5 Things the Holidays Can Teach You about Personalization

Initial reports indicating in-store sales were down this Black Friday, while accurate, don’t paint a full picture of the retail climate this holiday season. The truth is, declines in in-store Black Friday purchases were predictable and are indicative of trends that will continue to prevail as an online-first approach to shopping changes traditional holiday consumer behavior. A decline in Black Friday sales doesn’t mean retail is suffering; it means the way people are shopping is shifting.

Simply put, Black Friday isn’t as much of a big deal for consumers anymore. Traditionally, it’s been a mechanism for retailers to drive shoppers to brick and mortar establishments, incentivized by deals that could only be redeemed in person. Because ecommerce now enables consumers to access any product they want, at any time, for the best possible price, the allure of in-store adventures on Black Friday has diminished somewhat. Competitive e-commerce has effectively elongated the holidays from a shopper perspective.

For retailers, this means that excellence in the realm of e-commerce is critically important, especially during the make-or-break holiday sales period.

In addition to these behavior shifts, we’ve found that web traffic sources are changing as well. In fact, we saw more than 50% of traffic to our customers’ websites come from mobile devices between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Black Friday:

  • Shoppers are shifting from in-store shopping binges to a steadier trickle of online holiday shopping over the span of days or weeks.
  • Shoppers are absolutely inundated by promotional emails from myriad brands, making it difficult for retailers to stand out.
  • Shoppers make quicker purchasing decisions based largely on a combination of convenience, cost and availability.

This means retailer’s ability to put the right content in front of shoppers quickly and easily will directly impact its success during holiday season and year-round. The key to automating the delivery of relevant content that drives conversion is commonly called “contextual marketing” – the practice of using customer insights to deliver personalized experiences.

Here are five ways you can use context to deliver fitting content to your customers any time of year:

Ensure you have a fully built abandonment program.

Many brands run a triggered cart abandonment campaign which is a great foundational program; however, if that’s where abandonment efforts stop, the majority of site visitors aren’t being reengaged. Beyond cart abandonment, retailers should also deploy campaigns that reengage anyone who visits the site and/or browses an item without adding to their cart. Brands who do this generally see a 20-30 percent increase in monthly email revenue on top of their existing abandonment campaign.

Use year-over-year data.

Leverage year-over-year data to understand past seasonal behaviors of customers who visit your site. Use your knowledge of their product and brand affinities to merchandize relevant products in email and better determine which promotions and offers to send them.

Transform your home page to feature relevant items.

Extend the knowledge of past customer behavior to transform content on your website, displaying products and brands with which a customer has previously interacted. Personalizing your home page caters to customers’ growing demands for convenience.

Segment your marketing sends.

During high promotional periods, such as the holidays, it’s easy for brands to cannibalize their own messaging by sending multiple emails per day about various promotions. Use both year-over-year and recent behavioral data to segment audiences and send only the most relevant marketing emails to shoppers. This will reduce contact frequency while increasing relevance, creating a better customer experience that drives short-term revenue and long-term loyalty.

Run targeted “last chance” campaigns.

We recommend sale “mop-up” (a.k.a. “last chance”) emails to all of our customers. By using behavioral data to quickly and easily identify people who have browsed or carted items that qualify them for a promotion, retailer can send personalized messages featuring the products with which they engaged. This creates a higher likelihood of conversion for engaged customers, and helps cut down on cluttering inboxes of people who have no interest in purchasing right now. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, our customers who deployed mop-up campaigns generated more than $2 in revenue per email, which dwarfs revenue per email rates normally associated with marketing emails.

In summary, the holiday season gives us an amplified view of what’s occurring throughout the entire year: customers are shopping online, and expect a personalized, convenient experience. In fact, studies show that 73% of customers prefer to do business with brands who personalize content, yet only 10% of brands feel they’re personalizing effectively. Use the holidays as the spark that kick-starts an emphasis on delivering the experiences customers demand by adopting contextual marketing.

Jason Fordham is Vice President of Strategic Solutions for SmarterHQ

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