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Engage your 4 most valuable customer segments this holiday season

This post is part of a five part series about what smart retail marketers are doing this holiday season to not only increase sales, but also strengthen customer relationships. Want all the info in one place? Download our eBook: The Retailer’s Ultimate Guide to Holiday Marketing, or get a teaser with our Slideshare deck:

Mobile may be the digital marketing upstart, but the channel that will make or break a retailer's holiday season? Email. This explains why consumers receive about 50 percent more promotional emails a week during the season, according to Responsys research. But as smart marketers know, the batch-and-blast approach isn't a recipe for long-term – and even short-term – success.

Today, marketers can leverage new technologies and terabytes of customer data to orchestrate highly individualized experiences for each customer. For example, emails should no longer center around specific days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but should instead seek to engage customers at the right moment in their particular shopping cycle, based on intelligence like preferences, web browsing histories and device usage.

Jennifer Downes, Director of Direct Marketing at Lenovo says, "While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are important days to drive sales, we think beyond promotions when creating our marketing messages - keeping the long term customer relationship at the forefront.”

"Take a customer mindset and treat your customers differently based on how they've engaged with you," says Ryan Hofmann, Director of Strategic Services at Responsys. The first step in doing this, says Hofmann, is to segment customers into four categories:

  1. New
  2. Active
  3. At-Risk
  4. Inactive

New customers: Make a great first impression

The holidays are the best time of the year for brands to attract new customers. Last season, one in four shoppers bought from a retailer they'd never purchased from before, according to a Google Consumer Survey. “It's an opportunity for brands to make a good first impression with their welcome and transactional emails,” says Hofmann. In preparation for holiday promotions, Hofmann advises brands to update their email templates with fresh, creative messaging.

Active customers: Individualize content to keep them loyal

Remember that your loyal customers are your biggest drivers of revenue. The holidays are a great time to thank them with special discounts and curated "picked-just-for-you" emails that are based on their past purchases. But, don’t overwhelm customers with emails and watch your unsubscribe rates at this critical time to ensure active customers aren't bolting. Schwan’s (an online grocery delivery servic), for example, will send customers a curated “Recipe of the Week” email during the holidays to help inspire them when they place their next order.  

'At-risk' and 'inactive' customers: Experiment to find the key to engagement

These buyers are showing a waning interest in a brand. For marketers, it's crucial that these customers re-engage before it's too late. The immediate goal isn’t to use email to convert these disengaged customers into active buyers, but to get their attention again – and get them excited about the company so they do shop. 

"With at-risk and inactive customers," explains Hofmann, "there’s minimal downside to testing out different concepts like this, not just sending them the same-old promotional campaign that made them disengage to begin with. This is an opportunity to send something different, and something that’s going to achieve that goal of re-engaging them."

Optimize email programs: Find opportunities to test messaging

The holidays are also a great time for marketers to experiment with – and learn from – different messaging. At its most basic level, this involves pooling active and inactive subscribers and sending everyone the same message. The ones who engage are likely to do so again. But the ones that don't offer marketers the opportunity to test different messaging strategies by changing subject lines, embedding images or videos to understand better what engages customers – and what doesn't. Hofmann says this approach has led to increased in-store traffic, revenues and conversion.

Says Hofmann: "During the holiday season, retailers can quickly assess how customers are reacting to promotional emails, and adapt their messaging based on those results." Don't wait for Black Friday. Start now.

To learn more tips and tricks for your holiday marketing in 2013, check out our eBook or on-demand webcast about how to get bigger results this holiday season.

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