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CJ's Peak Trading Checklist: Get Started Now

16 Sep, 2020
Written by Eric Schafer

The peak trading period 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, peak shopping will be stretched into two weeks starting with the week leading up to Black Friday. Consider these key shopping dates when devising your peak trading strategy:

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

In addition, peak 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 peak trading 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 specialising 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 utilise 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 peak shopping periods, 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 and public relations teams to discuss ways affiliates can fill content gaps and expand brand reach through product reviews and 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.

  • Motivate 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.

Prioritise partner education.
Communicating with partners is pivotal to ensure adoption of your peak trading strategy and amplify your brand’s convenient shopping options and promotions. Create a communication schedule around your 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 peak trading period.

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. Utilise Prime Day as a barometer for product demand and top product categories, while focusing on acquiring engaged new customers to retarget during the season. Consider creating bundled product offers to increase shopping basket size, to fill the gap of in-store upselling.

For all seasonal offers, be transparent about delivery cut-off dates. With shipping times likely to be impacted, offer in-store, socially distanced collection, and communicate these options clearly to customers as soon as possible.

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 busiest period of the shopping season. With hyper focused shoppers, there is opportunity for exponential growth on key shopping periods if you have the right placement strategy in place. 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 days 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 peak trading period 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:

  • Promote socially distanced click-and-collect 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 vouchers.

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

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