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Given the current supply chain strain, this holiday season will look a lot different from past years. Consumer purchase patterns will be difficult to predict with the country's continued patchwork of phased openings, many major retailers opting to close on Thanksgiving, and holiday sales beginning as early as October.

Having more data can help guide your business to make better decisions on how best to meet your customers, whenever and however they wish to engage. Now is the time to push against the four walls of your business and enter into trusted, privacy-conscious data partnerships to build a stronger understanding of your audience and gain a competitive advantage.

How the holidays compound existing data challenges

Recent data is particularly vital now when consumers’ situations are changing day to day. At any moment, the information your brand needs to offer consumers an experience they’ll welcome may be data you’ve never accessed before.

The holidays compound these pandemic and recession-triggered data challenges by bringing in wider shopping behaviors that may be obscured throughout the year. A consumer may buy a case of champagne for a party, but that doesn’t mean they should be automatically segmented into a high-value audience. This seemingly harmless act can create media waste and worse, turn consumers off from engaging with your brand even once a year.

On the other hand, it’s certainly possible that these jovial party hosts may eventually become loyal repeat customers—all the more reason to start nurturing relationships and learn more about customers through every brand engagement, no matter where that interaction occurs. However, the pandemic has just accelerated technology and data strategy development timelines, making it imperative to accomplish what would have taken 3-5 years into a single quarter.

Connection over convenience

We’re at an interesting inflection point in the pandemic and retail as a whole: for the first time in many years, consumers prize connection over convenience. They’ve learned to slow down over the past several months and think about what really matters to them and which companies they feel connected to and trust.

Therefore, purchases made over this holiday season can hold greater significance than in years past. The brands that will succeed through the holidays and after will be the ones who center their data strategy on removing blindspots in the customer journey and connecting more deeply and authentically with consumers.

Build privacy-first data partnerships

Building authentic customer relationships comes from knowing more about your audience in a permissioned manner—how they interact with your brand, certainly, but also with brands in other categories. Data partnerships are becoming more popular for brands to achieve a 360-degree view of consumers. If you are a DTC looking to expand beyond ecommerce and start selling in stores, you may want to evaluate the retailers you go to based on the data they can safely and securely share with you. If you are a CPG that sells through big box retailers, you may want to gain enhanced visibility into their POS data to cross reference with your media and trade campaign results, accurately assign attribution, and streamline media spend.

Regardless of your data needs, it’s important to understand a potential partner’s perspective and practices on data privacy and security, and ensure that you are culturally and technically aligned prior to pursuing collaboration. Here are some key questions to ask and know your own answers to:

  1. What data do I want and how will it be used?
  2. How do you manage customer preferences and consent?
  3. How do you handle opt-outs?
  4. How is that data stored?

You may need to bring in a trusted technology provider that knows your privacy and data strategy well and can continue to work with you as partnership conversations progress.

Succeeding beyond the holidays

As it’s unclear when things will return back to “normal,” there’s never been a better time to focus your data strategy on learning more about your audience. Even your most loyal customers have vastly different priorities today than they did before: they won’t be the same segment you connect with in 2021 as they are today or were earlier this year.

The brands that expand their data universe to nurture new and existing customer relationships will find themselves in a powerful position this holiday season, through the recession, and beyond.