How to Prepare for the Holiday Season (Part 2): Using Technology to Create One-to-One Communication

This series will explore three actionable steps every e-commerce business should use to prepare for a successful holiday season. Each blog post will focus on one of the following steps:

Part I) How you can centralize fragmented customer data from a variety of sources.

Part II) How you can leverage technology to deliver personalized customer interactions.

Part III) How you can establish relevant, consistent omnichannel brand experiences.

Each post aims to provide not only compelling data and insights about why each step is important, but also actionable information that marketers can use to win this holiday season. Part II focuses on how to leverage technology to create more personalized experiences.


Introduction

Retail customers in today’s digital world demand hyper-personalized content and tailored experiences from their favorite brands.

In fact, it has become an almost symbiotic arrangement.

Technology enables these personalized interactions, especially critical to achieving maximum sales during the holiday season, but each fulfilled customer expectation raises the bar for the next time.

Technology Needs Data

The best technology in the world isn’t worth much if the data set collected and harnessed isn’t of high quality, so brands are continuing to request more data from customers at different touch points.

With that level of personal disclosure comes customer expectations to receive tailored recommendations and customized, high-quality user experiences.

One-to-one communication has become so expected that nearly 75% of online consumers report frustration when brands don’t deliver content that aligns with their interests.

The problem lies in finding the resources and capabilities to act on that data at scale.

The Value of Data: Personalization

The true value of the customer data you’re collecting isn’t what you do with it.

It would be impossible for even the most talented and hardest working marketing team to manually act on data while still finding time to focus on high-level business objectives.

That’s why your marketing team must leverage technology to collect, store, and analyze data, draw conclusions, automate, send, recommend, and make offers, freeing you up to focus on complex creative tasks.

If the customer database only offers a fragmented view of a brand’s targets, then the marketing team will only be able to come up with a one-size-fits-all marketing plan that makes no distinction between customers and where they are in their buying lifecycles.

As the holiday shopping season (widely regarded as the most important time of the year for most retailers) grows nearer, panic can break out as marketers look ahead to craft and personalize their holiday strategies.

With all this information now readily available, it’s possible to build holiday campaign strategies well in advance of November, and precisely target the customers most likely to make a purchase. Marketers can use unified customer profiles to communicate with those customers in a distinct way, and target them with the most relevant content.

That’s where the right technology, with access to strong data, helps ease the way.

Artificial Intelligence Isn’t Just for Sci-Fi Movies Anymore

Unlike the snow that will cover some of the globe this holiday season, artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay.

Grandiose pictures have been painted over the course of the last several years, all portraying AI as some majestic game-changing miracle eluding most marketers. Yet the practical application of AI in marketing is here, very real, and usable.

Scaling personalized holiday-themed messages has become a reality for marketing teams. Amazon’s “might also like” feature, for instance, is one widely-recognized example of machine learning in action, using pattern recognition to determine what a customer has done in the past to predict what they might do in the future.

AI runs on fuel; the data and unified profiles you’ve collected, and works to target customers with messages, incentives, and offers specific to each individual. You can also leverage AI technology to decipher the best ways to personalize customer experiences with your brand.

AI helps to pinpoint abandoned carts, initiate customized win-back campaigns, and even leverage other channels to reach customers who have opted-out of email.

Amp up Holiday Offers with Precision Incentive Offerings

Discounts and sales are synonymous with holiday shopping; Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone inspire some of the deepest discounts for the entire year.

However, a traditional one-to-many approach to incentives creates a couple of problems for retailers and e-commerce, problems they might not even be able to identify without underlying AI capabilities.

Issues with traditional incentives

Giant sales around Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be effective, but they incentivize customers to only pay attention during those two days in November. The rest of the year can show a dip in conversions.

It also could mean missing a great opportunity to build customer loyalty, with an eye toward repeat business and customer retention.

According to data compiled by Qubit, a brand could bring in as much as 94% of their Black Friday revenue from new customers responding to discounts. However, the vast majority of these first-time buyers wander away, leaving some companies with an extremely underwhelming 6% customer retention rate.

Another problem is that enormous discounts always affect brand margins, yet they’re not always necessary to persuade consumers to buy. Some customers only require the waiving of shipping fees, in which case anything more is needless loss of profit.

How AI marketing can help

With artificial intelligence marketing technology, marketers can determine the discount sweet spot that leaves margins in good shape and also pleases each individual customer. They can then offer personalized incentive offers based on customer preference. While marketing technology, such as artificial intelligence marketing, may not be the sole silver bullet for success during the holiday season, it can certainly get brands closer to their goals and create truly amazing, highly personalized customer experiences.

Conclusion

Leveraging innovative marketing technology to more effectively reach customers during the holidays can set progressive brands apart, but it requires a mindset shift away from the common ‘batch-and-blast’ philosophy. If you want to take your holiday promotions to the next level this season, use technology to challenge the status quo.

With a quality data set, AI-enabled technology can help marketers realize previously unachievable hyper personalization and one-to-one relationships.

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⇒ Ready to capitalize on the points in this post? Get The Omnichannel Marketer’s Holiday Domination Guide for FREE and get more actionable insights to own the 2017 holiday season!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017