The holiday magic was in the air this peak shopping season. Despite industry worries about sluggish sales, more people than ever shopped over the holiday week that includes Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. NRF reports that 189.9 million Americans shopped during this time, 14% more than in 2018 (165.8 million).

And this year also proved that holiday shopping has gone cyber. While Black Friday commanded headlines for decades, online sales are taking over. Early tallies show that the US had the biggest Cyber Monday ever with $9.4 billion in sales. About $3 billion of that spending came from smartphones. 

The shopping journey is obviously more complicated than a few days and two channels. Brick-and-mortar store sales on Black Friday dropped 6.2% compared to 2018, according to data from ShopperTrak. However, the firm also notes that foot traffic in stores increased 2.3% on Thanksgiving Day compared with last year. So, while people prefer to buy online, they still like to shop. Similarly, “buy online pickup in store” (aka BOPIS and click-to-collect) also increased for the holiday weekend by 43% over last year, and delivered 64% more value in store than sales from non-BOPIS shoppers.

With so many elements to connect, it’s important for retailers to understand what works and how to give customers a positive experience in the process. Personalization can be a cornerstone of a successful holiday weekend. With a 2x increase in session volume for this year’s holiday shopping weekend over last year, we had plenty of our own data to analyze in order to provide some insights. 

There’s a lot of good news for brands. We found a big increase in the use of personalization overall, and as a result, Monetate clients saw improved YoY conversion rates and order values. 

Here are a few highlights from our clients’ holiday seasons:

  • US Conversion Rates were 5.6 times higher for pages with Monetate personalization compared to non-personalized pages.
  • UK Conversion Rates were 3.2 times higher for pages with Monetate personalization compared to non-personalized pages.
  • Average Order Value increased 54% for US shoppers exposed to Monetate personalization
  • Average Order Value increased 11% for UK shoppers exposed to Monetate personalization
  • Monetate also found that retailers grew the use of personalization by more than 200% from 2018 to 2019 across the US and the UK. This includes growth across segmented experiences, Individual Fit Experiences (one-to-one personalization) and Majority Fit Experiences (dynamic testing).

We also looked at cross-device and customer identification rates (aka the “cold start problem”). Monetate did find that over the Thanksgiving weekend, our clients identified just over one-third (35%) of their visitors across desktop and mobile compared to only 23% visitor identification last year, which is a great improvement. But do the math in reverse and that means more than 60% of visitors weren’t identified. Our UK clients increased their ID rates but tend to have slightly lower match rates overall due to a different approach to privacy protections. 

As we’ve highlighted in the past (see the full post here), using AI-enhanced personalization allows brands to create unique strategies for “small slice” audiences. For example, we found that retained holiday shoppers from a year ago are very loyal and actually spend more even than regular shoppers come next holiday season. This relatively small group are a perfect example of a group that deserves a marketing strategy to identify and personalize a campaign that will keep them coming back next year, growing the group over time.

[Looking for more holiday shopper research? Download this report from the Monetate data team.]

The good news is that clients can increase their match rates with Monetate and identify more of these small but valuable audiences that are likely to come through over the holiday season. You can collect your Person ID (unique identifier assigned to an individual) either onsite, or through clickthrough. The onsite method can be utilised by using a JS variable or a cookie triggered on sign-up or users log in and / or at checkout. 

The clickthrough method uses the query parameter that includes an identifier, set up by your ESP. The value in this parameter is unique and tied directly to a person which means that you can stitch this ID to the Monetate cookie. This will give you the connection you need to bring match rates up and create more one-to-one personalization using IFEs.

We know that holiday planning for 2020 starts now, and it’s the insights we get that help us chart a successful season next year. Now’s the time to analyze what works and chart a course for an even bigger holiday shopping season in 12 months.

Phil Lee is a senior strategist on Monetate’s client success team.