Each year the holiday season brings new excitement and challenges for merchants. This year is a bit different. This is the start of an era in commerce where we will see the marketer evolve fully into the merchant role, and the consumer will be faced with what they have always wanted and seemingly feared: infinite choice. With infinite choice, it is more important than ever for merchants to take control of the experience being delivered to the consumer by their brand. If they don’t, the consumer will craft their own assumptions, which may or may not lead to a purchase and future brand loyalty.

So what does an “ideal experience” for the consumer look like this holiday season?

I discussed the question with several executives that work with brands to craft their experiences: they caution that this may vary depending on the industry, market, or even geographic location, but essentially the ideal experience will have a few core attributes:

1. It is easy. This can not be stressed enough. Your consumer is getting inundated with advertising on numerous channels. You need to communicate a clear and consistent message of your value and your brand on all channels. The more steps the customer has to take to get from product to purchase will cost you sales, and that includes understanding your brand’s value and voice.

While speaking on this topic with Mike Pierce, CTO at Echidna, he said, “eCommerce can be a real blessing during the holidays, although it can also be a burden on our busy schedules. As much as we all love the festivities and traditions that this time of year brings, what we want more than anything is to find the perfect gift for friends or loved ones, at a reasonable price, and get it as easily as possible. The brands who best deliver on these desires win in their markets every holiday season. But the brands that create delightful experiences for their customers, win and retain the loyalty of these customers for years to come. Winners are easy to find, easy to shop, and easy to trust.”

2. It is personalized. This goes along with being easy. If you know what your customer is looking for and can help them along in their buyer’s journey, you can assume it is going to result in an easier purchase for them. Michael Klein, Director of Industry and Retail Strategy for the Adobe Marketing Cloud, told me, “According to Adobe Digital Insights, 43% of businesses will increase the amount that they spend on in-store technology this year. Online we’ll see an increase in the use of video and chatbots to inspire purchases and increase the number of items in people’s shopping carts.” You can make the buyer’s journey as personalized (and easy) as you wish with the right tools in place.

3. It is fun. Everyone’s idea of fun is a bit different, so let the creative juices flow — fun can mean anything from social media campaigns to in-store designer showcases to text message games. By tapping your analytics, you can identify the source of your most valuable holiday customers and invest marketing dollars into the highest-impact channels and turn that one time buyer into a return shopper. Bob Moore, Head of Magento Analytics, explained to me that, “When it comes to data, an unfortunate number of merchants are flying blind during the holiday season. The Magento Holiday Dashboard provides valuable insights on the ROI of holiday campaigns and the customer lifetime value of new buyers acquired during the holidays. This can lead to smarter marketing decisions that turn one-time purchasers into loyal customers and brand advocates.”

What do you think your brand’s biggest strengths are this holiday season? Are you trying any new strategies that fall within the easy, personalized, or fun categories?