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Brands, don’t get complacent when preparing for this Christmas season

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By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

October 5, 2023 | 6 min read

The festive season is upon us and while brands will have had campaigns signed off for months now, that doesn’t mean their work is done.

Xmas shopping

Xmas shopping

The first Christmas campaign press release of the year landed in The Drum’s inbox today (yes, that’s right, on October 5). But while the planning phase should be long over for brands, there are still many elements of a successful festive campaign that marketers need to be prepared for.

Marketers need to keep a close eye on their channels and be ready to optimize throughout peak season. They also need to be aware of the latest consumer trends to tweak plans in the run-up to the main event.

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Here are e-commerce and marketing consultant Christy Parrish’s top five tips to help brands prepare to launch their Christmas campaigns.

  1. “In an era where mobile shopping is paramount, retailers must ensure all designs are mobile-friendly to better influence purchase decisions and enhance customer satisfaction.

  2. “Even though consumers will focus on gifting during this time, personalization is paramount to generate engagement. Brands must look for ways to acknowledge the customer’s interest and expertise in the brand and should focus on campaigns with messaging like ‘you have great taste, share it with others.’

  3. “Brands need to focus on remarketing by refining and intensifying the timing of browse and cart abandon campaigns. When doing this, analyze data from past holiday seasons to pinpoint optimal time frames and then use that information to prioritize time-bound offers to increase swift conversations.

  4. “Use segmentation to tailor promotional messaging by differentiating between behaviors like shoppers who ‘gift for others’ and ‘treat themselves’ or frequent versus seasonal, discount-affinity shoppers. Prepare messaging and promotions for all of these types of differentiations.

  5. “Retailers should start planning for after peak season to ensure post-holiday retention. Look for ways to continue engagement in early 2024.”

Trends for Peak Season 2023

Sales and discounts

Poor economic trading conditions in 2022 and 2023 have led to many retailers relying on heavy discounting. The latest IPA Bellwether raised concerns over the long-term brand damage to retailers through regular sales and discounting. Christmas is a period when brands invest huge amounts of time and money in glossy campaigns so risk undermining that brand work through aggressive sales.

“Many luxury brands don’t offer discounts or sales and instead rely on tactics like free and expedited shipping and free gift wrapping to drum up consumer interest,” Parrish, who is director of strategic consulting at Cordial says. “I expect retailers to follow suit this holiday season and shift their discounting strategy from traditional ‘percent off’ or ‘buy one get one’ type sales to this luxury brand ideology.”

Hybrid shopping

This is the first peak season with ‘normality’ where in-person shopping will be back in full swing. While Parrish says the retailers she’s spoken to still aren’t anticipating a pre-pandemic return for Black Friday and Christmas shopping, brands certainly need to prioritize in-person shopping experiences.

Stores need to look their best and brands should be looking at experience marketing to create a celebratory return for shoppers this year. “This means more interactive experiences. There will be a trend toward shopping experiences as an increasing segment of holiday gifting,” Parrish adds.

The Gen Z Christmas shopper

We are likely to see brands this holiday season play into what appeals to Gen Z consumers with niche microbrands and influencers being a big focus. Parrish adds: “Metaverse currency, workshops and as TikTok continues to drive shopping behavior, interactive video content and AR and VR experiences will be priorities for retailers and marketers.”

Promotions should also consider the younger generations’ focus on sustainability and ethical shopping. “These generations of consumers are much more likely to become brand loyal to like-minded companies with similar values,” she says.

Tighter budgets and AI

With a greater emphasis on resource allocation and tighter budgets for advertising and marketing, we’ll see more selected platform ads, an increase in user-generated or consumer-generated content, and the prioritization of high-ROI efforts like cross-channel interactive content.

“AI will help in this regard during this ROI-focused holiday season,” Parrish says. “Retail marketers and advertisers will use AI to broadly generate relevant, meaningful copy, make experimentation easier and more accessible, and drive meaningful lift to individual, personalized campaigns.”

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