What Marketers Can Learn From Black Friday’s Big Data

By Deena M. Amato-McCoy

mid black fridayIndustry pundits may have predicted lofty holiday sales increases, but weak in-store Black Friday weekend results are putting the pressure on retail marketers to be more strategic this holiday season.

Rather than rely on deep discounts, marketers are analyzing Big Data collected during the highly anticipated Black Friday shopping weekend to fine-tune remaining holiday marketing campaigns.

Thanks to particularly strong e-Commerce sales throughout Black Friday weekend, there is an abundance of Big Data available at marketers’ fingertips. Online sales soared 32% on Thanksgiving Day compared to last year, and increased 26% on Black Friday versus 2013, according to comScore. Mobile-generated sales accounted for 28.9% of all online sales Thanksgiving weekend, compared to 24.9% last year, according to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

When mined correctly, “this Big Data can cause a dramatic marketing shift,” said Jay Henderson, director of Smarter Commerce, IBM. “Historically, marketing campaigns took approximately a year to plan, and then were executed [on Black Friday]. By mining this digital data, marketers gain real-time feedback about holiday promotions performance.”

Armed with digital dashboards, marketers can more easily monitor promotional and sales progress, which helps them determine how to best adjust product movement, and inventory and sales levels. Graphics illustrate how internal results align with competitors’ performance, as well as how promotions are impacting available inventory levels.

Graphical presentations of data also reveal sales among specific customer segments, geo-fencing promotions and merchandising categories, which are “all factors that can give insight into whether specific campaigns are delivering positive or negative results,” Henderson said.

For marketers looking to leverage Big Data, below are some areas where these metrics can have the biggest impact.

Leverage Loyalty Programs

Black Friday/Cyber Monday shoppers are 11.7 times more likely to be loyalty program members, according to Exponential Interactive, a provider of advertising and digital media intelligence.
Savvy retailers should be using their loyalty programs to stay abreast of loyal shopper purchases, product preferences, campaign redemption, and merchandise navigation, then use these details to foster one-to-one interactions this holiday season. To directly engage these shoppers, brands should leverage this data to create email campaigns promoting complementary items or additional discounts, or even reward shoppers with an “exclusive” sales event.

Provide And Engaging e-Commerce Experience

The “always-on” shopping experience facilitated by e-Commerce requires marketing teams to be agile and respond to customers’ changing demands.

Based on the digital information collected from online channels, marketers have the ability to quickly adjust prices and product assortments to coordinate with email and in-store promotions, or revise electronic communications with shoppers.

“Marketers are also using e-Commerce data to test campaigns among [specific] customer segments and control groups to understand the sales lift these adjustments deliver,” Henderson explained. “Big Data keeps marketers flexible enough to make more effective changes much quicker than in the past.”

Manage Mobile Relationships

With more than one third of holiday sales stemming from mobile devices, retailers are gaining a seemingly limitless level of incoming customer information. “Historically, marketers had one message for all shoppers, or at best, four messages for four customer segments,” Henderson said. “By applying analytics to mobile data, marketers can create dedicated communications to thousands of segments — or micro-segments — to drive more personal messages.”

Add Beacon Data To The Data Mix

Still an emerging concept, beacons are cutting their teeth at retailers such as Macy’s, HBC Department Store Group’s Hudson Bay and Lord & Taylor brands, and Duane Reade, among others. The low-power, micro-location gadget uses Bluetooth technology to transmit signals to mobile devices, and create an indoor mobile positioning system that promises to bolster customer engagement strategies.

During the holiday season, retailers can use these low-power GPS systems to monitor shoppers’ department and merchandise navigation, match past purchases and deliver messages with URL to ratings and reviews of complementary merchandise. “The more relevant messages retailers deliver, the more consumers will continue to opt-in and share location information,” Henderson said.

As the industry heads into the home stretch of the holiday season, savvy retailers will harness Big Data and use the insights gained to grab additional wallet share. The result: An increase in sales — and new data-driven initiatives — that will boost revenue well into the New Year.