Q&A with the Category Experts: Holiday Tips for Apparel Sellers

7 November, 2019

The account management team at ChannelAdvisor works with brands and retailers every day to optimize their e-commerce operations and grow sales across hundreds of online channels. With the holidays fast approaching, we decided to sit down with experts from several top categories to get their last-minute advice for the upcoming season. 

We asked Stephanie Ellison, one of our account managers, which strategies and tips should be top of mind for apparel sellers over the next few months.

Q: It’s early November, what are the most important things apparel brands and retailers should be doing RIGHT NOW to prepare for the holidays?

Promotions should already be lined up — especially for giftable products. Walmart even started their promos before Halloween! Remember that price is a huge consideration in purchase decisions, as is fast and free shipping. Last year, 85% of orders during Cyber week offered free shipping, so make sure you include this in your promotions.

Also, be sure to account for the shorter time this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That means fewer days to sell and fewer days to ship. Best-selling products should be well-stocked and your warehouse needs to be ready for the extra demand, especially if you’re offering expedited shipping.

If fast and/or free shipping is not an investment you can make, consider BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In-Store). It’s becoming increasingly popular in many online categories, but especially with apparel customers. Adobe Analytics found that BOPIS increased 50% year over year during the 2018 holiday season and predicts another 39% increase in 2019.

Lastly, make sure you have adequate ad budgets allocated for November and December and, when preparing those budgets, note that Cyber Monday actually falls in December this year.

Q: Which marketplaces should these sellers be focusing on?

The biggest marketplaces for Clothing, Shoes & Accessories products are Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Google Shopping Actions in the US and Overstock, but there are also several new marketplaces like Wish, Target+ and Urban Outfitters to consider if you’re able to be pre-approved.

Q: What specific digital marketing strategies should they keep in mind over the next couple of months?

Everyone has been talking about the impact of mobile for a while, but now we’re finally seeing the majority of consumers consistently make purchases on mobile devices versus just research. In 2018, the share of visits from smartphones eclipsed 50% while mobile spending increased 57% year over year. Ensure your mobile site has a good load speed and an easy checkout experience to convert those mobile shoppers.

Early in the holiday shopping season, consider using Google’s showcase ads and dynamic search ads to drive discovery and consideration of your brand at the top of the purchase funnel.

Also, leverage machine learning technology to optimize your campaigns toward your goals by using Smart Shopping campaigns. For example, by using Smart Shopping, you could automate the way certain ads reach a specific audience segment — like, say, your existing customers. You’re then able to market exclusively to your most profitable customers.

To help your ads stand out, make sure you update your promotions and use the ad extensions available to you.

Most Amazon sellers understand by now that advertising is essential to get your products seen. On the search results page, 64% of clicks go to the first three listings (and two out of those three of those listings are typically paid). Since spending will be more competitive during the holidays, consider using a negative keyword strategy so your ads are showing up in more relevant searches. Amazon recently rolled out a new feature — Sponsored Display — that allows your ads to appear both on and off Amazon, depending on the audience and product targeting strategy you choose.

Q: What role will social media play in the holiday season for apparel sellers? How can brands and retailers specifically leverage these channels? 

We’re seeing a convergence in social and marketplaces that brands should leverage to convert customers on social media. Facebook recently launched Marketplace Shops and Deals as part of its Marketplace, and Instagram is rolling out Checkout that allows consumers to complete a transaction directly on Instagram.

Note: If you’re not already in the approval process, it’s probably too late in the year to pursue these marketplaces for the holiday season. But these channels are a must for brands and retailers in 2020.

Q: Do you think Google Shopping Actions will play a big role in the US this year? 

Google Shopping Actions is definitely going to allow you to capture new customers during the holidays. According to Google, 68% of customers acquired through Shopping Actions are net new and are 14% more valuable because they tend to have a bigger basket size. With CPCs continuing to increase in PLAs, Shopping Actions lets you acquire new customers at a lower cost and less risk.

If you sell footwear, Shopping Actions is an amazing channel to explore. It’s one of the fastest-growing categories at +1900% year over year. But it’s not the only one. Right now, apparel, activewear, basics, underwear and seasonal apparel are all categories with ample opportunity and limited competition. Accessories, watches, sunglasses and belts are also prime categories for growth.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts or takeaways for apparel sellers? 

E-commerce and the apparel industry move at such a fast pace, and it can be tempting to keep your head down and plow right into the new year ahead. But after the holidays, be sure to take some time and note what worked and what didn’t in regards to your promotions, assortment and pricing/shipping strategies. Then, put those insights into your holiday 2020 plans and save yourself time next year.


Want more online strategies for the upcoming holiday season? Download this eBook, Your Roadmap to Holiday 2019 E-Commerce Success, for more insider knowledge on leveraging industry trends, setting your ad budget for the entire season, maximising digital marketing campaigns, optimising listings and more.

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