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Driving growth this peak retail season: making first-party insights your competitive advantage

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By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

October 25, 2023 | 8 min read

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As peak retail season approaches, Google’s Pippa Jaffrey helps explore how marketers can leverage first-party customer data as a springboard for responsible business growth.

Driving growth this peak retail season: making first-party insights your competitive advantage

Having a robust audience strategy is key to winning this peak season.

With total UK retail sales increasing +4.1% in August (up 3.1% over last year), it’s an encouraging outlook for brands entering peak retail season. And with more than a third (37%) of UK consumers planning to start holiday shopping earlier than previous years – asking more questions, exploring new products and seeking personalized experiences – the more opportunity brands have to reach and engage new customers.

Today’s shoppers expect more from the ads they see and the brands they engage with. This tension between personalization and scale presents a challenge for marketers as they compete in the spiraling attention economy. However, what many don’t realize is that they are sitting on a goldmine of customer insights, which they can use in a responsible way to their advantage and reach shoppers this retail season.

“The more that you can leverage your own data, the better you’re going to be able to reach – and connect – with new audiences,” explains Pippa Jaffrey, Regional Product Lead at Google. “Embracing the capabilities of AI, and telling the machine what kind of person resonates with and purchases from your brand, is a great way to set your business up for growth this retail season and beyond.”

Be clear on what success looks like

The first step to success is actually defining what success looks like. Are you looking to acquire new customers? Increase sales with particular audiences? Improve profit margins?

“Take the time to have these conversations internally, and with your agency partners, to decide on what few metrics you are aiming to achieve that would make this peak season your best yet,” explains Jaffrey.

“Unfortunately, peak season is not a wishing well – it’s a trade off – so it’s important to have these more strategic discussions now to agree on what success looks like for you and your brand, then focus on that. A lot of brands end up having their attention diverted over busy periods and going down rabbit holes on things that aren’t actually critical for their success, instead of focusing on what’s most important for them to achieve their goals. Once you know what success looks like, be prepared to be agile in achieving it, in what can be a manic time.”

Data foundations as a springboard for growth

Responsibly gathered first-party customer data is a brand’s competitive advantage. Taking the time to lay the foundations will pay dividends in unlocking the most value from advertising, insights generated and audiences gained throughout peak season.

“Digital marketing is only as powerful as the data that feeds it, meaning that if you want the right ad to reach the right user, you need to be using data to inform what ‘right’ looks like for your brand,” says Jaffrey.

To do this in a privacy-safe way, tools like enhanced conversions can help not only to improve the accuracy of conversion measurement this peak season, but also unlock more powerful bidding. For example, advertisers who use target cost per action (CPA) bidding strategy, see an average conversion uplift of +3.5% when they implement enhanced conversions.

Leverage AI predictive insights

Thanks to recent advances in AI and new features available in Google Analytics 4, marketers not only have access to a wealth of insights, but the ability to surface insights in-real time as things are happening. All of this without having to dive into reports, where valuable insights or things marketers might not specifically be looking for, might be buried.

“With GA4 predictive insights, the more you use them, the better they become,” says Jaffrey. “GA4 surfaces anomalies within your data alongside things you may find interesting as a marketer. That could be, for example, that a certain product boomed in sales last week for under 25s, or that you had a decrease in traffic from a certain region. These insights provide a great hook to understand how you might need to adapt your strategy to what’s coming up but also what’s working for or against you at the moment.”

Ellie Wyndow, senior analytics and insights manager at direct-to-consumer (DTC) specialist kitchenware brand ProCook, finds GA4 predictive insights “really interesting for calling out changes in our data that we can then investigate further - for example, spikes in revenue or changes on page views” and expects “these insights will be useful as we approach Black Friday and Christmas, and hope they can help us with meaningful data to drive decisions.”

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Build out a robust audience strategy

Having a robust audience strategy is key to winning this peak season. Being able to connect with customers – current or new – and breakthrough with personal, engaging ads is vital for both brand health and business growth.

“Reaching new audiences is made simple with tools like GA4 - where new features like predictive audiences enable marketers to not only see the behavior of users who convert, but also access pre-populated audiences who are likely to transact, churn, or spend the most with you in the next 28 days,” says Jaffrey. “This provides valuable insight to inform advertising messaging and it’s all done in a privacy-safe way.”

For ProCook’s Wyndow, the opportunity with predictive audiences is to simplify and “increase flexibility and diversity with ad audiences”, adding that “we are especially excited to be able to target audiences such as ‘likely to purchase’ and look forward to testing this in the near future.”

Entering the busy peak retail season is the ideal time for brands and retailers to unlock value from their first-party data and start using it to create a competitive advantage. “Combining this with privacy-safe AI measurement tools, marketers can unlock peak season success by understanding customers better, and create a springboard for long-term growth,” says Jaffrey.

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