Susie Hood, Creative Content Manager, Hitsearch

No one needs reminding that 2020 has so far been the strangest of years. For many retailers, the events of the last few months may have completely derailed their marketing plans for the period. Whilst the future still contains many uncertainties, the final quarter of the year could be pivotal in keeping online retailers ticking over and maximising revenue to drive towards the best possible end of year outcomes for the business.

With several events and occasions between now and the end of the year, there are still opportunities for retailers to focus their marketing efforts on, which could make all the difference to the Q4 bottom line.


Update legacy seasonal landing pages for a head start in the SERPs this time around

Many retail brands who launch seasonal events or promotions, whether that’s for a Black Friday sale or for a Halloween or Christmas themed line of products, create a new landing page for this on the website every year.

However, if there is a 2019 (or previous) landing page already in existence, by updating this page content rather than making a new one, you inherit any page authority, external links and search engine visibility from the old page, which can give you a bit of head start in 2020 in comparison with starting from scratch.

One brand that uses this tactic to good effect every year is Debenhams. Their URL doesn’t ever need to change, and they simply update the content (plus title tag and meta description) a couple of times each year to make it relevant to the current year’s event. This approach means that their page is always on the first page of search engine results for people looking for relevant (or generic) Black Friday deals – whatever time of year they search.

Expand gift and delivery options

The unfortunate reality is that this year, families and groups of friends might not be able to come together for big occasions and events like Christmas in the ways they normally would. Its worth considering what your brand might be able to do to help make things a little easier or more special for gift buyers and the recipients.

If gifts are being sent directly from you to the recipient, what packaging or wrapping services can you offer? Can you also offer personalised messages to be sent with gifts? Can you offer more delivery options to help ensure that you offer a highly convenient service that has something for everyone?

If these services are added or increased at little or no additional cost to the buyer, it could give your brand a real advantage over some of your competitors.

Build a multi-channel seasonal campaign on a hero product or line

One thing that many retail brand marketing teams find at the tail end of a ‘normal’ year, let alone the craziness of 2020, is that budgets are really tight by Q4. If a full-scale marketing push across the whole brand isn’t realistic for your business at this moment in time, a tactic that can work well is to focus the attention on a hero product or range that has good margins and high stock levels instead. A highly targeted marketing push on this one product or small range across all relevant channels (depending on where your audience are, of course) can be a good use of limited resources.

For example, an outdoor fashion brand might choose to put their main marketing focus behind just their waterproof jackets rather than their whole Autumn/Winter range.

By doing a push on all the channels that work for the target audience, e.g. organic and paid social, PPC, influencer activity, digital PR and organic, you can push this product or range into the spotlight more effectively, which can also have a positive knock-on impact on other website transactions, as shoppers discover what else you have to offer once they come to make their purchase.

Ramp up brand awareness activity

Whilst there are plenty of seasonal opportunities at this time of year for online retailers, this also means that the increased competition and noise makes things harder to cut through than ever.

As is always the case with any type of brand awareness activity, it will only be an effective use of time and resource if you target it carefully towards the platforms and areas that influence your specific audience. For example, there is no point aiming for tabloid coverage of your brand’s PR stories if your customers are more likely to be broadsheet readers, and vice versa. Once you have worked out where your brand needs to become higher profile at this specific point in time, you can concentrate your efforts to achieve a better ROI.

For many retailers, a quick, cost effective and fairly straightforward way to create a brand buzz is to run a competition or giveaway via social media – the more memorable or quirky, the better. Whilst most social media competitions will attract the attention of hardcore ‘compers’, and a certain level of that is pretty much unavoidable, you can help more genuine potential customers to find and enter your comp by making it the best possible ‘lifestyle fit’ to whoever buys your products.

This doesn’t only work so far as the prize itself, but also in how you promote it. Using an influencer partnership, with individuals who are a great match for your customers, can be a great way to publicise the giveaway or competition to a much higher level than relying solely on social media shares.

A great recent example of a highly targeted competition is the unboxing and giveaway video published on the GCN Tech YouTube channel. With nearly 380k highly relevant subscribers (you’re not going to subscribe to a cycling tech channel unless you really like cycling tech), this activity combines a product launch with the influencer activity and a product giveaway for maximum impact.

Consider wider discounts, limited sales or bundle offers

No retailer wants to reduce their margins by selling products off cheaply, but for lingering stock that is putting the blockers on future lines and launches, or simply taking up valuable warehouse space, sometimes it just makes sense on a number of fronts to try to clear this out with discounts.

With some targeted PR and advertising finagling too, you can maximise the publicity around your sale which should help to drive additional sales. For example, The regularly updated offers/sales page on The Independent website.

Show your brand’s human side through your comms and marketing activity

With everything that has happened during 2020, ensuring that your marketing activity and messaging incorporates a sensitivity to how your customers might have been affected by events, or are feeling about life in general, is simply a must.

That doesn’t mean that you need to fill your social media timelines with platitudes or mention the pandemic explicitly and repeatedly, but it could pay off for everything to be sense-checked before it goes out, just to make sure the tone is always right for the current climate.

With many people having been starved of personal connections this year, being a brand that shoppers can identify with on a personal level is important.

A really simple example is this social post by one of our clients, Daisy London. With a non-direct reference to how things are anything but normal at the moment, in a way that lots of people will be able to relate to, and a non-pushy sales message, this post hits a good note for their target audience.

You might not be a retailer who can take advantage of every single seasonal opportunity between now and the end of 2020 (not every brand has a Halloween collection, after all) but with Q4 packed with events, hopefully there will be something that you can utilise to make the end of the year better for business than the preceding months.

By taking a highly targeted approach to your marketing strategy for Q4, you can use this period to test new or quirky seasonal activity that you can then scale up in the future when you have proof of ROI.