Not so Secret Santa: Using customer data to make it a Merry Christmas for all


small, wrapped gift on door stepI love Christmas, but there is one thing I never seem to get right: the office Secret Santa. Every year I draw someone I’ve barely met and fruitlessly dig around for clues – only to find myself hastily wrapping a scented candle/novelty mug at the eleventh hour. Merry Christmas Sandra in accounts!

Now that’s okay for Secret Santa, but it’s not an option for retailers, who need to know exactly what consumers want. Not only that, but they also need to know which channel they want to buy it on and at what price – so they can tailor promotions and get stock to where it needs to be in time for Christmas.

Consumers expectations for online shopping

As a recent SAS/Conlumino report shows, the rise of the omni-channel shopper makes this more challenging than ever before. More than half (57 percent) of consumers plan to shop around online for the lowest price once they’ve picked their gifts, with 55 percent planning to use click & collect for some of their Christmas shopping. And 79 percent want the option of returning online purchases to a physical store. So how can retailers get a sneak preview of consumers’ shopping lists to make sure they can grant everyone’s Christmas wishes?

Fortunately, consumers are writing their Christmas lists all year round. Everything from sales transactions to browsing habits and social media posts are constantly giving retailers clues about what consumers want and at what price. Some progressive retailers are combining this data with external sources – such as weather reports, economic data or competitor activity – and using analytics to produce accurate forecasts and design effective seasonal promotions.

Old fashioned retail analytics

However, many retailers are choosing the finger-in-the-air, "scented candle route" to understanding what consumers want this Christmas. For example, 47 percent of retailers still use manual calculations to measure the impact of different factors on Christmas demand, while 44 percent use gut feel to forecast demand for new products. And, despite two thirds of consumers saying that year-round offers lessen the appeal of seasonal promotions, only 23 percent of retailers plan to reduce their investment in promotions this Christmas.

The result? Our survey found that retailers are more optimistic about consumer spending this Christmas than consumers are themselves. Yet this misplaced optimism can be avoided. The technology is easily available to turn consumer data into knowledge about what consumers want and – most importantly – how to give it to them on their terms.

Modern retail analytics


Analytics enable retailers to quickly analyse all their data to produce accurate forecasts, design effective promotions, and gain an up-to-date view of the supply chain. For example, by automating analytics, retailers can:

  • Forecast sales and returns by channel or store location.
  • Personalise and regionalise promotions to keep them relevant and engaging, in line with changing factors such as the weather, sales spikes, or competitor activity.
  • Move from gut feel to accurate predictions about demand for new products.

Dear Santa: What do consumers really want under their trees this Christmas? Download our full report and infographic here. Or visit us online to learn how SAS® Retail Analytics can turn the Secret Santa fear into a Merry Christmas for one and all. Including Sandra in accounts.


About Author

Cindy Etsell

Principal Marketing Specialist

Cindy joined SAS UK in 2010 as a Retail Consultant. Her focus is to help build and drive SAS UK’s retail business, with responsibilities that include increasing the awareness of SAS to potential retail customers, liaising with existing customers to ensure satisfaction and speaking on behalf of the company at key industry events. Her knowledge and skills enable her to quickly address customer challenges within a specified budget and timeframe, ensuring positive outcome for SAS and its retail customers. Cindy brings a vast amount of experience to SAS. She started her career as a sales associate with Canadian retailer T. Eaton Company where she worked her way up to section head learning the trade and complexities involved in running a successful retail business. Since then, she has held roles in a number of major organisations, including Hewlett-Packard, SAP UK, and most recently Cisco which she joined in 2006 as industry business development manager for retail.

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