Surviving the Holidays: 10 Data-driven Tips for Peak Trading

by Ross Wilson Mapp Digital

Surviving the Holidays: 10 Data-driven Tips for Peak Trading

Year-end business is a hugely profitable time for e-commerce and retail, and can be critical to the success (or failure) of a business. For many brands, up to 50 percent of their annual sales are generated in the final months of the year.

Successful cross-channel marketing is incredibly important in order to activate your existing customer base during this period.

Here is ten data-driven tips that will make your year-end business a breeze. These tips are easy (and cost-saving) to implement – because of course, we are well aware of the universal “lack of time” in the fourth quarter.

1. Choose your themes and define topics accordingly

Even if time is short, meticulous planning pays off. Choose a theme, a story, and a main customer segment for your campaign, and use it as a guideline for all activities. A clear customer segment will also give you the opportunity to measure an uplift in sales more precisely. Communicate the topic to all teams and departments that have customer contact in order to extend the cross-channel experience to direct customer conversation. In this way, you ensure right from the start that the message to the customers remains consistent and on point.

2. Reach your goal through automation

Marketing automation for year-end business means building a solid campaign in advance, across all channels. This includes web, email, social media, push, SMS, and possibly also display. Save yourself the stress of ad-hoc campaign building and tweaking in the middle of the season and automate all steps ahead of time.

The recipients’ response should be taken into account in the course of the orchestrated campaign sequence. Avoid boring them with the same information on the same channel over and over. If consumers do not respond to the first message, the offer can be repackaged and/or offered to them through a different channel. Make sure their individual preferences are taken into account, and expect that those may change during the course of your campaign. A good platform should offer AI-generated product and content recommendations that help you serve the best possible content to consumers based on their previous behaviour.

3. Implement true cross-channel personalisation

Even in 2019, true cross-channel personalisation is often a desire rather than a reality. A report by Invesp reveals that only 30 percent of all companies are confident that they are currently achieving this goal, followed by 67 percent that are somewhat confident. However, it has been proven that targeted and personalised content significantly increases revenue and likelihood to convert. For example, receiving a push notification whilst standing near a brand’s shop is guaranteed to be more effective than receiving a push notification at an arbitrary time and location. The same applies to personalised offers. If the past purchase history is taken into account, true personalisation can take place.

Your customers interact with countless brand touchpoints on a daily basis, so use this knowledge as an opportunity to activate marketing campaigns across all channels.

4. Set priorities and work with clear KPIs

Every objective of your year-end campaign should be measurable. If you keep your KPIs in front of everyone on your team, there will be daily opportunities for optimisation and potential savings. Keep a keen eye on your Repurchase Rate, the economical equivalent to return rate, calculating the value of the second order in proportion to the first order. Are your customers increasing in value for your company from order to order? Is their engagement increasing or decreasing? For every pound invested into marketing, how much revenue is coming in and from which sources? Are you able to identify a customer segment that is highly profitable?

Why not tweak your campaign slightly to match it more closely to their needs? Alternatively, you may be able to segment and exclude all customers that have a high shipping return probability from all future marketing campaigns.

5. Increase your contact base

Especially in the last months of the year, traffic and search requests are on the rise. So make good use of this time to gain new contacts. Newsletter registrations can be increased, for example, by discounts for first-time buyers or a Christmas competition. The registration forms should be clearly visible and placed at highly frequented and relevant touchpoints in the online shop and in the bricks-and-mortar store. At the same time, newsletters provide a good way to stay in touch with potential customers.

Another tip for staying in touch with interested parties is if an item is currently out of stock, you can offer a message by email as soon as it is available again. This is a smooth introduction to further email communication and increases confidence in your brand. Extend your campaign to the ‘real world’ and incentivise people in-store with discounts from their purchase for signing up to the newsletter – preferably right at the checkout where the discount is most useful.

6. Revamp templates for increased visibility

Consistent message design elements, such as snowflakes as an interactive element or countdowns, are designed once and can then be used flexibly and on a long-term basis. What’s important for this temporary template revamping is to invest in meticulous testing on all devices and browsers. If this is done in advance, you will avoid delivery and display problems in this particularly business-critical period.

If you would like to see the difference your special templates make, why not set up an A/B test? Send the traditional design to one part of your recipients and the holiday edition to the other. Compare not only the open or click rates, but, more importantly, the revenue generated with the different templates.

7. Learn from the past for today

It is essential that retailers evaluate which measures, topics, channels, customer interactions, and sales were particularly strong in the past year, at what time the online shop visitor or newsletter was particularly worthwhile, and which offers were particularly popular. What were the top sellers for each category and customer segment? How did the different days of the week differ in their purchasing power? Are there any lessons that can be drawn from the past year? What went particularly well, what could have been avoided?

8. Keep a keen eye on timing

Timing has a direct impact on open, click, and conversion rates. By December 15th, the biggest part of online Christmas business is usually completed. So, be an early mover. The companies that already start in October have a competitive advantage because the mailbox of the end consumer is not so full yet and experience shows that the receptivity for offers is significantly higher. In short, the first messages on Black Friday, Christmas, and gift opportunities should be sent by mid-November at the latest. Bear in mind that the time between Black Friday and Christmas differs every year, and so does the time you have for the different campaigns.

Try to create a smooth transition from one holiday communication to the other – or even take a short marketing break between the two events to avoid message-fatigue.

9. Offer and communicate added value

During the Christmas season, consumers are actively looking for the perfect gift, so they are receptive to tips and special deals. It is also a good idea to refer directly to extra services and added value; and to wrap them around well-known events to make use of popular search terms, such as Free Shipping Day on December 14th. Potential buyers expect clear and concise information and advice, especially during this time of year. They are grateful for details on delivery times, exchange options, instalment payments, branches, and opening hours, as well as telephone support that is easily reachable.

You are also advised to proactively inform customers about deadlines, such as the last possible standard shipping date, along with information about the delivery status of the package.

10. Extend your year-end business past Christmas

Christmas cash gifts are often redeemed spontaneously and as early as Christmas Day. Web traffic and search inquires already start to increase one day after Christmas Eve and abandoned shopping baskets from before the holidays gain relevancy again – they may spark the desire to purchase a wish that wasn’t fulfilled under the Christmas tree. Between the holidays, it can be meaningful to dispatch a yearly review or a Best-of-Mailing with a bestseller. This time is also suitable for satisfaction surveys, targeted measures for Boxing Day on 26 December, or a New Year’s Eve mailing. The annual calendar year ends with this key date – the year-end business, however, pulls itself far into January. The slow first days of the new year are the ideal time to rummage for bargains.

I hope that our 10 fundamental tips reminded you how a successful holiday campaign can be planned and executed. With the right technology partner and consistent planning, you will see that this year’s-end business will run smoother than ever.