Retailers have to figure out how to meet consumers’ expectations, says Mike Zhadkevich, director, customer success and consulting at Monetate.

The holiday shopping season starts long before November for online retailers. If merchants don’t start preparing their peak season strategies early, they risk losing out to the competition. To learn how to build winning strategies for the 2019 holiday shopping season, Internet Retailer spoke with Mike Zhadkevich, director, customer success and consulting at Monetate, a personalization platform.

IR: What are important lessons retailers have learned from past holiday shopping seasons?

Mike Zhadkevich, director, customer success and consulting at Monetate, a personalization platform

MZ: The stakes are higher, but the fundamentals don’t change. A frictionless customer experience is vital to a successful holiday campaign, and personalization across the full customer journey works. In fact, recent Monetate research has found conversion and add-to-cart rates surge after the second personalized page view.

IR: What personalization trends will emerge this season?

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MZ: Retailers should use the holiday season to convey their best-in-class service. Delivering that type of experience takes planning, which is why many retailers prepare well in advance of the holiday season to determine how best to leverage data, simplify their site and app navigation, break down internal silos to deliver unified messaging and build templated experiences that enable them to easily display the most relevant content. Also, the importance of gift cards, in-store pickup and other omnichannel solutions can’t be overstated—especially past shipping deadlines. To deliver on those offerings, retailers should use location-based personalization to ensure they’re not promoting retail locations or regional offers to shoppers who aren’t located near one of their stores.

Additionally, the holiday shopping season brings an influx of new customers to retailers’ sites and apps. Most retailers know very little about those shoppers. But now Monetate and others offer technology that allows marketers to identify new customers and leverage their behavior across the web to create personalized, memorable experiences that help convert window shoppers into satisfied customers.

IR: What challenges do retailers face this holiday shopping season?

MZ: Retailers have to figure out how to meet consumers’ expectations. Amazon regularly delivers seamless experiences with relevant product recommendations, one-click ordering and one-day delivery. Retailers need a clear point of view to distinguish themselves from Amazon. There are plenty of areas to own—offer an immersive brand experience, curated content, and a memorable purchase journey. Do everything in your power to make sure consumers are seeing something relevant and exciting.

IR: What attributes make up a successful holiday readiness strategy for retailers?

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MZ: The most successful retailers spend the months leading up to the holidays testing their holiday programs from a user-experience perspective, ensuring that all the pipes are connected so that they can leverage their customer data to serve personalized experiences, and building templated experiences that enable them to swap out content with ease.

IR: How should they go about executing that strategy?

MZ: Retailers should focus on enriching their data both in terms of breadth—to enable them to identify more customers—and depth—to enable them to leverage deeper insights about each shopper. They should build out the templates for the experiences they want to run in advance so their teams can react to the inevitable surprises the holiday season brings. And they should understand that messages that convey a sense of urgency or feature a promotion work—but they should supplement a smooth and seamless navigation.

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