Shopaholic girl hiding her face under the shawl while holding lots of shopping bags.

Retailers need to start gearing up for the holiday season now, writes Rohan Lock.

The holiday season is going to be here in the blink of an eye. As the entire world gets into a shopping spree, the competition becomes fierce and largely impacts the global retail business. Therefore, the onus is on marketers to analyse how to convert the festive feelings into consumer buying decisions while they start preparing as early as mid-year.

According to, in 2018, the average Australian was predicted to spend AUD$ 1,325 in preparation for the Christmas holidays, which was one of the largest marketing occasions experienced in years. A brand’s winning formula during the holiday season is underpinned by its ability to stand out. Understanding how customers perceive a brand is an advantage in everyday marketing – and even more important during the pre-holiday season. So, what is driving the consumer market up and how can Australian businesses take advantage of the pre-Christmas spirit?

Effective email marketing

With so much competition around the holiday season, building an effective email marketing strategy is crucial to grab customers’ attention. Firstly, tailormade email marketing campaigns such as welcome series, triggered email, abandoned cart, and re- engagement play a key role to scale both the mailing strategy and customer engagement. Secondly, personalised emails with catchy subject lines, quality content, and customised visual messages catering to each customer’s interest are also an effective way to get their attention.

Additionally, customer reviews are becoming more and more crucial in the shopping decision process, so, it’s recommended for retailers to invest in a post-purchase email program and send an aftersales review email to customers. This is also a great opportunity to connect with inactive customers and rescue lapsed sales. The abandoned cart strategy is a perfect way to re-engage with those customers and complete the sales. Setting up a live countdown and creating a sense of urgency will maximise the customers’ fear of missing out (FOMO), resulting in the increase of relevant user-generated content (UGC).

Last but not least, retailers should focus on omnichannel experience, creating a seamless and connected experience across brick-and-mortar stores, mobile applications, and website. Though shopping through multiple devices continues to shape the ecommerce world, mcommerce has created a large shift in customer behaviour. According to the 2019 eCommerce Industry Report by Australia Post, 28.8 percent of consumers prefer to complete transactions via their smartphones, which is a 6-percentage point increase from the previous year. Catering to mobile users with responsive templates and images along with easy CTAs will enable businesses to provide customers with seamless and secure shopping experiences.

Reward and loyalty programs

The holiday season is the most important part of the year when it comes to increasing traffic for both online and physical stores as well as new customer acquisitions. The DMA’s report, which surveyed 200 senior decision-makers from the retail industry, revealed that 49 percent of marketers do not offer any reward programs, and as result they miss out on the benefits of customer loyalty. Having special reward program strategies during the pre-holiday season is one of the key ways to maximise sales and engage with both existing and new customers.

Rewarding customers when they make a purchase is reciprocal and makes them feel special. This could be a discount on their next purchase, unique tailor-made rewards, or a great freebie. These incentives appeal to the psychology of reciprocity and encourage customers to return the gesture by repeating their purchase. Promoting a loyalty program during holidays is a great way to get customers registered. Bolstering rewards, services, and exclusive saving opportunities will help marketers increase holiday sales and collect customer data, allowing retailers to reach out to consumers beyond the peak season.

Invest in automation

Personalisation and re-engagement strategies are a priority during the festive season; and the key to reaching out to more customers in less time is by email automation. By automating the stages of the purchasing process and investing in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), retailers will be able to leverage individual customer data and customise the timing and content of their messages. AI algorithms are trained to analyse huge data sets, which include data on past behaviour and purchase history, to create personalised recommendations for customers.

The advent of multiple media platforms has enabled marketers to access silos of data that can take predictive analytics to a whole new level. AI can take these silos and integrate the data sets into a singular source, transforming the way in which businesses interact with data that is available. With AI and machine learning, hidden patterns in data can be identified and actioned, determining the most prominent segments in data. Furthermore, customer segmentation allows retailers to send more relevant and targeted emails to people who are actually interested in what they offer with curated holiday-themed campaigns.

The pre-holiday period is the perfect time for businesses to demonstrate brands’ commitment towards seasonal shoppers. Brands that plan ahead of time can avoid the time-consuming task of second-guessing unpredictable holiday demands, and instead provide shoppers with a customer-centric experience.

Rohan Lock, Regional Director – APAC at dotdigital