Lessons From the Marketing Scrooge of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

We are all familiar with the holiday classic A Christmas Carol with Ebenezer Scrooge. Near the end of the movie, one my favorite scenes is the one after Scrooge has been visited by the three ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Much to his surprise, he awakes in his bed to discover he’s been given another chance. Relieved, Scrooge pledges to “Live in the past, the present, and the future.” As marketers, we all have this same opportunity after the craziness of the holiday season.

Relying on the Data of Christmas Past – Yesterday

While it seems like many marketing programs are stuck in the past, they’re there with good reason. The past has many glories, a level of predictability, and some comfortable – maybe even proven – models for success. However, the one problem with data analytics is that it only measures what has happened, but has a harder time predicting what’s truly coming. Even predictive analytics rely on “has-happened” information, and just because I bought matching family pajamas last year doesn’t mean that I need another set and would respond to a campaign for them next year.

If you think about last year, you and your team threw absolutely everything into your Q4 marketing activity, and it drove sales. But what about all those new customer details you collected? What about all those email addresses you acquired? Were they left to slowly disengage? If so, when you did decide to send to them, your efforts were not optimal and failed to deliver any significant results. Let’s face it: by the time you got around to sending them anything, they had forgotten you, your brand, and why they signed up in the first place.

The fact is newly acquired email addresses don’t remain fresh for very long. To have seen any return, you would have needed to engage sooner and better. Not so much unlike that fruitcake you may have had serving as a door stop until February – it all went a little stale, as you shifted your focus to New Year’s resolutions and the next promotional calendar.

Limiting Your Thinking to the Now of “Christmas Present” – Today

Are your current campaigns claiming there is still time to get your belated Christmas gifts bought and sent, promising free shipping to acquire and convert those procrastinators into new customers? Or are they now focused on New Year’s to support those who always make resolutions, but have a hard time keeping them?

A successful holiday season of selling isn’t only about acquisition. Customer retention has to always be part of the plan. That is because of what we all know – it’s typically less expensive and more profitable to win repeat business than to find new customers. Of course, there is a certain percentage of seasonal customers who join your lists looking for holiday bargains, but this is still an opportunity to immediately identify and segment them by their engagement and purchase behavior to provide relevant content and offers to smaller and more targeted audiences.

And, just because a customer has already purchased does not mean they won’t return for some last-minute gifts, driven by last shipping dates or certain products that are still available by location.

When does your holiday promotion calendar end, Christmas, New Year’s? How many of your customers look forward to all the after-Christmas discounts or close-outs to complete or start planning their holiday shopping for next year? What about all those less-than-perfect colors, sizes, and styles of presents we received and can’t wait to exchange? Remember, the excitement of the holiday shopping season doesn’t end once Christmas is over. The holiday season typically carries over into the first part of January, which is still part of the busiest in-store and online shopping season, so you must continue to send and engage your customers following Christmas and the turn of the New Year.

Identifying and applying this basic level of segmentation in the present will not only help you continue to engage both your new and returning customers, it will also help reduce your disengagement (unsubscribe or complaint rates) even as you continue sending throughout the holidays and into next year.

The Chance of the Christmas Future – Tomorrow

Are you going to continue to be limited with only the marketing practices of the past where your large investment to acquire new customers is semi-successful, but any margins gained are quickly eroded by lack of ongoing engagement or use of the data collected to drive relevant experiences?

Just think how many Internet-enabled (smart) devices will find their way under the Christmas tree, into stockings, and even toasted to with the New Year. What kind of opportunities does this present to gather and leverage even a greater set of data from your customers to learn about and respond to?

Similar to what our famed character Ebenezer Scrooge did, we need to consider the marketing lessons of the past, present, and future. It’s not that what we learned in the past is no longer useful to us. It is. But we can’t succeed on history alone. And despite a wonderful veneer of marketing innovation today, we need a more detailed road map that promises to reinvent the playing field by connecting consumer and company based on need, service. and utility – not commerce. And the successful roadmap will leverage the learnings of the past, engage in the present, and provide opportunity to serve the future needs of the consumer.

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