Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Harrods London at Christmas

Why now is the time for brands to prep for Christmas

By Lee Miles, Chief Customer Success Officer at Sitecore

This year’s holiday shopping season comes on the heels of a difficult 2020. With the UK having spent last Christmas in lockdown, many brands are looking for this Golden Quarter to make up for lost sales. So much so, our recent research revealed eight in 10 marketers say this festive season will be make or break for their brand.

With UK consumer confidence at its highest levels since the start of the pandemic, and our survey revealing that a fifth of consumers are already buying gifts, the time is now for brands to act fast in order to survive – and thrive.

We know only a quarter of marketers (28%) are fully prepared to meet the demands of holiday shoppers; a worrying statistic given consumers are already buying gifts. In order to take advantage of the most important holiday season in years, it will be critical for brands to deliver the most compelling and engaging digital experiences, adjust their martech stack to showcase promotions, and align with the needs of early holiday spenders.

Here are a few key steps brands could follow to help them gear up for success. 

Target early bargain hunters this summer

Over a quarter (28%) of UK consumers will start shopping for gifts by the end of August, and half will be getting their Christmas presents by October. Therefore, brands must start promotions and campaigns extra early to entice eager consumers planning to spread the costs and avoid the crowds this Christmas. Having the right technology in place, and the best team to analyse and act on campaign data in real-time to meet heightened customer expectations, is key in being able to target early-bird shoppers with personalised offers and deals.  

Rethink Black Friday

Many UK marketers are planning promotions this Black Friday (68%), but its popularity as the busiest shopping day of the year may wane as a third of marketers (33%) believe it has become a synonym with mass consumerism and is getting outdated. The risk of large crowds is another red flag, so brands need to re-consider activity around the shopping event. Marketers can no longer rely on Black Friday for driving the majority of Christmas sales – especially given that consumers will start shopping for presents earlier this year. So, to make sure customer expectations are met, brands need to focus on providing bespoke digital and physical experiences at all times, not just during key shopping days.

Prioritise digital loyalty schemes

Digital loyalty schemes, such as subscription services, have been on the rise so, if brands want to stay relevant, they need to introduce a new digital service for customers. Our survey found that over 71% of marketers will be trialling subscription-based engagement during the holiday season to boost customer loyalty and offer a more personalised experience throughout the year.

Virtualise to monetise

With more people spending time online for work, shopping and entertainment, marketers need to be exploring options for digitising real-world holiday experiences. Some are already embracing this tactic, with 44% saying they will be offering free gifts or samples with online orders, while 40% will be introducing a virtual personal shopping experience. Investing into connected virtual events could also help brands reach different customer groups. For example, a third of marketers are planning to digitise Christmas-specific events, like virtual meetings with Santa, to entice younger audiences.

Focus on experiences

With half of marketers (45%) saying that online discounting has become more competitive than ever, success this holiday season will mean creating seamless and personalised customer experiences, rather than slashing prices. Among these are introducing new virtual services for trying on clothes and visiting stores (61%) and using AI and chatbots to improve online customer service (57%) – providing excellent experiences and engaging further with those shopping from home. Taking advantage of the technologies available to them would be crucial for delivering unrivalled personalised experiences this Golden Quarter.

With consumers already gift-shopping, brands cannot rely on Black Friday for a pre-Holiday sales lift. It’s now or never for those looking to thrive, or even just survive, this festive season. But only brands who start preparing early to deliver the most compelling and engaging digital experiences possible this Christmas will bear the fruits of the success in the future.