7 minute read

Win the Holidays: 7 Behavioral Marketing Campaigns to Run This Season

Ah, the holidays—when every retailer has visions of record-breaking shoppers (instead of sugar plums) dancing in their heads. And for good reason: On Cyber Monday 2017 alone, consumers spent 6.59 billion dollars, making it the biggest shopping holiday in history. In total, 174 million Americans shopped between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday last year.

And while we all grasp the sheer revenue-driving potential of the season, even more telling is where customers chose to shop last holiday season. Brick-and-mortar stores drove 84% of holiday sales, and 64.6 million shoppers went both online and in-store to research and purchase during Cyber Week—proving that solid multi-channel experiences are critical if retailers want to cash in big during the holidays.

As marketers, we can only hope 2018 shines even brighter with the promise of seasonal shoppers ready to purchase. But the real challenge, and the very reason you’re reading this, is capturing their attention in an overcrowded market (one that is dominated by Amazon, who claimed 50% of online holiday sales last year), convincing customers to buy with you over the competition, and keeping them hooked on your brand well after the new year.

That’s where behavioral marketing comes in. It gives you the ability to identify holiday customers across channels and devices (including those headed both in-store and online for deals, or using multiple email accounts to purchase), deliver highly relevant messages to those customers in real time based on previous and predicted behaviors, and impress them with such accurate personalization to the point that they become a loyal fan.

Keep reading for:
  • Email campaigns targeted specifically to seasonal shopper behavior.
  • Creative examples and average campaign results.
  • Best practices to deliver a truly personalized experience, drive customer retention, and increase holiday conversions.

Alright, let the festivities begin...

How to optimize your existing strategies for the holidays:

We’ll start with some best practices to apply to your current behavioral and triggered emails. Whether you’re starting the season with a fresh approach or optimizing your existing strategies, it’s important to position your campaigns to react to how your customers may be engaging with your brand differently during the holiday season.

For example, the average shopper is most likely to begin as a casual browser, make multiple site visits before purchasing, and possess an affinity for different brands. But during the holidays, they’re more likely to search for particular items from their loved ones’ wishlists, more than twice as likely to purchase on their first site visit, and possess a lower brand affinity—instead driven by ease of finding a product, competitive pricing, and available inventory.  

With these behavioral shifts in mind, meet the needs of the typical holiday shopper by:

  • Reducing frequency capping and suppression windows. Customers are shopping at full speed during the season, so you want to stay top of mind.   
  • Adjusting the timing of sends. Real-time is crucial during this busy season, when holiday shoppers are stressed and rushed to cross off their shopping lists.
  • Updating your promotional strategy. Use year-over-year data to determine how shoppers responded to deals and strategies previously as your guide.
  • Ensuring responsive design across all campaigns. Last year, many shoppers opened emails on their phones but then converted on desktop (esp. big ticket items).
  • Including stronger CTAs and a sense of urgency. Make purchasing as easy and convenient as possible with clear messaging that links directly to completing the action.
  • Mirroring holiday messaging and content with updated subject lines, banners, etc. Sometimes this can sound daunting, but if you prep your content strategy ahead of time, then you can just make tweaks rather than revamp your entire creative.

Along with these optimization tips, there are so many behavioral email campaigns that can help you better cater to the seasonal shopper this time of year. Which leads us to...

Campaigns that’ll capture & convert holiday shoppers:

1. Email Collection Lightboxes

The holidays drive a huge influx of new shoppers to your site, making it the perfect opportunity to grow your opt-in list. Email Collection Lightboxes are the #1 way to retain first-time visitors and ensure they get to know your brand as more than just a one-time purchase.


Holiday Tips:

  • Suppress visitors who have already signed up for emails (don’t annoy current subscribers with unnecessary pop-ups while they’re browsing).
  • Trigger the lightbox as they’re exiting the site or entering upon particular pages.
  • Be sure to follow up with a holiday-specific welcome series.

Results: 5x increase in email signups during the holidays.

2. Cart Abandonment 

Purchase Abandonment emails may be the standard by now, but they could use some decking the halls this season, too. Adjust creative to reflect your core holiday campaign messaging, reinforce promotions, and entice shoppers to complete their purchase.


Holiday Tips:

  • Send to more shoppers than just those who are logged into their account.
  • Send in real-time (1-4 hours after their visit) and include item(s) left in their cart.
  • High spend item? Consider adjusting promotional content to increase AOV.
  • Site issues? Adjust messaging based on where they abandoned in the purchase funnel.

Results: 283% average increase in cart abandonment revenue.

3. Browse Abandonment

Shoppers (millennials in particular) are researching online in anticipation of Cyber Week and throughout the season to find the perfect gift. They’re comparing deals and holiday guides like crazy, so Browse Abandonment emails will keep them focused and from buying elsewhere.


Holiday Tips:

  • Combat price shopping by sending in real-time to get re-engagement as quickly as possible after leaving your site.
  • Include the products or categories they heavily browsed to remind them that they’ve once shown interest.
  • Showcase custom groupings based on your holiday merchandising strategy.
  • Include product recommendations and top sellers based on the products browsed.

Results: 166% increase in behavioral marketing revenue when this up-funnel strategy was deployed in addition to down-funnel purchase abandonment triggers.

4. Product Alerts

50% of millennials prefer alerts for sales, so step up your Product Alerts this season. From price changes to inventory updates, alerts are an impactful way to bring previously engaged shoppers back to your site—and also create a sense of urgency to help convert holiday bargain hunters.


Holiday Tips:

  • Back in stock alerts them when a hot item during the holidays is now available again.
  • Low inventory alerts let them know the item is hot so they need to act fast!
  • Price reduction alerts help them squeeze in some extra items into their holiday spend.
  • Feature the product name and alert messaging (ie. price change) in the subject line to increase open and conversion.

Results: 50% average open rate and 4% average conversion rate.

5. Targeted Sales Series

Everyone runs Black Friday and Cyber Monday promos to capture and convert customers. Break through the noise with a Targeted Sales Series (sale introductions, mop-ups, extensions) to make these events more exclusive and effective than your typical batch and blast email.


Holiday Tips:

  • Personalize with product recommendations and items they engaged with on the site in the last 15-30 days.
  • Create urgency by making the sale feel exclusive or incorporating a countdown.
  • Leverage this ad-hoc campaign in addition to evergreen triggers (cart/browse abandonment, price alerts).
  • Mop-ups don’t have to solely focus on sale periods; consider a “last day to ship before Christmas” strategy as well to drive the final purchase.

Results: $1.20 in revenue on average per email.

6. Shopper Reactivation

The holidays are a prime time to reactivate regular or disengaging customers by giving them great reasons to shop with you throughout the season. This campaign entices those who have engaged with your brand (but haven’t made a purchase recently) with incentives or freebies.


Holiday Tips:

  • Free gifts give buyers a reason to re-engage and spend more.
  • Target users who engage with your brand but haven’t made purchases recently.
  • Decide how recent is “recent” for your brand: last bought 6 months ago, 4 months, etc.

Results: 2x increase in conversions during the holiday with reactivation campaigns.

7. Treat Yourself Post-Purchase

Self-gifting and impulse buys are a growing trend especially during Cyber Week, and last year was no exception. For customers wanting to check off their own wishlist, send emails after they’ve made a purchase telling them to treat themselves, too, during and after the holidays.


Holiday Tips:

  • Pay attention to the gift guide categories and price points customers select on your site to better understand if they’re a gift giver or perhaps searching for themselves instead.
  • Encourage an additional purchase in a shorter period of time.
  • Suggest items based on other items browsed, best sellers, and more.
  • Consider using this for a post-holiday re-engagement campaign as well.

Results: 33% of holiday shoppers gifted themselves in 2017.

Wrapping it up

With so much revenue-driving potential per customer happening during the holidays, there’s a lot riding on retailers’ shoulders to make their brand stand out in a never-ending inbox of holiday deals. 70% of consumers, millennials especially, say they’re comfortable with retailers tracking their purchasing and browsing behaviors if it means they’ll receive more relevant communications. Take advantage of customer data insights to trigger emails your holiday shoppers will love, and deliver on the results you want to see this season.

Ps. If you ever need help implementing real-time multichannel behavioral marketing campaigns, you know where to find us.