August 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Sponsored Supplement: Preparing to bag a successful holiday season

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Analyzing transaction data across the broadest possible base of merchants and payment types provides deep insights not only into fraud patterns, but also into what constitutes a legitimate transaction, especially from a first-time customer.

“Retailers want to be sure that fraudulent transactions don’t slip through in the increased holiday sales volume and to have risk parameters in place that identify the attributes of a good transaction so they can be cleared quickly,” says FIS North America’s Roese.

In addition to using online and offline transaction data, FIS’s database includes information about whether a credit card, savings or checking account has been recently opened. Weighing that information against transaction activity for the account can help FIS spot activity that suggests a pattern of fraud.

FIS also compares transaction volume and fraud loss figures by merchant segment for the previous holiday shopping seasons to trends in those categories for the current year. The company also employs fraud analysts for each merchant client that monitor suspicious transaction patterns on a daily basis.

“The holidays are a good time to outsource risk management because retailers don’t always have the resources and staffing needed to separate false positives from fraudulent transactions which frees them to concentrate on their core business,” says ClearCommerce’s Lasiewski. “In addition, outsourcing provides the retailer the benefit of having fraud managed on an enterprise-wide scale.”

Story lines

Just as retailers must prevent fraudulent transactions from getting lost in the spike of holiday sales volume, they must also make certain their e-mail marketing message cuts through the clutter in consumer inboxes. Creating a story line for the e-mail campaign that can be succinctly conveyed in the subject line, such as the 12 days of Christmas, is an effective way to make an e-mail campaign stand out, and sets customer expectations of increased frequency for specific campaigns.

“Story lines are an effective way to engage the consumer because the story line can be tied to consumer interests or gift ideas, which consumers like because it helps cut the time they spend searching for a gift,” says Yesmail’s Kleweno.

Some of the creative ways retailers can invent story lines for their e-mail campaigns include holiday recipes that are linked to kitchenware or an invitation to visit the Christmas village to see the latest in kids’ toys or electronic gadgets.

“Even if a story line has successfully been used in the past, retailers should not be afraid to stick with it and update it for the current holiday season, because proven winners will resonate with consumers,” says Kleweno.

Tracking when a previous successful holiday e-mail campaign ran is also important. “Knowing when consumers are responding to e-mail campaigns because they are ready to buy helps retailers set their marketing agenda,” says Coremetrics Squire.

Creating a calendar for when e-mail campaigns will run is critical because there are more shopping periods within the holiday season than ever before. Campaigns need to be created for early bird shoppers, last-minute shoppers, consumers looking for gifts under a certain price, and for consumers that shop the Friday or Monday after Thanksgiving.

“Retailers have got to have an e-mail marketing calendar that says when campaigns launch and determine the frequency of their e-mail campaigns,” says Kleweno. “Consumers expect e-mail volume to increase during the holidays, but they also expect retailers to have relevant campaigns organized around their state of mind as the holiday shopping season progresses.”

Increased relevancy can also be achieved by making use of e-mails that confirm an order has been received or shipped to suggest cross-sell items or last-minute deals that are likely to be of interest to the recipient based on her past purchasing behavior.

“Retailers should not be wasting any opportunity to use e-mail to communicate with the customer on a personal level,” adds Kleweno.

Personalized ads

E-mail is not the only method for reaching consumers on a personal level during the holidays. Retailers also can extend their personalization strategies to online banner and display ads on sites their customers frequently visit, such as news, entertainment and sports sites.

Online display ads can be customized to each consumer using the same tracking cookies that help retailers identify consumers and present personalized recommendations on their own e-commerce sites. A consumer who has viewed Android smartphones on a retailer’s site, for example, and later clicks on that retailer’s display ad on a news, entertainment or sports site, can be directed to a landing page featuring the Android phones she previously viewed.

Coremetrics’ AdTarget application captures visitor and customer data from a retailer’s web site to create personalized display ads. Customer behavior patterns and product preferences are continuously captured across all channels and used to update customer profiles.

“Personalized and relevant banner ads are an effective way for retailers to reach consumers on a deeper level when they can’t be reached by e-mail,” says Squire. “Retailers want to be proactively reaching out to consumers through all their marketing channels this holiday season.”

Another way to engage consumers is by making it easier for them to find the products they want on a retailer’s site. Programming the site search engine to automatically complete a suggested search string after the shopper has entered a few letters of a keyword can dramatically improve the relevancy of search results and consequently lead to more clicks and sales.

A shopper searching for Fischer Worldcup skis who has entered “fis” can be presented with a drop-down list of the most popular search strings for those keywords, such as Fischer Worldcup RC4 skis or Fischer Worldcup SC skis with Flow Flex binding.

“Making site search more intuitive by returning products the consumer expects helps consumers navigate to the products that they want to purchase more quickly,” says SpeedFC’s Zisk.

SpeedFC is currently upgrading the site search engine within its e-commerce platform to automatically correct misspellings and suggest synonyms for products that the consumer may refer to one way, but that the retailer’s catalog describes using other terms.

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