Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, retailers have just a few more weeks to drive additional business during their most important quarter – as holiday sales can account for nearly one-third of sales for the year.

Plans have been in place for months, and now the clock is ticking… rather rapidly! That’s because this year, there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than in 2018 – creating more urgency in a compressed shopping season, and leading many brands to get an earlier start on campaigns and promotions across channels.

Studies show the average household will spend nearly $1,500 this holiday season. As retailers look to maximize their share, they’re seeking innovative ways to apply their data – driving engagement and loyalty with shoppers and differentiating their brands.

Here are five personalization tactics and campaigns that some of our clients have employed (and are employing) to spur purchases and create helpful and memorable customer experiences.

1. Tick, Tock… Countdown Timers

The nudging of a ticking clock and imminent deadline can often prompt purchases, especially during the holidays. Clocks and countdown timers remind shoppers to act soon, before a deal or deadline expires.

Tapping into these tendencies, one of our clients – a jewelry designer, renowned for high-end gifts – is preparing to launch a countdown clock atop all the pages on its site. The live timer – which counts down the days, hours and minutes remaining, in order to receive purchases in time for Christmas – is specific to each web/mobile visitor’s local time zone, and has subtle changes in style, based on the page a shopper is visiting.

Here’s another example of ticking clocks in action. Last holiday season, an e-commerce client operating a flash-sale site combined a countdown timer (showing when deals on certain items would end) and “social proof” (showing how many people were viewing that item) – driving a 17% lift in conversion rate.

2. Inventory Counters

Inventory counters and alerts, in addition to social trending information, can also prompt shoppers to make purchases they’ve been mulling over. Using Evergage’s customer data platform (CDP), our clients combine product availability information with shoppers’ current behavioral data; past purchases, history and actions; and affinities to immediately alert shoppers of items they may be interested in, before they sell out.

With personalized triggered emails, push notifications and onsite badging, retailers can notify shoppers of the status of relevant items (“5 Left”; “Last One”; “More on the Way”; etc.).


This triggered email, based on a shopper’s browsing behavior, alerts the shopper that the item has limited availability. Best to act now!

3. Personalized Gift Guides

During the holiday season, retailers want to make it easy for shoppers to find and select the perfect items for that special someone. Our clients have seen success by deploying personalized digital gift guides/“boutiques” – with dynamic recommendations based on each shopper’s preferences, explicit survey responses (“who are you shopping for?”), current and historical behavior around the holidays, and top items within the categories or collections that person is engaging with.

By keeping the personalized guide accessible within the site navigation – and using it, when appropriate, to collect visitors’ email addresses – retailers can drive greater engagement and remind shoppers of their gifting goals.


Responses to this brief, strategically deployed survey help retailers immediately create relevant recommendations and gift guides.

4. Out-of-Stock Doesn’t Mean Out-of-Luck

For shoppers, the excitement of identifying the perfect holiday gift can quickly deflate – turning into frustration – when they learn that item is out-of-stock. It’s not uncommon for retailers to contend with challenges like these around the holidays, as high volumes of sales often result in low and out-of-stock inventory.

But if shoppers come upon an out-of-stock product, it’s important to try to turn their experience into a positive one. For example, rather than serving up a dead end, our clients often immediately present visitors with relevant recommendations, as alternate choices – mapped to the product the person was shopping for, along with that person’s affinities and preferences (typical price point, preferred categories, etc.).

By recommending similar products and optimizing calls to action, one of our retail clients drove a 12% lift in revenue per user on its out-of-stock pages during a previous holiday season.

5. Bounce Prevention

It’s a crowded and competitive market for retailers all year long – arguably even more so around the holidays. As a result, retailers want to entice shoppers to buy from their brand and not stray to competitors.

When visitors display comparison-shopping and exit-intent behavior (e.g., highlighting an item’s price, then moving their mouse to exit the site), retailers can woo them to stay. We often see this in the form of strategically placed pop-ups or other notifications – e.g., highlighting free shipping, a hassle-free return policy, promotions, social proofing information (“50 visitors now have this item in their carts”), competitive differentiators and more. See this example below.


This call-out message to shoppers helps convince them to buy through the site, rather than check out a competitor’s.

Final Thoughts

Although retailers’ 2019 holiday campaigns have long been locked down, retailers will soon be evaluating what worked and what didn’t – and can incorporate best practices and the strategies above into 2020 planning. More and more, we’re seeing companies take a cross-channel approach to strategic planning – thinking about their campaigns and ROI across touchpoints, and seeking to provide a cohesive customer experience.

It bears mentioning, too, that personalization during the holidays can be an interesting and nuanced science – especially when you factor in gift-giving. A frequent, loyal shopper – for example, of high-end women’s clothes – may make purchases outside of her typical buying behavior. But just because, let’s say, that single aunt purchased baby toys for her new nephew, it doesn’t mean she wants to – or should – be bombarded with recommended baby items the whole year through.

Effective personalization and customer data platforms can distinguish gift-giving behavior from a person’s routine activity – factoring in known affinities, behavioral patterns over time, historical activity, current behavioral cues (e.g., did the shopper choose to have the item gift-wrapped?) and more – reconciling various types of purchases within a person’s profile for spot-on personalization.