The holiday season offers retailers a vital opportunity to connect with customers, according to Neil Capel, founder and CEO for Sailthru, who here explains how targeting customers through multiple channels can help make the difference between a stellar shopping season and a lacklustre one. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

Primed to shop and spend online, retailers can receive more customer traffic in a single hour in the run up to Christmas than in an entire summer month. Yet consumers are beginning to expect more from retailers and are growing less and less tolerant of poor online experiences: they now demand meaningful and relevant product recommendations and offers and expect a highly personal interaction.

Brands must have a sound marketing strategy in place in order to be successful, especially during the holiday season; but that strategy must be set up and aligned long before the rush to the online basket at the finish of the Christmas shopathon.

Know your customer
It is a well-known statistic that marketing teams with Big Data at the heart of their programmes tend to see a 15%-20% greater marketing ROI than those that don't. While this may seem to some like an unattainable goal given vast amounts of unmanageable data, companies only need to focus on 1.5% of the total data universe in order to extract this baseline value.

The challenge is, of course, identifying the data that will drive the highest impact to revenue. The first step is to identify behaviour and patterns within the existing customer base, enabling the brand to build an understanding of the consumer, how they interact and via which channel: for example, do they browse via tablet and buy via laptop?

However, by just going that little bit further than obtaining name, email and location, the approach that will bring in the largest return is to combine explicit behavioural data and implicit interest data to build a complete, omnichannel picture of each and every customer, creating a strong base to tailor and optimise each customer's buying experience.

Know your data
It is important to recognise that both implicit and explicit data are equally important to the marketer. Explicit, is the behavioural data which looks at the known, quantitative individual attributes of a given customer based on user actions and purchases. Implicit interest data is the inferred, qualitative individual attributes of a given customer based on browsing and purchasing activity.

By combining these two forms of data, retailers are able to develop true 1-to-1 communications based on individuals' specific engagement and purchase history while taking into account their implied interests. This approach will allow brands to build momentum during the holiday season and throughout the rest of the year, enabling them to appeal to the customer with targeted, relevant and timely communications for the long-haul rather than just the Christmas panic.

Don't leave your list to the last minute!
Unlike shoppers who leave their Christmas purchases to the last minute, marketing teams must plan ahead.

With a robust data acquisition and analysis strategy in place, retailers can attain the insights required to deploy an effective marketing campaign, ensure that customers are being appealed to in the best way in order to generate interest and gain multiple sales during this crucial season.