In the latest in a series of articles as part of The Drum's retail review, we take a look at how retailers should be preparing for their busiest time of year – by holding their nerve and being patient as more and more consumers carry out their Christmas shopping last minute.
James Willoughby, director, INITIALS Marketing
Retailers should be locking customers in now.
Whilst the thought of Santa's Grottos so early in the year is abhorrent to most, Asda has taken a 'first-mover' approach to adding value in the build up to Christmas 2012 by handing out Christmas savings cards to customers across 17 stores, allowing them to save up to £144 in the run up to the festive season.
Research has shown that almost half of mothers are more worried about the cost of Christmas in 2012 than they were in 2011, whilst nearly a third have already started saving. Taking heed of this insight, retailers across the board should be starting to seed time-bound offers out now (both in store and online), giving them a greater chance of securing business during the key Christmas trading period.
Another interesting statistic unearthed by business analytics company SAS is that more of the Christmas shopping in 2011 was done by men than we would perhaps have imagined (56.5 per cent of the 10.5 million turkeys sold were purchased by men). So from a communications perspective there is a strong argument to say that men should be getting more of the focus than they may have previously.
Sue Benson, managing director, The Market Creative
Considering the low levels of consumer confidence going into the festive period last year, it was a reasonably good Christmas for retail with considerably more winners than losers. Success was facilitated by timing, with the lucrative Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday. The weather also helped high street sales with Christmas Day reported as the hottest in 90 years.
Timing and relevant messaging are critical to successful Christmas campaigns and marketers would be wise to ensure their digital and social activity supports what they learned last year. We saw many retailers reshaping the timing of their campaigns and offering deeper discounts earlier with some starting their online sales at 4pm Christmas Eve. Also, Boxing Day was the busiest shopping day of 2011.
It goes without saying that the weather still has a fundamental part to play in how people shop, so create deployable contingency plans to take account of weather changes over the festive period. It’s also worth remembering to hold your nerve – last minute shopping still plays a part in many shoppers’ Christmas ritual.
Ben Hatton, managing director, Rippleffect
It’s all about planning: understand your customers’ needs, get the strategy right and you’ve built a framework for success. Retailers need to ensure that multichannel marketing is right at the core of their plans.
Time is always at a premium as Christmas draws near, and consumers want to be able to use all forms of commercial engagement – online and in-store - to save themselves time and money. Last year, 10 per cent of all e-commerce sales were made via click-and-collect – and that figure is set to rise sharply this Christmas. Imagine the chaos if stores haven’t planned properly for all that extra traffic arriving, all those extra customers coming in through the doors, and all those extra goods to collect?
Above all, the strategic planning must include a full analysis of how the retail experience in-store matches up with the online offer - and vice versa.
Steve Sowden, managing partner, Intermarketing
Retailers need to be a little more patient when it comes to Christmas. Consumers are evolving all the time, working out retailers’ next moves and reacting. People now defer spending until the January sales, buying the same products for less. Consumers are also increasingly shopping at the last minute thanks to Sunday shopping, extended opening hours and, of course, the internet. Christmas for retailers needs to be more than just panic selling the week before and more about improving the overall experience.