Holiday Personalization 101: What Every Marketer Needs to Know

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If there’s one thing you can count on this holiday season, it’s that your customers will be inundated with emails, retargeting ads, social ads, push notifications from their myriad retail brand connections and beyond every single day. Differentiation of your brand in this cluttered environment is key to getting through to your customers, and personalization is central to making it happen. But how you execute on personalization is never more important than it is during the holidays.

Given the sheer volume of email and mobile messages sent during the holidays,engaging with your customers at the time they are most likely to engage will help mitigate the risk your messages go unseen. Ideally, personalized send time technology looks at a subscriber’s previous open history and sends to these subscribers on a 1:1 basis over a designated amount of time through a single scheduled email campaign. If you have subscribers that open your early morning campaign at 9AM, Noon, and 3PM and you set a personalized send time of 6 hours, your email campaign will be sent to each user when they are most likely to open and convert during that 6 hour window. Using this method will also help reduce the manual labor involved in segmenting user lists by time zone for international brands, allowing you to use a single template while sending to consumers worldwide at the most relevant time.

We all know what it’s like to wake up every day only to see email upon email from brands hoping to get our attention. Think about how many of those you ultimately open. And now think about how many times are you clicking through and purchasing in those AM hours. Even with a subject line that says “An Offer Just For You” isn’t getting my attention, and I doubt it would get yours.

Follow BustedTees’ approach and forget the arms race to deliver email between 6am – 9am hoping to have your message opened first. This worldwide ecommerce retailer known for its t-shirts and humor began using personalized send time to ensure that their products got into the right hands at the right time. With customers on their newsletter list located all across the globe, BustedTees saw an immediate increase of open rates by 5%, an 11% lift in clickthrough rate (CTR), an 8.2% increase in revenue-per-million emails sent (RPM). Over the long haul, by testing multiple send time windows (24 hours, 12 hours, 6 hours), they’ve achieved an additional 16-34% lift in incremental revenue above and beyond their short-term results.

Increases like these are meaningful in ANY capacity, but even more so compelling during the holiday season, where 5-10% increases in RPM could amount to potential millions in revenue.

The best part of using personalized send time is that it requires zero analysis on the marketer’s end. By simply selecting the feature in Sailthru’s system emails will send to individual customers using automation, allowing clients like BustedTees to focus on their more strategic initiatives.

Holiday Product Personalziation – Buyer Beware

Outside of personalized send time, marketers must tread lightly when considering personalized content and product recommendations during the holiday season. They’re not all what they’re wrapped up to be.

Think about it for a second – you spend your entire year shopping for yourself (for the most part), but at this particular time of year your browsing habits change because you’re shopping for others as well. If you were to receive communications and onsite recommendations based on your behaviors and your interests from the entire year during this time, it wouldn’t help you quickly fill your cart with the gifts you need.

In order to effectively personalize communications across all channels to support holiday gift buying, we recommend that you isolate data from previous years’ holiday seasons on a customer-by-customer basis. This will allow you to personalize product and content recommendations based on patterns that exist in the individual buyer’s behaviors and interest graph. For most marketers this is no easy feat, nor is it likely to be cost effective. Most legacy personalization technologies cannot easily dig back into the data archives in real-time to allow queries relating to what consumers bought last year, the year prior and so on and so forth. Most of these legacy technologies only allow you to personalize based on recent data alone, some three months at most. The problem is, you can’t predict what a consumer is going to be shopping for in November and December based on what she bought in July, before she started her holiday shopping.

However, if you do work with a personalization partner built on a flexible database without data recency limits and the ability to query based on an infinite number of variables, it is possible to have a historical look into your data, and thus, your customer’s past and future holiday shopping habits.

For those marketers who are unable to quickly pull data in this manner, the goal must be to isolate your individual customers most recent shopping data in November and the early weeks of December in order to serve product recommendations and supporting content that work to push them on through the journey to conversion. We recommend personalizing products based on source, so that if your customer lands on your site via branded search that the recommendations you serve and creative you leverage this valuable, high-intent signal. Supporting tools that can be personalized based on 1:1 historic success also include discounts – you know whether or not a specific consumer responds to % off more so than the ever-increasingly used “mystery discount” so use this information to your advantage to ensure a consistent experience.

Go ahead, get personal this holiday season, but follow our playbook for true dominance!

— Neil Capel, CEO & Founder, Sailthru