Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The importance of  tailored gift recommendations, sensitive marketing and quality content on holidays and calendar dates

By Jill Grozalsky Roberson, Director of DX Product Marketing at Sitecore

Gifts are a staple of most calendar dates, from flowers and champaign for Valentine’s Day to chocolates and Secret Santa’s at Christmas. While these gifts help express love and appreciation for those special people in our lives, or celebrate a religious holiday, they are often generic and stereotypical – and the experience of buying them isn’t personalised either.

Even when we shop for our loved ones – people who we know well, and whose preferences we understand – we want to receive relevant and tailored gift recommendations for them to guide and inspire our shopping, in the same way we want brands to deliver when we are shopping for ourselves. And we know personalisation is fruitful for brands – our research has found that the majority (85%) of senior marketers see personalisation as a major competitive advantage.

In addition to knowing what gift recommendations customers do want to receive, it’s also important for brands to understand what they don’t want – as often holidays can be a sensitive or difficult time for some. So how can brands can bring personalisation to the big calendar moments across the year?

It’s a match – tailor made recommendations

When it comes to shopping, customers want it to be love at first sight. That means tailoring product recommendations for them, and a first step to delivering that is to segment shoppers into different groups, by being able to collect and analyse data about the types of products they are browsing for across different touchpoints – including having real-time insights into what types of gifts customers are looking at.

Then, brands can recommend more products for specific personas – from men or mothers to golf hobbyists and gin lovers. By making the browsing experience more convenient and bringing shoppers straight to the gifts that are right for their loved ones, brands are also more likely to encourage repeat purchases for another calendar date, or ensure customers keep them in mind for general browsing too – especially as 35% of customers see recommendations personalised to their needs as their top priority when shopping.

Marrying content and commerce

Along with personalising product recommendations by category, brands should also focus on creating tailored content to serve to the right customers, on the right platform at the right time.

This requires breaking content down into customer segments based on geographies, platforms, interests, personas etc – and building a 360-degree picture of past intent along with what customers have previously browsed, purchased and searched for. Having the customer data available to serve the content that is most useful and relevant to each audience is key, as well as the capability to generate the volume of content needed to truly personalise it.

For calendar dates, this content could take the form of blog style gift guides for different recipients giving advice for gifting from relevant influencers, product reviews or an interactive quiz to see what gift is best for their loved one.

This type of content offers added value beyond selling a product and builds a relationship between brand and customer. These types of quality experiences go beyond engaging customers during a key calendar date and help build long-term loyalty.

Sensitive marketing

Along with engaging customers with the right content in the moments that matter, brands need to consider when not to engage at all. Not everyone celebrates days like Father’s or Mother’s Day and being sensitive to this is important. Online flower retailer Bloom and Wild took this approach a number of years ago with its Thoughtful Marketing Movement, which aims to change the culture around how brands communicate with customers and take a more sensitive approach and has been praised for it.

Bloom and Wild and around 170 other brands have signed up to the Movement, and use email marketing as a key way to engage with customers but ask in advance if they want to ‘opt-out’ of communications on the gifting holiday. This approach shows customers that brand respect customers’ individual needs, values and wishes – instead of just parting a long list of emails.

While people say ‘it’s the thought that counts’, customers still want to get it right when giving gifts to loved ones. With so many calendar dates tied to gift giving, personalised content and product recommendations are the key to not just getting the thought right, but the gift too.