The holidays are full of opportunities to acquire new subscribers, and keep them around for the long haul.
Want to get inspired by how other brands have achieved holiday success with SMS and email? Explore our 2023 BFCM Planner to unlock SMS message templates, a webinar to help you set your BFCM strategy, and more.
Consumers expect you to know them this holiday season. And the more attuned you are to their preferences and shopping habits, the more likely you’ll be to recruit them around key shopping moments like Black Friday and Cyber Monday—and gain their trust to make sure they keep coming back.
We sat down with our partners at Okendo, Simon Data, LoyaltyLion, and Evestar to talk about how you can maximize your success this holiday season. Their wide-ranging insights included advice around the northstar metric you should be keeping your eyes on, less obvious revenue drivers, and ways to continue conversations long after we tuck away the decorations.
Preparation is key: putting behavioral data into action
The holidays come at the end of the year, but it’s never too early to build the lists you’ll activate during that period. Lolita Petrossov, Founder and CEO of Evestar, recommends increasing ad spend in September and October to build awareness and drive traffic to your website. There, you can turn browsers into subscribers. Then, when Black Friday and Cyber Monday arrive, you’ll have already built a list of subscribers who you’re ready to message.
Customer data also supports building lists early in the year. As Kris Mobayeni, VP of Marketing at Simon Data, explains, “We recently did a study with eTail around how consumers expect to shop around the holidays. 41% of them reported that they’ve been researching products throughout the year. They’re waiting for that discount period to make their purchase.”
Use the behavioral data you've seen throughout the year—what people are interested in and what they've been shopping for—to help target messaging more effectively. This way you can not only provide a discount but contextualize it in a way that’s personalized for each customer’s journey.
Petrossov adds that structuring campaigns well ahead of time is a great way to prepare for the holiday shopping period: “We split them into four campaigns: Pre-Black Friday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then the Holidays.”
When it comes to planning each campaign, Petrossov recommends keeping it simple. “Many of the offers brands roll out are complicated… but consumers are expecting lots of deals, so the simpler, the better.”
Pro tip: Go where your customers are. Consumers already communicate through their phones, so personalized SMS campaigns are a great way to get their attention. Your welcome series is an opportunity to introduce new subscribers to your brand and show them what their experience will be like as your customer. It’s the first step to inspiring loyalty and retention.
Keeping track of the right KPIs
When we asked the experts about KPIs, their opinions were unanimous: the most important KPI to focus on around the holidays is lifetime value, or LTV. As Chris Burr, Senior Loyalty Advisor at LoyaltyLion, explains, LTV “gives you that overall picture of your long term financial viability. A high lifetime value indicates more brand loyalty and more recurring revenue.”
Other important KPIs to track are:
- Retention and repeat purchase rates, which can signal lead quality as well as engagement
- Average order value, which can increase profitability when it’s driven up
- Net Promoter Score (NPS), which provides a high-level view of customer satisfaction
- Revenue per user and contribution margin dollars per user, which can help you understand more about where your revenue is coming from and how you can drive it upwards
Reviews drive revenue, too
Rachel Tyers, SVP of Partnerships at Okendo, recommends always publishing a mix of reviews, both good and bad, to help drive trust in your brand. She adds that brands should respond publicly to any negative reviews that they’re publishing. This way, any prospective shoppers can see proof of a great customer experience.
Another important metric to track is order-to-review rates. Rachel recommends a minimum of 4.5% for this metric. Knowing where you stand on this front can help you decide how you might run a campaign to request future reviews.
Using first- and zero-party data to your advantage
First- and zero-party data should be complementary. First-party data gives your brand a foundation for your personalization strategy, while zero-party data offers new opportunities to deliver even more personalized experiences.
When acquiring new subscribers, collect customer attributes such as age range, color preferences, and lifestyle factors—anything that can help you segment and personalize more accurately.
Then, use this first-party data to engage with loyal customers via SMS. As Petrossov explains, “at Evestar, we segment our first-party data and create a VIP club where we roll out promotions to them earlier, speak to them differently, and reward them for shopping.”
As Burr adds, “Relevancy is the new currency for customers. People expect and demand that level of personalization. The more data that you build backing up that segmentation, the better off your marketing performance will be.”
Pro tip: Show them that you know them. Many people are shopping for a special someone, and it can be hard to find the perfect gift. Brands can step in to help out.
For example, some create a series of gift guides that speak to segments of their customer base, then use first-party data like browsing history to deliver the right gift guide to the right customer. Helping them find that perfect something is a great way to build loyalty and affinity with your customers.
Keeping up the conversation post-purchase
Keep in mind that most customers want to keep hearing from you, even after they’ve made their purchase. Kick off an enduring relationship with a post-purchase, one-to-one conversation. SMS is a great channel to connect in real time and meet customers in a place where it feels natural to message back and forth.
You can also use this period to add SMS to your review request sequences. As Petrossov notes, “We're seeing a dramatic increase in review generation when you interweave the email flow and SMS flow together. We’ve seen that when brands add SMS incentives to their review request strategy, they have a 29% increase in review generation.”
What happens when the holidays are over?
Many retailers and marketers dread the “holiday hangover” that falls after December 20th. But if you’ve planned your SMS campaigns right, there are lots of ways to keep sales from stagnating.
In fact, Simon Data recently found that 92% of consumers said that they were likely to continue shopping with the retailer that they discovered during the holiday season throughout the rest of the year.
Armed with this knowledge, think of ways you can create a unique experience for customers. Using data collected throughout the busy season, you can alert subscribers to exclusive collection drops or segmented sales.
For example, Dolce Vita kept their new SMS subscribers engaged after BFCM by running a series of surprise campaigns at the beginning of December revealing special offers daily.
The campaign was so successful that they used it again during the usually quiet period of December 20-26th. The results were even better than in early December, driving 39% more in revenue and 57% more in conversion than the pre-Christmas campaign.
A good holiday season sets you up for a great year
As our panel of experts emphasized, the holidays are one of the most valuable times to acquire new subscribers, get to know them well, and then tee up an ongoing relationship that'll serve you both well throughout the year.
Want more insights and tips for using SMS to drive customer loyalty and retention year-round? Download The SMS Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty and Retention, and be sure to explore our roundup of top 2022 holiday marketing resources.