Originally posted on MarketingPersonalization.com

Chalkboard CountsThe last of the holiday emails have meandered their way into my inbox; deep discounts are starting to flow back out to sea and the volumes of marketing mails are starting to subside. The world is getting back to normal. Right? To be honest, I hope not!

Bear with me for a moment: allowing things to return to pre-holiday levels is fine, as a matter of fact it’s absolutely necessary if you want to remain in your customer’s good graces. However, not learning from tracked, and measured, customer holiday behaviors would not only be a crime but a completely wasted opportunity. Consequently, if you didn’t track and measure your customer’s holiday behaviors then you might as well stop reading here.

Let’s think of it this way—the cadence of offers and notifications during the holidays takes on a fever pitch; it’s definitely not the ‘norm.’ The increased activity and conversions, however, are a boon: not only did holiday retailers and marketers of all stripes reap the rewards of a healthy economy; they also had the opportunity to capture a wealth of information.

We can think of the data that was generated as a result of holiday email and web traffic as a kind of top down hierarchy:

  1. Where did the data point originate? Web? Social? Email? Native mobile app?
  2. Did the prevailing link (for other than organic visits) generate significant traffic?
  3. What was the offer that spawned the traffic?
  4. Was the offer split tested? And which split was the prevailing winner?
  5. What kind of device (if you’re capturing things like HTTP Referrer Strings) did the visitor use (assuming that nearly half of your online traffic will come from a mobile device, it’s time to start diving into what kind of device.)
  6. Was that offer optimized for a mobile device?\

The holidays offer brands a massive sample size to work with—although most approach it with a certain trepidation, retailers most of all, the fact of the matter is that you will never have so many engaged customers ready to take action at one time. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take advantage of this groupthink or pack mentality. It’s absolutely critical to record what worked during this time of year and re-test similar style offers and content later in the year. The mistake would be to assume that an optimized holiday communication only has bearing on the holidays. That may be true if every single one of your emails was an isolated, discrete offer, but chances are they weren’t.

Consistency is Important

RH Holiday ScreenshotLet’s take a look at the case of Restoration Hardware, which beat a steady 20% drum for weeks during December. I ignored the first, the second and the third, but finally on the fourth I clicked through to see what was on sale to furnish a new room in our house. Although Restoration Hardware is a little out of the budget, the genius was the repetition, and if they’re truly the geniuses I think they are, then they took note that I converted/clicked through on the fourth email and might test a similar paradigm to see if a slightly deeper discount would motivate me to take action sooner.

Where I think Restoration Hardware could improve is to have connected the fact that we did purchase a bed frame, just before the sale (and yes, it was on sale before the big sale), and the fact that one or two of those emails should’ve featured bedding. What do you need when you buy a bed? Bedding of course, mattresses, blankets, sheets, etc. It might be that RH hasn’t reached that level of truly personalized, down-to-the-individual-user communications, but it should be the direction and ultimate goal of every marketer relying on email.

There’s so much data that comes through during the holidays that you can’t help but feel that this is really an exercise in use case testing. Recording patterns of mobile use and then optimizing mobile-only communications to users becomes a reality for the coming year; this is the very soul of data driven marketing. Tracking response cadences and how and when users read email becomes critical. My point is a simple one really: use what you’ve learned throughout the year, not just in October and November. Year over year comparisons are important means of benchmarking, but the application of the learnings through the year will truly make the greatest impact when it’s time to start the holiday bonanza all over again.

If you look at the holidays as the crescendo to a year’s worth of building brand awareness, trust, customer engagement and market leadership, then the wealth of data will be something to keep you going through the rest of the coming year.