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CJ's Holiday Checklist: Get Started Now

Sep 3, 2020
Written by Eric Schafer

The holiday shopping season is a “make or break” time for retailers, and this year it will be impacted by the offline-to-online shopping shift brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, holiday shopping will be stretched into two weeks starting with the week leading up to Black Friday. Consider these key shopping dates when devising your holiday strategy:

  • Singles Day 11/11
  • Thanksgiving 11/26
  • Black Friday 11/27
  • Cyber Monday 11/30
  • Giving Tuesday 12/1
  • Free Shipping Day 12/14
  • Boxing Day (Canada) 12/26

In addition, holiday shopping is likely to begin even earlier this year, kicking off with Amazon’s Prime Day that is now predicted to be in the beginning of October. With Q4 squarely in our sights, here are a handful of affiliate strategies and considerations necessary to win this holiday season.

Recruit, Activate, and Diversify

Focus on recruitment now.
While recruitment should always be top of mind for steady program growth, now is the time to consider your recruitment strategy and review publisher models that may have even greater relevance with the changes brought about by COVID-19. Key players will include:

  • Publishers specializing in gift guides and product reviews
  • Publishers that can geo-target
  • Publishers with a strong mobile footprint and push potification capabilities
  • Buy Now, Pay Later publishers offering financing options
  • Publishers that can deliver time-sensitive offers

A strong publisher base is the cornerstone of a great affiliate program and will be key to acquiring new customers that will not be shopping in the closed stores of your competitors. Take the time to regularly review your publisher applications and utilize the CJ Account Manager > Publishers > Recruit tool to filter and find new publisher opportunities. Pro tip: Re-engage with seasonal publishers that own web properties dedicated to the shopping holidays, like BlackFriday.com and FreeShippingDay.com.

Become Content Certified.
This will expand your program’s publisher visibility, and scale relationships, with pre-vetted CJ content partners for your vertical. Work to obtain more affiliate marketing investment by sitting down with your social & public relations teams to discuss ways affiliates can fill content gaps and expand brand reach through product reviews and holiday gift guides.

You will also want to activate dormant joined publishers. Run activation campaigns in September to engage them with your brand. An activation campaign will give publishers an early taste of what is to come, so they can build anticipation among their audience leading up to your best holiday promotions. Here are some ideas to consider: Offer a program term with tiered performance incentives for dormant publishers or set a sales goal for the month for these partners to achieve a one-time bonus.

  • Incent by offering increased commission rates for the month following, for partners that meet your set activation goal threshold.
  • Send a newsletter to your dormant partners to brief them on your campaign, and request that they follow up to be opted in.
  • Create a publisher group and track performance to goal while watching your active publisher base grow.

Prioritize partner education.
Communicating with partners is pivotal to ensure adoption of your holiday strategy and amplify your brand’s convenient shopping options and promotions. Create a communication schedule around your holiday offers to keep partners in the loop, letting them know what is to come, and deliver all the tools they need to be successful this holiday season.

Plan and Test

Savvy shoppers have noticed an influx in promotional offers since the start of the pandemic, and holiday is expected to be no different as the discount bar has already been set high. Start planning offers now and promote earlier than normal this year. Utilize Prime Day as a measuring stick for holiday product demand and top product categories, while focusing on acquiring engaged new customers to retarget during the holiday season. Consider creating bundled product offers to increase cart size, to fill the gap of in-store upselling.

For all holiday offers, be transparent about delivery cut-off dates. With shipping times likely to be impacted, offer in-store or curbside pickup, and communicate these options clearly to customers as soon as possible. Recently eMarketer revised their forecast on total click-and-collect retail orders for 2020 from 38.6% up to 60.4%, taking into consideration the recent jump brought about by curbside pick-up availability.

Test media placements with key partners early on to dial-in optimal return on ad spend. Use this time to learn what types of site exposure performs best when paired with your various promotional offer types, rather than during the peak of the holiday shopping season. With hyper focused holiday shoppers, there is opportunity for exponential growth on key shopping holidays if you have the right placement strategy in place. eMarketer still predicts that Cyber Monday and Black Friday will be the biggest days in terms of sales volume, but Thanksgiving and Singles Day are expected to be the top gaining days YOY. We expect a spike in sales on Singles Day from clothing, health, beauty, and shoe brands within the affiliate channel. Do not sleep on these holidays when planning exposure.

Maintain Product-Focus

Determine your product-level promotional strategy early on, to ensure your program is set up for success. If you do not already have one, set up a CJ Shopping Feed. With a CJ Shopping Feed, assign commission rates by product or category, grant partners easy access to product specific links and exportable inventory details, and improve your product-level reporting capabilities to derive product based insights in lead up to and during holiday. Set up your CJ Shopping Feed within your account via CJ Account Manager > Links > Feeds.

Categories expected to thrive this holiday season include Electronics, Toys & Hobbies, and Home Fitness, while discretionary categories that do not align with COVID-related needs may struggle. If your business features high-ticket items, be sure to work with publishers that offer buy now pay later options to ease consumer concerns and improve purchase rates.

Promote Convenience and Experience

Be prepared to offer purchase options that ease consumer concerns this holiday season:

  • Promote curbside pick-up early and often.
  • Offer free shipping or expedited shipping deals.
  • Include complimentary gift wrapping.

Click-and-collect options provide the benefit of increased sales, more traffic driven to stores (if open), combat against competitors with shorter shipping times, and enable impulse purchases. Work with partners that offer push notifications to serve promotions at key time periods to increase demand. If your brick and mortar stores will remain open during the holiday season, integrate site-to-store tracking to deliver customers in-store with contactless coupons.

A lot may seem up in the air, but one thing is for certain, this holiday season will be far different than any of us have ever experienced. Those that begin preparation early on and consider these essential changes in consumer behavior while adapting strategy with on-going holiday insights, will ultimately close out the year with a bang.

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