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In North America, fan-favorite grocery store Trader Joe’s initiated the holiday season by launching their pumpkin goods on September 9th — nearly a full month ahead of Halloween and two months before Thanksgiving, e.g., the actual pumpkin season.  Furthermore, McKinsey reports that ecommerce sales have continued to experience “outsized growth,” with online shopping remaining 35% above pre-pandemic levels and ecommerce showing more than 40% growth in the last 12 months. 

Meanwhile, COVID and weather occurrences are disrupting shopping supply chain logistics worldwide. Core production materials are in short supply, making it challenging to manage inventory. Ironically, these supply chain issues are creating even more consumer demand. According to social science research, people place a higher value on (and have more demand for) things that are scarce. 

That’s why brands who set up and start executing their holiday campaigns now and focus on creating great customer experiences are the ones who will capture the market opportunity in front of them — despite shipping delays. Below are five steps how. 

5 Steps To Grow This Holiday Season Despite Shipping Delays 

1. Set up and run your holiday marketing campaigns now 

With consumers doing their holiday shopping now and completing it ahead of BFCM / Cyber Weekend, ecommerce brands have the opportunity to capture their holiday revenue by offering their promotional and give-back campaigns ahead of the curve. There are a couple of caveats, though. 

Our data indicates that November and early December remain the only times in the year where we see a higher average click-through rate (CTR) for ad creatives that reference “holidays” compared to other promotions. Ads that include promotions of any kind, however, remain the top performers when it comes to engagement — and they do so at a volume that’s almost 20x as big as ads that refer to holidays. 

In other words? Craft appropriate ad creative messaging for this particular online holiday shopping season and encourage your shoppers to place their orders ultra-early this year — remember that “early” is the new “on time.” 

For more on how to optimize your digital ads this holiday season:

6 Ways to Optimize Your Digital Ads This Holiday Season

2. Focus on engaging and converting high-intent shoppers 

One of the most effective strategies you can implement now and focus on through BFCM / Cyber weekend is engaging and converting high-intent shoppers. After all, people are more likely to buy from brands they already have a relationship with, love, and trust. 

Start by segmenting high-intent audiences into the following three core buckets:

  1. Customer advocates and loyal fans: These are your customers who have bought from you and have done an advocacy activity (like leaving a four or 5-star review, for example) and shoppers who are repeat purchasers. 
  2. Previous purchasers: These are your customers who’ve purchased from you but who haven’t come back or done an advocacy activity yet.
  3. Cart abandoners: While these shoppers may be first-time buyers, they’re incredibly high-intent. After all, adding to cart and waiting until the promo hits the inbox is the new BLFM / Cyber Weekend shopping event. 

Then, design your campaigns and customer experience for each high-intent audience. Consider providing your advocates and fans with a special offer and a white-glove touch (like getting first dibs on restocked hot items before being available to your broader audience, or a super special discount code ahead of your broader promotional campaign as examples). Consider running a win-back campaign for previous purchasers and for cart abandoners, convert them quickly and efficiently by leveraging the AdRoll Abandoned Cart Recovery Recipe

The bottom line is that by focusing on making these high-intent cohorts feel special and giving them personalized and thoughtful experiences, you’ll drive a significant portion of your business’ Q4 revenue. 

For more on how to plan your holiday marketing beyond Q4: 

5 Ways to Extend Your Hot Holiday Sales Streak Into Q1

3. Be honest, open, and communicative with your customers about what is available, what to expect, what they need to do, and when they need to do it by 

Ahh, the holidays — a time of chaos and never-ending surprises. 

The key to successfully managing this time of the year is to prioritize proactive communication to guide customers seamlessly through their shopping journey. For example, if you have limited stock of a particular product due to supply chain issues, let your customers know that supplies are low and to make a purchase ASAP. 

Make information accessible. Customers should see what they need to know across multiple channels; like ads, email, SMS, organic social, and your website for example. And when customers reach out with questions, respond rapidly, kindly, and with honesty — this way, you can ease frustration, manage expectations, and develop long-lasting relationships.

Leveraging an inventory management application can help you easily manage your Shopify store and avoid customer friction. 

4. Lock down your return policy and fine-tune your customer support experience 

Research suggests that average return rates can rise to 30% around the holidays. So while you’re planning on how to get ahead of shipping delays, it’s also essential to pay attention to return costs. Create a strategy to handle returns and communicate shipping rates to your customers to maintain a seamless experience. For example, retail brand Aritzia provides a pre-printed return label in every online order to make it extremely easy for customers to make returns and exchanges as-needed. 

And on the same topic, high holiday return rates and unexpected issues mean higher demand for customer support. You can prepare ahead by creating a cohesive game plan. For example, start reviewing your historical reporting from previous holidays to get an idea of the customer support volume you should expect. 

Pro tip: Promote your FAQ page more heavily on your homepage and social media to give customers an easy self-service option.

5. Keep customers up-to-date along every step of the shipping and delivery process 

Customers appreciate it when businesses are upfront with them. Let’s go back to the third step of being open and communicative — it’s important to be transparent with delivery notices, confirmations, and other relevant updates so that customers aren’t left guessing. When you keep customers informed at every step of the shipping and delivery process, you can significantly increase customer satisfaction despite a potentially poor shipping and delivery experience.

Pro tip: Keeping your customers in the loop doesn’t have to mean blowing up their email inbox. You can also look into SMS updates — it’s easy to design brief automated texts that provide location info, arrival time, and delay updates.

For a comprehensive shipping preparation checklist: 

Holiday Shipping: The Ultimate Preparation Checklist

Seize Your Brand’s Holiday Market Opportunity 

People are excited to celebrate the holidays and are ready to shop online. Now is the time to seize your brand’s holiday market opportunity by running your BFCM / Cyber Weekend promotions ahead of the curve. For more resources on how to grow this holiday season, visit the ecommerce holiday marketing resource hub


Steph is the Community Marketing Manager at AdRoll. A relationship-builder, she’s behind the Growth Guerilla Collective (GGC); the community for D2C marketers. Before AdRoll, Steph ran Customer Marketing at a B2B SaaS company in San Francisco. She is passionate about customer-centric marketing.