Seven things to know about holiday shoppers

This infographic summarizes some of the findings of this reseach report.Everybody cares about the holiday shopping season. For retailers, it can account for as much as 30% of annual sales according to the National Retail Federation ("NRF"). For many individuals, it can be the best time to score great deals on presents for loved ones. For the overall economy, the impact of the holiday shopping season is estimated by the NRF to be $640 Billion, so its importance ripples far beyond the immediate receipts tabulated by retailers.

The start of the holiday shopping season is referred to as "Black Friday" in recognition of many retailers going "into the black" of profitability on the day after Thanksgiving. That important day inspired me to write a Thanksgiving rhyme about a study we conducted on holiday shoppers and their habits throughout the period. And with under a week before Christmas Day, we have less than seven days to appreciate seven things to know about holiday shoppers:

  1. One in five of us still has gifts to buy. Eighteen percent of holiday shoppers plan to buy gifts this week.
    Who are these shoppers? The younger crowd—with an average age of 40 compared to 47 among other shoppers. One-third of those buying this week are under 30. Read More »
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Black Friday lessons from both sides of the Atlantic

Black Friday is the fourth Friday in the month of November.Few of us can have missed the scenes of frantic shoppers searching for that ultimate bargain on Black Friday. This is something fairly new in the UK, having originated in the United States to refer to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. Legend has it that ‘black’ refers to the first day of the year that retailers operating on squeezed margins would go into profit, leaving the 'red' of loss and into ‘the black’. Black Friday really took off in the US around 2003 when it became the busiest shopping day of the year; and in the UK a few years later. And now Black Friday is followed by ‘Cyber Monday,’ when bargain hunters hit the net in search of the best deal.

In fact, according to The Guardian, Black Friday bargain hunters helped to lift UK retailers out of their usual November lull. Online spending went up by 37.5% from last year, while total retail sales were up 2.2% against same time in 2013.

Two new surveys shed light on the rapidly changing behaviour of consumers on both sides of the Atlantic:

Examining Christmas Shopping Patterns in the UK

The UK report with Conlumino looked at how effective discounting is, what factors affect forecasting, how relatively new phenomena such as widespread online retailing and ‘Black Friday’ are influencing behaviour? Read More »

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3 ways retailers are modernizing with analytics

You’re a retailer, it’s the holidays, data is flooding in from all points (if you’re lucky), and the last thing you want to hear from the higher-ups is that you need to “modernize.” And what do they actually mean when they say modernize anyway?

Well, modernizing doesn’t have to mean scrapping existing IT plans and projects and starting over. It can mean implementing organizational changes. It can mean fostering an analytics culture. And while it can mean adopting new analytics technologies – it can also mean taking small steps toward looking at your data in new ways. Don’t throw in the towel (or punch anyone in the face), instead take a look at how leading retailers Macy's, Chico's and eBay are using analytics to get big results:

Kerem Tomak, recent Vice President of Analytics for

Kerem Tomak

Macy’s ends one-size-fits-all email marketing

To more effectively measure and understand the impact of its online marketing initiatives on Macy's store sales, uses Hadoop as a data platform for SAS, resulting in an e-mail subscription churn reduction of 20 percent.

Initially, Kerem Tomak, who recently served as Vice President of Analytics for, was worried that segmenting customers and sending fewer, but more specific emails would reduce traffic to the website. “The general belief was that we had to blast everyone,’’ Tomak said. Today, emails are sent less frequently, but with more thought, and the retailer has increased customer insights, cross-sell and upsell effectiveness; productivity, revenue and customer satisfaction. [Read the full story here]

Chico’s integrates online and in-store data

Barb Brandon, Director of CRM – Enterprise Information Management at Chico’s

Barb Brandon

Online and in-store systems not “talking to each other” is an ongoing problem for retailers, but not for Chico’s. The women’s clothing retailer has a database that stores online shopping behavior and integrates it with the same shoppers purchasing behavior in-store. Read More »

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Are you kidding me, Facebook? Oh, you got it right.

The Big Data MOPS Series with Tamara Dull

In my last post, Where Do You Draw the Line Between Relevancy and Privacy, I talked about some of the plusses and minuses of behavioral online advertising as it pertains to personal (big data) privacy. Finding the balance between honoring people’s privacy while providing them with an interesting and relevant online experience is tricky, complicated, and an issue of context. What I may consider as a violation of my privacy, you may think nothing of—or what you may consider an invasion of your privacy, I may say, “Wow. That’s cool. And maybe a little creepy.”

And about those targeted online ads. We know marketers are working hard with advertising platforms, such as Google and Facebook, to make sure we’re seeing the “right” ad at the “right” time. Do they always get it right, though? Here’s an entertaining story about a colleague’s run-in with one of Facebook’s ads. You be the judge of who got it right.

The post and ad. Here’s what my colleague, Jeannette, posted on Facebook: Read More »

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Why the "art" of marketing still matters

There has been a lot of attention given in this blog and elsewhere to this idea of marketing becoming more "scientific." And for good reason - because it's actually happening. It's all about big data, digitization, the importance of search, the empowered (social) consumer, the Internet of Things, and how marketing analytics is enabling ever-important customer centricity.

All those developments have huge implications and it's helpful to explore them and find the right ways to capitalize on the opportunities.

Artfully conceived, scientifically executed.

Artfully conceived, scientifically executed.

At the same time, I think it's worth considering how the art of marketing continues to matter today, just as it made a difference in the past. This thought came to me as I participated in a group discussion just this week that included writer, speaker and strategy consultant Brian Vellmure.

One of Brian's points was that marketers today have to contend with unprecedented complexity in everything we do, to the point that all marketers share the impulse to want to be the master of our environments - particularly of the customer journey and the customer experience.

His point is that "mastery" in that regard is aspirational, considering how marketers actually have less control of the brand and the customer experience than we've had in the past. But there is great value in how we provide our customers with the ability to

Orchestrate each phase of the customer journey
so that the intended customer experience
is what actually happens.

Of course, the more complex the buying process, the harder that is to achieve. And that's when I had my epiphany about the art of marketing. Read More »

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When science gets ahead of art

I recently worked with a company (we’ll call them ABC, Inc.) on a customer segmentation strategy. This particular organization has a predefined set of marketing campaigns that they would send to all of their customers. There was no differentiation in the messaging or channel. Accurate targeting - like playing darts.

We created a number of predictive propensity models and teased out some really interesting segments in their customer population based on their likelihood to do something (buy more products, be more loyal, etc.). As in…people who are more likely to be more loyal are (1) over the age of 40, (2) female, and (3) live in an urban area. They also hate direct mail and love shopping on the Internet. You get the point.

In theory, now that I know who’s more likely to do something, I can target that population with more relevant messaging. Ta-da! I have a data-driven marketing strategy! Not so fast…

The NY Times recently posted an article about the trouble with too much segmentation and not enough creative in political campaigns: “The Big Data era of politics has left some campaigns drowning in their own sophisticated advances. They simply cannot produce enough new, effective messages to keep up with the surgical targeting that the data and analytics now allow.Read More »

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Which of these four types of marketer are you?

Which type of marketer are you?Eighty-four per cent of marketers now regard the rise of the digital native as overwhelmingly the most important (or a very important) factor affecting marketing plans. So while we welcome the digital generation we must also re-tool our mind and skill sets to the new marketing order. This though appears to be the biggest hurdle.

Skills shortages, lack of experience and budget constraints as a hangover of the recession continue to plague the digital marketing landscape. While we are certainly not short of data, the problem is that not enough marketers understand how to extract its true value, whether that is in customer loyalty or data monetisation.

Our research found that modern marketers were split into distinct factions when it came to their strategies, channels and skills. Each faction has something to bring to the table but do these marketers span the full spectrum of skills needed to help their businesses flourish in the digital revolution? Read on to see if you recognise yourself in our archetypes and explore whether you have the skills for the future.

#1: Multichannel Master

The Multichannel Master hasn't met a channel he doesn't like.A multichannel player at heart, these marketers concentrate on digital techniques but often look to use all of the major channels available, whether they are relevant or not. Multichannel Masters are in the majority, accounting for 45 per cent of the UK’s marketing population.

Typically, they work in large energy companies, banks and telecommunications giants. They often cite budget constraints as their biggest inhibitor, but this is mostly due to spreading their resources too thinly across numerous channels. In our survey we found that 4 out of 5 marketers utilise mobile, call centres, direct mail, live events, webinars, and social media channels in each campaign. Read More »

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Where do you draw the line between relevancy and privacy?

The Big Data MOPS Series with Tamara Dull

We have a love/hate relationship with ads. Whether they’re on television, in our favorite publications, or online, we love them if they’re relevant and interesting, or get annoyed when they get in the way of [insert whatever we’re doing]. I have to admit: I rarely watch a television show in real-time anymore. I’ll record a show, wait 20+ minutes, and “chase the show” with the recording—ad-free.

So what does this have to do with big data privacy, the “soapbox” I’ve been standing on for weeks? (Ha!) Well, some would have you believe that the big data privacy debate is all about online advertising—i.e., you get interesting, relevant ads in exchange for your personal information. If this what you believe, you’re sort of missing the point. Read on and see if you agree.

About online advertising. Do you remember September 3rd when Facebook had an 18-minute outage? Given that Facebook generates about $22,000 per minute, this means they lost almost $400K during that outage. This may sound like a drop in the bucket for them, but if you add in all the lost revenue from all the businesses who generate ad revenue on Facebook’s platform, a lot more than $400K was lost. Read More »

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We're being swindled by robots

For marketing analysts, one of the beautiful things about digital advertising is it’s “trackability.” Every interaction on the web generates a piece of data, so in theory, you know where and when your ad was seen, who clicked on it, and any subsequent conversion.

When paying for clicks, how many of them are from bots?But what if the online advertisements you were paying for weren’t getting to your target audience? Or what if robots were running rogue on the Internet and hijacking your impressions? Robots?? Bots – software that performs automated tasks - and Botnets – basically robot code that coordinates with other bots across a network – are bad news for consumers and advertisers.

The bad bots generate false impressions and clicks. Really bad bots can create phony user profiles and enter information into web form fields (anyone who has a blog and doesn’t turn on their spam filter will know what we’re talking about). They infect our computers. They redirect traffic to phony sites allowing the bad guys to falsely collect advertising payments through middlemen.

The “Chameleon” botnet discovered by in 2013 had infected 120,000 host machines and was emulating human visitors on certain websites, resulting in the display of billions of ad impressions. Read More »

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No happy holiday for hackers: Five steps retailers must take to beef up cybersecurity

Binary Lock2014 was a rude wakeup call for retailers: In January, Target announced an additional 70 million individuals’ contact information was taken during the December 2013 breach. In September, Home Depot announced that cyber criminals had compromised the credit card information of roughly 56 million shoppers.

Neiman Marcus, Kmart, AT&T, Michaels and eBay all suffered cyber attacks this year that compromised the personal information of millions. Flagging consumer confidence was not helped by FBI Director James Comey recent statement:

“There are two kinds of big companies in the United States …
those who’ve been hacked …
and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked.”1

So it's no surprise that nearly half of US credit card holders are saying they’ll avoid shopping at stores that have been hacked (according to a survey by Going into the holidays, what can retailers do to beef up cybersecurity and regain consumer trust? Start with these five steps from cybersecurity expert Ray Boisvert: Read More »

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