Tis' the Season! Consumers Are Making Their Lists: Are You on Them?

Holiday shoppers are expected to spend more than $600 billion during November and December, according the National Retail Federation. This forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of 3.3 percent, and retailers should be prepared to execute marketing strategies that will earn them a nice portion of this forecasted revenue opportunity.

GfK recently released a study reporting that 37 percent of U.S. shoppers are turning to their favorite brands online and in-store to make their purchases. So retailers have a big opportunity to deliver personalized, real-time customer interactions across email, mobile, social, web and offline channels to engage customers with the right message at the right time during the holidays.

Make it meaningful…
It's important to provide marketing that is meaningful and valuable to customers, but in order to do this successfully it is critical you know and understand who your customer is and what she wants to buy. Every interaction consumers have with your store — be it online or offline, from the browsing of a website, to the opening of an email, to a tweet or post or purchase — presents valuable information that can be used to generate more engaging customer experiences.

For example, when marketers capture information about their customers, they have the ability to develop a better understanding of the kinds of products their customers like and buy; what colors and sizes they tend to purchase; when they tend to do their shopping; how much they spend; and how they engage with your brand. With this knowledge, marketers can apply these insights to develop targeted, personalized online marketing campaigns. If you aren't developing targeted messages, now is the time to start getting to know your customers so you can share more relevant and meaningful holiday offers and promotions.

Mobilize your message
With more than 1 billion smartphones and tablets in use around the world, the number of customers who receive news, alerts and promotions on mobile devices is steadily rising. As customers rely more on mobile technology, marketers need to tailor their online marketing strategy accordingly.

The amount of time we have to make a good impression is getting shorter. If online experiences aren't delivered in an easy-to-view format, consumers may, as a consequence, navigate away from websites or delete marketing messages without a second thought.

Providing an optimized mobile experience is the first step, but the immediate next step requires retailers to consider the behaviors and requirements of an audience that is on the move. Understanding when your customers will be using their smartphones or tablets, where they will be and how they will be using it seem like simple ideas but are important points to consider when planning any marketing campaign — particularly over the holiday season, when shoppers will be out and about.

Spread the cheer across channels
Retailers can also use customer data to extend the reach of their holiday campaigns by integrating marketing content with key social channels. It's no surprise that there's been a big drive around social media marketing. Many brands have successfully developed a base of fans and followers — engaging them in conversations and encouraging them to talk about their products, services and experiences. To ensure everyone joins in on the conversation, email campaigns can help to raise awareness and bring people into real-time conversations, turning relatively disengaged customers into advocates on your social networks. 

Equally, there is a good opportunity to alert your customer base to a competition you're running on a social media platform through an email campaign, to drive more social engagement and give those who might not currently be interested in buying the opportunity to interact with your brand socially. Conversely, it is possible to increase your email subscriber database through your social campaigns by guiding social followers and fans into the email channel.

A key challenge for any marketer is converting social interactions into revenue — turning conversations into conversions that drive revenue, loyalty and satisfaction. While social media is great for conversation, email is a more effective for conversion. As a channel, it continues to perform extremely well at delivering strong levels of ROI and it's also known to be a far higher commitment channel for prospective and existing customers.

Extending the reach of your marketing campaigns is about ensuring your marketing channels are integrated and related, providing an easy and consistent journey and experience for your customers. By understanding your customers and continually engaging them with relevant, personalized campaigns — consistently across all of your digital channels — it is possible to drive campaign performance and increase customer satisfaction. Now more than ever, retailers have the ability to keep shoppers happy (and buying) throughout the holidays and beyond.

Anthony Wilkey, regional director at SmartFocus, a global provider of real-time, personalized cloud marketing, has worked in the fields of CRM and marketing intelligence for more than 15 years. He is also involved with the DMA, sitting on the Email Marketing Council and its Benchmarking Hub.
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