We call it Black Friday because it’s when retailers finally start to see profits after months of carrying inventory and slower summer sales. That’s why the fall season is a great time for e-commerce businesses to boost word-of-mouth awareness and sales as we head into the upcoming shopping season.
Consider the following statistics about the state of the holiday shopping season in previous years:
- E-commerce accounts for more than 20% of total retail sales in the U.S. during the holiday season.
- 40% of people started their holiday shopping before the month of November.
- More than a third of Americans shopped online over the Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend, compared to just under a third (100 million) who hit stores.
- Online sales reached $211 billion in 2o21, up 10% vs 2020 and up more than 50% from 2019
E-commerce owners, founders and marketers can’t afford to wait for Black Friday to get started building awareness. The smart move is to start right now to get ready for the holiday season and to put on auto-pilot all the things you should have been doing all year. (Like content marketing!)
So in this article, we’ll present 8 actionable tips you can implement right now here in the fall season to growth hack your way to an amazing holiday season.
Tip #1: Reach Out To Your Best Customers
By mobilizing your best customers, you are tapping into the power of customer delight. Customer delight is all about creating the most amazing and surprising experiences for the customers who spend a lot and love you for it.
Customer delight is about doing something above and beyond good customer service. It’s about surprising your customers with something they didn’t expect (the delight part). For example, we send all our new clients a box of locally-sourced specialty chocolates with a fun little pun on how it relates to content (you’ll have to sign up to get the deliciousness!)
The company we use to fulfill this gift John & Kira’s just sent me and my wife a free sample box of chocolates since we used them last year for holiday gifts. Smart! They are taking advantage of the fall season to ramp up customer delight (we were delighted), word of mouth (I’m telling you about it), and additional sales (we bought some!)
How you can you use customer delight to drive word-of-mouth and sales here in the fall season ahead of the holidays?
If you’re like most e-commerce companies, 20% of your customers account for 80% of your sales (The 80-20 rule.) So the first step is to identify your top 20% of customers (easy – that’s just data). Then you want to try and identify your happiest customers.
You may need to look to the customers who have left you verified reviews, or maybe they sent you “thank you” letters or left comments on your site. You could also look at repeat or recurring customers – whatever subjective measure or data point you can get your hands on to figure out who loves you the most.
Then you want to create a small list of the very best customers and send them something surprising. It could be a sample of a product, or maybe send them some of the chocolate above (not a sponsored plug I promise – you wont regret it!) Maybe you could include some gift ideas for the coming holiday season. Or even a personalized thank you note for their past business – nobody does THAT any more,
Whatever you send them, include a personally handwritten note thanking them for being a great customer. You may want to ask them to give you a review if they haven’t already, tell a friend how much they love you, give them a coupon code, whatever will spur them or motivate them to act on your behalf. The main point is to thank them for being amazing and then ask them to do something small.
Bonus: write about your process and turn it into a customer delight campaign. Share it on your blog, share it out on social. Create a TikTok of you mailing the gifts. The main point is you want to let the world know you recognize your small group of loyal customers and that you would love to invite more people into this small community of fans.
Tip #2: Invite Your Employees To Share Your Content
Your employees represent an un-tapped resource for gaining word-of-mouth. Ask them (don’t mandate it) to write and share your content. Ask them to become internal ambassadors of the brand. But whatever you do, do not ask them to share ads or press releases or product promotions if they are not comfortable with it.
You want to find employees who want to do this! Now why would your employees want to do this? Because it helps them build their own personal brand. The trick is to create content they want to share. Customer delight stories (see above), special insider coupon codes, bring your child or dog to work days – all these personal stories invite word-of-mouth conversations about your brand.
But be careful. This has to be authentic.
Bonus: Create a whole campaign around this idea for your employees to share. Make it a contest, Create a leaderboard. Invite them to use a unique for any of the content they are sharing out so you can measure the impact and reward the biggest ambassador. Share the story of your campaign to show others how cool your company really is.
Tip #3: Host Weekly Live Social Media Events
While social media alone isn’t enough to drive your business, we do suggest experimenting more with running and hosting social media “live events” that show your personality, sense of humor and tell your story! Facebook Live events can help grow word-of-mouth by giving some fresh content for your customers and followers to watch and participate in.
Facebook Live exploded in popularity among users in about 5 years ago, and brands have started to take notice. Instagram reels and TikTok has exploded over the last few years as well. Each week, more and more are businesses are now going on Facebook Live, Instagram and TikTok to promote their products, answer questions, and engage with their customers and followers in real-time.
If you haven’t used these platforms yet for your business, give them a try. Think of a creative campaign that you can tie to your live events. For example, some companies are using these platforms to announce new products or throw virtual parties. Others are using it to host Q&A’s with industry influencers or customers. Try to develop a campaign that puts you live on your social media pages once a week for the rest of the year.
Bonus: Don’t use these platforms to simply promote or demo your products—that’s boring. Have more fun with them, and use the experience as an opportunity to be more transparent and authentic with your audience.
Tip #4: Leverage Holiday-Themed Graphics
Image source: Crestline
Get your website visitors and email subscribers excited about the holiday season and the upcoming sales you’re launching by leveraging new, holiday-themed graphics in your email campaigns and website design. Here are some common places you update:
- Your website homepage hero section
- Your Facebook cover photo
- Your Twitter cover photo
- Your blog rss email header
- Your next custom email campaign
- Your Facebook and banner ads
- Your product pages
- The banner or header section on your website
Bonus: To boost success, attach your new holiday-themed graphics to an actual holiday promotion or sales event that your customers, visitors, and subscribers can take advantage of.
Tip #5: Partner with Another Company
Another creative way to boost sales and gain access to new customers is by partnering with a company that aligns well with your mission or the products you sell like this randy holiday partnership from last year between Tinder and Lyft:
This idea may require a bit more planning and investment, but if you can put the time in and find the right partner, it could drive serious word-of-mouth and eventual ROI for your business.
Here’s how it works: find a company that you can collaborate on a product with. Think about other similar companies in your industry, or other brands that you admire, and reach out to them to see if they’d be interested in manufacturing a small batch of products to sell on both of your stores for a limited time. The idea here is that you will (1) gain access to each other’s customer bases; and (2) you will drive urgency by only offering a limited supply of the product you collaborated on together.
Bonus: Agree ahead of time with the partner you choose on promotion and marketing plan for the product you intend to sell. Make sure that each party is investing the same amount of money and effort on getting the word out about the product.
Tip #6: Launch a Giveaway
Use a tool like Gleam to launch a really big giveaway for your e-commerce store. In order to make this idea successful, you can’t just give away one of your products—you have to think bigger. To really drum up excitement and word-of-mouth, think about a prize package that you could afford to give away to one person only once. In other words, don’t give away a $20 product that anyone could easily pay for themselves, give away a $500 gift that people might not be very likely to purchase for themselves.
For example, if you sell travel bags, give away a free stay at a resort somewhere. If you sell makeup, offer a weekend trip to a spa. The bigger you think and the more you can spend, the more people will talk and share the contest with their friends.
When you build your giveaway using Gleam, participants can enter by providing their email address to you, or by entering via their Facebook account. They can then get extra entries for taking additional actions that you build into your giveaway ahead of time. Examples include, visiting a website or landing page, answering a question, sharing the contest on Facebook or Twitter, or emailing a custom referral link to one of their friends.
Bonus: Before launching your giveaway, spend time thinking about how you’re going to promote it. Can you send an email to your list? Write a new blog post about it? Launch a Facebook advertisement? Get help from other vendors, partners, and businesses in your industry? Without a good promotion plan in place, you risk putting a lot of time, energy, and money into something that might not ever gain traction.
Tip #7: Prepare for Black Friday & Cyber Monday
If you’ve been in the e-commerce business for more than one year, you likely have experienced the good, bad, and ugly that comes with Black Friday and Cyber Monday before. Use your experiences and the data you collected from your efforts last year to build a new strategy that you can implement this year.
Bonus: If you’re not sure where to start, spend some time going through this resource from Shopify. It provides you with a 26-point checklist that you can use to prepare your store and business for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Tip #8: Promote Products as Gifts
Finally, build product awareness by promoting your products as gifts for different types of people. This time of year, gift guides are incredibly popular—everyone is searching for the right gift to buy for their mom, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, coworker, boss. Make it easy for them by positioning your products as perfect gifts for _______. To promote your products as gifts for certain types of people, create your own gift guide lists on your blog, launch Facebook ads targeting the people who would buy your products as gifts, and create new product bundles in your store.
Bonus: To find even more success with this tip, reach out to other blog editors who made gift guides for 2016—see if you can get your products added to the lists that they’re likely already working on for 2023.
Over to You
What else are you doing to increase sales and brand awareness this fall? Tell me in the comments below.