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How-to

Insider Tips for the Holidays from Bluecore’s Customer Success Team

By Julia Michaelis

The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year for retail marketers. It’s a chance to drive revenue, find new shoppers and check off your shoppers’ wishlists with all of the products you have to offer — but this year looks a little different. With pressures from inflation, inventory shortages continuing, and rising costs of acquisition, retailers need to be equipped with the right strategies to keep the shopportunity going all year round.

To help, we sat down with experts from Bluecore’s Customer Success Team to get all the details from preparedness to critical campaigns for the season and strategy planning that goes beyond the holiday. 

What’s the most important thing retailers should do to prepare for the holidays?

Daniel Kan,Society6Rachel Zenn

Get organized! Whether that is assigning ownership and deadlines to their respective internal and external stakeholders as well as QA’ing any recurring “set it and forget” campaigns to make sure that they’re all sending as efficiently as possible. In this day and age, start incorporating any relevant information as early as possible. Add a placeholder that dynamically includes 1:1 recommendations to your email templates so you can easily swap out and push updated content without needing production services.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Lindsey Barber

If you haven’t already, start planning now! Unexpected projects and hurdles will always come up, so it’s important to get organized and understand what resources you’re going to use for your holiday marketing. In addition to internal deadlines, make sure you ask your agencies what their production deadlines are. Ask your tech partners when their code freezes start. If you’re able to gather these dates ahead of time, you can work backwards to prioritize projects early on. This should help make the craziness of the holidays feel less overwhelming.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Julius Ramsey

Ensure you are set for the big days. This time of the year moves fast. Decide now what projects can wait until the new year and get your ducks in a row. The marketing calendar should be planned through Christmas. Teams should know what creative requests are coming up and conversations with vendors around expectations should be had by the latest end of August. If you can get the big items out of the way, it allows your team to be more flexible and capitalize on strategies that are working to end the year.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Renan Sanches

Have your campaign calendar ready! Plan ahead of time and have a plan B for unexpected events — like inventory shortages or selling out too fast. 

It’s also important to understand how inventory-stability might impact promotions. Make sure your marketing technology is in sync (in real-time) with your product catalog so you’re ready for any of those changes.

 

What are some top holiday campaigns you’ve seen brands succeed with?

Daniel Kan,Society6

Rachel Zenn

So this isn’t necessarily a campaign, but having a dynamic display on site to show any important updates and holiday information is really important — think shipping deadlines, personalized gift guides, return and shipping policies, BOPIS and more. Another idea for your ecommerce site is to use a countdown timer communicating things like time to the Holiday or shipping cut-offs.

One great strategy for the holidays is targeting last year’s shoppers who have a high likelihood of converting but haven’t made a purchase since the holidays last year. All you need to do is set up a campaign with shoppers who haven’t made a purchase outside of October through December of last year and send them a note with an invitation to come back.

And just like sending messages to shoppers who haven’t engaged since last year’s holiday would include “come back” messaging, you should also create an audience of shoppers with a high predictive lifetime value or who are enrolled in loyalty campaigns exclusive access to holiday shops to treat them like the VIPs they are.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Julius Ramsey

Holiday specific catch-up campaigns that highlight holiday gifts are great — retailers should also have a strong set of behavioral triggers set up to catch shoppers who are browsing, like abandoned cart and abandoned product campaigns. 

Another campaign you should run is with audiences that are predicted to spend above a certain limit. Send your higher-value products to those shoppers and encourage more ideas so they have the opportunity to build their cart. 

Another attention grabber is end of the year sales. Shoppers are really likely to jump on those sales, so brands should extend the messaging across channels and should include different product lines to show your first-time customers everything you have to offer.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Renan Sanches

Multitouch is important for your campaigns so you’re staying top of mind with your shoppers. By connected campaigns from email to SMS to site, you can make sure shoppers have that consistent experience. Your site should resonate with the look and feel of your campaigns, and it should get targeted with personalized site modals campaigns that are unique to each shopper.

A few campaigns that are going to be important this year include payment plans and a ‘While You Wait’ strategy. You should promote pay-over-time methods to help increase cart value. To do this, target customers that viewed high-ticket products in the last 30 days and didn’t purchase by sending an email featuring your installment pricing along with personalized product recommendations.

With a ‘While You Wait’ strategy, you can overcome inventory shortages. Rather than just letting shoppers wait for their product to come back in stock, you should send emails with product recommendations that are similar to the one they encountered that was out of stock — think the sane category, color and size. Leveraging all of those product attributes in real-time is critical this year.

What are some top retail marketing strategies you’ve seen from the holidays?

Daniel Kan,Society6

Rachel Zenn

Geotargeting on your ecommerce site is a good way to get your last-minute shoppers into the store. When shipping cutoffs are getting closer, promote BOPIS and include store preferences based on their location on your site.

Another good strategy for keeping the holidays going is a solid ‘Thank You’ strategy after the holidays. You can send a gift card or discount to your top-spending customers to bring them back to your site. You can also include messaging that encourages them to get something for themselves after the holidays. 

As part of the post-holiday strategy, it’s also a great idea to send a Spotify-style wrapped playlist of the items that they purchased over the year. This will give you replenishment opportunities as well as a great way to upsell with new, 1:1 product recommendations based on what your shoppers purchased throughout the year. 

One more — hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Having placeholder content and campaigns for any extensions or mistakes is important to make sure you’re ready to act — like having campaigns ready for if you extend a sale.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Lindsey Barber

Creating additional email templates to have on hand is key in holiday preparedness. Especially for brands with different loyalty tiers! If you all of the sudden want to message them something, you can drop the creative into those templates without having to create another email from scratch.

And leveraging your data! You have so much data available, and you need to activate and personalize it. Your technology partner should make it easy for you to segment audiences based on past-purchase behavior. You should target shoppers who purchased pre-BFCM with exclusive offers, since we already know they’re more inclined to get their shopping done early. Show them your brand’s best selling products this year based on categories they browsed and purchased from last year. If customers are new to your brand in 2022, present them with products from categories they’ve shown interest in this year. If you have this type of data at your disposal, definitely take advantage of it.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Julius Ramsey

Volume isn’t everything. Rather than relying on batch and blast this holiday season, get really targeted with your shoppers. Your shoppers are all in different stages of their lifecycle — they have a likelihood to spend more or less, they are one-time or multi-time purchasers, they’re high predicted lifetime value or low predicted lifetime value — you need to speak to each of them on their level. If they have a high likelihood to convert? Send those timely emails to folks who are ready to buy and get highly personalized.

 

 

This year is going to be a little extra challenging, with inflation, inventory issues and paid media costs rising. What can retailers do to prepare for this year and these challenges specifically?

Daniel Kan,Society6

Rachel Zenn

There are definitely some tricks you should have in your arsenal to help you overcome these hurdles. One huge one is knowing who does (and does not) need a discount to convert. You can protect your bottom line and control the amount of discounts going out by only sending them to people that need them.

For inventory, your product catalog is key. You should exclude products (especially on paid media) that have a limited inventory from being recommended. Shoppers will get frustrated if they click on an ad for a product that’s perfect for them, but it’s out of stock. So save them (and yourselves) the headache. 

Another way to help with inventory challenges is by prioritizing merchandising triggers like low inventory and back in stock. Customers should get notified as soon as the product they want is available.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Lindsey Barber

Most brands (if not all) will be promoting sales throughout the holiday season, and these promotions are usually accompanied by batch emails. Automated campaigns are a great way to take some of the work off of marketer’s plates, and you can use these types of campaigns to get around customer frustrations with inventory issues. 

Low Inventory triggers are a great way to give customers a heads up that products they’re interacting with may be going out of stock soon. You can customize this type of campaign even further by letting customers know if a product sitting in their cart is about to go out of stock. 

Automated Back in Stock campaigns are also a great trigger to have live during the holiday season, especially if your current program doesn’t include a “Notify Me When Back in Stock” site pop-up.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Julius Ramsey

You’ll want to leverage tools your marketing technology partner has available to help with the economic state we find ourselves in this year. One thing that is often overlooked is the actual copy you place in your email. Treat your email list as a community and you are a part of it. The language you use, can matter just as much as the products you show. So if you utilize discount affinity for a message the copy should match. “We know this has been a hard year and we want this to be the best Christmas yet, take 15% off your next order.”

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Renan Sanches

By getting smarter about your spend, you can trim some of the excess dollar spend. Firstly, you can preserve your margins by only sending discounts to shoppers that really need them to convert. You can give out 1:1 coupon codes. You should also get smart about margins by prioritizing products that give you the highest margins.

 

 

What are some ways brands can keep new shoppers engaged past the holidays?

Daniel Kan,Society6

Rachel Zenn

I always like the idea of a ‘treat yo self’ (think Parks & Recreation) campaign after the holidays. Something along the lines of “didn’t get what you wished for”? With recommendations for products they’re mostly likely to buy next. 

Another way to extend this strategy is with an incentive to come back and get something for themselves. If they didn’t sign up for a loyalty program over the holidays, encourage them to come back and sign up with a list of all the benefits your loyalty program has to offer.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Lindsey Barber

Many brands have a “one-and-done” customer challenge, especially during the holidays when some customers have purchased from your brand for the first time. Leverage platforms to easily target one-time and first-time buyers with nurture campaigns. It’s important to message these customers differently than the way you would a recurring customer, since they might not be familiar with your brand and the products you have to offer.

 

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Julius Ramsey

Speak to your first time customers separately than you might the general audience. Let them know about your offerings, be it a loyalty program or products you think they will love. Create an experience for them and target them on paid media with an offer to come back and buy again. Another way to speak to this group differently is to have an abandoned cart flow for one-time purchasers vs. repeat customers. Giving an offer to gain that second purchase will make them a loyal customer.

 

Daniel Kan,Society6

Renan Sanches

Review your post purchase journey. This is your chance to nurture customers to become top spenders. Ensure you share content relevant to the product purchased (care tips, fashion trends) and introduce other product types that resonate with the customer. This will keep your brand top of mind from checkout to replenishment.

 

 

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Julia Michaelis

Julia is Content Marketing Manager at Bluecore. Julia has been telling stories about personalization and interoperability in data and technology for three years in education, and is excited to do the same in retail. Julia lives in Brooklyn with her terrier Lee and loves shopping, paddleboarding, and reading (in that order).

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