3 Tips for Creating a Data-Driven Competitive Advantage for Holiday Shopping

July 17, 2017

By: Karah Finan,
Author Title: 
Marketing Manager
, Web Solutions NYC

Each holiday retail season, merchants race to be the first to corner the lucrative gift-buying market. Many retailers are now dubbing November 1 as the new “official” start of the season. “Grey November” is the 3-week lead up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are no longer the formal kick-off point of the holiday season; but are now somewhere near the middle. How can retailers gain competitive advantage in the holiday online retail market without tiring out their customers with months of promotions? Data is the key.

1. Work Smarter, Not Harder

The midst of the holiday season is not the ideal time for A/B testing, heavy UX experimentation, or not knowing target demographics inside-and-out. An industry-leading online retailer will have already worked out the optimal experience for their consumers well before the gift-buying season begins. Providing customers with a relevant, targeted experience should happen several months before Quarter 4, but it does not need to be a stress-inducing project.

There are endless statistics for site monitoring, analytics and reporting. Big data is just that: big. To avoid wasting valuable holiday preparation time, focus on the following two metrics to get to actionable information:

  • Average Order Volume: Increasing the incremental value of each customer purchase is one of the most effective ways to drive additional revenue. A customer that already crossed checkout barriers such as account set-up and shipping costs for a product they want is much easier to sell smaller-ticket additional items to. Setting up cross-sells, related products and upsells at several points during checkout is crucial during holiday. Focusing on Average Order Value, rather than repeat purchase frequency is the more effective strategy for holiday, a time when shoppers are browsing many sites for the best deal. Aim for having these processes set up by the end of October.

  • Reactivating Lapsed Customers: Your customer database is a goldmine. Instead of focusing long-term efforts on acquiring new customers during holiday, focus on customers that you know are brand evangelists, they just might need to be reminded! Hosting a special private sale for customers on your marketing lists that have not made a purchase for 6-12 months, strategically coinciding with the start of the holiday season, may just be enough to encourage them to check off their gift-giving lists with your site.

2. Leave No Cracks in the Foundation

Analytics blog Kissmetrics found that 40 percent of shoppers abandon a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. Ensuring optimal performance during peak traffic times such as holiday requires a scalable, agile solution. The ultimate goal of any retailer should be to work with a technology partner or their in-house IT team for an audit of customer site experience from the back-end perspective.

Decreased load times, support for complex product catalogs and eliminating diminished performance due to seasonal traffic should be the goal of any marketer looking to enhance customer experience from a site-functionality standpoint. Shaving off even just a few seconds from each page load time is proven to decrease customer exit rate and increase conversion rate.

Best-in-class retailers don’t end holiday preparation with a just performance audit, a customer experience audit should include a full look at the site for potential bottlenecks in the customer journey. A user experience clean-up needs to identify and eliminate:

  • Dead pages and 404 links

  • Sold out and stocked out items

  • Missing or inaccurate attributes and tags on products

  • Old or outdated promo codes or sale pages

Doing away with these common pitfalls is a perfect project for the dog days of summer, when seasonal closeout sales and promotions are not putting heavy stress on the marketing and eCommerce team.

3. Create Loyal Customers

Holiday brings a treasure-trove of new customers to your site, undoubtedly more than any other time of the year. The experience a first-time customer on your site has will dictate whether they become a repeat buyer post-holiday. Collecting and organizing customer data throughout the holiday season can help you organize a post-mortem strategy for the traditional drop in traffic in January.

Buying behaviors during certain points in the holiday season can help organize demographic data on your customers. Black Friday, according to NBCNews, sees about a quarter of consumers “self-gifting,” while up to 30 percent of men cited Cyber Monday as a day for purchasing for themselves.

Additionally, Green Monday, the online retail industry term to describe its best sales day in December, is traditionally a day when consumers are rounding out the last of their gift giving. Using this purchasing data can tell you more about the customer’s buying patterns and behavior. For example, a sizeable purchase of children’s toys, clothes and accessories can signal that this customer either has a family or children close to them to buy for at other points throughout the year such as birthdays and back-to-school.

Data-driven personalization can influence your year-round marketing strategy to target and segment customers more effectively, but only if you are collecting what you need during the holidays.

A Bigger Piece of the Pie

The analysts at The National Retail Federation report that online holiday sales exceeded their forecasts in 2016, reaching a staggering $122.9 billion in just November and December 2016. The eCommerce market gets more crowded every year, with more retailers switching their strategic focus to lucrative online sales. Holiday readiness does not have to be an eleventh-hour headache with the right solutions in place. Achieving the ultimate goal of any online commerce merchant to stand out from—and ultimately lead—the pack can be attained.

About the Author and Web Solutions NYC

Karah Finan is the Marketing Manager for Web Solutions NYC, a Magento Commerce Solutions Partner and Magento 2-trained solutions provider with a decade of experience in end-to-end planning, development, design and maintenance for mid-market and enterprise eCommerce merchants. Karah has over five years in eCommerce, and a decades-long interest in technology, and she’s passionate about disruption and innovation in the online landscape. With a 100% Magento certified team of developers, Web Solutions NYC, provides clients in verticals such as consumer products and services, packaged goods, fashion, healthcare and business-to-business online retail with revenue-driving eCommerce operations and an exceptional working relationship.