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Customer Journey Optimization for Holiday Shopping: Dash Through the Snow AND the Christmas Clutter

By: Ted Rogers
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The past two holiday seasons have been unprecedented for ecommerce brands. And the way 2022 has progressed, it looks to be another whirlwind of a holiday season this year, especially with the growing threat of an economic recession top of mind for many shoppers as they tick off their gift lists.

Already, 38% of US adults say they plan to spend less this holiday season, according to Digital River’s own internal research. Buying behaviors have also started to change as the pandemic winds down, creating new challenges for brands. For example, shopping in physical stores is increasing, while ecommerce shopping is declining a bit – to the surprise of many. Add it all up, and it’s clear brands need to step up their game and optimize the customer journey for holiday shopping to successfully attract hesitant shoppers and deliver experiences that increase trust and retention.

Here are some ways brands can enhance marketing and customer engagement strategies to improve the customer journey this holiday season.

Understand how and where customers prefer to shop

Recent consumer research from Astound Commerce finds that consumers prefer different channels depending on certain gift-shopping activities. On average, global shoppers prefer the appeal of the physical store for inspiration, making purchases, and connecting with customer service. Shopping via mobile is most desired for research and engagement purposes. Regardless of the channel, brands must identify critical user experience pain points unique to the specific purchase journey. This will decrease cart abandonment and fuel engagement regardless of where the customer is buying from.

Close gaps for a seamless omnichannel experience

Similarly, global shoppers have grown to embrace omnichannel shopping. Astound’s findings revealed that one-third of consumers expect to do a mix of online and in-store shopping for holiday gifts this year. Given this, shoppers expect consistency across physical and digital channels in all aspects, including price and brand experience. When consistency is not present, shoppers feel a disconnect. Brands must be ready to justify and compensate for channel “gaps” or risk dissatisfied customers.

Make their journey with your brand meaningful

Sustainability. Geopolitical concerns. Diversity and inclusion. There’s no shortage of social causes to stand up for, and for socially conscious consumers, how they engage in commerce is increasingly a reflection of their values. Brands can no longer stay silent on critical societal issues as consumers reward brands whose values align with their own, and punish those that oppose them. While you may create some dissatisfied shoppers who don’t agree with your stance, you’ll also establish loyal, life-long customers as a result.

Tailor communications for all age groups

One new opportunity for ecommerce brands that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic was the influx of older shoppers engaging in online shopping. Baby boomers and others represent a new and wealthy audience for ecommerce retailers to court, with 47% increasing their digital spending since the beginning of the pandemic. Now is a great time to build new relationships through promotions and loyalty programs. Make sure marketing communications are tailored to this audience who value trust and credibility. It may also be wise to update marketing, creative and digital assets with photos of people who reflect this new customer base and create stronger connections.

Update promotional calendars to increase conversions

Holiday promotions have always been important for retailers, but getting the offer and the timing right is more important than ever, given budget-conscious customers who will be looking to maximize value during the current economic condition. Holiday shopping has been starting earlier and earlier over the past several years, and experts predict this trend to continue as more customers look to take advantage of discounts proactively. Marketing and promotions personnel must align on calendar dates and strategies to maximize the impact of special offers.

It’s also critical for cross-border brands to review promotional calendars in every market where they operate, to ensure they align with local customs. For example, Singles’ Day is Nov. 11 and while it hasn’t caught on much in the U.S., it is widely observed in China and other geographies. In 2020, Alibaba alone raked in an estimated $74 billion in sales on Singles’ Day. Localizing promotions will ultimately help increase conversions while making the brand more relatable to local customers.

Utilize new technology to create new experiences

Meeting customers where they are is another way to optimize the customer journey. This means engaging with them on their preferred platforms, which are increasingly social. Brands should consider incorporating social buying into marketing strategies to reach key audiences. This includes creating new opportunities in the metaverse as adoption of the technology grows. While growth in this space has been slow, enterprising brands may be able to win over customers and establish loyalty by getting in on the ground floor of new digital ecosystems.

Brands should also consider expanding their use of AI technology to augment marketing strategies. For companies already using advanced systems, more than 80% of IT professionals in marketing and sales say AI helped reduce costs, with 27% of those reporting a decrease of 20% or more, according to a survey by McKinsey & Company.

Chart a course to holiday shopping success

Santa has experienced reindeer to reliably get him from house to house on his journey around the globe. But brands have to make special efforts to facilitate an easy and positive buyer’s journey for new and returning customers. By updating marketing, promotions, and customer engagement strategies for today’s challenges, ecommerce retailers can chart a path to success and achieve target outcomes this holiday season.


Check out the full findings of Astound’s recent consumer behavior survey in their new report: What Consumers Want: How Your Brand Must Prepare for Peak Season 2022 and Beyond.

Connect with Digital River to learn more about how our global seller services help brands streamline and optimize payments, taxes, fraud, compliance, and logistics so you can focus on delivering the best experiences to your customers.