The holiday season isn’t just a time of festive cheer and gift-giving; for retailers, it’s a gold mine of customer data and a critical period for driving sales. In the era of data privacy and the diminishing power of third-party cookies, first-party data emerges as the superhero of customer engagement and targeted marketing.
However, as we wade into this holiday season, retailers need strategies to harness this valuable resource effectively, ensuring personalized experiences for customers and a prosperous season for the business.
Below are my top six tips for retailers:
1. The Gift of Data: Transitioning From Third-Party Dependence to First-Party Proficiency
The holidays offer a bounty of direct customer interactions, providing a prime opportunity to gather valuable first-party data. Retailers accustomed to “renting” audiences must shift towards owning their data. This transition involves tracking customer engagements and transactions, enabling follow-up with holiday shoppers throughout the subsequent year, nurturing relationships, and encouraging brand loyalty.
2. Maintaining a Clean Foundation: The Importance of Data Hygiene
With the influx of seasonal shoppers, retailers face the challenge of maintaining accurate, unified and de-duplicated customer databases. Personal identifiable information (PII) often changes, causing discrepancies and data replication. This issue is particularly prevalent when customers provide different billing and shipping information, a common scenario during gift-giving seasons. Retailers must invest in robust identity resolution systems capable of recognizing both the gift purchaser and recipient, ensuring clarity in customer profiles within their databases.
3. Unpacking Customer Insights: Data Unification and Intelligent Segmentation
Diving into customer data reveals patterns and preferences in holiday purchase behaviors. Retailers should leverage these insights for precise customer segmentation in their holiday campaigns. Identifying unique shopper personas — e.g., grandparents purchasing toys or individuals indulging in self-gifts — enhances message targeting. Predictive analytics can also forecast potential high lifetime value (LTV) customers, helping retailers distinguish between one-off and repeat purchasers, full-price and discount buyers, and multichannel shoppers.
4. Building a List and Checking it Twice: Lookalike Audiences and ROAS
Employing lists of current customers as seed audiences can significantly enhance the acquisition of new shoppers. By identifying previous seasonal customers who converted into frequent buyers, retailers can directly target similar prospects on platforms like Facebook, Google, and TikTok, bypassing the need for “onboarders” — i.e., businesses that connect their offline data with online user identifiers. This strategy of deploying lookalike audiences optimizes return on ad spend (ROAS) by focusing on promising leads and avoiding the pursuit of unlikely prospects.
5. Don’t Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle: Dynamic, Personalized Campaigns
The holiday shopping experience is further enhanced through personalization, offering recommendations based on historical and anticipated customer behaviors. However, it’s essential to recognize that gifting behaviors deviate from typical purchasing habits, requiring a dynamic approach to segmentation. Retailers need to account for these shifts, adjusting their “next best” product recommendations based on whether a shopper is buying for themselves or selecting gifts for others.
6. The Gift That Keeps on Giving: Evaluating Impact
Finally, understanding the true incremental influence of holiday campaigns is crucial, despite the complexities of customer journeys. Retailers should undertake comprehensive analyses of their strategies, employing holdout experiments, and A/B/n tests to discern the direct impact of online advertisements on both digital and in-store purchases. By utilizing a unique, universal identifier across channels, businesses can directly correlate specific campaigns with customer conversions.
The holiday season is a pivotal time for retailers to gather and use first-party data. By transitioning from a reliance on third-party data, maintaining clean customer databases, unifying data for actionable insights, using those insights for precise targeting, personalizing customer experiences, and critically measuring campaign success, businesses can not only have a successful holiday season, but also improve their customer relationships and business performance throughout the coming years.