The rise of mobile shopping and peer-to-peer marketing – from blogs and influencers to dedicated review sites – means research-ready consumers are now able to make more educated purchase decisions than ever before. As a result, it’s getting harder for marketers to cut through the noise and make their voices heard – and nowhere is this struggle more apparent than during major annual sales events.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have taken both the on and offline retail worlds by storm since their introduction four years ago,  and this year Amazon has announced that its Black Friday sale will be “the biggest ever’’.

Meanwhile, experts predict that this year’s Singles’ Day – China’s ‘anti-Valentine’s Day’ celebration on November 11 – will be the biggest one yet. Alibaba has even launched a gigantic robotic warehouse capable of automatically fulfilling 50% more orders than a traditional warehouse in anticipation of the predicted demand from consumers.

Given their proximity to Christmas, these events are becoming increasingly important indicators for retailers’ sales performance over the whole festive period. But with so many consumers planning purchases weeks before – research shows there was a sharp increase in searches for “Single’s Day” between September and October last year, for example – not to mention unparalleled advertising competition from other brands in the same space, how can marketers ensure they’re taking full advantage of these huge retail events, before, during and after they occur?  

Plan ahead

Whether it’s Cyber Monday or Singles’ Day, consumers will be doing a lot of research on potential deals ahead of the retail event, so it goes without saying that brands should be launching their campaigns some time prior in order to fully take advantage of these increased searches.

Marketers will find they can further their competitive advantage by examining this wealth of search data holistically, to see what shoppers are looking for outside of their own apps or websites. Having an understanding of what people are looking for in the weeks running up to the event will help marketers predict the kind of products, brands, and content that consumers might be interested in during the event itself, so they can serve advertising and product offers accordingly.

AI can help us achieve this by gathering these enhanced insights and creating detailed maps of consumers’ search behaviour patterns to better predict what else they might be interested in and what they are most likely to respond to. Keyword-based searches are definitely clear – but reinforcing these with semantic and behavioural connections can be extra powerful in optimising campaign performance.

Brands should also be prepared by making themselves more easily discoverable and understanding when and where people are searching for guidance. This will ensure they are always in the right place at the right time to offer the right message – as long as they’re using the right tools.

The right tools

AI-powered search-based tools not only allow brands to study consumer search behaviours; they can also offer a tailored message in real-time at the moment in the consumer purchase journey that’s most likely to drive sales. They do this by making sense of all the billions of data points from each user’s unique searches.

These tools are immensely powerful for nurturing customers and driving continuous engagement by providing consumers with their own compelling personalised search experience and delivering real-time recommendations in response to their queries. The information gleaned before and during the event – whether it be Cyber Monday or New Year’s Day – can then be used to forge a lasting connection between brand and consumer.

This, in essence, is the key to truly “winning” retail events. It’s about developing a lasting consumer relationship so that they come back next year and the year after. This reiterates the importance of getting to know consumers on a holistic level, and tailoring the right message to the right moment in a consumer’s purchase journey; before, during and after the big day.

Long-term success

In the early days of e-commerce, good advertising and a decent and consistent brand message were often sufficient enough to attract consumers to your product or service. However, today’s consumer is much more and decides what quantifies high and low value for themselves.

It’s still possible for marketers to make their influence felt, however, particularly during major retail events when consumers are ready and willing to seek out the best deals.   

As we enter the holiday season, there’s so much to be gained for marketers operating within the online retail space, so it’s imperative they take advantage by using the right tools to achieve long-term success.