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Want to Maximize Holiday Sales? Define 3 Key Audiences Now

By Mike Rowan E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
Sep 13, 2019 9:39 AM PT
segmenting shoppers based on interests and behavior can enable effective marketing

Holiday shoppers spent more money on online purchases last year than ever before -- a whopping US$126 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, according to Adobe Analytics' holiday recap. That was a 16.5 percent increase from the previous year.

If the steady upward trajectory of online holiday spending is any indication, 2019 promises to be another record year. Is your business ready to claim its piece of the massive holiday pie?

You can make a number of proactive moves to prep for the season, from optimizing your website for mobile to streamlining your checkout process. It can all feel a little overwhelming, especially when the rapid proliferation of pumpkin-spiced everything serves as a constant reminder that the holiday clock is tick-tocking.

Turn to Customer Data

Before you break out into a cinnamon-laced sweat, we've got some good news. If you've been collecting customer data via cookies and other methods, consider yourself ahead of the game. Playing catch-up? You still have time. Go ahead and set those cookies we'll wait.

Tracking customer shopping behavior through browsing data and transactional history is the first step. Then it's time to put all that data to work for you -- in time for the holiday shopping season. You don't have to be an e-commerce giant to capitalize on the opportunities that customer data and personalization can provide.

No matter the size of your business, identifying three key audiences can help you sharpen up your communications and spend those ad dollars smarter so you can boost holiday sales and charge into 2020 with the wind at your gilded sails.

Embrace Personalization

There's a lot you can do with customer data to improve your customers' experience and boost their engagement, beginning with personalization. That entails targeting the right customer with the right product or messaging.

Think of it this way: You wouldn't send an email to a long-time customer introducing your brand, just as you wouldn't (and couldn't) make personalized product recommendations to a prospective customer who has never visited your website.

If you're tracking browsing histories and shopping transactions, you can get a pretty accurate idea of what your customers are looking for. Consider a sports store customer with a purchase history that includes boy's baseball cleats, a T-ball bat and boy's baseball pants.

Do you think that customer would respond better to an email announcing a sale on girls' swimwear, or perhaps a closeout on boys' baseball gear? You get the picture.

Segmenting your website visitors into three main audiences in advance of the holidays will allow you to target your outreach more accurately and effectively in order to capture your share of those holiday dollars.

Audience 1: New Visitors

New visitors are prospective customers who have had zero exposure to your brand and have yet to cross the threshold of your e-commerce website. The holidays are a prime time to introduce your brand to a new audience and entice shoppers to come on in and take a look around.

How do you reach new prospects? Consider demographic targeting on social media, or search engine marketing using specific terms that show intent. For example, an eco-friendly cosmetic company may target women between the ages of 25 and 45 who search for "non-toxic makeup."

If possible, having the ability to leverage first-party data will allow you to get personalized ads in front of your target audience as they're starting to do their holiday shopping. This means you can market to users with intent right out of the gate, which essentially skips the step of having to get them to your website and identify their intent via their browsing history and purchases.

In other words, it's a shortcut to get in front of an audience that you know is interested in exactly what you're selling.

Audience 2: Window Shoppers

Window shoppers are potential customers who have been to your website and taken a look around, but have yet to make a purchase. If you've laid the groundwork (ahem, cookied your website), you can determine what products or categories a particular customer is interested in.

Defining your audiences ahead of the holidays takes the guesswork out of your marketing efforts and allows you to hit the ground running before the first candy cane graces grocery store shelves.

Let's say you sell gourmet foods. Based on browsing history, you can group your window shoppers into people who have looked at cheese, chocolate and charcuterie. Armed with this information, you can retarget those customers with products and categories they've already expressed interest in via search and social ads.

Consider how you could use this information. Perhaps you roll out a remarketing campaign 45 days leading up to Christmas. In the first 15 days, you could serve up an ad highlighting a specific product a shopper looked at, say chocolate truffles.

In the next 15 days, you could run an enticing special on all sweets and desserts. And the final 15 days? That is the time to instill a sense of urgency with a reminder that the deal will end soon.

Audience 3: Customers

It's a lot easier (and cheaper) to win repeat business from a loyal customer than it is to acquire a brand new customer. Come holiday season, don't spend so much time chasing new leads that you neglect your valuable customer base. Targeting this key audience is arguably the easiest and most effective marketing you can do, as you'll have ample data to at your disposal.

Chances are, you have your customers' email addresses along with their purchase histories. Armed with this data, it's not difficult to send out personalized emails that highlight products inspired by their other purchases. Did a customer purchase a new washing machine? Perhaps that shopper would be interested in a new dryer to complete the pair. New bedframe? A new set of bedding might be nice.

Not only is capturing the interest of repeat customers relatively easy, this type of targeting is incredibly effective. (Do we even need to mention Amazon's personalized recommendation machine?) Consider that a substantial 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations.

Holiday Countdown

This holiday season, ditch the one-size-fits-all approach for a more personalized strategy that promises to pay dividends. Segmenting your audiences into these three key categories is a good idea any time of year, but it's especially important now so you can stay nimble when it matters the most.

The last thing you want to do is be caught playing catch-up during the holiday rush, when so many online eyeballs are up for grabs. Be prepared this year so you can capitalize on a personalized approach.

Before you define your audiences, set your goals for initiatives and key performance indicators. Get as specific as possible (increasing sales is almost a given). Consider your best areas of focus. Is there a particular product or vertical you'd like to push?

Once you've defined your goals, it's time to roll up your sleeves. Segment your audience and implement a truly personalized approach to make the most of this holiday shopping season.


Mike Rowan is founder and president of KPItarget, a buyer-centric marketing firm that creates differentiated stories and helps brands increase their touchpoints, interactions and engagement with prospects, enabling them to win more business. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.


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2020 online shopping habits and retailer strategies