It happens every year. Calendars turn to November and thousands of brand marketers hit send on email blasts – sometimes multiple times a day – all the way through December 24th. Want to be heard? Focus on executing personalization strategies to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Timing is Money

Given the sheer volume of messages sent during the holiday season, engaging with your customers at the time they are most receptive will mean your messages are actually opened. If an individual usually opens your emails while taking a late lunch at 2pm, that won’t change just because they’re now also looking for gifts. Personalizing send times by looking at a consumer’s previous open history will drive lift in opens and purchases. When planning your timing, you need to still consider market-driven context, so you may need to send emails or mobile messages at the start of day on Black Friday, but consider sending your second message at the time of day that the user is most likely to convert. This way, you’re covering all bases.

Tis the Season For Unpredictability

Think about this for a second – throughout the year, consumers primarily shop for themselves, but in Q4 browsing and purchase habits are impacted as they shop for other people more often. It’s important as marketers to account for that behavioral change and convey offers and product recommendations accordingly. Again, success is banked on delivering the right message to the right user at the right time.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Just finding this data can be difficult or impossible within legacy systems. Around the holidays, a goal is to recognize patterns such as a repeat purchase of a gift basket every year, two weeks before Christmas. This does not mean that the consumer wants gift basket recommendations again in January, but next Dec. 1 might be the perfect time! Make sure you’re flexible and responsive to that kind of customer insight.

Given that certain purchases can change drastically from year to year – for example, it’s likely the same guy isn’t going to need to buy an engagement ring two years in a row – you must be able to assign decay to your data so that you don’t risk alienating consumers.

That said, gift ideas by interest, can be extremely successful. Instead of just offering “Gifts for Him” and “Gifts for Her,” get more creative. For example, if you run an ecommerce storefront for outdoor gear you could separate out gifts for hikers, bikers, climbers, or campers. If your business is selling beauty products it could be broken down for those obsessed with hair, nail art, skin care, etc. Driving consumers through your online catalogues in that topical format is more likely to lead to conversions and repeat visits than saying, “Billy will like this Nalgene, we just know it.”

Focus As Much on the Messages Consumers Send You

Another tip: personalize products based on source. If your customer lands on your site via branded search the recommendations and creative you serve should leverage this valuable, high-intent signal. Supporting tactics 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 increasingly popular “mystery discount” so use this information to your advantage to ensure an effective customer experience.

The National Retail Foundation is forecasting that more than $600 billion will be spent this November and December alone. Don’t let other companies cut into your piece of that massive pie.

— Neil Capel, CEO & Founder of Sailthru