Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Christmas 2021 is ‘make or break’ for brands

The vast majority of UK marketers view this year’s Christmas period as being ‘make or break’ for their businesses but, surprisingly, just a quarter of marketers are prepared, according to research from digital experience management software Sitecore.

The study of 400 UK marketers, conducted by Advanis, found that 83% believe that Christmas 2021 will be key to their survival, following the pandemic-related struggles they’ve had to deal with over the past 18 or so months. For 45% of marketers with physical stores, this holiday season is also set to be the last chance for them to prove the value of bricks-and-mortar.

The lack of preparation among these businesses is a cause for concern, with 20% of shoppers already browsing for gifts, according to a sample of 1,000 UK consumers. And a further 28% are planning to holiday-shop before the end of the summer, citing sale prices (46%), spreading the costs (44%), and avoiding crowds (42%) as most common reasons for that decision.

When it comes to Black Friday, 68% of marketers are planning promotions around the event, but 33% feel it is synonymous with mass consumerism and is becoming outdated, while 36% are concerned about the potential for large crowds.

Moreover, online discounting has become more competitive than ever, according to 49% of respondents, meaning that personalised experiences are now imperative in order to stand out from the crowd.

93% of marketers believe that digital marketing is now business-critical for surviving the festive period, but 74% admit that digital marketing has taken a back seat in favour of investment in other areas, so they have less room to manoeuvre.

Plans that marketers do have in place, however, include trialling subscription-based engagement (71%), optimising the supply chain through AI (62%), introducing new virtual services for trying on clothes and visiting stores (61%), improving customer service through AI services like chatbots (57%), and selling directly to consumers via their websites for the first time (29%).

“These findings point to a dramatic shake-up on the horizon for both the UK’s high street and ecommerce landscape,” said Paige O’Neill, Sitecore CMO. “It’s now or never for those brands looking to thrive, or even just survive, this festive season, with the onus on them to deliver the most compelling and engaging digital experiences possible. The next few weeks will be critical for realising these plans and taking advantage of technology in the critical run-up to the holidays.”