Now that the Christmas rush is behind us, it’s a good time to reflect on what new ideas and strategies this year has brought about and use those as insight to build upon for the year to come. We all know that having a single customer view with the right cross-channel marketing plan in place is the Holy Grail for marketers these days. There is no more important time to achieve this than during the festive season, which is by far the busiest time of the year for brands.

In these weeks, marketers not only have to consider their competitors, but increasingly they also have to cater for a set of ever changing ‘always on’ customers, who are both demanding and discerning in terms of how and when they want to hear from you. Putting the right plans in place and implementing a cross-channel strategy is the best way for brands to cater for their customers’ needs and achieve outstanding results.

In the lead up to Christmas, Experian conducted a global festive marketer survey and asked 379 marketers from around the world about their marketing activity for Christmas 2014 – when they usually create their strategies, who they were planning on targeting, which channels they wanted to use this Christmas as well as to what extent those channels were going to be incorporated into a cross-channel approach. The survey delivered some interesting results.


Findings showed that festive marketing planning usually ramps up after July, as Christmas looms on the horizon. 55% of marketers stated that August through October are the busiest planning months.

September is the most common time to start planning festive campaigns and the beginning of November is when most of them start. The fact that most festive marketing campaigns were planned to be launched in November is indicative of the trend that consumers are increasingly leaving their shopping closer and closer to Christmas, trusting in delivery services to get those all-important gifts before Christmas.

Defining best customers

In addition to finding the right time to communicate, successful campaigns always need to target the right customers. More than three out of five global marketers in our survey were planning on running programmes specifically targeting their best customers during the holiday season. On the other hand, surprisingly, one-in-five of the marketers asked in our survey reported that they were unable to identify their best customers. And even those who could target their best customers said they had trouble identifying them across channels. Globally, almost half (48%) said they have a siloed customer view and can only identify best customers within each channel rather than across all channels, which ultimately affects their ability to successfully integrate campaigns. 

The most common ways marketers in our survey define their best customers are via purchase frequency and spend threshold, followed by the length of the customer relationship.

Channels: Email remains key

In September and October, when our survey was conducted, nine out of ten marketers around the globe said that they would use email in their 2014 festive marketing campaigns.

There may be a lot of discussion around social media and mobile being the future but it is clear from these findings that email remained the key weapon in a marketer’s arsenal in 2014. Not only was email used by 91% of marketers in our survey, but it also remained the hub for those running cross-channel campaigns. Forty per cent of all marketers (68% of those running cross-channel campaigns) said they were going to integrate email in their cross-channel holiday campaigns making it the most-frequently integrated channel last year.

Beyond email, websites and social media completed the top three most-used channels for festive campaigns. While more marketers planned to use websites than social media in their festive activity, the opposite was true when it came to integration. Sixty-one per cent of marketers running cross-channel campaigns in 2014 were planning on integrating social, coming in just above the 58% that wanted to integrate their websites. We saw the same discrepancy between usage and integration with online display and mobile. Interestingly, mobile and social had the highest ratios of usage to integration, meaning that when they were planned to be used, they were more likely to be integrated with other channels.

Understanding which channels marketers used and integrated this season is just the first step in planning future marketing strategies. Some further insights from our survey include:

  • When it came to mobile, SMS text messaging was planned to be the most popular tactic for marketers in 2014.
  • 29% percent stated they wanted to implement responsive design on their websites.
  • 20% of marketers surveyed were going to encourage consumers to share content socially both directly from email and on their websites.

All in all, it is clear that knowing your audience is crucial for brands to be able to plan the most effective Christmas campaigns. And, as we all know, it is more important than ever for marketers to stay competitive during this hectic period.

For next year, brands will need to make sure to get ready in time and put the necessary processes in place to be able to identify, segment and target their best customers in an effective way. By understanding their customers better, they will be able to formulate an appropriate cross-channel strategy to get their messages across to the right people at the right time, ensuring they maximise their market share in the process.