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If you haven’t taken the past few months to prioritize planning for the holidays—well, you’re a bad elf. You definitely don’t want to miss out on the holiday rush, especially while other brands are busy trying to connect with your users. But not all is lost! There’s one big piece of the digital marketing puzzle that, if you use it just right, you can always rely on: your data.

If you haven’t taken the past few months to prioritize planning for the holidays—well, you’re a bad elf. You definitely don’t want to miss out on the holiday rush, especially while other brands are busy trying to connect with your users. But not all is lost! There’s one big piece of the digital marketing puzzle that, if you use it just right, you can always rely on: your data.

First of all, if you’re not using data regularly to drive your digital marketing decisions, you’re falling behind. Over 40% of brands made plans to expand their data-driven marketing budgets back in 2016, and it’s a key tenet of modern marketing that smart use of behavioral data can drive customer engagement across any industry. The proviso here is smart use of data—data that is thought out, analyzed, and acted on in the right ways. It can be hard to do that, or at the very least, resource- and time-intensive.

That’s why we’ve compiled a few ways you might accidentally misuse your holiday data this year. Avoiding these eight common mistakes will help you optimize and refine your digital marketing gameplan this season, and avoid pitfalls along the way.

Mistake #1: Ignoring last years’ holiday data—or relying on it too heavily

There’s no doubt that your historical data holds tons of golden nuggets about how your customers behave over the holidays. It’s absolutely necessary to utilize that data for planning, decision-making, and course-correcting on your holiday campaigns. That said, make sure you also stay aware of global trends so that you can adjust your course of action to accommodate a wider perspective. Look for answers to questions like: when are people starting to shop for the holidays worldwide? (Previous Braze research has found that the U.S. holiday shopping season keeps getting earlier…) What devices are customers using to make their purchases? What are the top online shopping hours for various countries? Plan for global peaks and understand local nuances, all while keeping your own customers in mind.

Mistake #2: Not adjusting your conversion criteria for the holidays, but analyzing it all the same

Conversion rates have less meaning when your conversion criteria are broadly defined, or defined in ways that don’t make sense for your current goals. Think about what you really want to measure this holiday season, and what you want your end result to be—for instance, an increase in purchases, session starts, or clicks on certain promotions—and hone in on specifics. If your conversion criteria are off base (say you’re focusing on total opens, when you should really be looking at purchases or users adding to cart), it will only be tougher to judge and analyze the success of your campaigns.

Mistake #3: Ignoring the impact of message send volume on engagement rates

Many companies send more messages around the holidays. Be aware of this when you start to look at last season’s data, or when you begin to make this season’s big decisions. If you’re comparing a message with 50,000 sends to one with 5,000 sends, you’re likely to see a huge difference between the two in terms of engagement rates—not necessarily due to differences in the messages themselves, but due to volume bias in the groupings (smaller groups tend to misrepresent populations, whereas larger groups often reflect less randomness and have a lower margin of error). Don’t fall into this numbers trap: look at the weighted version of your data as well.

Mistake #4: Not adjusting your marketing perspective based on seasonality

It’s no secret that customer behavior changes around the holidays, but don’t be fooled into misreading those trends; adjusting for seasonality when making your holiday decisions is vitally important. For instance, let’s say you saw open rates rising at the start of November this year. Before you attribute this increase in engagement to those freshly-polished holiday campaigns, make sure to also look at your data after it’s been adjusted for seasonality. Now ask yourself: has that upward trend in engagement grown since last years’ holiday season, or has it just stayed constant?

Mistake #5: Sitting on the holiday data you’ve gathered this year

Quality digital marketing depends on quick data collection and decision making, so make sure you’re collecting and acting on relevant information in an ongoing way. Adjust your holiday and post-holiday campaigns constantly, based on the freshest and most relevant data available, so that your messaging isn’t curtained behind an influx of more effective holiday campaigns from competitors. Engage in continuous batch processing to best inform your descriptive and predictive analytics.

Mistake #6: Acting on the holiday data you’ve gathered, both this and last year—but in silos

Don’t restrict data access to just one or two teams. Your digital marketing strategy, for this holiday season and beyond, hinges on a holistic, collaborative view of your data and your users. That means that both your data and creative teams have to work together to create well-rounded campaigns. Before you know it, the holidays will have flown by, and the last thing you want to do is lose a critical window for wowing your customers with those perfectly planned and executed seasonal campaigns.

Mistake #7: Sending too many (or not enough) messages

Dramatically scaling up your messaging frequency around the holidays could be a recipe for disaster. You could scare your users away, get marked as spam (and keep in mind that with recent updates to iOS and Android, being marked as spam doesn’t only apply to email anymore), and possibly ruin the impact of your holiday campaigns. As the season goes on and you just keep sending, you run the risk of bombarding—but never truly reaching—your users.

On the other hand, be sure to send enough messages to your users. Using your data to determine the optimal send frequency and cadence—not to mention, the best ways to add personalization and relevance to those messages—that will allow you to communicate with your users in their preferred manner is the best way to win their trust and loyalty.

Mistake #8: Focusing only on the short game

While you’re collecting and analyzing all your data this holiday season, don’t forget about what happens next year. Start to formulate a game plan that ensures you gather the right data for the future. Continue to follow best practices for data collection and analysis. Plan early, and use your data in tandem with the right technology and cross-team collaboration to guide you through this year and beyond. Your users will thank you for it.

Anything else?

Want to learn more about how to quickly and easily visualize and understand the data at your disposal, during this holiday season and beyond? Check out our piece on how to use Braze Currents and Looker Blocks together effectively.

Anna Mongillo

Anna is a Business Intelligence Analyst at Braze’s NYC headquarters. She doubles as a foodie, poet, Austin Texpat and music enthusiast.