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How Online Retailers Can Prepare for the Holiday Season Using AI

It may still be warm and sunny out, but as retailers know, the holidays will arrive before you know it and shoppers will be looking for the best online deals. The ubiquity of marketing tools available to retailers has complicated the process of preparing for the blizzard of holiday shoppers further, with a breadth personalization, advertising, and website testing tools waiting to be utilized, offering unprecedented utility. With all of these solutions available, how do you make the most out of your marketing budget and maximize your return on investment?


Reaching out to relevant segments of users used to be difficult, but with social networking platforms like Facebook increasing the capabilities of their advertising platform, it’s never been easier to laser-focus your advertising efforts to precisely the people you want to reach. 68% of American adults have a Facebook account, which lends an amazing opportunity to digital marketers to reach out to a good chunk of their shoppers. A smart tactic is to use the Facebook Pixel on your website, which is a piece of code for your website that lets you measure, optimize, and build audiences for your ad campaign. In particular, this enables you to remarket to existing customers, which is a highly underrated marketing strategy — in fact, retargeting ads are 10 times more likely to be clicked through than a general ad. Moreover, remarketing can be a lucrative strategy for the holidays, considering that retargeted customers are three times as likely to click on a your ad than people who haven’t interacted with your business before, enabling you to make the most out of your existing customer base. For more on remarketing, check out our article on Facebook remarketing.

So how does AI play into advertising? As ad prices skyrocket during the holiday season, it’s important to make sure that your ads are focused on the right demographic for as long as they need to run before cycling in new ads. AI-powered tools enable you to do this automatically. For example, ReFUEL4 uses predictive algorithms to determine the optimal time to pull an ad and replace it with another one, curtailing ad fatigue. This time and money saved allows you and your team to scale your marketing efforts. Other AI-powered tools exist that allow you to maximize your ROI on Facebook and other ads by optimizing bins and segmenting to make sure that your ads are served to the relevant demographics.


One of the most promising emerging technologies is personalization technology. Enabled by the preponderance of data now available at our fingertips, personalization tools use AI to segment users into groups of similar interests and present each segment with offers that they would enjoy. This technology is already being used on websites, but it can be extended to email campaigns as well as other channels. Due to the mass adoption of this technology, personalization will be a prime differentiator this holiday season. According to a study by VB Insight, 87 percent of marketers using personalization have seen a lift of at least 5 percent, and 39 percent of those marketers saw lifts of at least 20 percent.

So how can you personalize the holiday shopping season for your customers? One way is to personalize offers via email — a report by Liveclicker shows that machine learning personalization delivers a 21 percent revenue increase in email offers. People are more likely to respond to offers when they are relevant to their tastes. You can go beyond personalized emails and personalize your homepage by segment: one group of users might be interested in deals on scooters, while another might be particularly interested in deals on video games. Presenting the right products to the right people can make all the difference in the world.

Website Testing

Holiday shopping can be very stressful for customers, and difficult to navigate websites can add undue complications to a user’s experience. To make sure that your website is the best it can be, online businesses use website testing platforms to determine whether one design entices customers to convert, or buy products, more often than the previous design. This is known as conversion rate optimization (CRO), and it’s been shown that the average ROI from CRO tools is 223%. Typically they use A/B testing solutions to determine whether their new website design is better than their pre-existing website. But there have been advances in this field, and with sufficiently large traffic and conversions, online businesses can run multivariate tests to test multiple website designs at once. Unfortunately, there lies an important issue with A/B testing: because you’re only running one test at a time, you end up with a backlog of tests you’d like to run but cannot because you’re prioritizing other tests. With multivariate testing, you encounter another tradeoff: they take a really long time to reach significant results because you’re testing every combination of website design changes.

Thankfully, AI-powered evolutionary website testing has arrived, and with Sentient Ascend, you can test all of your ideas at once. It takes all the ideas you want to implement, combining and mutating them over time, all while ensuring that the majority of your traffic is routed to the best performing website variants in real time. By the end of your test, you’ll have a winning website design that was found automatically for you. Moreover, this process is faster than a multivariate test, because Ascend uses evolutionary algorithms to produce designs from high-performing parent websites rather than testing every single possible combination, which would result in a lot of under-performing designs. This means that you can not only increase your testing velocity, but also test all of your best ideas at once while maintaining high conversions, overcoming the pitfalls of both A/B and multivariate testing.

Are You Ready for the Holid-AIs?

Now that you are aware of these digital marketing strategies, you can position yourself well for the upcoming holiday season and deliver a truly optimized and personalized holiday shopping experience for your users. Each of these techniques on their own are powerful, and in tandem their combined effect is greater than the sum of their parts.