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The holidays are the most important time of year for your eCommerce business—and authenticity is on the top of every consumer’s mind right now. One reason for this is that consumers trust in marketers and brands is at an all-time low, according to a recent Forrester report. The onslaught of online advertising in recent years, plus data breaches and scandals, have only pushed consumers further from the brands who are trying to reach them.

If you want to make an impact this holiday season—and earn the sales to match—develop your authentic eCommerce brand now. When planning your holiday marketing, appeal to what your customer wants: a real, unique brand that they can trust in, empathize with, and relate to.

Hone In on Your Unique Messaging

What is unique to your brand and the message you have to share with the world? This authentic messaging is what sets you apart from competitors. It also helps you attract your own unique audience who identify with what you’re doing, what you’ve been through, and what you stand for.

However, it can be hard to distill your values and passions down into unique messaging. It feels so innate to you—how do you explain it to the world? Start by identifying your unique niche. As you do, remember this tip from Selz’s guide, 5 Secrets to Selling Products Online:

“Smaller niches will have less competition, giving you a better chance of connecting with potential buyers. On the other hand, your pool of customers will be smaller. Spend some time thinking about your niche and balancing the level of competition with the size of the market.”

Now, use this exercise from Fresh Sparks to dive deep into the unique voice and message you bring to this niche market.

  • Identify personas
  • Define your brand mission statement
  • Research brands within in your niche
  • Outline the key qualities and benefits of your brand
  • Create a brand logo and tagline
  • Form your voice (professional? playful?)
  • Build a brand message and elevator pitch

Once complete, it’s time to integrate the messaging into your entire marketing plan. An important place for this is Instagram, where authenticity is more important than ever. If you’re not sure how, check out this free Instagram Authenticity Strategy guide.

Don’t forget to update your “About Us” page as well, using your new messaging and eye-catching imagery to drive the story. This messaging will then feed into your entire social media and marketing strategy, from email marketing to replies to customers on Twitter.

Take Advantage of User Generated Content (UGC)

Nothing is more authentic than photos of your product in use. That’s why big brands like Under Armour and Kimpton Hotels do it. Not to mention, the Director of Social Media at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, Whitney Reynolds says “Social media’s peer-to-peer content informs and inspires purchasing decisions because of its authenticity and first-person storytelling capabilities…”

This type of content is most often seen on Instagram, a social network that tends to be over filtered and influencer-heavy. With the new product tags available to businesses, it’s starting to feel more like a product catalog than a place to share photos of our lives.

Instead of posting another product photo, find one of that product in use. The best way to do this is to encourage customers to share in the first place by creating your own business user handle and branded hashtag. You can also ask customers to send you their photos or simply do a manual search for posts with mentions and branded hashtags.

To inspire customers who are thinking about purchasing, add an Instagram homepage gallery or product visual review to your website, like the example below:

Screen Shot 2018 10 24 at 2.17.59 PM
Hylete, a community-backed athletic apparel company features UGC on their homepage

Do Good During the Holiday Season

The holidays are a great time to finally give customers what they want: a business that helps push social issues forward. The 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study found that:

  • 78% of Americans want companies to address social justice issues
  • 87% said they’ll purchase a product because a company has advocated for an issue that’s close to their heart

While you run the risk of pushing some customers away, taking a stand can drive the authentic loyal following that will take your brand to the next level. This time of year is especially perfect for taking a stance on a cause that’s important to everyone’s heart: helping others instead of simply being part of the consumer culture.

One way to do that is to partner with a local organization who’s doing good during the holiday season. Announce the charitable partnership to your followers and current customers and discuss how you plan to work together. Will you donate a percentage of sales? Will you create a specific product, the proceeds of which will go to that organization? Will you partner with them for a large volunteer event?

Ultimately, this cross-promotion is valuable for both parties, allowing you to drive awareness and brand loyalty at the same time.

Be Transparent on Social Media

During the holiday season, when you’re fighting an uphill battle against competitors, transparency will set you apart from larger, less agile brands.

The question is: how can you be more transparent on social media? Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

  • Using #ad with product photos for a humorous, yet transparent touch
  • Avoiding re-touching and being clear about your brand’s desire to keep things real
  • Being real in media opps, sharing opinions and ideas that are authentic to your brand
  • Being honest about prices and discounts—don’t overhype a deal that’s not actually a great deal
  • Answer all customer questions in comments and direct messages
  • Take a stance on relevant social and political issues

Drive Holiday Sales With an Authentic eCommerce Brand

Use these ideas to create your authentic eCommerce brand before the holiday rush hits. Not only will it help you drive sales right now, but that loyal following will stick with you all year long. Nail your unique messaging, bring more authenticity and transparency to social media, and find a way to do good this holiday season.