The 2019 holiday season has been shortened by a full week, and retail marketers have likely been in planning mode for months strategizing ways to maximize opportunities and revenue in the minimized time frame. The conditions for this year’s holiday shopping season is chock-full of challenges: 1) An increasingly noisy marketplace, 2) Significant time constraints, 3) Ever-changing consumer preferences and behavior, and 4) The rising bar of expectations for seamless, personalized experiences.
With the official kickoff to the season mere weeks away, marketers still have time to make important changes to their strategy and execute tactics that will make the most of the limited time they have in front of their customers. A recently released consumer trends report issued by Selligent Marketing Cloud points to how consumers are prioritizing experience, and provides retailers meaningful insights into how those experiences dictate both their spend as well as their perceptions of brands.
1. Know Your Customer
A large part of any successful holiday shopping season is planning. Many retailers begin this process almost as soon as the previous season ends, and there’s value in doing so, particularly for making the most of the treasure trove of data. An important part of understanding customers is looking closely at demographic and channel data. By aggregating and analyzing customer data, brands set themselves up for success as they segment target audiences, make important decisions around channels and promotions, and build communication strategies tailored to specific audiences.
In the Selligent global study, 71% agree that a personalized experience is very important, and 51% are willing to share personal data for a more personalized experience. Take this as an opportunity to truly understand your customer and deliver relevance.
Pro Tips and Questions to Ask:
- Drill down into the specifics of your previous seasonal data: What was your most successful channel? Which promotions garnered the most traction? How sharable was your content on social? What products were the biggest hit/flop?
- Understand that relevance and timing are of utmost importance. Do your customers interact with the brand post-purchase? If so, how can you make the most of that opportunity? Do your customers tend to make repeat orders within three days of an initial purchase? If so, how can you continue engagement through tactics like offering a three-day free-shipping window?
2. Deal Or No Deal?
To keep customers engaged, many brands look to incentives and interactive campaigns in order to stand out. Holiday sales are a dime a dozen, but when gamified, customers who are likely to participate are also likely to transact. Here’s a great example from online retailer Vitacost that focused on an interactive email campaign with great results: a 53% increase in click-to-open rates and a 31% lift in revenue per email. Understanding customer segments and building campaigns that speak to customers’ specific interests and preferences can be the jet fuel needed for campaign success.
And perhaps the most important point: meet customers where they are. For some, that’s email, while for others, it is in-store or via social and emerging channels like voice assistants. Knowing channel preferences helps make those engagement opportunities fun and interesting, and will ultimately help your marketing really stand out. In our global poll, 64% were aware that their online activity is being tracked and welcome proactive recommendations about products based on previous purchases. With context, consumers welcome — and some even await — product recommendations.
Pro Tips and Questions to Ask:
- Make your campaigns interactive. For example, build a kinetic email campaign where customers play a simple game for a chance to win 30% off an upcoming order. Or invite customers to answer a three-question survey and send them a free holiday survival kit.
- Tease new products and services in an interesting way. Does your brand take the extra time to infuse a level of fun into campaigns? Are you asking for a lot from your customers without the right level of incentive? What is your brand known for and how can you infuse that into every communication and campaign?
3. Customer Service Is Equally Important To Sales
In addition to knowing your customers and staying interesting, it’s important that retail marketers build customer experiences that are seamless and require little from their customers. That should live as a foundational layer across the entire customer lifecycle, from marketing to transaction and beyond. Consumers are all about convenience — one hiccup and you’ve got yourself an abandoned cart (or an angry Tweet); the pressure to meet every customer’s need is real. In our recent study, 54% of respondents will only tolerate two to three negative experiences before they abandon a brand. To protect customer relationships, brands need to invest whatever is necessary to ensure connected experiences, no matter which department they interact with.
Pro Tips and Questions to Ask:
- Because the holiday shopping season is prime for product mix-ups or other hiccups, prepare your customer service team to properly address and resolve customer issues, keeping in mind that time is of the essence.
- Take a hard look at previous holiday season campaigns and identify the gaps. Was it easy to jump from one channel to the next and retain the right information? How convenient are we making it for people to browse, shop, receive product and provide feedback?
- Do we have the right technology in place to empower our customer service team to be informed at every point of the customer journey? Will a manager be able to identify the issue and develop a solution before even speaking to the customer?
By examining these three areas, retail marketers can easily identify gaps as well as new opportunities to make the most of their holiday season campaigns. And best of all, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Seasonal understanding over time will help brands really discover what’s working, where they need to do better, and shed light on where creativity will shine most (and make the most money, of course!).
Niki Hall is CMO of Selligent Marketing Cloud, overseeing its global go-to-market strategy. Over the course of her 20+ year marketing career, Hall has specialized in global growth and operational efficiencies for some of tech’s largest companies, including Cisco Systems, Polycom, and Five9, where as the VP of Marketing she successfully positioned the company as a digital enterprise cloud leader. Her primary focus currently is driving demand generation; managing product, client, partner and field marketing and communications; and spearheading Selligent’s global brand initiatives. When she is not working, Hall can be found at SoulCycle or spending time with her family, mostly at soccer games, baseball games or dance conventions.