They say that failing to prepare is preparing to fail, but when it comes to predicting shopper behaviour this holiday season after almost two full years of COVID-19 related disruption, it’s truer than ever before. We have seen seismic shifts in consumer behaviour, soaring demand for certain products and changes to search patterns, all of which mean you may be finding it hard to determine what you should expect in the run up to Christmas 2021. 

Compounding the issue is that there really isn’t a benchmark to compare against, given the unusual nature of the past 18 months and the abnormal data that last year’s festive period gave rise to.

Luckily, new data from Sitecore gives us some insight into overall sentiment and outlines what we can realistically expect, helping to make planning that bit easier. Here are the key findings and most pressing predictions to keep front of mind as you prepare for the all-important holiday shopping season.

It’s been a challenging year – digital marketing is now critical to performance

95% of marketers agree that 2021 has been a challenging year from an economic perspective. A total of 83% either strongly agree or somewhat agree that the festive shopping period is make or break, a sentiment that is especially prevalent amongst mid-sized businesses. 93% say that digital marketing will play a vital role in keeping the business afloat during this period.

With 1 in 3 businesses confirming that the Christmas shopping period makes up the bulk of their overall annual sales, it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of getting your digital marketing campaigns prepped as early as possible and working as efficiently as possible. It’s clear that many businesses plan to go hard on their digital campaigns over the next couple of months, and that means you’ll need to work harder to make your own business stand out.

Key tasks:

  • Prepare your digital marketing plan right now, if you don’t already have your strategy in place.
  • Ensure your creative is as engaging and attractive as it can be and ready to be used well in advance of you actually needing it.
  • Accept that competition will be hotter than ever this year. Look for ways you can use your owned, earned and paid media channels to their maximum potential. This could mean preparing more content such as festive gift guides, begin testing landing pages, planning social media promotions or getting video content in the bag sooner rather than later.

Inflation is a concern – but pressure to discount is high

4 in 10 businesses say that rising levels of inflation could derail their Christmas success. With rising consumer costs an almost constant presence in news headlines, many also report that they have faced stronger pressure to discount goods. 49% say online discounting has been more competitive than ever over the last 12 months. This means that we can expect discounting to be a key differentiator in the festive period for consumers and something that you’ll need to prepare for and factor in to your digital marketing as the Christmas shopping season gets underway.

Key tasks:

  • Scrutinise your promos and offers across your website, PPC ads and other ad campaigns and consider how they can be made more attractive.
  • Refine your PPC Ads copy and setup appropriate promotional extensions
  • Expect rivals to be heavily discount focused – this means you may not be able to compete on price. Explore how you can negate the impact by taking actions such as promoting an excellent review profile, highlighting faster shipping, more convenient returns, free gift wrapping or loyalty scheme perks in your ad campaigns and consumer-facing content.

Assess preparedness levels and take action where necessary

Two-thirds of marketers say they feel confident they are prepared for the holiday season. If you can’t say the same thing, now is the time to catch up. According to Sitecore data, many marketers appear to have spent the last 12 months ensuring critical marketing functions are in place and working as needed. 87% say they are better prepared in the area of customer profiling and personalisation than last year, while 86% say they better understand consumer behaviour while 83% say their content management system is better prepared.

Key tasks:

  • Verify that you have adequate personalisation strategies and techniques in place.
  • Set up dashboards and reports now to allow you to study consumer behaviour and identify trends quicker in peak shopping season.
  • Ensure your data collection processes are performing as expected – this is an opportunity to prepare now for the cookieless world and elevate your preparedness for future busy periods.
  • Stress test your content management system and pre-schedule as much content as possible now.

Black Friday offers will be confined to Black Friday weekend

We’re used to seeing Black Friday deals appear way before Black Friday itself but it looks increasingly like many businesses will limit their Black Friday offers to the weekend of 26-29 November this year.

Fewer retailers will make Black Friday offers available this year, with just 68% saying it’s on the cards for them, compared with 72% running offers last year. Those who do plan to kick off their festive campaigns with Black Friday say offers will be limited to the shopping weekend only, with 33% saying their offers will only run on Black Friday itself.

Those not planning to share Black Friday offers cite concerns around fulfilment, digital technology and inflation.

Key tasks:

  • If you’re planning a Black Friday offer, decide if you want to join the majority and focus your offers on the weekend only. This could create a sense of urgency for consumers.

Don’t be surprised to see more subscription-related offers emerging – both digitally and in person

71% of businesses say they will create subscription-based offers this year. They will couple this with digital experiences, such as virtual seasonal window displays and shareable wish lists.

Key tasks:

  • Compelling subscription offers can create a recurring revenue stream and improve customer loyalty. If you don’t already have a subscription offer, now is the time to get creative!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with festive marketing , or aren’t sure you have the in-house resource or expertise to compete and perform at the level required to deliver a successful festive period, speak to Adrac now to explore how we can help. 

Author Rebecca

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