Behavioral marketing enables retailers to identify holiday customers across channels and devices, send highly relevant messages to customers in real time based on previous and predicted behaviors, and deliver on their needs so that they shop your brand again and again.

Michael Osborne, president & CEO, SmarterHQ

Michael Osborne, president & CEO, SmarterHQ

The holidays should be a very merry one for retailers, with an estimated $1.1 trillion in holiday retail sales up for grabs in 2018 (per Deloitte). But as marketers, we know the real challenge of the season is capturing customer attention in an overcrowded market that is dominated by Amazon—which is projected to capture 40% of this year’s online holiday sales, according to NetElixir—while convincing shoppers to purchase with you over the competition and giving them a solid reason to stick around in 2019.

Sounds like a lot to handle, but before sweating about whether you’ll hit your holiday goals this season, make a list and check it twice (couldn’t resist) to ensure you’re leveraging the right strategies and getting the most out of this critical time for you and your customers.

While many will deploy various strategies to reach their customer base, behavioral marketing should be the focus for every marketer’s strategy. It gives you the ability to identify holiday customers across channels and devices, send highly relevant messages to those customers in real-time based on previous and predicted behaviors, and deliver on their needs so well to the point that they shop your brand again and again.

The holidays are chaotic, but they don’t have to be unpredictable.

I’ve worked with many retailers over the years and one common strategy that helps define a winning holiday season from a lackluster one is behavioral marketing. Here are the behavioral marketing strategies every retailer should take advantage of this season:


1. Successfully collect and segment new customer traffic.

If your efforts leading up to the holidays go as planned, you’ll have an influx of new shoppers on your site through January. Use behavioral marketing technology (more specifically, identity resolution) to identify and track up to 60% more visitors than you would be able to otherwise.

Also, retain first-time visitors and grow your opt-in list with email modal pop-ups that are triggered when these visitors exit your website or as they enter specific pages. Just be sure to suppress pop-ups for visitors who have already signed up for emails—or risk frustrating current subscribers. Once you capture a new visitor’s email address, follow up with a targeted welcome series based on their most recent actions on your site and where they came from.

2. Send smarter cart abandonment campaigns.


Abandonment emails might be something you’re already doing, but have you fully optimized them for the holidays? For starters, adjust creative to reflect your key holiday messaging, include CTAs [calls to action] that persuade customers to complete their purchase, and reinforce promotions and products that are most relevant to the shopper. Most importantly: During a season when shoppers are highly distracted and stressed, don’t wait to send the emails next-day—deliver to their inbox within just a few hours after their visit.

3. Turn browsers into buyers with real-time personalization.

As Cyber Week looms, so does the sheer number of shoppers who are doing hefty research to find the perfect gift—and the perfect deal. They’re comparing prices across sites, scouring holiday guides for inspiration, and some might just be waiting for the right time to buy based on paychecks, etc. Sending browse abandonment emails will give them the tunnel vision they need to continue down the path to purchase. Turn browsers into buyers, and combat price shopping elsewhere, by sending these reminders almost immediately, and include products or categories they heavily browsed or product recommendations and top sellers based on their past or predicted browse behavior.


4. Reactivate shoppers with relevant alerts, sales, and incentives.

While the holidays hold promise for acquisition, they’re also the perfect time to bring recently engaged and disengaging shoppers back to your site. Customers might be holding out for the best deal, or holiday demand might make certain products or sizes out of stock. Price drops and back-in-stock alerts attract seasonal shoppers with the products they’re more likely to purchase. In addition, targeted sales series and VIP offers to your more loyal customers will help your holiday promos stand out from the typical batch-and-blast, and free gifts will give buyers who haven’t purchased lately a reason to re-engage.

5. Encourage self-gifting and post-holiday engagement.

Plenty of shoppers take advantage of steep holiday deals for themselves. Pay attention to the price points and gift guide categories customers select on your site to better understand if they’re checking off someone else’s wish list or their own. Then, send emails with messaging that makes them feel no shame in self-splurging, and suggest their very own “gift guide” of products based on other items browsed or purchased. Drive customers to convert again post-holiday with a discount on their next order using multiple campaign drips to remind them that the offer is nearing expiration. Want to further pique their interest? Feature product recommendations based on past purchases.


The holidays are chaotic, but they don’t have to be unpredictable. Take advantage of customer data insights to drive the right behavioral marketing messages to shoppers this season, and you’ll deliver on the results you want to see now and well into the new year.

SmarterHQ provides a multichannel behavioral marketing platform for retailers and consumer brands.