New insights for a customer-obsessed New Year

2017 closed with headlines citing a whopping 18% growth in holiday ecommerce sales and 4.9% growth overall. Before popping the champagne and moving into your Q1 to-do list, don’t close the book on 2017 quite yet. With many retailers earning up to 40% of their annual revenue during the holiday season, it is imperative to balance sound long-term strategy with the inevitable high stakes of holiday season. How can you achieve this balance? Through continued Customer Obsession.

Impactful marketers achieve goals by prioritizing experiences inspired by customer insights, rather than turning to tactics like re-mails, click-bait subject lines, or last-minute, margin-crushing offers. So if you’re a brand that copies and pastes your holiday roadmap excel tab year over year (you are not alone!), consider this an intervention. The secret of a successful holiday season is learning from your customers, not just your campaigns. Thoughtful customer insights will help you develop a meaningful test-and-learn curriculum all year, preparing you for the grand finale of implementing the best possible experience during the 2018 holiday season.

Customer obsessed marketers know that having tunnel vision on campaign-level performance will only inspire tactics, rather than customer-centric strategy. In addition to focusing on existing customer segments, you should be looking to enrich your data set with new ones. Here are some holiday fundamentals to consider:

New customers/subscribers:

  • Take a close look at the influx of new email subscribers or customers that you gained during holiday. How did they perform during their first weeks on file compared to other times of the year? Your findings may inspire a holiday-centric onboarding experience that nurtures gifters and expedites conversion.
  • For additional insights, segment new subscribers by source of acquisition. You may uncover clues as to where you should invest more or less on customer prospecting based on projected lifetime value and potential.
  • Learn more about holiday subscribers in the New Year through progressive profiling and click data to avoid the feared one-and-done conversion pattern. Consider an education-focused experience for these customers by promoting the benefits of your loyalty program, closest store, app benefits and any other key differentiators. Reiterate these topics now, when consumer inboxes aren’t as cluttered. For an even more customer-centric approach, new treatment plans and contact strategies may emerge based on customer value and potential modeling.

Mobile engagers:

  • Mobile devices are vital for the holiday shopper - they act as an on-the-go lifeline for getting that shopping list done. In fact, mobile was reportedly responsible for a whopping 68% of all site traffic and 50% of conversions from Nov 21 - Dec 26th. If your mobile experience isn’t exactly frictionless, you may benefit from collecting specific data points to showcase the amount of opportunity you’re potentially leaving on the table. Changing your conversation to focus on the number of subscribers opening/clicking/purchasing via mobile during the holidays, relative to other times of the year, may help your team prioritize mobile-experience optimization.

Inactive/Less Active:

  • If you are messaging a dormant customer throughout the year and they still fail to engage during holiday, a top 2018 priority will be to re-engage those worth keeping and declutter the rest.
  • If you’re looking to supplement your existing re-engagement strategy, consider identifying the campaign types that are most likely to ‘wake up’ less active customers. Odds are if your dormant engagement rate is over-indexing on a specific campaign type, you may have compelling evidence to expand that content. A similar analysis was conducted for an Epsilon retailer and when testing the impact of content expansion, there was a 125% increase in engagement compared to the traditional experience.

Holiday Personas

  • Your brand identity and product offerings may inspire specific holiday personas that are unique to this time of year and worthy of being obsessed over. Consider additional ways to investigate customer behavior:
  • Not all holiday buyers are gifters. You may be able to differentiate the two by understanding who is shipping to a new address, interacting with wish lists, or selecting ‘this order contains a gift’ during checkout. Connecting that data back to identify your customers that are shopping for gifts, are self-gifting, or doing both may help you message them more effectively.
  • Do some of your customers have products perpetually sitting in their online shopping cart? Shopping cart hoarders may be using your cart as a wish list tool, reminder to do more research on a product, or are simply waiting for the best promotion. This research may inspire revisiting your abandon shopping cart trigger logic and messaging strategy during peak shopping seasons.

Beyond segments and personas, take other customer-feedback channels into consideration:

  • Listening to what customers were sharing about your brand, gifting, or the holidays in general on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social channels can help inform your team about customer mentality and behaviors. Social listening can uncover broad topics, like customer service gaps as well as insight into the ‘language’ your customers speak. This research can inform your content/copy strategy and inspire tests to prove resonance.
  • Furthermore, your website’s most popular search terms can act as a valuable (and low cost) source of research. How do those search terms compare to the rest of the year? If your customers continuously searched ‘shipping deadline’, ‘how to redeem’, or ‘<product xyz> unboxing’ during holiday, you may have the evidence you need to merit content development around these topics.

The more you know about your customers, the better your team will be at generating unique and thoughtful experiences that encourage loyalty each season. The New Year is a great time to get organized so here is a quick guide to kick things off:

  • Reflect on what aspects of your holiday communications have worked (or didn’t) for varying customer types. Obsess over customer insights and consider what data can help you inform positive experiences.
  • Work with your team to understand what additional data or operational components are at varying levels of readiness to help your team focus on a customer-obsessed approach to your roadmap.
  • Officially set your resolutions by establishing a sound test-and-learn curriculum inspired by your holiday findings.
  • Prioritize by initiatives that are most readily available to implement and simultaneously align with your brand’s broader 2018 goals.
  • Develop business cases along the way to showcase efforts to date and revisit ideas that required more investment. Publish quarterly learnings to advocate for ideas worthy of further exploration or should undoubtedly be implemented into the 2018 holiday experience.

To learn more about how Epsilon can help with holiday analysis and developing a sound test-and-learn curriculum, contact