Feast your eyes on real-time holiday benchmark data

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Twitter bird better be careful on Thanksgiving
Twitter bird better be careful on Thanksgiving

What do you think about when you think about Thanksgiving? Turkey maybe? Those little marshmallows people put on sweet potato pie for some reason? Perhaps you're wondering if your slightly sleazy Uncle Phil will snap your bra at the dinner table and ask you when you're graduating high school despite the fact you're 35.

Above all, beyond the family dysfunction and the loosening of your belt after that second helping (you shouldn't have), Thanksgiving puts people in a shopping mood. Black Friday and Cyber Monday get bigger every year and retailers and marketers need to stay focused to rake in the dough that gives Black Friday it's name.

I moderated a Direct Marketing News TweetChat (#smartershopping) on November 19 about IBM's forthcoming holiday Benchmark, a seriously detailed report based on real-time data tracking multichannel shopping trends. IBM keeps tabs on a wide range of channels, including social, mobile, and online—ever increasing in their importance—over Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

In attendance were Jay Henderson (@jay_henderson), global strategy program director for IBM's Enterprise Marketing Management Group, and Richard Feinberg (@RichardFeinberg), a consumer psychologist and a professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences and Retailing at Purdue University in Indiana.

Basically, the Benchmark works thusly: IBM uses its proprietary cloud-based digital analytics platform to collect and analyze digital data on how consumers are responding to the products and services offered to them online 24-hours a day.

As @jay_henderson explained via tweet: “Benchmark tracks more than a million transactions a day, analyzing terabytes of raw data from 500 retailers nationwide #smartershopping.”

The conversation ranged over a variety of topics; everything from the most surprising bit of data IBM gleaned from the Benchmark last year—in 2011 mobile shopping actually doubled—to the type of impact marketers can expect from social channels this year—@RichardFeinberg noted, “Right now social media can have an impact @ the margins even a 1% difference can be critical but future is much BIGGER.”

But the one part of the discussion that really touched my heart, mostly because of my own tendency toward procrastination, was the question of what a brand could do at this point if it hadn't yet launched its holiday marketing strategy. Unfortunately, turns out there's not much a brand can do less than a week out from one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year if they haven't yet taken any action but @jay_henderson and @RichardFeinberg did have some advice for the laggards:

@RichardFeinberg:

  • “If you have a cons database mine it to the max, right now, don't wait. Email is a fast way to tell cons. to take action.”
  • “Tell consumers to take some action on each of your other channels…FAST.”
  • “Retailers need to experiment, experiment and experiment with all social media...keep changing and emphasizing what works.”

@jay_henderson:

  • “At this point, ensure channels are working together, providing customers a unified, personalized experience.”
  • “Utilize the analytics you have to assess what's working and what's not and apply those lessons to the 2013 season.”
  • “Otherwise, good luck!”

And get your act together for next year.

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