2023 CRM and Customer Loyalty Planning for the Holiday Season

The winter holiday season is one of the biggest consumer spending periods of the year, with $936.3 billion in U.S. retail sales reported in 2022 by the National Retail Federation. If the back-to-school season this year is any indication, high inflation has driven up prices and put a crunch on the average consumer—meaning deals and promotions are driving purchase decisions.

The holiday season is a key moment to build your brand’s awareness, boost customer loyalty, and fuel overall business growth. Embracing the tenets of a strong customer relationship management (CRM) strategy will be crucial to ensuring positive customer experiences this holiday season for both new customer acquisition and customer retention programs.

Jason Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer of Publicis Groupe, predicted earlier this year that people will be looking for discounts, and this holiday season may be one of the most promotion-heavy events yet. In addition, there is evidence that consumers typically don’t bite on early holiday deals, hoping discounts will get deeper as the season progresses. With continued inventory misalignments, economic uncertainty, and soaring consumer debt, the upcoming holiday shopping season promises to be interesting.

When devising a holiday strategy, it's crucial to consider your brand's purpose and discover ways to meaningfully engage with consumers by delivering a mix of both functional and emotional benefits to your audience. Delivering both will help drive true loyalty, the goal of a strong CRM strategy.

CRM Strategies to Win Holiday 2023:

  • Leverage AI to enable personalized, 1:1 communication. Artificial intelligence has been the hottest marketing topic of 2023 and will play an increasingly important role in how brands interact with consumers, and vice versa. Consider how AI can enable personalized, 1:1 communication with your customers, either by tailoring messages to be more relevant or giving consumers additional ways to shop, interact or provide feedback. For instance, artificial intelligence could help recommend products to a consumer based on their recent reviews, reward actions from past brand engagement, or generate a tailored follow-up email after a customer service conversation.

  • Craft communications in the spirit of the holidays. In our experience, holiday-focused creative typically sees better response rates than non-seasonal communications. It seems obvious, but the mere act of adding holiday language and design elements into your campaigns will drive attention to offers by increasing relevancy – whether part of a CRM program or an acquisition campaign. Messaging should start in November and carry through December as consumers continue to search for the best deal.

  • Uniquely reward your most loyal customers. Loyalty should be at the heart of your holiday marketing efforts. This is an opportunity to show your best customers that they are special and reward them uniquely for their loyalty. Offers, gifts and rebates should all be considered. If you already have a loyalty program, consider adding holiday-specific elements to encourage participation, akin to what Starbucks does with their annual Starbucks For Life holiday rewards game.

  • Carefully curate your channel strategy. This is the time to orchestrate consumer touchpoints, rather than proliferate on all channels. After all, consumers can only read so many text messages and emails. Since the majority of consumers want fewer marketing messages, it’s important to make each message count with a purposeful channel strategy. Align CRM touchpoints to flow with key marketing efforts – sponsorships, partnerships, or mass advertising. This is also a great time to drive app engagement, promote app benefits and incentivize sign-ups. As an owned channel, apps are critical in connecting cross-channel shopping journeys.

  • Consider an end-of-year recap. If relevant for your product or service, a recap that highlights how consumers engaged with your brand over the past year can be a personalized way to build customer relationships. With more data at hand than ever, such recaps are becoming popular – think Spotify Wrapped, Snapchat’s Year End Story, or Strava’s Year in Sport. The key is to make sure they are fun, relevant and easily shareable.

All the key elements of successful CRM programs will improve customer experiences during the holidays. Use data and technology to craft tailored communications and recommendations that are more relevant to your consumers. Recognize and reward your most loyal fans. And give customers options to engage with your brand in ways that work for them. By embracing these best practices, brands can break through the sales noise and win this holiday season.

A version of this article was published in Campaign US.