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This Holiday Season, Make Your Marketing Merry and Personalized

By Published on .

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Customer expectations will be at an all-time high this holiday season, which means marketers must work harder than ever to deliver bottom-line cheer. But there can still be good tidings for retailers (including brick and mortar).

To meet customer expectations and overcome obstacles like increased competition from Amazon, deep holiday discounting and oversaturation of brand communications—marketers need to hone in on customer insights, digital marketing effectiveness and loyalty to understand what their customers really want.

Don't let steep discounts alone be the determining factor for your success. Instead, consider these four strategies, supported by findings from Epsilon's 2017 Holiday Shopping Survey, that will help you know your customers better and reach them in the channels where they interact – online and offline – to drive meaningful customer engagement that lasts throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Leverage data to understand consumer sentiment
Holiday shopping can elicit mixed emotions for consumers, from excitement at finding a good deal to stress and feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of spending more money. But, thanks to online channels, consumer shopping behavior is now a bit more merry and bright.

Findings from Epsilon's study, which includes customer insights from the Shopper's Voice® survey, show that almost half of consumers indicate that they love holiday shopping and 72% say online shopping for gifts has made life easier. This is likely because e-commerce saves consumers from fighting the in-store crowds and provides the convenience to purchase at anytime from anywhere.

Retailers need to leverage a holistic approach to data to understand their customers' sentiment, as well as where they will be shopping, at what time and what will be most appealing to them. Go beyond known transactional data and incorporate data such as cross-device engagement metrics and web browsing history as well as compiled insights around shoppers' attitudes and aspirations, to help foster even deeper connections. To be most successful, retailers must recognize and speak to people as individuals; not cookies, segments or devices.

Focus on loyalty
Our research shows that 64% of consumers are somewhat/very likely to use loyalty program rewards when shopping this year and 75% are much/somewhat more likely to shop because they are loyalty program members. To make sure customers unwrap the value of loyalty rewards during the 2017 holiday season, understand what compels them to buy and which benefits (i.e., access, experiences and rewards) they find most compelling. For example, 51% of consumers say a promotion/offer would increase their likelihood of making a personal purchase while holiday shopping.

Loyalty is most effective when it gives members the recognition they expect – knowing who they are along with meeting their expectations. When reaching loyalty program members, especially, retailers must maintain a persistent and proactive dialogue, instead of reacting to a single action that a customer takes. Use purchase history, online behavior and social actions to build genuine one-to-one relationships and leverage real-time location and points-program data to engage members.

Increase personalization
Richer profile data sets can help retailers better understand what is important to consumers at key shopping moments, especially during the holidays, to enable a personalized experience. Life stage, demographic and location data will help inform retailers on a deeper level, but first determine the data that matters for your business and for your customers and make it actionable for your brand.

Other tools are just as important as promotions to some consumers. Most people in our survey (85%) say that they plan for their holiday shopping. And of those who plan, 73% report creating a list of whom to buy for. By offering tools like wish lists, retailers can deliver the convenience consumers are looking. These tools are also an opportunity for marketers to generate more insights and better understand consumer preferences. To be most successful, retailers need to build robust customer profiles that help them know in real time, what people browse (or add to their wish list) and buy online and offline, what videos they view, what emails they open and the places they have been.

Overall, when it comes to personalization, marketers must be able to: accurately recognize and reach consumers, make decisions regarding appropriate messaging and measure effectiveness in real time. Doing so assures the "best next" offer is presented to their customers.

Maximize omnichannel effectiveness with cross-channel benefits
Consumers' cross-channel behavior will continue, as 86% of consumers are somewhat/very likely to purchase a gift from a store this holiday season. What's more, nearly three-fourths are likely to purchase gifts online for convenient delivery.

Multichannel shoppers tend to spend more per transaction, so there's an opportunity for retailers to maximize omnichannel effectiveness. Yet, retailers continue to budget for and treat mobile, social, video, display, email and search as separate line items. They think media channel first, rather than placing people at the center and calibrating for personal preferences, device, publisher and time of day. Retailers that identify the organizational gap will excel in omnichannel and reap major rewards through increased customer loyalty.

So how do retailers get on the nice list this holiday season?
Use personalized promotions and offers to get your foot in the door—keep in mind that 89% of consumers say that promotions, offers and/or discounts are very or somewhat important when deciding to buy holiday gifts. But backing up your holiday strategies with reliable partners that bring together data intelligence, world-class technology that activates customer insights and continuous measurement and optimization through analytics is what will help you meet the demands of consumers during peak season and set you up for long term success well into the New Year and beyond.

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About

Epsilon® is an all-encompassing global marketing innovator. We provide unrivaled data intelligence and customer insights, world-class technology and data-driven creative, activation and execution. Epsilon’s digital media arm, Conversant®, is a leader in personalized digital advertising and insights delivering digital marketing with unprecedented scale, accuracy and reach. Together, we bring personalized marketing to consumers across offline and online channels, at moments of interest that help drive business growth for brands.
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