A Holiday Conundrum For Marketers: Differentiating Gifters From Customers - Zeta Global

Part three of three.

By: Julie Beggs


Holidays are the perfect time for marketers to measure customer consumption and transactional data. But it also provides a unique challenge: determining which of these purchase signals ties to an individual shopper’s customer profile.

Do the constant gift-giving seasons make you create misleading conclusions about your customers? Here’s what you can do to avoid purchase confusion.


One for You, One for Me.

Customers increase spend during annual holiday timeframes, but, if they are anything like me, they are also enticed by good deals to put a thing or two in the cart just for themselves! This purchasing conundrum can make marketers wish any holiday season away, but all hope is not lost. Marketers who review customer purchase history data can easily identify high-value customers from those who are purchasing for the first time. Looking closely at patterns from year-to-year will provide a good indication of how you can create remarketing opportunities and increase their likelihood to make a future purchase. For example, if a customer is a regular consumer of books, it is likely that they are avid readers and will continue to buy books in the future.

When looking at that same customer during the month of December, you might find that their book spending increases by 150%. Is that a result of exciting book titles new on the market, or are they purchasing books for friends and family during the holidays? If they are gift giving, it’s hard to quantify if they will continue the upward spending trend outside of holiday seasonality.


Differentiating Gifters from Customers


We partnered with The Relevancy Group on the Consumer Holiday Attitudes and Marketing Behaviors Survey, and a key finding from the survey showed that self-gifting is on the rise for the third year in a row. So, it should be no surprise to marketers that shoppers are adding themselves to their holiday gift lists. How can marketers distinguish between these different purchasing data points?


The Importance of Context

The first step in separating holiday purchases meant for others from self-gifting lies in deeply understanding the customer on a 1:1 basis. Having an expansive customer database that ties transactions to individual customer profiles is a valuable tool around any holiday.

Understanding customers’ “data at rest” – demographics, interests, purchase history, etc. can help inform whether a recent holiday purchase is likely intended for themselves or someone else. Savvy marketers will review customer behavior patterns at other parts of the year to determine if they are buying more or less during the holidays. Analyzing and measuring holiday spend year over year, rather than comparing it to another part of the year, might be a better approach for many retailers. Those patterns should provide more accurate customer views and filter out any misleading signals.

Another way to differentiate holiday purchases is to create exclusive holiday lines or gift sets that are easily tracked and measured during the high gift-giving seasons. Retailers and marketers that promote those specific items will have valuable information about how those products perform compared to products that are available year-round.

Retailers can also compare “ship to” and “bill to” addresses at checkout to determine the products purchased were gifts.


Don’t be Afraid to Ask.

Other customer behaviors that can help marketers identify gifters from purchasers include requested actions at the checkout. During the purchasing process, many retailers ask customers directly if the item they are purchasing is a gift. This can be done in store and online. eCommerce platforms like Amazon ask, “Is this a gift?” when someone is finalizing a purchase.

Brick and mortar locations have a unique and helpful way to distinguish purchases by offering gift-wrapping services to customers. Tracking which items are selected for wrapping will provide the retailer with valuable insight.



Customer engagement and loyalty programs offer ongoing opportunities for gathering data on gifts and self-purchases. Customer surveys and loyalty program enrollment, motivated with extra incentives like special offers during peak season, can also help you gain a better understanding of what purchases are going where.

Marketers have a unique but limited opportunity during, and immediately following, the holidays to accumulate valuable transaction data and attribute it to an individual. Setting up systems that let customers differentiate their gifts for others from their own personal purchases, can be a great source of information. Don’t forget to re-engage with your customers following high purchase periods like the holidays to gather more data about which purchases are intended for whom.

Do you need help tying your first party purchase data to an individual customer? Learn how Zeta can help align your database with the world’s second-largest data cloud to get more insights about your customers here: https://zetaglobal.com/request-demo/

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