5 Digital Marketing Must-Haves for Any Retail Brand

Q4 has long been a make-or-break period for retail digital marketing teams, and this year the stakes are higher than usual. Much like last year, consumer behavior is fundamentally transforming. And your holiday shoppers will need special encouragement to return to spending in a shaky economy.

Especially once the allure of the holiday season subsides and consumption trends return to normal.

So, here are five marketing must-haves that can help you do more with less — whether you use them this holiday season or sometime down the road.

Pre-made email templates and messages

Today, most retail digital marketing teams are strapped for time, budget room, or both — making reusability and any efficiency gains a big deal when it comes to your holiday marketing prep. So, don’t be afraid to use pre-made email templates and holiday-themed messages to keep your team as innovative and stress-free as possible this year.

This time-saving tool is especially helpful for any retail brands experiencing:

  • Staffing shortages and limited employee availability during the holiday season
  • A change in hours of operation due to local COVID-19 safety protocols
  • Supply chain and/or shipping delays due to an unexpected volume of online shopping
  • Mass customer migration to and engagement on digital channels during the holiday season

If you want to strike a balance between personalized email campaigns and minimal extra work to build and send these messages, pre-made email templates and messages can be the holiday miracle your marketing team has been waiting for.

By combining standard designs with dynamic content sections, you give your brand the ability to automatically create different marketing campaigns from the same template — eliminating the need to build specialized communications for each separate audience segment or buyer persona that craves a more personal email experience.

Tailored triggers and abandonment messages

Tailored email triggers and abandonment messages, which account for more than three quarters of email revenue, are an effective way to combine automation and personalization to deliver impressive holiday results. These emails are behavior-based, making them inherently personalized.

As you put your holiday season plans into practice, don’t forget to set up your communications so that whenever a customer takes action — whether that’s signing up for your email list or abandoning their online shopping cart — you have one of these meaningful message ready to go:


Online shopping carts have become the modern holiday version of wishlists. People purposely pass on purchasing until they see a discount sitting in their inbox. Try improving the impact of your triggered discount emails by meeting these buyers halfway between segmentation and personalization with a special cart abandonment deal.

These communications are even more effective when sent to a targeted audience of high-intent shoppers prior to a larger, sitewide holiday sale being announced for everybody to enjoy. For example, if everything in your online store is going to be 30% off after Thanksgiving, offer an exclusive 20% price drop on any items left in shopping carts a couple of weeks before.  This can serve as an incentive to complete previous purchase intent as well as create an opportunity for a repeat sale come the larger Black Friday promotion.

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Customer data and behavior-based interest

Whether it’s the holiday season or not, one abandonment messaging best practice is to include a picture of the product in every email to jog the customer’s memory. After all, people view their online shopping carts with optimism, often leaving dozens of items un-purchased there at any given time.

This makes your cart a pretty packed place to browse or find useful info from — so including a visual reminder and other personalized elements based on previous interactions with individual shoppers is crucial to your brand’s success. Use first-party data you’ve collected to prioritize which products you display, when you send, which channel you use, and more to give everyone the most engaging, relevant email promotions possible.

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Think outside the box — and the channel you’re currently using

Cart abandonment is a crucial component of every email marketing program. So, take yours to the next level and stand apart from the competition by going cross-channel with your triggered messages.

If your customer is an engaged app user, for example, try closing the sale with personalized push notifications or SMS messages instead of an email. And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to put the highest-priority products in their cart front-and-center using your retargeting ads.

Bet heavy on browse abandonment

While browsing doesn’t necessarily signal the same level of interest as someone adding an item to their online shopping cart, browse abandonment is a strong triggered messaging strategy in its own right that’s more than worthy of your consideration this holiday season. As long as you’re careful to ensure that these engagements don’t come off as overly intrusive or creepy, of course.

Before you start filling every shopper’s inbox with browse abandonment messaging, however, use your holiday emails as a test run to see how effective a more playful tone or earnest plain text format can be. That way, you can gauge the impact of a browse abandonment campaign strategy without putting in all the work to build, refine, and fully roll it out first.

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What about a wishlist?

If your abandonment campaign and triggered messages are helping to successfully grow your business, great! However, the last 18+ months have taught retail digital marketing teams everywhere that you should always plan ahead and be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

In terms of holiday marketing, this all-too-common occurrence happens whenever customers don’t buy everything they’ve added to their cart. So, offer the ability to add all of their remaining items to a wishlist by simply clicking a ‘save for later’ option directly inside their online shopping experience. Plus, if that buyer fails to take action as a result, you have the perfect starting point for your next personalized email send.

Dynamic carts that follow your customers everywhere

A dedicated abandonment email isn’t the only way to remind shoppers of the items collecting digital dust in their carts. With a dynamic shopping cart icon included in your pre-made templates, it’s possible — not to mention easier than ever – to stick a personalized reminder into every email.

As an alternative, you can also highlight abandoned items with a customized banner serving as a friendly reminder of what customers left behind anytime they visit your website later on in the holiday shopping season.

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Rewarding post-purchase experiences

When someone makes a purchase, any retail digital marketing team’s first order of business should be to thank them — whether that looks like a recommendation for a complimentary item or a special incentive to inspire repeat purchases. So, consider following up any message you send immediately with valuable content, perhaps about how to use or style their purchase. Extending your post-purchase series through January or February, when people may be more likely to buy again, is a simple way to deliver a more impressive ROI.

Cohort analysis

After the holiday season has passed and the snow has (sort of) settled, it’s time to analyze your newly-augmented customer base by cohort. Holiday shoppers are likely to behave differently than customers acquired throughout the rest of the year, and this should help identify the top-performing acquisition sources for next year’s strategy.

Additionally, cohort analysis can pinpoint characteristics of engaged buyers that are primed to become repeat customers — allowing you to apply any insights learned from this group across your efforts to strengthen customer acquisition and retention initiatives year-round.

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Use user-generated content

User-generated content like customer product reviews, testimonials, and promoted social media posts provide a unique opportunity for seasonal storytelling that’s refreshing, reliable, and not the product of a retail digital marketing meeting or brainstorming session.

In fact, social media in particular has become a crucial part of the average holiday shopper’s pre-purchase research period according to TurnTo Networks — which found that 90% of today’s retail buyers find this type of user-generated content helpful for making purchasing decisions. And that’s why we predict bringing people together will be an even bigger theme this holiday season than it has been in years past.

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Grow your audience

With so many more consumers searching, shopping, and purchasing in a hybrid fashion this holiday season, personalization has become a particularly valuable tactic for any retail digital marketing team looking to improve customer experiences and grow its audience this holiday season.

In fact, just under two-thirds of consumers (62%) say it’s important to them that the brands they shop with personalize their retail experiences. So, let’s explore a few ways you can use personalization to make the 2021 holiday push your most successful one to date!

Find new shoppers that look like your most loyal customers

GlobalWebIndex estimates that we spend an average of two hours and 22 minutes every day on social media — and the exciting revelation for any retail digital marketer is that this survey was commissioned before quarantine in 2020.

With personalization-focused customer acquisition tools in the mix this holiday season, you can leverage lookalike models and target audiences with similar behaviors to your best customers, growing your audience with minimal — if any — extra work required.

Expand your retargeting campaign

Social media doubles as a fantastic retargeting opportunity for any savvy marketer trying to make the most of their holiday messages. So, use your platform to provide a cohesive experience across site, email, and retargeting ads for nonpurchasers, cart abandoners, lapsed customers, and loyalists alike.

Rev up your re-engagement efforts

Remember all of those customers you haven’t seen since last year’s holiday season? Because chances are many of them don’t remember you. But don’t think for a second that these buyers are lost to your brand forever — or wouldn’t come right back if they receive the right email.

Use winback messaging to re-engage past shoppers and previously loyal followers. While you’re at it, re-engage all your lapsed customers, including those who signed up for your emails and never actually became customers. It’s also a good idea to include best sellers in the creative, as they tend to be particularly high converts among first-time customers.

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