Online shopping skyrocketed in last year’s holiday season — during the height of the pandemic. The demand for unique online holiday subscriptions was higher than ever before. How is the decline in Covid-19 restrictions going to impact your businesses sales funnel strategy for this year’s holiday festivities?
Although Covid-19 restrictions are increasingly being lifted across the nation, it’s still too soon to predict exactly how e-commerce sales will be affected during the upcoming holidays. So, we need to use other clues to best plan for 2021’s holiday season — and start planning our sales funnel strategy early.
SUBTA leaders Chris George and Paul Chambers, and Bold Commerce Co-Founder Jay Myers share expert recommendations on how to prepare for all scenarios and get the best estimates for your business.
What to Expect this Holiday Season
At SUBTA, we believe that whether the online subscription market declines or sustains this holiday season depends on numerous factors. Bearing those factors in mind, the most important aspect for you to focus on is your sales funnel strategy.
According to our experts, there are three prevailing mindsets about what to expect this holiday season:
1. Last year was abnormally successful; don’t expect online shopping to see such massive rates this year.
Chris George, SUBTA Co-Founder and Chairman says, “It’s not likely to be the same as 2020; people are eager to get out of the house.” He continues, “Last year was an anomaly and we need to treat it as such.”
George still believes online shopping will be more prevalent in 2021 than it was in 2019, though, so companies need to prepare for both case scenarios.
2. Covid-19 led to new trends — many of which benefit e-commerce. Business owners should tailor their sales funnel strategy to capitalize on those trends.
Additionally, Paul Chambers shared that e-commerce took new strides during the pandemic — such as innovative gift-giving ideas that might stick in the long run. “Covid-19 gave us the time (18+ months) to cement these new habits.” Rising e-commerce companies can capitalize on these new trends.
Learn more about the pandemics impact on changing buying behaviors in SUBTA’s Subscription Industry Covid Report
3. E-commerce will continue to spike: hop on it now.
E-commerce expert Jay Myers argued that “there’s no indication of e-commerce growth slowing down.” Over the last several months, in both 2020 and 2021, gifting subscription boxes has only grown in popularity. “The spike in popularity will likely continue.”
Overall, sales will likely increase from 2019 numbers, but you need to be prepared to see a bit less success than last year just in case.
Tie All Loose Ends in Your Sales Funnel Strategy
George brainstormed several different ways to lock in a strong sales funnel strategy for the upcoming holidays. While he firmly believes the retreat from online shopping won’t be massive, it’s important to prepare for all possibilities. Using data from last year will help.
George recommends contacting previous buyers to gauge their interest in being a customer again this year. These customers have already bought from you once, meaning that they should be an integral part of your sales funnel strategy.
Further, with last year’s shipping delays, it’s essential to make sure you’re continuously communicating with your shipping partner to see if they’re prepared for the holidays.
“There were a bunch of delays [last year] and items were getting delivered way after Christmas because of the unprecedented amount of orders,” George says. It’s important for shipping companies to be prepared this year because people won’t be as understanding as they were last year.
George urges businesses to consider moving up the “last day to buy to receive your gift by Christmas” cutoff to help your shipping partner to meet deadlines.
Customer service is another essential feature of your sales funnel strategy: Be sure that your customer service is in tip top shape for this upcoming holiday season. A bulk of your focus as a business owner should consist of adequate customer service training and tips to ensure a smooth process for every customer.
Include New Buyers in Your Sales Funnel Strategy
Alongside previous customers, new buyers play a key role in your business’s sales funnel strategy. George suggests using eye-catching marketing strategies like gift guides and other techniques to appeal to new customers.
Some of your new customers just celebrated a birthday or milestone, launching them into your target demographic. The next generation is focused on more than the delivery of goods or services they need. George explains, “These buyers are focused on convenience, good return policies, sustainability, along with personalization, customization, and a feeling of belonging — that’s the next generation.”
In addition to those aspects, all companies should also consider leveraging payment plans. Payments made over time feel like an easier option opposed to requiring the full payment all at once.
Maximize Your Sales Funnel Strategy for Both Parties
While selling your innovative subscription boxes, remember that you really have two potential customers: gifters and receivers. Gifters buy your subscriptions as gifts to others, but may not have experienced your subscription personally. Receivers actually use your subscription, but have not yet purchased it for themselves.
So, how can we make both parties into happy, equally satisfied customers?
The answer lies in your sales funnel strategy. Optimize your strategy to ensure that customers’ experiences with your brand are memorable. Whether your buyer is a gifter or receiver, Myers says offering the buyer a neat perk at the time of purchase will set your business apart.
“Maybe I [the buyer] can get one month free on the existing subscription,” Myers says. “Or maybe it unlocks VIP pricing for me on the whole website.” If the gifter buys a friend a 12-month subscription, he explains, an offer for the buyer would be a great incentive to keep their business as well.
Myers says that another way to reward both the gifter and receiver is to give the gifter access to perks other members may not get, such as digital goods, conferences with a thought leader, and other items along those lines that don’t have a direct cost.
The holidays will be here before you know it! Optimizing your sales funnel strategy now to prepare for the holidays now will save you grief, money, and time later, which may be the best holiday gift of all to you and your business.
Plan for the Worst and Hope for the Best
Chambers believes the best practice is to “plan for the worst and hope for the best.” While it’s necessary to plan and prepare for a small retreat from e-commerce sales for a minute, it’s important to plan a strong sales funnel strategy so that your business will continue to thrive this holiday season.
Using general early data on your sales from 2019, 2020, and 2021 will help give you a good indicator on how the rest of 2021 could go. You don’t have to compare holiday season with holiday season — you can compare each quarter up until this point in 2021.
“If you start to see sales going about the same pace in June and into July, you might assume you could continue to see the same trend going into the holiday season,” Chambers says. “Especially as things start to open up — look at certain states that opened up earlier, drill down into your data in different states and see if you see any clues.”
Chambers emphasized how the best time to plan for the holidays is now. It’s time to look at your business plan and supply chain, and determine how to jump back into the winter holiday swing of things for 2021.
Supply Chain, Contingency, & Referral Plans
Some aspects Chambers focused on were the supply chain, contingency, and referral planning. After finalizing your supply plan, consider what types of compensatory gifts you’ll give customers in the case that you can’t get their orders to them as scheduled.
Some solid examples of offers include gift cards, a complimentary month subscription, or a hefty discount. “Last year, in March, April, and May, it was like a holiday season in itself [without preparation],” Chambers says.
“This year, we have a little bit more time to prepare for the holiday season, so set yourself up for success,” he adds. Focusing on referrals and retention is also a way to accelerate your sales funnel strategy this year.
Many businesses built up a major customer base last holiday season, and now need to focus on how to keep previous customers and gain new traffic. Consider implementing ways to retain your customers through referral programs.
Chambers believes, “These customers are your best advocates and best advertising method — and the cheapest, too.”
Online Shopping Isn’t Slowing Down
As we noted earlier, Myers believes that e-commerce is not slowing down any time soon. As an industry expert with 23 years of e-commerce experience under his belt, he has only seen evidence of the market growing in demand this past year — meaning that business owners should be ready to take full advantage.
Myers says holiday subscription boxes specifically are “going to be more and more of a popular style of gifting as well.” He continues, “With some extra effort, you can go from seeing a bump in your holiday subscriptions to killing it during the holidays.”
He feels like succeeding during the holidays can be done in several ways, but the main thing to focus on is the customer’s and recipient’s experience through keeping it simple along with maximizing value and rewards.
Keep It Simple
The key to getting good business is to make the process easy. Consider making holiday-themed gifts a part of your sales funnel strategy, whether the theme be a winter wonderland, a warm red and green classic Christmas, or something completely original. Any holiday theme is a good theme as long as it ties in with your product.
Myers thinks some other ways to keep things simple and light is to use special holiday packaging or gift notes. He also says that “It’s a smart idea to create a special landing page dedicated to all the holiday messaging.”
This landing page should include all the details a customer would want to know, along with the costs, different timing frequency options, exchanges, and refund policy. It’s also wise to offer specials on longer subscription durations to encourage habit building.
Remember: because receivers are likely not customers themselves, it is vital to educate them on the value of your company, customer service, and products. Reel them in through exceptional offers they can’t get anywhere else at a little cost to you through your landing page.
Although sales in 2021 won’t be as unusual as 2020’s holidays were, preparing ahead of time is still absolutely crucial. To reiterate, this preparation includes regular communication with your shipping partner, setting up referral programs and contingency plans, and strengthening your customer service team.
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