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How agencies can help protect customers' pandemic holiday season

The upcoming retail holiday season is unlike any we have experienced before, given the global COVID-19 crisis. Yet amid the pandemic, search and e-commerce are set to be the stars of the season. In the face of COVID-19 restrictions, more people worked and learned from home, and shopped online. They turned to search, resulting in a huge spike in search growth not only across the U.S. but also around the world. Consumers are relying on search now more than ever, which makes search the perfect vehicle for agencies to get their clients in front of e-commerce customers. At Microsoft, we’re here to inspire agencies and equip you with data, tips, and resources — including a new Retail Hub and Holiday 2020 Insights eBook — to help you plan successful holiday shopping campaigns for your clients.

Insights for agencies to help brands gain a competitive edge this 2020 holiday season

The global COVID-19 crisis has brought about economic uncertainties. In response, consumers are cutting back on expenses, including delaying larger purchases and holding off on holiday travel. Despite this, Deloitte forecasts holiday e-commerce sales to soar 25% to 35% this year.

With consumers spending more time searching and buying online during the pandemic, search volume has grown. But CPC (cost per click) has come down despite this growth, making search a targeted, cost-effective way for brands to reach consumers this holiday season.

Meanwhile, desktop searching is here to stay. Last year, 60% of holiday sales were made on a desktop, while almost 70% of online sales in the first quarter of 2020 were also on desktops. Based on these trends, desktop will be the purchasing platform of choice for shoppers this holiday season.

Convenience will be key during the holidays as people prioritise their safety and benefit from the ease of touch-free shopping. Consumers will opt for contactless ways to buy and receive their purchases, including online shopping and direct delivery to their homes.

Fast and free shipping will also entice more shoppers this season, with 81% expecting expedited shipping for their holiday purchases. Meanwhile, 44% of U.S. consumers will take advantage of fast shipping to shop later in the season.

Top tips to plan your clients’ holiday campaigns on a season unlike any other

This holiday shopping season will be different, and you’ll need all the help you can get to plan your clients’ holiday campaigns. Here are some top tips to get you started:

  • Keep search and e-commerce top of mind: Make sure search is at the forefront of your agency’s advertising strategy to get brands in front of searchers ready to buy. Advise your clients to optimise their websites for search, especially desktop searches. Additionally, focus on e-commerce efforts to help brands offer the best purchasing experience for online shoppers.
  • Create a seamless e-commerce experience: For their customers’ safety, encourage brands to create a seamless multichannel online shopping experience — from virtual showrooms with high-resolution images, videos, and zoom capabilities to in-app ordering and mobile payments or paying online.
  • Be early: Consumers will begin shopping ahead of the holiday season, with 39% of U.S. shoppers starting before November. Schedule client campaigns to run before Cyber Week, then offer promotions as early as October. Offer online-only deals as well as sales on non-peak days to prioritise the health and safety of your clients’ customers. As part of these deals and offers, advise clients to relax their return policies to ease the pressure on their e-commerce fulfillment centres and give customers more time to request refunds.
  • Spread out peaks: Capitalise on high-click days — Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Thanksgiving, end of November, and early December — but don’t exhaust client budgets during these periods. Bid on less competitive days to take advantage of lower CPCs and ensure coverage over the multi-month shopping journey.
  • Get in it for the long haul: After 25 December, 68% of consumers plan to continue buying, while another 51% are looking to score some last-minute deals and promotions. Make sure to extend your clients’ campaigns throughout the season up to early January to continue engaging any post-holiday shoppers.

Resources for the 2020 holiday season and beyond

We’re committed to supporting your agency and your clients this season and beyond. Through our recently launched Microsoft Advertising Retail Hub, you’ll get industry insights and resources to help brands achieve their sales goals during the holidays.

We also have a Holiday 2020 Insights eBook — your pandemic guide to holiday sales success — complete with valuable trends, tips, best practices, and even checklists to set up your clients’ shopping campaigns for success this 2020 holiday season.