As retailers look to bridge the gap between in-store and online shopping, and the line between the beginning and end of holiday marketing continues to blur, brands are being forced to rethink their campaigns.
"A major challenge for retail marketers is connecting consumers' digital behavior to their in-store decisions," Marc Grabowski, CEO of omni-channel marketing platform Persio, told Marketing Dive.
Although more than 90% of purchases still take place in-store, people are frequently researching those purchases online first, according to Persio. With mobile devices becoming more and more ubiquitous, marketers have the opportunity — and the challenge — to get personal with their messaging, and capture valuable customer data along the way.
Mobile provides unique opportunity to gather consumer data and personalize offers. Nearly two-thirds of Americans own mobile devices, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center. As the buying process evolves and consumers take more control through their mobile devices, marketers who can capitalize on the opportunity to leverage mobile data and take a consumer-centric view could see real rewards.
Using mobile to gain insight into your consumers
During the hectic holiday shopping season, marketers have the opportunity to test out new strategies that will help them connect the dots between their consumers' on- and offline shopping journeys, Grabowski said. As a result, marketers can glean fresh insights from the data collected to implement in their campaigns in the year ahead.
Ultimately, brands want to know what influences shoppers' purchasing decisions, from email promotions to product availability and anything in between. But before brands can get to the bottom of what prompted those choices, they need a clearer view of their customers that will help them tailor their offerings, Grabowski says.
One way retail marketers can take advantage of holiday shopping to gather data is by encouraging consumers to connect on mobile. Finding new ways to track and target shoppers is crucial for many marketers looking to better understand and reach their customers.
Getting people to opt into receiving mobile promotions can help marketers raise awareness about deals, discounts and even about their own mobile presence. Mobile promotions can also help spur app downloads for retailers, and ultimately bring in revenue.
According to Persio, mobile coupons drive 10 times as many sales as any other type of coupon. Mobile email has already delivered in a big way for retail marketers this holiday season, according to research from Movable Ink, accounting for 76% of email opens on Black Friday and 63% on Cyber Monday. Of the emails that were converted to sales on Black Friday, 57% came from mobile.
Conversions on Cyber Monday were more evenly split between mobile and desktop, but the trend is clear: As in consumers' lives, mobile is playing an increasingly integral role in their shopping journeys.
"Many customers prefer opening email on their smartphone, no matter where they are," Movable Ink CEO Vivek Sharma told Marketing Land, adding that "when provided with the right experience, customers are increasingly willing to shop and buy on their mobile devices.”
By providing shoppers with a mobile opt-in option, retailers have a greater chance of seeing and quantifying their consumers' purchase decisions just as soon as they redeem a deal and hit "buy." From the minute they connect with the brand on mobile, that retailer can send them more personalized promotions by tapping into the consumers' real-time data, especially if the consumer is in the retailer's app. With more detailed data, such as what consumers are clicking on in the app or what discounts they are redeeming in-store, retailers can better pinpoint what its core consumer wants.
Marrying past purchase history with fresh data is key
With the help of data, marketers who put micro-campaigns, or highly-personalized campaigns, in motion will be able to drive better results. But in order to truly leverage this opportunity, marketers can't ignore past data.
Brett Wickard, president and founder of lean retail company Fieldstack, recently told Retail Dive that past purchase history is often ignored — and even if applied, it's often done via what he describes as "brute force retargeting."
If a shopper purchased a pair of shoes, for example, they may want to see a dress next, not another pair of shoes. What's missing is a more intimate understanding of the customer's current needs.
"Based on past history, you can find out which customers plan ahead and which are last-minute. If I have 20% off deals going to customers at the beginning of December, I will have missed the ones who shop at the end of December," Wickard explained to Retail Dive.
But if retailers combine this past purchase knowledge with the data they gather in real-time, it could be used to help drive sales and foster brand loyalty. Consumers that are given a reason to share their personal information are often willing to do so, but they expect tangible benefits (read: tailored promotions) in return.
Research from Aimia's 2015 Global Loyalty Lens found that 80% of consumers are willing to share detailed personal information, such as name, email and nationality. And according to a 2015 sentiment survey of 1,200 consumers by Autopilot, consumers are four times as likely to respond to messaging if they receive personalized offers.
"A growing database is a retail marketers' greatest asset and greatest challenge," Grabowski admitted. Marketers have to collect data in a way that sheds light on "what consumers are actually in the market for."
Retail marketers that know how to utilize data will merge past and present information, and find ways to reach the consumer with offers they want. These are the brands that will likely see their consumer relationships flourish long after the last gift is unwrapped.