Christmas is the most important shopping period of the year. Holidays like Black Friday, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, come a close second.
Some stores make all of their profit during these shopping holidays, especially in the period starting around Black Friday and running through to Christmas and the late December and early January sales.
As a retailer, it’s absolutely essential that you’re prepared to maximize sales and revenue.
You might be wondering why the title of this post begins with “what can you learn” rather than something like “how to prepare for the holiday shopping peak” or “how to achieve maximum revenue during the holiday shopping peak”.
There are lots of existing posts about how to prepare for periods like Christmas and Black Friday.
But we want to take a different approach. We want to look at how you can use shopping holidays to gather data about your customers, both for use during and after peak buying periods.
Let’s dive in.
Why You Should Gather Data During the Holiday Period
Christmas presents the perfect opportunity to gather data about existing and new customers.
Specifically, analysis during holiday shopping peaks enables you to achieve two outcomes.
Caption: In 2018 the holiday season accounted for $1,002.12 billion in sales. (Source)
Second, because customers are usually hyper-active during peak shopping periods, you can build out their profiles to use later in the year, especially for future holidays. Customers often act differently during Christmas, Black Friday, etc., so the information you collect will be highly applicable to upcoming holidays.
What’s more, a range of automation and marketing tools are available to help you streamline this process of data collection, interpretation, and implementation. Committing to gathering customer information during holiday shopping peaks doesn’t require an overhaul of your existing strategies.
Are You Prepared for the Christmas holiday period?
Before we dive into specific tips about gathering and using data about your customers, here are four key points to bear in mind when preparing for the holiday shopping peak:
#1 Start Early
It’s never too soon to begin preparing for holiday shopping periods, especially the biggest ones like Black Friday and Christmas.
In fact, research shows that most retailers have already started their marketing campaigns for Black Friday by August.
From a marketing perspective, it’s important to ensure that all content and advertising has been properly tested across all shopping channels, including apps and social media. Data from preliminary email campaigns should also be gathered.
You should also collate insights from previous shopping holidays to see how they can be used to make improvements to your current strategy.
#2 Analyze the Competition
Competitor research is a core part of pre-holiday planning. Pay attention to how competing stores are designing their user experience in the run-up to peak shopping holidays.
There’s an important point to keep in mind, however. Competitor analysis isn’t always about a race to the bottom. Sometimes it simply won’t be possible to offer cheaper prices on the same items.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t out-compete competitors. Instead, you should look at the whole package of benefits that you offer, which leads nicely onto the next point.
#3 Define Your Christmas Value Proposition
Have you ever clearly defined your Christmas value proposition?
For many retailers, the answer is no.
Your value proposition is the unique mix of benefits that you offer customers. It comprises the whole “package” of reasons that incentivize customers to shop with you over your competitors.
A good holiday value proposition includes a wide selection of offers, free shipping, loyalty rewards, highly targeted recommendations, and so on. Build your value proposition and clearly communicate it on both your site and in your marketing materials.
When a customer lands on your site or reads an ad, they should know in a few seconds what you’re offering.
#4 Take Care of All the Technicalities
It goes without saying that you should take care of all the technical aspects of running a holiday campaign before you’re ready to kick off.
Make sure you’ve covered all the following areas:
- Are promotions tested, designed, and ready to go?
- Are you fully stocked and staffed?
- Have email lists been segmented?
- Are customer feedback forms fully tested?
- Is your website ready to deal with the extra bandwidth?
Of all the problems that retailers face over the holiday shopping peak, technical issues are among the most damaging but also the easiest to fix. [Gr]
Hot to Learn About Customers During Christmas and Other Major Shopping Periods: 10 Tips
Here are ten ways to gather data about customers during peak shopping holidays and incorporate it into your existing and future marketing and user experience optimization campaigns.
#1 Aggregate Data from All Major Shopping Holidays
Data that applies to one shopping holiday will likely apply to other similar shopping periods. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Mother’s Day, Easter, Valentine’s Day – it’s essential to gather data for all holidays and aggregate it for use at a later date.
Here are some key questions to ask:
- Which offers performed best?
- Which segmentation parameters drove the best results?
- Which channels performed better or worse than expected?
Caption: Test which offers are effective before rolling them out. (Source)
All of these questions will enable you to interpret data and put together effective strategies moving forward, not just for future holidays but for regular shopping periods too.
#2 Gather Data in the Buildup to Major Shopping Holidays
One of the reasons it’s so essential to start early when planning for peak shopping holidays (and especially for Christmas) is because it allows you to collect preliminary data about what customers want.
You can use this information as rocket-fuel for dedicated Christmas and other similar marketing campaigns.
While the tip outlined in section one – analyzing historical data – is useful, the insights gleaned might not necessarily apply to the specific holiday that you’re preparing for.
The buildup to key shopping periods is the ideal time to run split-tests. This will allow you to craft a strategy that is primed for success right off the bat.
#3 Personalize Customer Experiences Based on Christmas Shopping Habits
Real-time personalization is absolutely essential during peak shopping holidays. 80% of shoppers will opt for a store that offers personalized experiences over one that doesn’t.
Caption: Personalization is an essential part of eCommerce. (Source)
Here are some specific tactics you can use:
- Abandoned cart emails.
- On-site product suggestions.
- Product suggestions in emails.
- Personalized incentives like discounts.
- First-time purchase offers.
Customers shop around during the Christmas period, but they are also short on time. Personalization will help overcome this problem by placing relevant offers and products in front of them.
Also, remember that it’s always good practice to ask customers to set their marketing preferences in their personal account area.
#4 Build Out Buyer Profiles
Buying holidays allow you to build out customer profiles by gathering information about interests and shopping preferences.
Crucially, you need to ask the following question: “Which family members are customers buying for?”
This question highlights why it’s essential to continue collecting data to learn about your customers during holiday shopping periods. Customers are buying items for relatives, and it won’t be possible to collect this data at any other time.
Use buyer histories to develop existing profiles. Use these to send targeted ads and recommendations for future holidays and during periods like Christmas.
You can also use these fleshed-out buyer profiles to suggest gift items at other times of the year, such as on Black Friday, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Father’s Day.
#5 Commit to Ongoing Segmentation
Email segmentation is a straightforward and effective eCommerce marketing strategy. You should segment your customer-base well in advance of any major buying holiday, ideally with all pre-tested offers and discounts ready to go.
But segmentation isn’t a one-off process. You should commit to ongoing segmentation through buying holidays, further refining and developing criteria as you collect more data.
Testing is of paramount importance here. Many retailers only segment according to generic factors like age, gender, past shopping categories. While these factors are important, they’re not the only ones worthy of your attention.
Caption: Target different segments with unique offers and landing pages. (Source)
Automated tools make it easier than ever to segment customers according to different criteria, like engagement, behavior, and interests. What’s more, it’s also possible to test the effectiveness of various segmentation strategies.
Non-generic and nuanced testing is an absolute must both before and during peak buying seasons.
#6 Find the Best Times to Send Emails
There are no hard-and-fast rules about the best times to send emails. While certain studies can provide loose benchmarks – 10 AM on weekdays is an oft-cited example – the only way to pinpoint the best send times is through testing.
During holiday buying periods, people behave differently. Because of this, it’s important to adapt email send times and days according to feedback about open and response rates.
What’s more, after collecting this data, you’ll have new, proven benchmarks to use for peak buying periods going forward. You can then use these as a baseline from which to drive further improvements.
#7 Determine Which Holiday Offers Have the Best Responses
Because of the centrality of offers during shopping holidays, it’s crucial to ensure that all advertising content and strategies have been tested before rolling them out fully.
This strategy applies across all channels, including email, social media, and search ads. Ad platforms and email marketing tools make it easy to track results and automatically set top-performing ad content.
Caption: Test offers to see which garner the most clicks and purchases. (Source)
This principle also applies to content. If you are publishing blog posts and on-site guides, identify which topics and content formats garner the most attention and leverage them going forward.
#8 Run A/B Split-Tests and Monitor On-Site Activity
Run A/B and multivariate tests before and during shopping holidays. Extra web traffic provides you with useful real-time data. Use it to hone in on top-performing pages.
In particular, pay attention to the following pages:
- Landing pages – Test a variety of landing pages to see which ones convert best overall, especially in the context of email campaigns and paid ads.
- Product pages – Typical product page templates are usually altered during shopping peaks to account for offers, announcements, voucher codes, and so on. Test different templates to see which drive the highest conversions.
- Category pages – Category pages are crucial during shopping periods as many customers will arrive at your store without any specific intent. Create and test a variety of category page templates.
Many retailers fail to leverage on-site testing before and during holiday shopping periods. This is a big mistake. Automation tools enable sites to test different variations of pages and quickly serve the top-performing content to visitors.
#9 Find Out Which Channels Customers Prefer
Customers now shop on a variety of different channels, including websites, apps, and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
You should ask two questions in the run-up to, during, and after holiday shopping peaks: “Which channels exceeded expectations?” and “Which channels underperformed?”
If underleveraged channels perform better than expected, you can quickly pour more resources into them. Alternatively, underperforming channels that you expected to perform well can be sidelined.
#10 Gather Direct Customer Feedback
Interacting with customers is one of the best ways to gather information during Christmas and other peak buying holidays.
Raw data has its place. But feedback gathered through forms gives you a window straight into the minds of your customers.
Place feedback forms at key points on the customer journey, especially after checkout, and via email after a customer has had a chance to sample a product.
Direct customer feedback will often highlight problems with your holiday customer journey that might otherwise have been overlooked.
From an analytics perspective, collecting, interpreting, and using large amounts of data can seem like a daunting task.
Don’t be put off, however. Automated tools streamline the whole process of gathering data and leveraging data in a meaningful way. These tools also allow you to quickly implement changes to boost conversions.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and all other peak shopping holidays are important times for retailers. Data gathering and analysis are two of the most effective processes for gaining a competitive advantage.
Now, time to start preparing that first test.