Contextual Interaction In Every Moment – The Key To Winning The Holiday Season

retail tech interior

Few things are as dynamic as the retail landscape. 

Historically these changes were gradual which afforded retailers time to follow suit and catch up. However, these are unprecedented times. Spurred by numerous digital disruptions and the aftermath of the pandemic, the retail industry has been catapulted into a new norm where retailers are up against the clock. 

With the countdown to the coveted holidays ticking away and traditional marketing playbooks deemed obsolete, how can brands prepare to outshine the competition and win the season? 

Let’s dive right in. 

Know Your Customer

The customers of today are different. 

They are empowered, tech-savvy, and have access to information that was previously unheard of. They are better informed and discerning when it comes to making a purchase. Additionally, advances in technology have given rise to a plethora of digital avenues where consumers explore, experience, and engage with a brand before making a final decision. 

What does this mean for retailers? Well, it’s simple yet pivotal – an opportunity to better understand and reach consumers. 

Every interaction or touchpoint is an opportunity to collate data that aid in stitching together a holistic and 360o view of the consumer. This view is integral to providing a contextual and hyper-personalized experience - the holy grail of retail. 

Further, it gives brands the coveted opportunity to interact and engage with consumers. The more brands engage with a consumer, the better they understand them and can make a predictive course of action. 

In the age of data deprecation, this first-party information will also prove vital in filling up the gaps brought about by the prevailing regulations. In an already competitive landscape, simply being present where the consumer is, listening, and interacting with them – especially during the holidays – will serve as a competitive advantage. 

Scale Value-Driven Contextual Moments

Consumers no longer seek ‘products’, rather, they seek ‘solutions’ that add value. In a time when consumers are bombarded with flashy ads and promises of the ‘best’ products and services in the market, cutting through the noise will require meaningful and contextual interactions at each moment. 

Personalization on a first name basis in an email is no longer enough. 

The need of the hour, especially during the holidays, is for brands to understand and deliver contextually relevant value in every moment of the customer journey. 

For example, let’s say a prospective customer looks up “plums delivery” in their search engine. While they would be presented with an array of options to choose from, they are drawn to the content presented in the site links of a leading online grocery store during the awareness phase. The site links presented them with recipes for Christmas plum cakes which arrested the customer’s attention. When they click on the link, the customer is met with a pop-up for a $10 holiday discount on plums during the consideration phase. This leads to a purchase simply because the consumer derived value (economic and experiential) from these phases of the customer journey.

The dynamics of retail have shifted. It is no more about pushing a sale. Rather, it lies squarely on delivering the right message at the right time at the right place to the right consumer. This guarantees a value-driven approach that trickles down to increased profitability, lifetime value, and loyalty. 

Harness AI and ML to Create a Seamless Real-Time Omnichannel Experience

Consumers are spread across far and wide in the digital realm. Empowered by the advances in technology, they engage with brands in multiple formats across touchpoints and channels. According to the Harvard Business Review, 73% of consumers use multiple channels during the buying experience. Thus, it is pivotal for brands to reach consumers in real-time at every touchpoint where they are present with a personalized and consistent experience.

This does not mean simply casting a net across multiple channels but orchestrating a unified and curated omnichannel experience across the customer journey. 

This puts the focus back on the customer. And the need of the customer is a tailored experience that is privy to them on an individual level. Consumers want to feel seen, heard, and understood by brands. They value and demand personalized engagement. According to Forrester, consumers are eight times more likely to do business with a brand that employs a personalized approach. 

AI and ML algorithms empower retailers to create and scale individualized and hyper-personalized experiences that consumers crave in real-time in every interaction across the customer journey. 

For example, a person could browse the search engine looking for a pair of black jeans, click on a retailer’s website, look through the search display options, view recommendations based on historical and behavioral data, and complete the purchase at the brick-and-mortar store, all while maintaining a consistent customer experience. These interactions would be captured, processed, and updated in real-time to provide marketers and retailers with invaluable data to enrich the consumer’s experience with the brand in each moment. 

This brings us to the important question: how can retailers create these moments and win the holiday season? It starts with a robust MarTech stack with real-time personalization capabilities. 

While there is no cookie-cutter MarTech stack that works for every company or industry, here are three principles to bear in mind while assembling your stack:

  • Data Ingestion and Management: to create a unified and accurate 360o view of the consumer, a MarTech stack will need to ingest, process, and store structured and unstructured data in real-time from multiple streams and sources, including online and offline. It must be scalable to reflect the changing behavior and journey of the consumer at key times of the year, like Christmas, Cyber Monday, and Black Friday. An effective MarTech stack will eliminate data silos within the organizational structure to present a comprehensive, structured, and consolidated view of the customer to drive meaningful interactions in each moment.
  • Decisioning Intelligence: if data is the fuel, then insights are the engine of an effective MarTech stack that processes raw data into actionable insights for faster and smarter decision-making. A robust MarTech stack will have the ability to identify, segment, and activate audiences that aid in employing intelligent diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analysis and actions. This critical capability will help marketers and retailers predict and arrest churn, increase profitability, and scale lifetime value by optimizing and augmenting activities at each intersection. Far from just audience activation and optimization, a versatile MarTeck stack will also cater to the operations side of the business such as demand and supply chain management. The astute marketer will leverage these capabilities to streamline activities and further enhance the customer experience. 
  • Journey Orchestration Engine: In today’s era of instant gratification, consumers demand to be met in each moment of their journey - no matter where and when. It is this interaction that serves as the differentiating factor in a competitive market and makes it a crucial capability for an effective MarTech stack. A journey orchestration engine identifies a moment, curates high-value content for the context, and delivers personalized campaigns in real-time to drive value in moments that matter the most to consumers. A MarTech stack powered by ML will empower retailers to create, test, measure and optimize personalized omnichannel campaigns across the customer journey to scale ROI and engagement. 

In summary, retailers cannot take for granted the importance of winning singular moments, especially during the holiday season, when brands compete fiercely for attention and business. Though it may appear minuscule by itself, these moments compound over time to create an affinity for brands among consumers. In the context of the holiday season, this is crucial to achieving goals and scaling performance. It is in providing contextually relevant value to consumers at each moment of interaction that brands will win the holidays and consumer loyalty, before, during, and after the season.

— Smitha BV, Director - Product Marketing at Algonomy