It’s that time of the year again – Christmas is fast approaching and the much anticipated Christmas ads are landing on our screens.

Major brands are fighting for centre stage and people are keen to know what characters, stories, and music will star in this season’s advertising hits. Behind the scenes, these cultural highlights share a valuable business lesson.

Famous for their emotion, they are an important reminder for businesses that customer engagement must tap into the thoughts and feelings of consumers. Yet, how can all brands embrace this approach? Thanks to the business practice of experimentation, brands of all sizes can use real-time customer data to determine the right type of customer engagement for Christmas this year. 

Making a mark 

What makes Christmas ads so successful? The answer is the oldest trick in the marketer’s rulebook – these ads engage customers and make them feel special. With online retail at an all-time high, as e-commerce sales are expected to reach $4.2 trillion at the end of 2020, driving customer engagement needs be at the very top of a brand’s agenda as consumers can explore a plethora of brands at the click of a button.

In fact, recent research suggests a staggering 75 percent of consumers have tried new brands, places to shop, or methods of shopping over the past six months as COVID-19 forced many to look online. From a website requiring customers to re-enter their information multiple times, being marketed irrelevant products, or simply encountering a non-intuitive website that has errors, these basic mistakes will cost brands a lot of customer interest online. First impressions are crucial if brands are to grab and maintain customer attention. 

Enter experimentation 

Experimentation is here to help. Brands can do small- scale testing on different variants of the digital customer experience to glean real-time user insights that enable them to bake personalised experiences into the customer journey. This can increase engagement and make them feel as special as a Christmas ad does. 

It’s very hard (and expensive) to sit down with consumers and ask them straight out what it is they want in their digital experiences, especially when that can change often. However, businesses have got access to the next best thing – their data – which can tell them all about their customers’ preferences and behaviours.

Brands can use data from across customer touchpoints to better understand behaviours and preferences, from the first interaction through to the point of return. These insights can help a brand bring the customer to life and shed light on customer shopping behaviour patterns and trends that help inform more tailored experiences. Fundamentally, these insights can also help brands determine the functionality of their website to see how well it works for its users. 

For example, if a customer engages with a brand’s ad on social media and clicks through to the brand’s website, they want to ensure the user goes straight to the specific page of the products featured in the initial ad on social media, not just the general homepage. This will help the customer find out more information about the products they are actually interested in and help move the prospect through the funnel.

Experimentation enables brands to test personalised experiences to an audience on a small scale first, before scaling personalisation in a larger rollout. Taking this approach lets brands put a number behind their decisions too. For instance, a brand could test whether a quick click to buy button, or an online queueing system, works better for retention rates at the point of sale during busy periods. By experimenting with these frontend feature changes to a select amount of users, it would allow them to see, in real-time, whether or not customers react positively or negatively to these changes or additions. This means the brand can base its decision on real results, rather than just taking a gamble. 

Experimentation is not just for Christmas 

Fingers crossed that this time next year Christmas will feel a little more familiar and there will be more than just Christmas ads to look forward to. Yet, if 2020 has taught brands anything, it’s that knowing your customer is critical to engaging them and winning their hearts and minds.

In today’s age of online retail, experimentation is a keystone to customer engagement and an essential tool as brands look to personalise experiences and remain in their customer’s good books this holiday season and beyond. 

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