Retail

The Changing Holiday Shopper

Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping

The one-time shopper is the bane of the eCommerce merchant’s existence. They come, they shop, they even convert — only to disappear into the digital ether, never to be heard from again.

That troublesome here-and-gone customer is a particularly problematic resident of the holiday shopping season. Customers, drawn by discounts, deals and interesting seasonal merchandise come and shop, but don’t quite manage to incorporate new retailers into their regular flow of commerce. As holiday shopping is increasingly heading online, that loss is more acutely felt across the retail spectrum.

Optimove CEO Pini Yakuel believes this is a problem that eTailers can — and should — address.

“What we do is help brands foster better relationships with their customers by offering up optimal communications at scale,” Yakuel explained in an interview with PYMNTS.

Consumers in the course of their shopping experience create a lot of data, and brands who know how to read that data (or at least know enough to ask Optimove to read it for them) are then able to use it to reach out and speak to the right customers in the right way at the right time. Some of those outreach paths are familiar — social and email channels for example — but how Optimove uses them is a bit different.  They determine if an online shopper is a new customer or a customer who is returning after a long period of time way — which is actually an important distinction to make, Yakuel said.

“Some of our more sophisticated campaigns are built around identifying predicted VIPs. We can predict from the way they shop, how they buy and [what] their browsing habits are if a customer is going to be a VIP early on — before they actually are one. We make it easier to both reach out to those customers early — and upgrade their status faster — and also keep them from churning.”

It’s a program for a “smart marketing team,” Yakuel said — one that customers have probably passively experienced on any number of eCommerce hubs like Glossier, 1800Flower and AdoreMe (to name a few). And it’s a need that’s growing — particularly this season, as digital takes over.

“You want customers, and you acquire them once at great cost, [so] you want to be sure that once you’ve gotten them, you actually want to keep them coming back,” the CEO explained.

 

Digital Commerce from a Data Standpoint

The one-time shopper is a holiday feature as regular as wreaths and glittering lights, Yakuel said, particularly when one looks at the conversion numbers.

“Typically, companies acquire a lot more one-timers during the holiday month when you compare it to the rest of the year. Like 50 percent more. These people are obviously attracted by the discounts and other benefits,” he said.

The festive one-timer is, in fact, less sticky than others picked up throughout the rest of the year. When Optimove looked at its data for the post-holiday season, they saw that shoppers who popped up once in December often didn’t check back in during the new year, whereas one-timers from other times of the year checked back in at least once after that initial purchase.

The digital shopping push, Yakuel noted, is strong and increasingly less tethered to the idea that shopping online costs less.

“We saw retailers were giving fewer discounts this year than in previous years. Discounts were actually down 10 percent during the Black Friday shopping weekend.” Yakuel said. “But consumer shopping was on the upswing. The average shopper, in terms of total items picked up, actually purchased 6 percent more.”

Moreover, he noted, the numbers from this season indicate that retailers are catching on to the idea that the secret of marketing is not necessarily continually attracting new (but churning customers) but is instead to activate and enhance their relationship with already existing customers.

“What we saw this Black Friday is that one-time customers, who are still spiking at this time of year, were actually a smaller share of traffic” on sites that Optimove works with — with the proportion of shoppers defined as “one-timers” down by 18 percent.

And for the customers who returned to shop in 2017 versus those in 2016, the average dollar value Optimove was tracking per order was up a full 9 percent.

 

How to Focus for Christmas

For Optimove, Yakuel said, the best way for retailers to unlock the holiday sales magic is to look at their existing customer base.

“You have all these amazing deals and discounts; why not show them to your existing customers first before you make that big push to acquire new customers with them? Yes, you can bring new traffic through the door and let people try you out for the first time. But historically, the new customer doesn’t offer the retailer the same range of motion the returning customer does,” he said.

In a retail era dominated by the idea of personalizing the customer experience, Yakuel noted, it is the returning consumer the retailer has a better chance making that tailored offering to — because the retailer already has the benefit of knowing something about them from their past interactions.

Which isn’t to say that one-timers won’t come or that they shouldn’t be welcomed.  They should be, he argued, but that welcome shouldn’t just be about the conversion that day, but instead about gathering the right data on them to help make sure they don’t stay at a one-timer.

“This is about also building the right plan to reach out to them, once the holiday season is over,” Yakuel said.

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