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How to Prepare for the Holiday Season (Part I): Why Unite Customer Data?

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Marketing Director, Americas , Emarsys

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 I focuses on how to unite online and offline data.

As a digital marketer, you know planning for the holiday season begins as the rest of the world is just starting to enter mid-year. It’s like Christmas in July.

That timing may seem extreme, but it’s for good reason.

Planning months ahead for the holiday season gives you time to combine historical data with current market projections, then use that data to create winning strategies for retail’s busiest time of the year.

The problem is that the majority of today’s marketers struggle with how to aggregate and analyze the mass quantities of data from a range of channels and then translate it into effective strategies to engage customers and win their holiday business.

Whew. That’s a lot to do.

That’s why, in this first piece, uniting on- and offline data takes center stage.

Know Shoppers’ Online and Offline Buying Habits

While online shopping is becoming more prevalent, data generated from brick-and-mortar channels is an often untapped but crucial data source to mesh with a customer’s digital footprint.

Mesh a customers #digital footprint w/ brick-and-mortar data for a #unifiedprofile [TWEET THIS!]

Feeling fabric, slipping on a pair of shoes, or seeing the dimensions of furniture further proves that satisfaction is not guaranteed until a product is in the consumer’s hands.

Not knowing shoppers’ habits well enough to target them with holiday messages, individualized offers, and highly personalized discounts can be a costly missed opportunity.

When you only have certain aspects of a customer’s profile, only pieces of the full customer picture reveal themselves. You need a way to see all of the channels and touchpoints customers use, as well as channel and device preferences across the spectrum.

Finding ways to unite all of these disparate data points will power your brand’s overall ability to make a big holiday splash. Here’s how to take action.

Gather All Available Customer Data into a Single, Unified Profile

Data sets work best when accessible, in their entirety, from a central source.

Unfortunately, the problem that many marketing departments regularly run into is the inability to unify data in one place. This issue most commonly arises when:

  • Using “point” solutions.
  • Using disparate, disconnected data sources.
  • Using a platform that is not fully integrated with various point solutions.
Unifying customer #data is HARD, especially when using point solutions or disconnected data sources [TWEET THIS!]

The challenge is collecting all of this data, from both online and offline touch points, and then finding a way to keep it all in one place, easily accessible by everyone on the team.

That is where the unified customer profile comes in.

A unified customer profile stores all the data generated from every customer interaction or engagement. Shopping habits, particularly around the retail-heavy holiday season, can produce an enormous amount of data for these profiles. Previous purchase history and behavioral data equips marketers with information about who someone is, including:

  • Which channels and devices they prefer.
  • How frequently they buy a specific brand.
  • What specific types of products they buy.
  • How they react to personalized discounts, promotions, and other holiday messaging.

Other data points that can be combined into the customer profile include common personal details, such as:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geographic location
  • Income bracket

Individually, these narrow data sets provide some tangible and actionable value, but the comprehensive collection of complete purchasing data truly gives the broadest view of a customer’s preferences, and allows for predictions on future buying behavior.

These customer insights can allow for specific segmentation by determining which customers will be most responsive to certain holiday messaging, and then applying that segmentation to email or other channels. Gathering these online and offline data points into one unified view can help marketers deliver on the promise of true, personalized marketing interactions.

Identify Where the Customer is in the Purchase Journey

The unified profile also helps determine the best action to take at particular stages of the customer lifecycle.

For example, taking action when customers might defect, understanding what incentives might motivate them to come back, and communicating specifically to one-time buyers, repeat customers, or VIP customers who regularly spend a good deal of money during the holiday season.

Marketers will also begin to notice patterns, and chart predictions based on cart values, the time between purchases, and total number of touchpoints used. Marketers can use this data to compare high-volume, lower-cost sales against low-volume, higher-cost sales, and determine which messaging or campaign makes more sense.

Find a Customer’s Preferred Device and Channel

Today’s customers can be anywhere. They can move from brick-and-mortar shopping, to mobile, to social within the span of a few minutes. That can make the marketer’s job of bringing the right message, to the right customer, at the right time nearly impossible. However, this is another area where uniting online and offline data into a single unified customer profile can be valuable.

One of the insights that can be gleaned from the profile is a preferred device. Knowing this allows marketers to refine messaging and targeting to the most appropriate device and channel. According to the Criteo Mobile E-Commerce Report that surveyed over 3,000 online retailers, 40% of all transactions now take place on multiple devices as people research a gift on one device, such as a tablet, and then purchase it with their smartphone.

The Future of Customer Data

While all of this sounds great, today’s marketing teams are already stretched thin, and simply don’t have the time nor resources to continuously feed data into a profile and then make sense of that data.

However, with automation, these profiles will pull in data automatically, essentially feeding themselves. Once the profile is complete, it will continue to pay off as it pulls in new data, and therefore becomes one of the best ways to measure the success of holiday marketing strategies and better predict what customers will want in the future.

By capturing customer data automatically across every possible interaction, including CRM data, purchase data, and offline data, marketers can match it to a single customer view.

That single customer view is fundamental to analytics, allowing market strategy refinement to create highly personalized and relevant content.

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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!

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