The holidays really are ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ for brands, with retail sales expected to reach over $680 billion during this year’s festive season.
To seize this opportunity, brands should deliver personalized, tailored online customer experiences to cut through the noise and make a real impact. But understanding the customer and predicting their needs is easier said than done during a period when behavior oscillates from one extreme to the other, and needs change by the day. Without the necessary data insights to draw on it’s easy for marketers to get the message very wrong, negatively impacting brand perception and customer loyalty.
So how does consumer behavior fluctuate throughout the holiday season, and how can brands make sure they’re armed with the right data insights to deliver personalized messaging that really resonates?
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Organized value seeker to last-minute spendthrift: Until Thanksgiving, holiday shoppers are calm and in control. We’re willing to spend but have plenty of time to shop around for a great deal and respond well to messages about value, especially around Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Closer to Christmas priorities change as frantic last-minute shoppers welcome localized ads for next-day delivery or instant in-store pick up of that perfect gift, for which we’re willing to pay over the odds.
Extravagant gift giver to cut-price bargain hunter: In the run up to Christmas we’re in the mood to spoil friends and family with lavish, high-end goods and respond to messaging about how much our loved ones will enjoy their extravagant gifts. Once the big day is over and the January sales kick in, however, everything changes. We want a cut-price bargain for ourselves and act on ads featuring mega deals and slashed prices.
Overindulgent reveler to health-conscious resolution keeper: The holiday season is all about over indulgence and from that first taste of pumpkin pie right through to the last sip of New Year’s Eve bubbly we embrace messaging about luxury and decadence. But when the New Year arrives there’s a total transformation as we strive to keep our resolutions and welcome reassuring messages relating to self-control, health, and fitness.
These are just a few of the dramatic changes in behavior that occur throughout the holiday season. Getting the right message to the right consumer at the exact point their needs begin to change could open up a whole new sales opportunity, while also enhancing trust and building the foundations for longer term customer loyalty. Conversely, missing that point by just a day or two could alienate the same consumer. If I’ve just made a New Year’s resolution, for instance, and am determined to stick to it, a message tempting me to break my resolve will be ignored or immediately deleted. I may even turn my back on the brand altogether. At no other time of year is it more critical to leverage detailed insights into consumer behavior.
Bridging data silos
Marketers have access to more data than ever before – from mobile, desktop, social, offline, and emerging data sources such as the Internet of Things – which should make it easier to understand the customer and provide relevant, personalized experiences.
But all too often this data is held in disparate silos of channel or device which limits its usability and prevents marketers viewing the entire customer journey as it traverses multiple screens and platforms. To build a full picture of the consumer and truly understand what stage they are at, marketers must bridge data silos and unite all data streams in a centralized hub. By analyzing where consumers are, what they are searching for, and what they are browsing, buying or sharing, marketers can understand unique consumer needs and deliver the most appropriate messaging.
Centralizing and unifying data also allows marketers to identify key trends in consumer shopping habits, and make smart decisions about the best channels and tactics to use. For instance, while mobile commerce is growing rapidly – expected to rise by almost 60% this year – research on desktop or laptop computer is still more likely to convert to a sale than research on a smartphone, meaning marketers won’t want to abandon desktop advertising altogether.
We’re seeing a rise in marketers using social media messaging to reach consumers on a very personal level, and this tactic is likely to be particularly effective with New Year related messaging, offering motivation and gentle encouragement to persevere with those resolutions. Resolutions can be multi-faceted, for instance someone wanting to lose weight might combine this with an exercise regime or someone wanting to save money might also be looking for a new job. Marketers need to fully understand the consumers on every level to deliver the right message via the right channel.
Predicting exactly when consumer behavior will change, for example when an organized value-seeker will morph into a last-minute shopper, is problematic as this varies by individual. Some may panic if they don’t have gifts bought and wrapped by December 1st, while others can be quite relaxed about their shopping right up to Christmas Eve. Equally, some consumers might start their health kick between Christmas and New Year, while others might not get moving with an exercise regime until well into January. Sales periods are no longer clearly defined by dates – Black Friday and Cyber Monday create a sales peak that lasts days if not weeks, and the traditional January sales often begin as early as Christmas Day.
The only way to immediately identify a consumer’s shift in behavior and respond with relevant, engaging messaging, is to analyze data and action insights in real time. Instant analysis allows marketers to respond to the consumer’s immediate needs and deliver what they want at that specific moment – whether that’s a stunning pair of last-minute diamond earrings that can be picked up in an hour, a Boxing Day deal on a new sofa, or supportive messaging encouraging them in their fitness goals come the New Year. Real-time data comes into its own during the holiday season, when shifts in consumer behavior are extreme and marketers need to recognize those all-important moments of change.
For brands, the holiday season presents an enormous opportunity, but to make the most of it they must get a handle on their data. By breaking data free from its silos, they can form a complete picture of the consumer and action data insights in real time to deliver personalized advertising that resonates with, and adapts to, the ever-changing holiday shopper, ultimately driving sales as well as building consumer trust and loyalty.