10 minute read

Holiday Guide: 15 Ways to Win Over Shoppers This Season

The holidays—when every retailer out there has visions of record-breaking sales instead of sugar plums dancing in their heads. No surprise there, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to break records year over year as the biggest shopping days in history. In total, more than 165 million Americans shopped either in-store or online between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday 2018. Perhaps more surprising is the 40% increase last year in the number of multichannel shoppers, with 89 million people going both online and in-store for gifts—proving once again that having a solid omnichannel strategy is critical if you want to cash in big in 2019.

However, with the promise of people ready to purchase also comes the inevitable list of obstacles retail markers will face this season: capturing customer attention in an overcrowded market dominated by retail giants and online natives; convincing highly distracted and fickle customers to buy with your brand over the hundreds of other options they have; and keeping them satisfied and shopping with your brand well into the new year.

That’s exactly where this Holiday Guide comes in. With the right capabilities and strategies in place, you'll be able to better 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 the most relevant message to those customers in real time based on previous and predicted behavior, and impress them with such accurate personalization and experiences to the point that they become a loyal fan.

Keep reading for:

  • Campaigns targeted specifically to seasonal shopper behavior.
  • Creative examples from top brands and average results.
  • Tips to deliver better personalization during the holidays, increase seasonal revenue, and drive customer retention year-round.

Let the festivities begin...

Quick ways to optimize your campaigns for the holidays:

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 making the following business rule and creative adjustments:

1. Reduce frequency capping to 5 days and cross-campaign suppressions to 2 days. 

While you still want to be mindful of not over-sending to customers this time of year, they're more likely to be shopping at full speed during the season, so you want to stay top of mind. 

2. Adjust the timing of your sends. 

Real-time is crucial during this busy season, when holiday shoppers are stressed, rushed to cross off their shopping lists, and distracted by a bunch of other to-do's. Catching customers quickly in the moment will make it easier for them to pick up where they left off.

3. Let YoY data guide your promotional strategy. 

Use year-over-year customer data to determine how shoppers responded to deals and strategies previously as your guide. Leverage YoY purchaser data to identify and target customers who bought specific items last holiday season—as well as personalize to those who haven't shopped since then and need an extra push to return this year with an offer code or free/faster shipping.

4. Retarget wishlists and actively engaged customers. 

Use customers' wishlisted/favorited product interactions to send extremely relevant messages such as product alerts or holiday gift guides based on items they’ve wishlisted throughout the year, and segment audiences between those who are actively engaged on the site, and shoppers who are opted in but not actively engaged.

5. Tag certain pages for further personalization. 

A high amount of site traffic during the holidays can cause unexpected issues, so tag downtime pages during peak traffic in order to alert audiences when the site is stable again. Also, tag gift guide pages and set up a gift guide custom category for product retargeting. 

6. Ensure responsive design across all campaigns. 

Many shoppers open emails on their phones but then convert on desktop (especially big ticket items). You'll want to make sure the digital experience is easy to interact with as much as possible, no matter where your customers choose to research, browse, or buy.

7. Include stronger CTAs and a sense of urgency. 

Make placing an order as quick and convenient as possible with clear messaging that links directly back to completing the sale, consider utilizing countdowns and low inventory notifications, and prioritize messages such as "Last day to ship!" to urge quicker action.

8. Mirror holiday messaging and content.

Be sure to update subject lines, banners, etc. to mirror holiday campaign messaging across channels. Sometimes this can sound daunting, but if you prep your content strategy ahead of time (or ahem, enlist the help of SmarterHQ's cross-channel automation capabilities), then you can just make tweaks and even personalize your blast sends rather than revamp your entire creative.

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

Must-run campaigns to implement this holiday season:

9. Email Collection Modals

The holidays drive a huge influx of new shoppers to your site, making it the perfect opportunity to grow your opt-in list. Intelligent Email Modals are the number one 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 modal when and where it makes sense at each customer's point of interaction, in-line with their journey, as they’re exiting the site, or upon entering particular pages.
  • Be sure to follow up with a holiday-specific welcome series, as well as content or recommendations related to their browse behavior if applicable.

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

10. Cross-Channel Abandonment 

Cart abandonment 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.
  • Activate multichannel data to remind customers about items they carted but didn't buy in another channel. Pulling together online and offline data ensures you don't send abandonment messages to those who ended up purchasing the item in-store.
  • 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.

11. Brand & Category Browse

Shoppers 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, categories, or brands 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, brands, categories browsed.

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

12. Product Alerts

50% of millennials prefer alerts for sales, so step up your Product Alerts this season. From price discounts 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 tell customers 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 (i.e. price change) in the subject line to increase open and conversion.

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

13. 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, sale mop-ups, sale extensions) to make these events more exclusive, personalized, and effective than your typical batch and blast promotion 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.

14. 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 or special perks 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.

15. Treat Yourself Post-Purchase

Self-gifting and impulse buys are a growing trend especially during Cyber Week. For customers wanting to check off their own wishlist this year, target them with messages and gift guides featuring their previously "favorited" items on your site, or send post-purchase emails 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 the wishlists and favorites saved to their account, or other items browsed, best sellers, and more.
  • Gift cards are growing in popularity, so consider these as a post-purchase reward or including them on gift guide pages and in holiday campaigns.
  • Consider using this as a post-holiday re-engagement campaign as well.

Results: In 2018, over half of all shoppers said they would buy gifts for themselves during the holidays, up 15% over the last five years.

Wrapping it up

With so much revenue-driving potential per customer happening during the holidays, there’s a lot riding on retailers’ shoulders. 90% of consumers are willing to provide behavioral data for a better and more convenient shopping experience. Take advantage of customer data insights to interact on the channels they most prefer and send the communications they will most appreciate, and deliver on the results you want to see this season.