The competitive eCommerce landscape is accelerating faster than traditional planning can accommodate. We recommend a more agile approach. 

As more brands become digitally native, the competitive landscape for eCommerce heightens, requiring more in-depth planning to gain an advantage, so brands must begin planning for Q4 (the most competitive quarter) increasingly earlier. Waiting until September to develop a Q4 strategy leaves little time to conceive, let alone execute it, resulting in missed opportunities and poor results. 

Outlined below are four categories of projects we recommend initiating in the second and third quarters of the year to achieve a competitive advantage and hit your year-end targets. They are: 

  • Acquisition
  • Retention
  • Data and Technology
  • Website

Need to Know

  • Before adding new customer touch points, validate current interactions with your brand.
  • Leverage SMS and consider pairing it with other platforms in your campaigns.
  • Capture at least 12 months of data before expiring Universal Analytics.
  • Upgrade Magento and PHP well before Q4.

Acquisition

Customer Journey Mapping

Before introducing new touch points for potential customers, ensure that you fully understand the unique interactions people have with your brand. Strengthen your customer journey by asking the following questions:

  • Are your ads optimized for each channel? 
  • Do your landing pages match the creative and work in the environment? 
  • Are you running unique messaging in your creative? 
  • Are you testing to determine which ads resonate?

Let your answers guide you in learning how your customers leverage each platform. Creating a Customer Journey map allows you to identify inefficiencies, evaluate performance of existing channels, and introduce new mediums successfully. Tools such as Figma or Miro exist to help visualize this process. Keep your customer journey map up to date and it will become an invaluable tool to your strategic planning.

New Channel Strategy

With the continued impacts of iOS 14 and TikTok’s rise, running a single-channel strategy maximizing Facebook and Instagram is no longer viable. If by Q4 you’re still relying on last year’s ad strategy to drive success, don’t expect to see the same performance. Q3 will be critical to test and validate your marketing mix and determine which channels to continue through Q4. Solidify your plans well ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday or you risk your entire year’s success on an untested strategy.

Launching a new channel is much more than meeting the creative requirements and setting aside a budget. Understanding the nuance of your audience and how they’ll interact with your brand on a new channel is critical for success. This is where tools such as customer journey maps provide great insight. Find gaps in your marketing mix that could be filled with existing or new marketing channels. While implementing channels, how will you curate your messaging to fit within the platform’s experience? Adapting to each channel while maintaining a coherent brand identity is key to unlocking a strong omnichannel experience.

Retention

SMS

If you’re not leveraging SMS, consider pairing it with the platform that makes the most sense for your campaigns. If you currently leverage Klaviyo as your email service provider (ESP), layering on SMS is low-lift and can enhance your existing automation to provide added value for your customers. Check out Klaviyo’s recent blog article on launching a strategic SMS program.

Be mindful that employing SMS without a thoughtful strategy can have a negative impact on consumer sentiment. If you’re not sending relevant or valuable messages to your customer segments or simply sending the same message to their email and phone, then customers are more likely to experience fatigue and ultimately unsubscribe. Discover more about SMS marketing and how it can boost your brand's overall customer experience and ROI here.

Deliverability and Email Account Health

Are your emails getting stuck in the spam folder? Struggling with poor delivery can be fatal to your Black Friday and Cyber Monday success (and beyond). Avoid common mistakes such as sending to large volume lists of as many subscribers as possible (“batch and blast” approach) and deploying image-only email campaigns to support your account’s overall deliverability. Another key to success is setting up a dedicated sending domain, warming your IP, and building your sender reputation—which can take 10-12 weeks to accomplish. If you're experiencing email health issues, completing this project in Q3 is crucial to ensure you're not missing peak conversion opportunities in Q4.

Customer Service Automation

Getting your customer service team ready for Q4 is essential. Customer service issues often increase with revenue growth. Adding automation to your customer service workflow decreases time on repetitive tasks, allowing for more focus on the high-value opportunities that retain customers and enhance the post-purchase experience, resulting in higher customer lifetime value.

Review Gorgias’s guide to automation for more information on how automation can support your customer success team. 

Data and Technology

Google Analytics 4

With the end of life coming for Universal Analytics in July 2023, we recommend having 12 months of data captured before it expires, which requires enabling GA4 by Q2. 

Meta CAPI Solution

If not leveraged already, in the wake of iOS 14, implement Meta’s Conversions API (CAPI) now as Google’s push for a cookie-less future only further stresses the need for server-side conversion reporting. Contact ConvertEvent, Northern’s CAPI partner, to learn how you can implement a solution in less than a week.

Media Mix Modeling

Understanding how your ad dollars contribute across the various platforms you employ is a question that’s been increasingly harder to answer, especially in an ever-changing data privacy landscape.

Outpoint is a media mix modeling platform that helps you visualize the return on your media spend across platforms. For example, learn how your Pinterest awareness campaign impacts your Facebook prospecting, how well YouTube generates a return, or if you’re maximizing revenue.

Implementing a media mix modeling solution can take up to 3 months to allow sufficient time to collect and analyze data. It’s essential to explore and set this up in Q3 to have meaningful insights for Black Friday. 

Web

Magento Upgrade

With Magento 2.3 and PHP 7.4’s end of life this November, if your platform is coming up on its term date, it’s advised to complete your upgrade before Q4 to ensure platform stability during the most critical time of year for your store. Completing the upgrade in Q3 allows sufficient time to complete the upgrade and post-launch monitoring in a slower business period.

See the Northern Commerce article about the upcoming end of support. Consider reviewing the Adobe upgrade policy and planning yearly for future upgrades.

Start Now for BFCM Success

Use these recommendations to solidify the foundation of your marketing strategy. With a head start, your brand can extract value from platform upgrades and new integrations. To explore areas of opportunity while preparing for Q4 Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail periods, reach out to Northern.