CRM is just as important as big TV ads at Christmas

Marketers often devote their attention at Christmas to big TV campaigns and eye-catching retail promotions, but ensuring existing customers are as engaged as possible in the winter months is just as crucial to a profitable festive period.

Retailer Joules carries a range of offers to entice new customers.
Retailer Joules targets customers with emails focusing on categories they have bought from

Christmas marketing is often associated with glitzy advertising campaigns, in-store displays and festive product offers. Although all those elements often enter the mix, Christmas is also a time for customer relationship management (CRM) specialists to play a big role by targeting customers and driving promotions through data.

Fashion and lifestyle retailer Joules uses a range of offers to attract new customers and encourage people to buy gifts in the lead up to Christmas. Last week, the brand launched its annual ‘Nearest and Dearest’ flash sale. Although the campaign does not directly promote Christmas, it serves the purpose of expanding Joules’ customer database ahead of the busy festive shopping period.

“It is almost like our introduction to Christmas,” explains CRM manager Dimple Shergill. “Our customers have come to look forward to the Nearest and Dearest event, and it’s the perfect lead-in to our Christmas campaign.”

READ MORE: How CRM is becoming the ‘new advertising’

Joules uses Oracle Marketing Cloud to run its CRM campaigns. This includes sending out different welcome emails to new customers according to the category they have bought from, such as womenswear, menswear and baby clothes. The creative within these emails changes during the Christmas period to promote Joules as a gifting destination and this is reflected in messaging presented on the brand’s website when recipients click through.

Segmentation is key to success

Furthermore, customers who sign up to receive Joules’ catalogue in the post are presented with the same Christmas offers online that they would see in the print product. “We look to complement offline with online activity,” says Shergill. “Segmentation is key to being successful, so we look at our customer data to help identify our various customer subsets that are email-engaged, and those that are less engaged, and tailor the communications accordingly.”

Joules is developing its CRM programmes with the aim of creating a single customer view. This includes targeting specific offers at customers by looking at how frequently they engage with promotions, as well as the other product categories they may be interested in buying from.

Joules is also looking to use its personalisation tools to phase out discount codes in favour of adding them directly to the customer basket online. Shergill notes that this helps to make the customer journey easier, as well as ensuring that the relevant promotion goes to the right customer.

“We have myriad offers out at any one time, so we try to ensure that the customer only sees the right offer for them,” she says.

Predicting behaviour

Salesforce’s annual conference Dreamforce, which took place in San Francisco last month, highlighted a number of new trends in CRM, such as the growing role of artificial intelligence (AI) within CRM systems. Salesforce used the event to unveil its ‘Einstein’ product, which has predictive capabilities and looks to bring AI technology to brand campaigns.

The tool is powered by machine learning and promises to get smarter with every customer interaction, allowing it to predict future behaviour and recommend next actions. However, AI remains a work in progress and it is too early to say how brands will apply the technology. Upon launching Einstein, Salesforce stated that it would set up a research group focused on the future of AI under the leadership of its chief scientist Dr Richard Socher.

The chapar
Men’s styling service The Chapar is targeting women so they choose the company as a Christmas gifting option

Even without the addition of AI, certain brands are approaching their CRM strategies with a view to being more predictive about future behaviour this Christmas. Men’s styling service The Chapar is targeting women – rather than its male usual target market – in anticipation that wives, girlfriends and female relatives will choose the company as a potential Christmas gifting option.

The Chapar, which selects and sends trunks of premium clothes to its customers, is planning to advertise its services to women in the lead-up to Christmas, including its option of a gift card. It plans to feed the customer data from these target female customers into its Salesforce CRM platform and send gift-related messaging in the final days of the Christmas shopping period.

“We will be launching a series of campaigns in the run up to Christmas Day,” says Sam Middleton, founder and CEO of The Chapar. “We have learnt over the years that some women are actually as bad as men in terms of being last-minute present buyers. With that in mind we see gift cards as being a great business opportunity as it brings new members in as loyal customers.”

Don’t forget existing customers

Other brands are focused on targeting existing customers and driving reorders for Christmas. Buyagift, which specialises in gift ideas and experience days, states that it is “targeting customers dynamically” using the RFM model of segmentation, which involves looking at how recently a customer purchased, how frequently they purchased and the monetary value of that customer.

The company also looks at the product categories in which customers have frequently bought or browsed to drive its retargeting activity at Christmas. Head of customer retention Leanne Harrison says that partly as a consequence of Buyagift’s “reactivation activity” this year, its active customer database is already 39% higher than it was in the run-up to Christmas in 2015.

“We are implementing some test and insight programmes in order to understand what customers react best to to ensure we’re focusing on the right timing, targeting and messaging so that we are fully prepared for peak,” adds Harrison.

As brands seek to build a responsive, predictive CRM campaign that will drive sales this Christmas, marketers must similarly ensure they do not neglect existing customers in the search for new ones.

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