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How marketers and SMB retailers can navigate a tricky Christmas season

Often referred to as the ‘Golden Quarter’, the holiday season is one of the busiest and most lucrative times of the year for retailers. And after what has been a tumultuous and economically tough year, the final push to boost holiday revenue is more important than ever.

With many consumers feeling overwhelmed by the thought of holiday shopping, businesses need to take a considered approach to marketing and improving the customer experience to keep customers engaged.

Here are some ways that retailers can meet customers’ needs and navigate a tricky holiday season.

Rely on data

We live in a world where everything can be captured and stored as valuable data — from a customer’s personal information including their name and DOB, down to their preferences such as the size clothing they wear, favourite colours, and styles.


Having important information about your customers at your fingertips means you can personalise their shopping experience based on their precise interests, needs, and behaviours – making gift buying an easier and more enjoyable experience for them.

It’s generally considered best practice to capture, store, and manage customer data in a CRM system. However, even when a retailer has CRM system in place, this doesn’t mean that the data in it is always accurate. In fact, Validity ’s report The State of CRM Data Management found the single biggest data quality issue for organisations (including retail) is missing/incomplete data, with 69% of respondents reporting this problem.

With that in mind, retailers should convey the importance of correctly inputting data as much data as the customer is willing to offer into the CRM system to floor staff and marketing administrators in the lead up to Christmas. This data is vital when it comes to tailoring customer experience, as well as managing things like inventory.

Prioritise email

With so much noise to compete with around holiday season, retailers would do well to prioritise their email marketing strategies in order to stand out from the crowd. According to DMA’s Marketing Email Tracker 2020 report, email generates an ROI of $35 for every $1 spent — making it the most cost effective channel to communicate and market to shoppers come Christmas time.

Keep in mind though that mailbox providers – and consumers for that fact – have to deal with far higher than average quantities of inbound mail around holiday season. Therefore, businesses need to hold their communications to an even higher standard than usual to ensure they are prioritised by mailbox providers and opened by recipients.

Here are some ways that retailers can give their email program an edge:

  • Personalise emails. Simply addressing the subscriber by name can boost open rates by 2%, and personalising further by providing discount codes that are relevant to the recipient’s needs and interests, or making helpful suggestions can increase open rates by anywhere from 11% to 55%.
  • Pick your timing. Interestingly, email traffic tends to spike on the hour so retailers can try and avoid the hourly traffic jam by scheduling emails to be sent out at less competitive times e.g., 11.15am, 2.45pm, etc.
  • Subject lines are important. There is a strong correlation between subject lines and click-rates, which interestingly increases as subject lines get longer. This is thought to be because subsribers have more information about the officers they will be viewing and are therefore more primed to act.
  • Avoid overkill. Only communicate to your customers when you have something valuable to say or offer them. The last thing you want is for your customers to unsubscribe because they feel harassed by too much contact. Beyond emailing customers with special holiday deals or offers, other times it is appropriate to email them include sharing important details like adjusted opening hours for stores and COVID protocols that they truly need to know about.
  • Be mobile friendly. Over half of consumers report they have unsubscribed from a brand’s emails because they weren’t optimised for mobile. Avoid being another statistic by using a simple responsive email template – these take the guesswork out of preparing and optimising emails for mobile.

Draw on loyalty

In the lead up to the holiday season, make sure your subscribers know the value of signing up to your loyalty program to receive special insights and exclusive deals. Getting consumers on board with loyalty programs early can help to generate repeat sales and increase the value of orders over the holiday season.

By promoting your loyalty program via your email campaign now, you’re less likely to be competing with the onslaught of marketing emails that signal the peak holiday season.

Provide options

Giving customers options and convenience when it comes to what type of content they want to receive and how frequently will be most imperative for keeping customers on side this holiday season. Having already made so many adjustments to their lives as a result of COVID-19, many consumers are likely to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of holiday shopping. Give customers options to shop how they want, when they want. This includes giving them an option to ‘snooze’ the email program if it’s not necessarily something they’re thinking about over holiday season.

Furthermore, offering a variety of ways for consumers to receive their goods, for example, click and collect, curbside pick-up, and free shipping, caters for people’s different needs and comfort levels. You can personalise the subscriber experience further by including a function within the email to locate their closest store.

Manage your operations 

There’s nothing more frustrating for customers when it comes to holiday shopping than when the item they want is out of stock, the website they’re trying to buy from crashes, their delivery is late or goes missing, or when they can’t get through to the customer service centre – all of these things are very possible and even common when it comes to holiday season.

With that, be sure to be prepared for all of these scenarios in advance. For instance, knowing that website traffic over the holiday season will be significantly higher, make sure that products are available online are sufficiently stocked, or go a step further and contract some additional customer service team members to assist over the busier period. You might even want to consider holding back stock and managing slow releases, so products don’t sell out immediately which gives consumers more opportunities to shop your brand. If you do sell out of a product, sending a ‘back in stock’ email is a great way to prompt another sale and create a positive brand experience when it’s available again.

The stakes are high for retailers this holiday season, but by taking a considered and strategic approach to engaging customers by using these strategies, retailers will stand to reap the rewards of a successful holiday period.


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