Leveraging Holiday 2020 E-commerce Data for a Better 2021
by Geoff Hineman
Historically, the amount spent on holiday shopping has increased year over year. While the 2020 holiday season would have stayed on this trajectory, the global COVID-19 will act as an accelerator to that trajectory. Since the start of the pandemic, many have seen their e-commerce revenues increase—doubling or even tripling. Simple logic would tell us that this holiday season's spending will far exceed previous years.
This type of activity presents an exciting opportunity for marketers to work with never-before-seen data set sizes. When you know what to look for and how to parse your data, you can gain a tremendous insight into your customers, your website performance, and your brand. In this post, then, we are going to examine 10 key tips for leveraging your holiday 2020 e-commerce data to make your 2021 better than ever.
Holiday Shopping is Different
When we sit down with the analytics in front of us, we first need to keep in mind that holiday shopping is different. When your customers are shopping for others, they will typically make more transactions than normal, but for smaller amounts per transaction. An increase in orders and decrease in average order value will be the norm when compared to non-holiday shopping, so that should be taken into consideration.
Many of your holiday shoppers are unlikely to be repeat customers following the holidays. That's because, again, they are buying for others. They are making purchases they are unlikely to repeat because these are items they wouldn't normally use for themselves, so you'll have to set fairly conservative customer-retention goals with the data.
Finally, as mentioned at the top, 2020 has seen an enormous shift to online ordering. Don't disregard your March-October data. Those numbers are also unprecedented and should be considered for comparison when looking at how these huge data sets change in such an uncommon year.
Isolate Your Trends
Knowing when one of your products is going to get hot can be unpredictable. Sometimes, all it takes is a newscast or a talk show host to mention something about the issue your product addresses and an average seller can quickly become a best seller. So compare which products trended upward and ask yourself these questions:
- Can you tie the uptick to a particular event? Is the cause repeatable?
- Is the product something people buy only once, or will they need to purchase again when they are done with it?
- Is this item tied to the holidays or can it continue to be a hot item throughout the course of the year?
- Can you develop, carry, or promote peripheral items for cross-sells?
In short, look at what is trending, figure out why, and see what you can do to capitalize on that trend for as long as you can.
Check Bounces and Conversions
When people come to your site, are they finding what they are looking for? Conversion rates and bounce rates will let you know.
In addition to looking at your best selling and trending items, you'll want to look at your conversion rates and bounce rates. You may find that some items were converting at abnormally high percentages, even if they didn't sell as many units as some other products. These products have their own story to tell. The sheer volume of holiday shopping can shine a light into corners of your site that may not otherwise see as much traffic. In some cases, this allows good products that haven't always been great sellers to sell at unprecedented rates. This is huge.
When you identify your top converting items, you can feature them at other times during the year to increase their visibility. Put them on the home page and maybe give them their own hero shots. Include them in emails. Share them on your socials. See if they can continue to maintain a high conversion rate. You might just find a diamond in the rough.
On the flipside, check your bounce rates to discover which products or categories people are coming to only to realize its not what they want. With this data, you can take a closer look at why the bounce rate is so high? Is it just because Google couldn't adequately gauge searcher intent and sent them to a page they weren't looking for, or is it a problem with your site? Are there broken images? Does the page take a long time to load? Is the copy too sparse to be informative?
Find the disparity between your high-converting pages and your high-bounce pages and see how you can make the latter more like the former. Then keep an eye on those high-bounce pages to see if the bounce rate starts to come down. If it doesn't, adjust accordingly.
Refer to Your Referrals
It can be easy to gloss over your referral orders. They can often be anomalies that vary from month-to-month. Or, they can be so predictable, that you know what they look like before you even look. Still... look! The huge influx of traffic coming to your site is often happening to other sites, as well. You'll likely find a few referral sites that sent really meaningful traffic your way, be it an affiliate, a news story, or a social media post.
If you find such a referral, this is an opportunity to reach out and strengthen that relationship. This could look like:
- Giving a YouTuber a product to unbox
- Offering exclusive items to some affiliates
- Arranging a guest spot on a podcast
- Following up on an article with more information to get more coverage in the future
- Create content that builds on the referral content that brought the traffic
Much of business is about relationships. If you find a relationship that has been beneficial this holiday season, doing what you can to strengthen it can provide a lift during the rest of the year.
It would be quite an understatement to say that the pandemic changed us. It has made many of us re-evaluate what is important. It has made many of us look towards how we need to be ready for the future. It has, frankly, changed the way we shop. To that end, just as some items will come into favor, some will fall out of favor. A great way to see what those items are is to look at your data from this holiday season and compare it to last year. Then ask yourself why this changed. Some changes will be obvious; some will not. You owe it yourself and your brand to take a look, though.
The blunt truth of the matter is that some of the changes caused by this pandemic will last well beyond the conclusion of this pandemic. It held a mirror up to us and made us really take a look at who we are. Once that mirror is gone, we won't forget what we saw. And many of us will continue to live our lives accordingly. For that reason, much of what you glean from the comparison will be very meaningful data you can parlay into a post-pandemic environment.
Take the time to look at how your different channels performed in relation to each other. For instance, did your paid channel see a significantly higher conversion rate than your organic channel? Did it feature different items as top sellers than your organic channel? If so, which keywords were the traffic drivers? Would ranking better in organic for those keywords lift overall sales?
What about the flipside? Did your organic channel convert better than your paid channel? Did it convert better than paid at a rate that was statistically higher or lower than the rest of the year. Is there anything you can take from that which could lead to better ad copy or calls to action?
Try this for all channels. One of the advantages of digital marketing is the ability to compare hard data from one channel and find ways to make it actionable in other channels. With as much data as this holiday season will put at your fingertips, you would be remiss not to use valuable information wherever you can suss it out.
Review Page Load Times
When websites reach a certain level of traffic it can put a real load on the server. This can slow the whole operation down. That means a poor user experience and lost orders. Further, since page load times are a factor in both page rankings for your organic channel and quality scores for your paid channel, finding and correcting slower page loading times is critical.
To find your page speeds, go into Google Analytics and choose Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings. The default setting will be organized by pages with the most page views at the top. You can opt to look at them by page titles, if the URLs don't make it 100% clear which pages you are looking at. Either way, you can take a quick look at which pages are slower (and faster) than the overall site average. Pay attention to these!
For an added layer of insight, you can measure these page speed deviations against your conversion and bounce date to look for correlations. Maybe the reason the bounce rate on some pages is high isn't because people aren't interested in what's on that page, but because it's taking too long to load and some users desire to purchase that product is surpassed by their lack of patience for the page to load. Another scenario could be that pages that are converting well might also be slow to load; just imagine how many more conversions you could get if the page loads faster!
Dive into Demographic Data
Age matters. Gender matters. Geographical location matters. Would you talk to a 67 year old Caucasian woman from Boston the same way you would talk to a 19 year old Latino man from Houston? Probably not.
And that matters.
Demographic data helps you hone your messaging so that it resonates as well as possible with your audience. When your audience feels connected, they are more inclined to purchase, as well as tell their friends about your brand. With the glut of traffic and conversion data available this holiday season, you will have plenty of demographic information to create customer personas for your merchandising personnel to stock up for and your creative people to tailor content to.
Pay Attention to Device Type Data
It's no secret that Google has moved to mobile-first indexing. For years, mobile has been growing as the main device used for search. The degree to which people search on via mobile rather than desktop, however, can vary by demographic—often with older customers still with a higher percentage of desktop search. For this reason, you should pay close attention to your device type data, which can be found in Google Analytics at Audience > Mobile > Overview.
If your audience is shifting more towards mobile, you can revisit your Google Ads and make sure you are allocating budget by device type accordingly. Form a content marketing perspective, you can also consider writing more, but shorter, posts and linking them together. That doesn't mean completely abandoning long-form content, but finding the right balance to keep users on mobile or desktop can be key to repeat customers.
There is another caveat to keep in mind here. More people were at home in 2020 than in previous years. Expect that this might cause desktop traffic to either increase or not decrease at the rate that would have happened in a non-Covid environment. So look at your Mobile and Desktop data from January - October 2020 over the same time period in 2019. Then do the same thing with November - December 2020 over 2019.
If you really want to dig deep into your device type data, consider comparing these numbers to your top landing pages, as well as page speeds. It can seem like a lot to set up, but when it's complete, you can have a wealth of knowledge in an easy-to-sort spreadsheet, which will allow you to be more agile with business decisions in 2021.
Talk To Your Customer Service Team
Last, but by no means least, talk to your customer service team. They are your direct link to customer complaints and compliments. They will let you know if your message is hitting the mark. They will often be the first ones to hear of UX issues with the site, too.
The bottom line is that you want your website to do as much of the work as possible. If customers are calling with the same questions over and over, that's a cue to either add the answers to your FAQ page, create some new blog posts around the topic, or get your web developer on the line to discuss fixing any sticking points with site functionality that could be hindering conversions.
Beyond just calming irate customers, your customer service team has the inside line on what your customers really want. That information can only help make 2021 as good as possible.
Was 2020 a challenge? Yes. Inside every challenge, though, lies opportunity. For marketers, that means raking in all of the surplus of data that will be available to us and converting it into an action plan. This pandemic will come to an end. Most things will go back to normal. Some things, however, will become a new normal. Are you ready for a post-Covid retail environment? With the steps listed above, you can be.