4 things marketers should know this holiday season
Stacey Hawes
October 26, 2017

Customer expectations will be at an all-time high this holiday season, which means marketers must work harder than ever to deliver bottom-line cheer. But there can be good tidings for retailers (including brick and mortar), especially with Deloitte predicting holiday sales to surge November through January.

To meet customer expectations and overcome obstacles -- including increased competition from Amazon, deep holiday discounting and oversaturation of brand communications -- marketers need to shift strategies now to drive revenue during this ultra-competitive time of year. Honing in on customer insights, omnichannel effectiveness and loyalty will help retailers get to the bottom of what their customers really want and deliver long-term marketing ROI.

Don’t let steep discounts alone be the determining factor for your success. Instead, consider these four areas to drive meaningful customer engagement that lasts throughout the holiday season and beyond:

Leverage data to understand consumer sentiment

Holiday shopping can elicit mixed emotions for consumers, from excitement at finding a good deal and happiness to be finished with their shopping early to stressed and overwhelmed at the prospect of spending more money. But, thanks to online channels, consumer shopping behavior is now (at least a little bit more) merry and bright.

According to Epsilon’s 2017 Holiday Shopping Survey, while almost half of consumers indicate that they love holiday shopping, 72% say online shopping for gifts has made life so much easier. This is likely because e-commerce saves consumers from fighting the in-store crowds and affords them the convenience to purchase at any time of the day from anywhere

The lesson here? Retailers need to leverage data to understand their customers’ sentiment, where they will be shopping, at what time and what will be most appealing to them. A customer that finds holiday shopping fun because they make it an event with their friends should be communicated to differently than someone with a Grinch-like spirit. Go beyond known transactional data and incorporate insights around shoppers’ attitudes and aspirations, this will help retailers foster even deeper connections.

Focus on loyalty

It turns out that 64% of consumers are somewhat/very likely to use loyalty program rewards when shopping this year and 75% are much/somewhat more likely to shop because they are loyalty program members. Because of this high preference for loyalty, brands should build loyalty experiences around their ideal customer segment(s).

Make sure your consumers will be unwrapping loyalty rewards and personal gifts during the 2017 holiday season. That entails understanding what compels your shoppers to buy your products and learning which benefits (i.e., access, experiences and rewards) they view as worthy of their effort and time. For example, 51% of consumers say a promotion/offer would increase the likelihood of making a personal purchase while holiday shopping.

Increase personalization

When planning promotions, retailers should focus on a segment of one. Richer profile data sets can help retailers adapt to changing customers’ needs and better understand what is important to them in that moment, especially during the holidays. Life stage, demographic and location data will help inform retailers on a deeper level, but they need to first determine the data that matters for their business and make it actionable for their brand.

Other tools are just as important as promotions to some consumers. Not everyone is making a list and checking it twice, but 85% of people say that they plan for their holiday shopping. And of those who plan, 73% report creating a list of whom to buy for while 58% ask for lists from those they’ll be shopping for. By offering simple tools like wish lists, retailers can create the convenience that consumers are looking for and help them make the holiday shopping experience even easier. These tools are also an opportunity for marketers to generate insights and better understand consumer preferences.

Maximize omnichannel effectiveness with cross-channel benefits

Consumers’ cross-channel behavior will continue during the 2017 holiday shopping season, as 86% of consumers are somewhat/very likely to purchase a gift from a store. What’s more, nearly three-fourths are likely to purchase gifts online for convenient delivery.

Multichannel shoppers tend to spend more per transaction, so there’s an opportunity for retailers to maximize omnichannel effectiveness by adding benefits like ‘buy online’ and ‘pick-up in-store’ options or free shipping on out-of-stock, in-store items. For example, more than half of consumers prefer free delivery for items not available in store. Retailers excelling in omnichannel will likely reap major rewards and earn increased consumer recognition and loyalty.

In conclusion

So how do marketers get on the nice list and ensure that no consumer is left with coal this holiday?

Use promotions and offers to get your foot in the door—keep in mind that 89% of consumers say that promotions, offers and/or discounts are very or somewhat important when deciding to buy holiday gifts.  But backing up your holiday strategies with a deep understanding of customers, personalized cross-channel marketing communications and heightened loyalty engagement is what will set you up for long term success well into the New Year and beyond.

As the lead of Epsilon’s data practice, Stacey Hawes leverages data-driven marketing strategies to help today’s leading brands address their biggest business challenges. She has been in sync with the pulse of the data industry for more than 15 years, helping clients across verticals determine how data can be incorporated into their new and pre-existing marketing solutions.