Coffee and Commerce with Cascone: 4 Holiday Hacks for Retail Marketers

By Sarah Cascone

The holidays are underway for retail marketers — and it’s usually the most wonderful time of year. It’s a time to drive revenue, find new shoppers and deliver amazing experiences to customers — but this year looks a little bit different. With paid media costs rising, cost of acquisition increasing and inflation persisting, you need to make your holiday spend go further.

Join Sarah Cascone, VP of Marketing and Dave Lokes, VP of Digital Strategy at Bluecore to discuss ways that you can optimize spend and drive revenue this season.

Sarah Cascone: Hello everyone! And welcome back to another episode of Coffee and Commerce. I’m going to jump right in and introduce our guest for the day. Joining us, we have Dave Lokes, VP of Digital Strategy at Bluecore, who before Bluecore ran marketing for a few divisions at Foot Locker for thirteen years — and for the last two years was with Oriental Trading Company.

Today, we’re talking holiday. Holiday is such a critical time for retail marketers every year, but this year brings a whole new set of challenges with inflation rising and the US potentially entering a recession. With inventory shortages persisting and the cost of paid media rising, protecting your bottom line has become more important than ever.

To help, Dave is joining me to share four tactical holiday hacks that will help save, spend and drive more revenue. Dave welcome. Can you kick off by giving us some background on who you are and what brought you to our team at blue core? 

Dave Lokes: So, as you mentioned, I, you know, worked at Footlocker and Oriental trading. I’ve been in retail, my entire career. I’ve been, I’ve been with Bluecore for just a couple of months. And my job here is to help clients and, and the way I do that is through, uh, helping them directly with, with, uh, programs. Like we’re about to talk about the hacks for holiday. 

Sarah Cascone: Awesome. So let’s kick it off with our first holiday hack. What have you got for us, Dave? 

Dave Lokes: Well, first one has to do with Facebook and it has to do with accelerating the ad quality scores at Facebook. So, um, if you don’t know, at the Facebook ad auction the auction algorithm works on three primary variables. What is, what is the client willing to pay?

What exactly are they willing to pay for? Meaning that are you looking for a reach campaign or a conversion campaign? And then lastly, what is the engagement score of the assets or the ads that you’re running in that campaign? That last one’s really important. Cause that’s the way that Facebook makes sure that whatever assets you’re putting in front of their audiences are engaging and they won’t put unengaging or, um, not interesting ads in front of the way they measure engagement.

Of course. Likes shares, clicks, things that you would expect. So the way we accelerate that engagement score is by onboarding an audience through Bluecore Advertise™. This audience would be of your very high value customers — onboard it, and create a custom audience and Facebook’s ads manager. And then begin your campaign with this smaller, but very highly valued customer exposing your, uh, new assets to this small audience. Those assets will pass through what’s called learning. And once they pass through learning, they’ve achieved an ad quality score that you can then move those ad assets to a very broad audience of non-customers.

And it will enter that very broad audience with high quality ratings that you achieved very rapidly at a low spend with your highest value customer. 

Sarah Cascone: Awesome. And there are ways you can customize those audiences with the right predictive audience. So who’s likely to purchase and even who is more likely to purchase a specific product category. OK, jumping into our next hack. Dave, what have you got for us? 

Dave Lokes: Well one of the things you can do to improve the number of new customers you acquire versus just reactivating existing customers when you do that broad audience targeting is you can, again, use Bluecore Advertise™ to onboard your entire customer house file into the broad audience campaign.

But in this case, you’re using that custom audience as a suppression file or negative match. And what that does is it tells Facebook — don’t show my ads to this group. Which is your customer file and show them only to people who are not on your customer file. And what that does is that ensures you to get a good quality stream of new file customers.

Sarah Cascone: Great. Incrementality is so important here, and it’s also important to be intentional, right? Paid media can actually be a great channel for retargeting, but when you’re running a campaign to identify net new shoppers, this is the way to go about making sure you aren’t spending budget on customers who might convert anyway.

Dave, any ideas to make this hack go a little bit further?

Dave Lokes: Sure. One of the things that you can do is you can create an A/B test within this broad audience campaign that you’ve got these highly tuned assets ready to go. You can create an AB test. And one of the things that I like to test is running a free shipping promo against a non promo.

And the reason we do this is because free shipping is a very powerful accelerant in creating impression to conversion ratio improvements. So if you were to run your A version with a free shipping promo and your B version with the exact same assets to a split of your broad audience without the free shipping promo, what you’ll see if you run them to a common cost per acquisition, or C being careful to include the cell A would.

Lower media cost because you’re incurring higher shipping cost and Cell B to a shipping. I’m sorry, a media cost that is equivalent to cell A which is media plus shipping. So you’ll spend a little bit more per customer and cell B with Facebook and a little bit less with Facebook and cell A, but you’ll spend more with UPS, of course.

Typically speaking, because free shipping has that powerful accelerator to impression to conversion ratio. And of course that feeds the Facebook algorithm. Getting a better ad distribution. 

Sarah Cascone: Love it. All right, Dave hit us with a third holiday hack. 

Dave Lokes: So the third holiday hack is more about your email program using Facebook — I’m sorry. Excuse me. Using emails — send time optimization. So Bluecore send time optimization looks at when, during the day your customers — that’s each and every one of them tend to open their emails.

So at an individual customer level using send time optimization, Bluecore’s platform will actually deliver the email to each and every one of your customers at the time they’re most likely to open. We’ve run this test with a number of clients that all are finding good productivity out of it. One ran the test for an entire 90 day period and came away with a 12% lift over the procedures.

Sarah Cascone: That’s incredible. So Dave, bring us home with our last holiday spending hack.

Dave Lokes: Sure, last one. This one leverages Bluecore’s Site™ product, which delivers personalized content recommendations right on your website. When we observe and recognize visitors to your site, Bluecore actually begins keeping track of every visitor to your site and begins providing recommendations based upon browse behavior. 

But you can also put an audience just like you built an audience for email. You can push that audience directly into your site platform and begin to message individual members that you have built in your audience. As they arrive at your site. One of the things that I like to do is to, is to take advantage of this ability to personalize at the individual level and create an audience of my former high value customers, ones that have aged or those who might even be predicted to churn or become lapsed customers.

But if you focus on your high value customers who will either churn or who have already lapsed, you can create a promotion where you offer them. For example, a $5 off coupon this way you’re using just $5 to reacquire a formally high value customer. And that compares very favorably to going out and spending on average of $30, $35 to acquire a brand new customer from scratch. Here with Site™, you can actually recapture and reactivate a formally lapsed customer on a very individual person by person basis when they show up on your site. 

Sarah Cascone: So awesome. It’s such a creative way to entice lap shoppers with discounts, but you know, only the ones who are likely to spend big. So, Dave, thank you so much for sharing the hacks for holiday and thanks everyone for tuning in.

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sarah cascone headshot

Sarah Cascone

A metrics-driven brand marketer with 10+ years experience, Sarah has a passion for tying the human element of marketing to revenue growth. As VP of Marketing at Bluecore, Sarah’s focus is cultivating and nurturing the strong community of innovative retail leaders behind Bluecore's mission to empower brands to discover their best customers and keep them for life.

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