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4 ways to use customer data to drive Q4 results, without the holiday drama

Acxiom

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September 21, 2023 | 7 min read

As we enter Q4 and the holiday season looms, brands will be racing from one big-ticket event in the marketing calendar to the next

But don’t let last-minute panic set in, says Brady Gadberry, SVP, head of data products at Acxiom. Instead, lean into data for a deeper customer understanding that fuels better campaign results – no drama necessary.

The second half of the year is full of big-ticket events in the marketing calendar – from back to school and Black Friday to the New Year countdown. Brand marketers can easily get into a panic wrapping up one campaign and rushing to the next.

As we enter Q4 and the pressure’s on to hit all the holiday high notes (while also hitting end-of-year sales targets), let’s explore four ways data can help maximize results – and minimize drama.

1. Really understand your customer segments

The holiday season brings some of the busiest days of the year and is massive for retail, of course. For categories like department stores and hobby, toy, and game stores, the fourth quarter sees around 35% of annual retail spend. And recent growth figures have been reassuring, with total holiday spend increasing by nearly 7% in 2022.

So, it stands to reason that acquisition is top of mind for most brands. Understanding your best existing customers and finding more like them is the most reliable way to grow.

Start by creating different segments of your customers and understanding what matters to them. If this isn’t something you’ve done before, don’t worry. There are commercial segmentation systems that can be applied to your data in days, and these clusters of your best customers can translate directly into a focused marketing effort for reaching your future best customers.

But one thing that’s sometimes missed in the race for new customers is the fact that customers for life are rare and keeping existing customers happy takes effort. You have to put effort into re-acquiring, or re-engaging, customers in the same way you have to put effort into rejuvenating your personal relationships. And, just like it takes more than an occasional date night or phone call to strengthen and evolve a relationship, brands must deepen and adapt their marketing in order to keep and grow their existing customer base.

What does this look like in reality? It’s about being thoughtful about your customer segments, understanding what they’re in the market for, and communicating with them differently than you do with the people you’re trying to connect with for the first time. The quick segmentation you started with could be the basis for a deeper, custom segmentation to really refine the different audiences who have chosen your brand.

2. Get creative to cut through the clutter

Once you’ve gotten to know your customer segments, how do you maximize your chances of cutting through the clutter and truly connecting with them?

For me, this is where the power of data shows itself, not just in the planning of the offer itself, but also in the crafting of the creative. Your approach to tone of voice, message tailoring, and creative media, has to be just as data driven as your strategic thinking around things like pricing and promotion.

This applies whether you’re working with an in-house agency or outside partners – everyone has to be equipped with the data that drives this kind of creative decision-making.

I’ve written about how creative insights can be developed using fact-based first-party data like surveys and focus groups, as well as third-party data. With third-party propensity data (what consumer are likely to want and do) so much of the hard work has been done already — combining customer segmentation that is already connected to extensive consumer research, giving you a sense of who your audiences really are, what their product and media propensities are, and how they’re most likely to make their next purchases.

This understanding can help you walk a mile in their shoes and ensure your message, creative, and voice are speaking directly to those you want to reach most - even in the midst of holiday season noise.

Then there’s second-party data, available using technologies like data clean rooms. It can add even more contextual nuance to your customer understanding and open up opportunities for smart brand partnerships.

3. Get quick wins with tried-and-tested channels

As the holidays loom large, speed is of the essence and your marketing team will be looking for some quick wins. Here are two of the best – when the stakes are high, and deadlines are tight. The key is less wheel-reinvention and more tried-and-tested tactics to reconnect to existing customers and reach your next ones.

Email – For all the innovations in digital media, it’s hard to beat email for reputable, privacy-conscious, conversion-focused engagement, and it’s a great opportunity to double down with smart personalization and reach all the people you’ve gotten to know through your other channels.

Digital – Another way to ensure you don’t waste all the good work you’ve done with your segmentation is to take the people who look like your ideal customers and use them as your audience for the publishers or platforms you’re working with. Ensure that you have consistent engagement across channels – there’s a reason why 62% of advertisers believe multichannel campaigns achieve or exceed KPIs at least most of the time.

4. Get ready for the next marketing calendar event – early

Time flies. Just a minute ago you were focused on helping families fill back-to-school backpacks and reaching university students’ families to help them find the perfect dorm room decor. Before you know it, you’re late with your Black Friday scheduling. (Does anyone remember when Black Friday was a single day and not a whole season in itself? Me neither.)

Brands live and die by the marketing calendar, but it doesn’t have to be a case of last-minute panic. These data best practices can help you stay focused on what matters: understanding your customers. Everything else flows from that.

We all like to end the year strong, so the pressure will always be there. But so will the next holiday, and the next one.

Which brings me to my last point. It’s never too early to start preparing for the next event. It will be the New Year before we know it, when health and wellness will be the flavor of the season. So, make your own New Year’s resolution early, and lean into the data to help build a deeper understanding of your customers for more effective campaigns, without the drama.

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