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Those Magic Moments: How to Use a Funnel Strategy to Boost Holiday Sales

The holiday season is officially upon us — and it’s going to be another big year for online purchasing. 

The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts that holiday spending will increase by 3.8 to 4.2 percent this 2019 season. Online spending will see even bigger gains, with a predicted increase of 11 to 14 percent year-over-year.

In the past, marketers have planned for this exciting, sometimes overwhelming, time by digging into the tried-and-true tactics, basing their targeting strategies on the devices and channels that they’ve deemed to have the best ROI.

The old way may not be the best way anymore. 

The e-commerce consumer journey is now more complex than ever, spanning multiple interactions across devices and channels over indeterminate periods of time. We are no longer looking at one-click and purchase interactions: see it, like it, buy it.

If e-commerce marketers focus only on the devices or ad campaigns that show high conversion metrics — bottom funnel elements — their total customer base will shrink. Soon, there will only be a few people left to make it to purchase.

Create an effective e-commerce funnel strategy in four steps

E-commerce marketers must develop an effective funnel strategy that builds a solid potential consumer base, then guides as many prospects as possible through the funnel to the ultimate goal of purchasing. Customer/brand loyalty will be a key in prolonging the relationship and maximizing value. 

Each step of the funnel needs a different approach, message and expectation for success and measurement, with appropriate KPIs.

1. Cast a wide net to capture new, mostly relevant audiences

How? Facebook interest and behavior targeting, demographic layering; upper-funnel search and shopping (Adwords/Bing) for product category terms.

Goal: Capture email addresses for offering promotions and useful content. Purchases are unlikely at this point, so KPIs should not be ROI-based. If some sales occur (even though they won’t meet your target ROI), it’s a great indicator of good upper-funnel targeting.

Alternative KPIs: Content engagement, social following (social media provides a great avenue through which you can offer discounts to your fans).

2. Qualify new users from broad campaigns

How? Facebook lookalike audiences, AdWords, Bing Ads.

Goal: With an influx of new visitors, drill down your qualified segments (product viewers, cart abandoners, email signups, etc.) and create lookalike audiences to match to a larger, similar user base on Facebook. In paid search, leverage remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) to bid higher on search keywords for past visitors (from X campaign, viewed product, abandoned cart, etc.). You can afford to be more general with your keyword strategy if you are focusing on these users.

3. Remarketing

How? Bucketed strategy: dynamic remarketing and high-quality display remarketing on Facebook and the Google Display Network.

Goal: Segment users by level of interest and interaction, tailoring the messages, bids and strengths of your promotions and discounts to create a series of individual funnels. Segmentation categories can include general visitors, high-engagement users (based on avg. time on site, pages viewed), product viewers and cart abandoners. For those closest to purchase, sweeten the pot with your best offers to close the deal.

4. Email marketing

How? Offer useful content to build brand value in consumers' eyes. Share promotions, build hype to incentivize a.) remaining on the email list for best offers and b.) future purchases.

Goal: Walk the fine line between giving away too much free content, devaluing your product with an overload of offers, or turning prospects and repeat customers off by marketing too aggressively.

Keep an eye on the big picture

There are many moving parts in an e-commerce campaign. Focusing in on just one metric or one part of the purchasing funnel could lead marketers to miss out on other potential consumers. 

When analyzing your holiday campaign performance, remember to align your KPIs and your expectations with the associated funnel level and the purchaser's intent at that stage.

What are your thoughts on taking a funnel approach to e-commerce marketing?  Let us know in the comments below or tweet at us at @SilverbackStrat.

This article was originally published on November 18, 2016 and was updated on October 15, 2019 for length and clarity.