During the 2020 holiday season, retailers are focusing their marketing tactics on building brand loyalty and trying not to offer too drastic of discounts to online shoppers. Also, data shows that most marketing professionals will split their advertising spend between three channels this year, according to Adobe Analytics' holiday forecast.

The Cyber 5 reached a staggering $34.35 billion in online sales this year, up roughly 20.6% from approximately $28.49 billion last year, according to data from Adobe Analytics. But how can retailers get a chunk of that holiday spending? Data-driven and dynamic marketing certainly help.

Specialty apparel retailer Adore Me tries not to focus on holiday-only shoppers and instead lets its marketing data guide the retailers’ digital strategies. Meanwhile, King Arthur Baking Company—formerly King Arthur Flour Co.—concentrates on long-term customer retention by using using a content marketing strategy to make a connection with its shoppers.

Here’s how these retailers have used marketing this holiday season to increase sales and brand loyalty.

Adore Me offers fewer discounts

Despite a less significant discounting strategy—including fewer discounts—for this year’s Monday and Tuesday prior to Black Friday, Adore Me (No. 316 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) saw notable growth on pre-Thanksgiving sales dates.

This year, Adore Me ignored TV advertising and instead focused on digital advertising, including YouTube. This strategy—coupled with the decision to target repeat buyers instead of holiday-only shoppers—really paid off, according to chief marketing officer Chloe Chanudet. The decision to focus on digital advertising instead of traditional advertising channels, such as television for the holiday season, comes from the desire to have more control over marketing budgets, Chanudet says.

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“In the digital sphere, it’s easier to control CPA [cost-per-action] relative to TV or other offline channels where you have to commit a budget well in advance,” she says. “Given the unpredictability of the year, maintaining a nimble budget has been paramount.”

Conversion rates for the Monday and Tuesday prior to Black Friday 2020 were 30% higher for Adore Me compared with last year, with 70% more traffic to the retailer’s website.

Adore Me's Auburn Corset on a plus-sized model, surrounded by holiday-themed items.

Adore Me’s “Auburn Corset” is one item on its holiday list this year.

The retailer also saw a 6% increase in conversion rates with a 30% increase in traffic on Black Friday itself, and a 9% increase in the average order value from the previous year’s Black Friday, according to Adore Me.

“I’ve rarely seen such high conversion rates—people were really in the mood to shop,” Chanudet says.

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Adore Me’s marketing strategy for the holiday season—which runs through Valentine’s Day for the lingerie and intimate apparel retailer—includes segmenting its new and repeat customers.

For newer customers, the retailer tries not to offer too many—or too drastic—discounts, even during the Cyber 5 period. This helps ensure that it doesn’t acquire a shopper who only shops when a deal is available.

Adore Me's Elite Box

Adore Me’s “Elite Box” is one of the boxes subscription members can receive this holiday season.

“Our discounting strategy is more geared toward acquiring higher lifetime-value customers,” Chanudet says. “One example is we discount our membership program ‘first set’ to $19.95 from $24.95 between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the only time of year we do this.”

For repeat customers, Adore Me tries to offer more value with a buy one, get one free deal in order to build stronger loyalty, Chanudet says.

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King Arthur Baking Company focuses on educating consumers and building brand loyalty

The coronavirus pandemic has driven a lot of traffic to King Arthur Baking Company (No. 792), says Bill Tine, vice president of marketing for the retailer. As shoppers spend more time at home, many are trying their hand at baking for the first time or are expanding their repertoire of recipes.

Desktop traffic to KingArthurBaking.com rose 54.9% to 5.23 million views in the months of Aug. to Oct. 2020 compared with 3.38 million in the same frame a year earlier, according to analysis of SimilarWeb traffic data. (Note: KingArthurBaking.com was formerly KingArthurFlour.com, and analysis of mobile traffic to the new URL is not currently available.)

“With baking becoming a cultural norm more so than prior years, we’ve also seen a lot of success expanding our targeting to include broader demographic targets of customers that are interested in food, cooking, baking and travel,” Tine says.

Instead of focusing on holiday-only shoppers and smaller scale ads, Tine says that King Arthur Baking Company finds more success in campaigns that educate and inspire consumers. While he didn’t reveal data specifics, he did say their marketing tactics are successful.

This strategy, known as content marketing, uses a broader approach of reaching a wider array of shoppers through organic marketing techniques—such as blogs and videos—and the paid marketing of the brand as a whole instead of a specific product. Content marketing is popular during brand relaunches. 84% of B2B retailers surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute said that their overall content marketing strategies have been successful.

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“These content-driven strategies engage customers in a more powerful way than simply driving promotion engagement; and we’ve seen strong lifetime value from this approach,” he says.

The holiday season falls within the second wave of King Arthur Baking Company’s brand relaunch.

At the center of this campaign is the message of bringing people together through its “Power of Baking” campaign, Tine says. With the coronavirus driving so many people apart—both prior to and during the holidays—King Arthur Baking Company wanted to focus on the positives this season, and “let good things rise.”

“This broad campaign is highlighted by the anthem spot, but includes a deeper connection to each baker, the recipes they bake and stories of how baking has had a positive effect on their lives,” Tine says.

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The campaign has been successful so far, Tine says without revealing more.

A look at holiday marketing data

Marketing is as important as ever this holiday season as most Black Friday shoppers across all retail segments were first-time buyers, according to marketing technology company Bluecore. Across all retail categories, 59% of shoppers were first-time buyers compared with 54% during Black Friday 2019.

The majority (72%) of all Black Friday purchases were impulse purchases, according to Bluecore’s Black Friday 2020 report. Bluecore defined an impulse buy as one that wasn’t researched in advance, whereas a researched purchase was one wherein shoppers viewed a product at least once leading up to Black Friday prior to buying.

“This represents a huge opportunity for retailers, who, with relevant communications, can convert first-time buyers into repeat customers,” according to the Bluecore report.

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Most (88%) of the top 50 retailers in Digital Commerce 360’s Top 500 offered some kind of Cyber Monday promotion, according to an analysis of retailer websites completed by Digital Commerce 360 staff. 78% of this same group offered a holiday deal prior to the Cyber 5—the five days after Thanksgiving which typically kick-off the holiday promotional season.

An emerging channel in digital advertising, ecommerce channel ad (ECA) spend on Black Friday was up 2.9 times the daily average in the Nov. 1-29 period, according to digital advertising platform Kenshoo. Ecommerce channel ads are the advertisements that appear on ecommerce sites, which usually consist of marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart.

Conversions for this channel were also up 2.1 times the average of the same period, and average order size—or number of items in a customer’s cart—was up 40%, according to Kenshoo.

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Cost-per-click for Google U.S. paid search was up across the entire Cyber 5 block, but Thanksgiving saw the highest gains with increases of 34% for desktop advertising and 30% for mobile year over year, according to performance marketing agency Tinuiti.

Sales of Google U.S. paid search also increased year over year, with desktop outpacing mobile growth for every day during Cyber 5 except Sunday, which had a 56% growth on mobile compared with a 53% growth on desktop. Small Business Saturday had the highest growth for desktop at 60%, according to Tinuiti.

Tinuiti’s data also shows conversions for Amazon Sponsored Product ad growth slowing as Cyber 5 progressed, with the highest growth occurring on Black Friday at 55% and the lowest on Cyber Monday at only 10%.

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Cost-per-click for Amazon Sponsored Product ads actually decreased on Small Business Saturday and Sunday, indicating that the those advertising on this channel received a better bang for their buck, according to Tinuiti. However, Sponsored Brand ads increased across the entire Cyber 5 week, with the highest gains on Cyber Monday at 37%.

For the entire holiday season, Adobe Analytics predicted that search will increase 9% in share of spend by marketing channel for the holiday season, according to Adobe’s Unboxing 2020’s Holiday Shopping Forecast Report. This increase is split between a 26% share of paid search advertising and a 21% share of organic.

Social media spend is also expected to grow at a rate of 14%, reaching a 3% share of holiday spend.

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But with growth in search and social media spend, something has to fall. Adobe Analytics predicts that email marketing will decrease 8% year over year this holiday season.

 

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