The way consumers shop during the holidays has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Not only are they starting earlier, but with inflation and the soaring cost of living, both in-store and online retail across Australia have seen a slow-down in spending.

The pressure is on for retailers to stand out with their holiday campaigns and use any lessons learned as fuel for a more robust 2024. Because ready or not – it’s ‘go time’. And it’s time to overcome big challenges, especially with customer targeting. As retailers shift into ‘holiday mode’, below are some critical insights to keep in mind for a successful and impactful campaign season.

Breaking free from tradition
It’s time to expect the unexpected. Old-school holiday campaign timing and targeting simply don’t work anymore in light of new consumer behaviours. Customers are buying seasonal items earlier, focusing more on necessities rather than sale-priced luxury items and buying up trending items shared as pairings or group displays.

Disruptive sales events like Amazon’s Prime Day are demonstrating some of those behaviours. The eCommerce giant had huge numbers on Prime Day 2023, with sales reaching an estimated AU$19 billion worldwide – a 6 per cent increase over last year. This indicates a positive direction for the economy, which is great news for advertisers. But it also stems from smart planning.

Here are three tactics Amazon used – and recommendations for your holiday strategies:

  1. Invitation-only deals: Personalised, advance offers based on consumers’ previous purchase histories.
    ○ Full access to every consumer’s unique buying profile will be key to tailoring unique communications like these.
  2. Best value vs. lowest price offers: More consumers purchased essential items versus lower-priced luxury ones.
    ○ With smaller budgets, consumers are shopping for necessities – and having the insights to target them in the right place at the right time will be critical.
  3. Pairing of orchestrated offerings: Amazon saw a large uptick around its curated lists and specifically strong product trend. Think of the mass appeal across demographics related to Barbie movie merchandise – Dad buys an “I’m Kenough” t-shirt, Mom nabs a hot pink jacket and the kids get a couple of “Weird Barbie” dolls.
    ○ Staying on top of emerging trends and offering easy access to grouping suggestions could be a gamechanger for you, too.

Prepping for privacy and a cookieless (sorry, Santa!) 2024

Privacy changes continue to impact the landscape. The Australian Government, for one, recently released its response to the Privacy Act Review Report, overhauling privacy laws, including opting out of advertising, a right to be forgotten and new rules for small businesses.

Google will also begin disabling third-party cookie tracking for 1 per cent of Chrome users in Q1 2024. With 65 per cent market share, this is something advertisers cannot ignore – and as time goes on and cookies are further disabled, the impact will only get more pronounced.

Trends to know now:

  1. First-party data: Freely-given, first-party consumer data is now critical, not just for targeting, but also for attribution. Companies already turning to first-party data are running really clean AB tests and having the ability, without third-party data, to connect the data together on the back end for a clearer profile of each unique customer.
  2. Contextual Targeting: Marketing to a single person with static attributes is moving towards contextual targeting based on what people are doing at a given time rather than who they are in a more static sense.
  3. Data Clean Rooms: One of the biggest areas the continued deprecation of cookies will affect is measurement and attribution. Clean rooms are filling that hole – to tell advertisers if certain types of marketing were effective, drove incremental sales, etc.

Embracing AI for a leading edge

Using generative AI in retail has been a big differentiator in creating propensity models for insights into why consumers purchase specific items – and how to promote more sales. Tasks that used to be very manual are now fed into AI engines to devise hyper-targeted messaging at scale.

Even more, if you don’t have enough holiday content to speak to different segments with different tones, using AI is a budget-conscious way to crank out a lot of content variations quickly and with minimal effort.

There’s no reason for retailers not to prepare

Whether your advertising strategy is operating at a baseline (one-to-one communications) or a more advanced level (AI-driven), you can still prepare and succeed.

Understand and address the challenges you’re faced with today to:
● Get ahead of things like lead times to pull specific lists
● Develop the right copy to execute on those campaigns
● Pre-test systems to prevent outages
● Find the solutions to better know your customers and present them with relevant offers at the right place and time.

Keep up the momentum through 2024

You’ll collect a lot of consumer data and need to put it to work. Consider where you sit on the maturity curve and what types of initiatives you can put on your roadmap early in 2024 to ensure you’re stepping forward as an organisation.
● Baseline: Develop core buyer personas and begin defining initial segmentation
● Basic Targeting: Improve operational process to generate customer segments
● Cross-Channel: Test and analyse segment performance across channel mixes
● 1:1 Personalisation: Begin operationalising personalised recommendations and next best action engines
● AI-driven Activation: Incorporate broader range of touchpoints into decisioning (i.e. product reviews, customer care surveys, return rates)

Triple-check your tech stack
Do you have what you need to make these strategies easier? Or does your current tech just maintain the status quo? The goal here is to move up that maturity curve to put yourself in a better position than you may be now.

Tip: Using a customer data platform that merges all your physical and digital data within unified customer data profiles by using zero, first and second-party data (and even third-party data sources as a supplement where appropriate) is a critical way to stay current, keep sales moving in a positive direction and predict best ways to campaign into the future. If you haven’t already, look into it now.

Don’t delay – dominate the holiday retail scene now

There are a lot of basics that organisations can do right now to get ahead of the holidays and 2024 planning. However, don’t stall. If you wait, you and your customers will come away empty-handed.

To learn more about ways to prepare, plan, and execute for a successful Black Friday and 2024, check out Amperity’s recent webinar: Countdown to Black Friday: Strategies to Win Holiday 2023.

Billy Loizou is area vice president for Asia Pacific at Amperity.