Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Navigating the 2023 holiday season: The challenges and opportunities for retail marketers

By James Milne, General Manager, Northern Europe at Outbrain

The holiday season brings something a bit different every year for marketers. The uncertainties that have marked 2023 – inflation, mentions of a recession, tighter budgets – have brought unease as marketers are left wondering the potential implications on consumer behaviour for the peak shopping period.

To stand out in today’s attention economy and reach their Q4 commercial goals, marketers are tasked with embracing new ways to connect with shoppers.

The starting point of making those connections, however, remains unchanged: online. According to eMarketer, there will be an estimated 2.89 billion digital buyers worldwide for the holidays, representing over 36% of the global population. 

Recognising the opportunities ahead, here are some trends to ensure your brand campaigns are met with the latest consumer expectations.

Establishing Trust for Lasting Connections

According to a recent UK survey, 53% of individuals are grappling with the challenge of meeting their monthly expenses.

In light of prevailing economic circumstances, people are making conscious adjustments to their lifestyle choices – 27% have taken to curb their overall spending. While discounts are undoubtedly an effective way to entice shoppers given the economic climate, winning them over demands more than simply lowering prices. Brands can effectively cultivate strong connections by fostering trust, which according to the Global Web Index, ranks 3rd among 14 factors that influence shopper purchasing decisions.

With that in mind, advertising in premium online environments, where brands can leverage the halo effect of reputable publishers, can help translate trust into something more meaningful than a one-time transaction coming from a discount. In fact, an impressive 68% of consumers place their trust in ads displayed in editorial environments, in contrast to the 55% attributed to social platforms. That mere difference in trust level directly impacts the chances of success for your brand’s campaign. 

Brand Engagement Comes with Context

Capturing your audience’s attention is just the first step; sustaining it presents a distinct challenge. Success hinges on contextual solutions that align content with consumers during critical shopping moments, drawing from non-invasive customer data. Brands can shape personalised messages to heighten the overall customer experience. This approach fosters loyalty, facilitates improved engagement, and cultivates deeper connections between consumers and brands.

According to Experian, a resounding 83% of consumers are inclined to engage with brands that align with their preferences. Notably, the survey underscores a willingness among 72% of consumers to share their personal data with brands, reflecting a willingness to exchange information when it is deemed meaningful. 

These findings highlight how personalisation builds trust and bolsters brand-consumer relationships. Personalised interactions increase consumer trust and spending, extending to recommendations among friends and family. This enduring impact fosters loyalty, advocacy, and contributes to brand growth in today’s evolving marketing landscape.

Embracing the AI Revolution in Retail

As with many industries out there, the retail landscape is experiencing a groundbreaking transformation given the rise of artificial intelligence. According to Salesforce, 94% of consumers say that good customer experiences make them more likely to buy again. 

AI-powered solutions will play a pivotal role in ensuring those experiences are personalised and elevated for engagement. In fact, Salesforce anticipates AI to influence $194 billion in global online holiday spend, showing the influence AI-driven marketing will have among consumers this year and beyond. It’s clear that with AI as a driving force, the retail industry is poised for significant growth where shopping experiences can be heightened for brands and consumers alike.

While every holiday season comes with its set of challenges, success is with the marketers and brands that understand and adapt to today’s buyer journey. Learn more insights and forecasts in the Global Commerce Trends for the 2023 Holiday Season report, partnered by industry leaders Outbrain and eMarketer, and transform challenge into opportunity.