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How Marketers Can Avoid the Ghost of Black Fridays Past

Ebenezer Scrooge clung to his old, wealth-accruing ways until his Christmas Eve revelation set him on a better path. Will marketers who are planning to repeat the old ways that brought them success over previous holiday seasons have a similar revelation?

If their goal is to win new business, build customer trust, and strengthen brand loyalty, let’s hope they do, and it should start with their 2018 holiday promotional strategies.

Let’s explore the past, present and future of Black Friday engagements to show what you can do differently to make sure these last weeks of 2018 are a success – for both you and your customers.

The Ghost of Holiday E-Blasts Past

In my dream, the ghost and I arrive in the office of my old email marketing firm.

It was a cool November morning on the fourth floor of what used to be a car manufacturing facility. I sipped a steaming cup of earl grey tea as I entered the large conference room lit by overhead halogen lights. The product, R&D and operations teams were meeting. Our goal: to game plan for the one billion marketing emails we would be sending on behalf of our customers targeting Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers.

Conversation started. Whiteboards filled with capacity models, redundancy charts and expected costs. Then, Jack, the R&D team member most likely to crack jokes, said: “Someone should tell QA to turn their test plans to 11 (This is Spinal Tap – anyone?) for the unsubscribe button.” Chuckling, the Operations Manager said, “Right? It’s not Black Friday. It’s more like National Unsubscribe Day.”

We all had a good laugh… and then got back to work planning our billion-message send-out.

I cringed as I watched my younger self laugh with the rest.

Next thing I know, I’m back in bed, sitting straight up – the laughter still echoing in my mind.

The Ghost of Marketing’s Present Day

Dickensian embellishments aside, the meeting, joke and laughter really did happen at my old firm a few years ago. Back then, many email marketers still had the “batch and blast” philosophy. They were casting the widest nets possible ahead of Black Friday and hoping even a small uptick in open and click-through rates would result in more sales.

When I think about it now, gauging the customer’s interest in receiving these emails ranked too low on our priority list. In our mad rush to satisfy our clients’ ambitious holiday season sales goals, we were actually betraying their customers’ trust left and right.

Fast forward to today, and marketers tap a much wider arsenal of communication channels to drive holiday promotions. These include: text messages, app notifications, push alerts, in-store kiosk messages, and the list goes on.

But, the question is, just because they can use these myriad options, should they?

In a world filled with deafening digital noise as competitors vie for the attention of consumers, it’s really the customer that should be in control of the relationship, not the brand. Here are the three key aspects of control you, as a marketer, should consider to regain the trust of wary holiday shoppers:

  1. Customers should understand – without ambiguity – what personal data is being collected from them and processed by your brand.
  2. Engagements across channels need to be based on the customer’s explicit consent and preference choices. This includes the frequency with which they receive messages and the type of communications sent (promotions, newsletters, service reminders, cart reminders, and so on.)
  3. Customers should be able to update their consent settings and preferences on their terms, and then have those adjustments enforced in real time.

It’s easier said than done, I know, but not having the ability to provide this level of control to customers is fast becoming a non-starter across industries – including the formerly wild west-like world of seasonal retail.

Let’s look at an example from that particular world.

Turning the Tables on the Ghost of Black Friday’s Future

Sherry loves camping. She frequents a large outdoor sporting chain throughout the year for all her camping needs, taking advantage of the store near her house and the chain’s mobile application.

One day in October, she’s shopping on the store’s web site and adds a new backpack to her shopping cart. Before she’s able to complete the purchase, though, she gets pulled away on family business before she has a chance to complete her purchase.

A few weeks later, she opens the store’s app to browse available items for an upcoming hike. She receives a notification asking for her consent to a new terms of service agreement. After doing so, the app also asks her if she’d like to receive SMS cart abandonment reminders on her mobile phone. Not wanting to be caught on a camping trip without the proper gear, she agrees to receive these messages whenever appropriate.

The next day, she receives a text that shows a picture of the backpack she’d forgotten to purchase. She learns it’s now available at 30% off as part of the store’s Black Friday sale. Delighted, she clicks on the image, which takes her directly to her cart. She buys one for herself and adds another for a friend who loves camping as much as she does.

From a technology standpoint, the store’s digital ecosystem worked in perfect harmony. At a functional level, the mobile app captured Sherry’s consent to receive cart abandonment messages. This agreement was then synchronized in real time with the brand’s e-commerce solution and marketing execution system to provide an effective and perfectly-timed reminder. At a megatrend level, the omni-channel experience combined with transparency and respect for consumer privacy to strengthen Sherry’s trust in the brand.

No More “Humbug” from Customers: Build Trust During the Holidays and Watch it Pay Off All Year Long

As a marketer, it’s tempting to launch everything you have (including the kitchen sink) at customers this time of year. For example: Cyber Monday has the highest email send volume of any day of the year. Yet, giving in to this temptation has often led to overkill that yields the opposite of the desired effect.

Instead of rattling chains and breaking customer trust like the ghosts of Black Fridays past, marketers have the opportunity to build trusted, year-round relationships based on transparency and customer control of personal data this year. If they do, there won’t be much to bah-humbug about when the quarterly results roll in.

To learn more about how enforcing customers’ consent and preferences across your enterprise can lead to lifetime loyalty, sign up for our upcoming SAP Customer Data Cloud virtual demo.

By Ratul Shah

Gigya has updated its Privacy Policy as Gigya, Inc. has been acquired by SAP America, Inc. and Gigya has updated the information regarding how we collect and use your Personal Data. You can see the updated Privacy Policy here.