After lots of research, I decided to embrace Omni channel marketing this year in order to maximize customer retention and generate revenue online.

Omni channel retailing is one of the most rewarding strategies this year due to the emphasis on online shopping. It is basically integrating a sales strategy into creating the most convenient experience for the customer. Last year, we used brick and mortar strategies which backfired heavily and our business suffered from heavy losses. Omni shopping provides the customer with the opportunity to shop from anywhere by using any device available to them. We have been responsive to our customers by offering online coupons and in-store promotions.”

QUESTION TWO: What do you predict will happen this year vs. last year’s peak shopping season in terms of traffic, revenue, channels, etc.?

“Our predictions say traffic will be much higher this year. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the world has shifted to online shopping and brick-and-mortar stores have been declining ever since. ECommerce has already seen a significant boom in the last year, and with the peak shopping season coming up we’re expecting those last few shoppers who preferred in-person shopping to migrate to eCommerce as well.” – From: Scott Keever, Founder at Scott Keever SEO

Julie Woon from Codal says: 

“Maximizing the potential of this year’s peak sales season starts with identifying the current strengths and weaknesses of your customer journey. Buyers are increasingly making purchases outside of companies’ eCommerce websites. They’re buying via social media, marketplaces and more. Implementing an omnichannel strategy can ensure you’re meeting your potential customers where they are and anywhere they’re open to purchasing. 

In line with different purchase channels, integrating SMS marketing into your arsenal is another way to reach consumers. With inboxes being oversaturated with marketing emails, texting can be a quick and easy way to get buyers’ attention and address customer service concerns.”

From Clare Jones at NEON: 

“This year will be no different. Competition is going to be fierce. We anticipate many online retailers will be keen to entice shoppers early. Increased vaccination rollouts and eased restrictions will promote increased demand for brick and mortar shopping experiences, however, the recent spread of the Delta variant will be sure to result in ongoing growth in the online sphere.

We have changed our Google Ads strategy for the 2021 peak shopping period, choosing to break our categories down into individual campaigns in order to better allocate our budget towards products with the highest demand. This strategy will hopefully increase conversion rates and champion ads previously neglected.

In addition to our Google Ads campaigns, we plan to focus heavily on our other digital marketing channels. 2020 saw a 96% increase in video consumption, with Youtube Shorts, Instagram Reels, Tik Toks and Facebook videos dominating the feeds of our target audiences as they dealt with the pandemic from home. Bolstered by our expanded product offering this year, we aim to make our presence felt across these channels by creating highly eye-catching and shareable videos that illustrate the unique nature of our customizable neon signs.

We will also be increasing our budget dedicated to shopping ads on key social media platforms. Shopping via social media channels has massively increased in the past 12 months, with recent reports illustrating that 48.% of U.S. internet users aged between 25-34 have made a purchase through a social media platform in 2021.

As this demographic perfectly aligns with our target market, we are predicting to see a healthy return.”

From Julia Fuqua of Diffusion:

USPS recently announced plans to charge more during peak shipping times this holiday season. With increases in pricing directly related to the weight of a package, this could prompt eCommerce brands to rethink packaging strategies, eliminating unnecessary packaging.”

From Cale Loken, Business Consultant & the CEO at 301 Madison Consulting:

“With Omni shopping channels on the rise, businesses will enjoy more traffic to their websites and generate far more revenue than last year. It will also pave the way for smaller businesses to catch customer’s attention by offering online deals on the cheap. Holidays and cheap deals are a cheat code in the ecommerce world. All in all, with smartphone usage on the rise and the pandemic still in effect, it will definitely prove to be a defining year for online businesses.”

QUESTION THREE: Anything else you want to share about your approach to peak shopping season marketing (multichannel and/or omnichannel) tactics, insights, etc.?

“Our marketing approach has also shifted a little. The use of short videos on social media has skyrocketed with the introduction of TikTok and Instagram Reels. So we’ve also extended our marketing efforts to video this year. Using social media influencers to promote our products in videos is our strategy this year,” says Scott Keever, Founder at Scott Keever SEO.

From Clare Jones at NEON: 

“One final trend that we’re looking to focus on in the upcoming shopping season is our adoption of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) platforms that provide consumers with increased access to our products. These platforms are becoming increasingly easy to use and competitive, providing consumers with little to no fees and opening the door to more expensive products.We anticipate that given the upsurge in customers using this technology, we will see our average sale price rise.”

From Julia Fuqua of Diffusion:

“According to a recent parcelLab study, only 4% of retailers offer less packaging as an option at checkout. Packaging plays a large role in the environmental impact of eCommerce, and the rising costs of shipping might be the turning point for retailers to reassess how they pack and ship merchandise, especially during the peak holiday shipping season.”

From Cale Loken, Business Consultant & the CEO at 301 Madison Consulting:

“We have integrated Paypal into our Omni channel shopping model as it is the most used payment method in the USA, with respect to ecommerce stores. PayPal offers the convenience and direct integrations with stores make it extremely easy to use.”

Julie Woon from Codal says: 

“Lastly, consumers continue to shop with more than just price in mind. Buyers continue to want to see that the brands they’re purchasing from have values that align with their own. Emphasizing a company mission statement that matches your target audience can be a way to set yourself apart from competitors. Values such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion are some of the top concerns for consumers.” 

Want more peak season insights? Visit our Peak Shopping Season Launch Pad for battle-tested holiday marketing strategies, plus 2019, 2020, and 2021 industry and regional predictions. 

Christopher has a long history of driving value and creating personalized, omnichannel journeys that enhance customer experience. He's passionate about learning and development and has a keen interest in developing economies, especially ones with a lot of room for digital growth.