The quickly approaching holiday shopping season will likely look vastly different this year than in the past, exchanging shoulder-to-shoulder Black Friday crowds with extended online Black Friday to Cyber Monday deals. Industry forecasts project online sales will grow by 12-15% this year.

The digital retail and e-commerce industry experienced a massive surge in 2020, with rapid online adoption driven by the public health crisis. A recent Adobe report found COVID-19 accelerated the growth of e-commerce by 4-6 years, jumping $52 billion in May 2020 alone.

With this explosive growth in online shopping, it’s critical retailers stay up-to-date and ahead of the curve on new ways to engage their customers in this new and largely digital environment.

To stand out amid the digital noise this holiday season, here are three digital marketing tactics that enable e-commerce brands to gain and retain customers, improve sales and create a unique online shopping experience.

1. Content That Converts

Now more than ever, brands can easily get lost in a sea of online competitors, competing for eyes on social media or clicks on their ad. The most important question a retailer should ask is: What are my audience’s needs? From there, ask yourself: Am I delivering exactly what they need? Are they making a purchase once they click on the ad or bouncing off the page? Am I giving them a chance to get to know my company and product/service before they make a purchase? Why should they choose my company?

Analyze your shared and owned audiences across social media, your website and email lists to see what content your buyers are actually interested in and use that information to craft additional content and buying experiences tailored to them.

In our ongoing work with Detroit Grooming Company (DGC), we did just that. We started by analyzing audience behavior against each of the company’s shared and owned platforms to truly map what customers were doing once they interacted with the brand ¬– and to understand which audiences were the most engaged.

Finding a strong audience of brand advocates in DGC’s newsletter and YouTube subscribers, we shifted their focus to producing weekly fan-service oriented video content, focused on keeping in continue contact with their loyal audience. The videos helped users stay informed of new products, provided tips on how to use products and included special promo codes. The results were impressive, generating a 64% year-over-year increase in consumer/retail sales.

2. Connect Through Virtual Events

The pandemic has changed the retailer-buyer equation completely with a massive decline in brick-and-mortar sales. Small businesses that previously relied heavily on foot traffic saw the biggest impact, both to their bottom line and customer retention. A July study found 75% of consumers tried a new shopping behavior during the crisis – and intend to continue.

That same study found 61% of consumers now use inspiration from digital channels like social media when deciding where to shop. While many small retailers are missing that face-to-face interaction that used to drive sales, interacting with customers is easier than ever on social media – with virtual events and live streams offering retailers an easy way to foster two-way conversations.

When the retailers in downtown Milford (Franco client) were looking for ways to simply have fun with their customers following the cancellation of their bi-annual in-person Ladies Night Out shopping event, they created a Facebook event and utilized Facebook Live to connect and interact with shoppers.

During the first-ever virtual Ladies Night hosted via an “online” Facebook event, various retailers participated in live streams showcasing their products, hosting classes, answering questions from the audience and offering discounts – all while sipping wine and challenging shoppers to participate in giveaways and games. The goal of the campaign was to bring the fun-filled retail experience the community knew and loved online, while simplifying the buying process for both retailers and consumers alike. The results were impressive. More than 1,500 people responded to the event, with a reach of nearly 44K, and with 26% of respondents being women ages 55-64 (a core audience for the retainers).

3. Integrate Online and Offline Experiences

As the e-commerce industry continues to navigate through the current situation and move into a “new normal,” it’s critical retailers focus on integrating offline with online experiences.

This is especially important for retails who previously relied on in-person demonstrations or employee counsel before a purchase. For example, beauty retail giant Sephora is well known for its success in blending online and in-store experiences.

With the help of audience data, Sephora was able to update its mobile app to include a virtual assistant and recreate the in-person shopping experience consumers value. Using the technology, Sephora encouraged users to leave product reviews and recommendations and even participate in virtual product demos, followed by a choice of buying online or in-store.

While this strategy worked for Sephora, connecting your online and offline shopping experience doesn’t necessarily require fancy technology. Also based in downtown Milford, Gina’s Bridal Boutique, a locally owned dress shop, went virtual during the COVID-19 crisis to enable brides to find the dress of their dreams with the support of their friends and family.

The boutique offered virtual meetings where brides-to-be could view dresses on mannequins, get input from their friends and family. Shopping “guests” could dial in and pick their top five dresses for at-home try-ons.

As the retail industry and consumer purchasing preferences continue to shift, now more than ever it’s important retailers find ways to connect with customers during each stage of their buying experience.

Contact us to learn more about we can enhance your digital marketing program.

Neekita Singla is a senior digital account executive at Franco. Connect with her on LinkedIn.