How to engage consumers this festive season
While Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year (according to Andy Williams), it is also the most important time of the year for retail brands.
But after a rollercoaster couple of years, and with 2021 the year in which COVID-19 finally killed off some of our most-loved brands, what’s in store for retailers this festive season? We’ve taken a look at some of the key statistics and trends in retail shopping habits and furnished you with tips and tools to help you capitalise on these trends and make the most of the upcoming festive period.
Retail ho ho’s no no’s
The last two years have hit the retail industry incredibly hard. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, retailers have had a challenging time, with stores closed, staff furloughed and supply chain issues. At the same time, multiple lockdowns caused a significant shift away from the high street to e-commerce.
Research from the ONS, published earlier this year, revealed the extent of the changes wrought on the retail sector: in 2020, total retail sales volumes fell by 1.9% compared with 2019, the largest annual fall on record. However online sales rose to a record high of 33.9% as a share of all retail spending, the highest growth seen for 13 years, according to e-tail association IMRG.
More than 8,700 British chain stores closed in the first half of 2021 and while some brand names have disappeared from the high street forever (goodbye Topshop, Debenhams and Thorntons), some brands – especially those with a strong e-commerce presence – have thrived, especially the “Big Four” supermarkets, Amazon, Marks and Spencer and Boots, according to Statista.
Where and how are consumers spending?
But it looks like consumers are planning to buck this trend in 2021: Statista research shows that in the 2021 holiday season, the average Christmas spending on gifts in the UK was higher compared to the previous two years. UK consumers were expected to spend the most on consumer electronics, at around £51 in 2021, compared to £49.20 in 2020. Compared to the previous year, per capita spend on clothing and footwear saw an increase in 2021 going from £26.94 to £38.79, although this is still far below the levels observed in the pre-pandemic period.
Research from Canopy Media shows that the pandemic also affected how people shopped for gifts in 2020. The number buying online grew to 85%, up from 78% in 2019, while, due to a mix of store closures and consumer concern, the number shopping in-store dropped from 77% in 2019 to 58% in 2020.
When are consumers shopping?
New research from Kantar’s GB Target Group Index (TGI) consumer data has found that 21% of adults (over 11 million people) are planning to start their present purchasing in November. Kantar also found that, amongst the November Christmas shoppers, 44% of them (5 million people) buy Christmas presents for six or more people. November Christmas shoppers can also prove to be a lucrative group in their gift purchases: the data shows that well over half of them (55%) claim to usually spend £200 or more on Christmas gifts, compared to just 37% of those who start their Christmas shopping in December. This means that now is a key time to engage consumers with products and services that will be gifted during the festive season.
Christmas shopping trends
The likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok and Pinterest account for approximately 60% of all Gen Z and Millennial holiday purchases.
Nearly 70% of Gen Z and Millennials are actively looking to engage with brands both online and in-store that have a clear sustainable mission. Gen X is not far behind, with 59% seeking out ethical brands. For more on Green consumers view our Green Paper.
After the ‘pandemic puppy’ boom, it will come as no surprise that 64% of pet owners have said they will be buying presents for their furry friends. For more pet specific marketing data visit our page.
Shopping the sales
In 2020, consumers used incentives like Black Friday (39%), Cyber Monday (24%) and Amazon Prime Day to bag their bargains. In 2021, Klarna expects that figure to increase to 72% of shoppers who will rely heavily on similar incentives, seasonal sales and offers to stretch their budgets.
81% of shoppers expect to buy for family, while nearly half plan to purchase gifts for friends (44%). 34% will shop for their significant other, while a mere 7% plan to shop for work colleagues.
43% of Millennials and 38% of Gen Z plan to buy gifts from their wish lists for themselves if they don’t receive them from others, up from last holiday season, when 41% of Millennials and 32% of Gen Z said they purchased gifts for themselves.
Wisdom of the silver surfers
55% of Baby Boomers are more inclined to forgo participating in holiday sales altogether, but Klarna’s silver surfers are still savvier than most. Older Klarna shoppers are much more likely to take advantage of the holiday deals than the
average Joe, with only 43% of Klarna Baby Boomers saying they won’t shop sales.
How we spend it
While we’re feeling more excited about the first ‘normal’ Christmas since 2019, a number of factors are stretching the purse strings: personal finances are under pressure, unemployment and inflation are both on the rise; and cost of living is expected to go up in 2022. New research from VoucherCodes and GlobalData has found that, while consumers feel stretched financially they also want to make this Christmas extra special. As a consequence, many admit to being more inclined to rely on loans than their earnings to finance Christmas gift spending this year. In 2020, consumers expected to finance 75% of their Christmas gift spending via their earnings, compared to 62% in 2021. This year, people anticipate relying on credit cards, store cards, loans, and payday loans more than in 2020.
Data – your helpful Christmas elf
It is no secret that early to mid-November is the best time for direct mail (DM) campaigns during the festive period. And with the right data at their disposal, brands can further optimise their campaigns to reach the right consumer at the right time. And as we’ve seen, bricks and mortar is far from being obsolete: with the right planning and analysis of customer data, brands can drive footfall and traffic over typically quieter times with incentives or offers. With more than 44% of consumers purchasing presents for six people or more, they’ll be keen to make the most of incentives and sales.
But not only that, retailers need to ensure they are embracing a more omnichannel model. Klarna’s omnichannel research found that retailers’ main motivation when it comes to developing a more omnichannel approach is to better understand customers, but other factors also came into play.
Build a winning strategy
Consumers’ buying habits are changing, making it an optimal time to tap into new opportunities. Brands must take the insights from the past year and use them to build a winning strategy. Getting personal with consumers with tailored, relevant and timely communications and marketing will not only drive engagement but also optimise return on investment (ROI) and long-term value (LTV).
With access to a data asset repository of multiple, trusted sources of consumer data, brands can build an accurate, in-depth, and insightful view of the consumer population in the UK. By understanding who consumers live with, what they earn and spend, how they transact and what their hobbies are, for example, they can gain huge customer insight, enrich their marketing comms, build profiles and personas and select the appropriate recipients for their campaign.
View our Retail Page
Once again we find our selves hunkered down at home, with high streets and non-essential retailers closed for business. It seems that – for the time being at least – late night Christmas shopping is a thing of the past. Marketers must look to alternative channels to engage their customers and – given that many people are working from home and have a bit more time, now is the perfect time to consider Direct Mail. Receiving a catalogue in the post can be a welcome distraction to our lockdown routines.
Consumers crave personal interaction and tangible communication, and, when executed thoughtfully, responsibly and compliantly, direct mail can deliver compelling results. Since we first descended in to lockdown earlier this year, 40% of people either agree or strongly agree that Direct Mail has become an important part of this new routine.
REaD Group’s recent work with an outdoor clothing and equipment retailer provides an example of how direct mail can and continues to be a high performing and effective channel for retailers:
“We are delighted to have seen a 86% uplift in sales from our latest direct mail catalogue, compared to the same campaign last year. This is a really good example of ongoing value delivered by well-executed direct mail – supported by data that is maintained to a very high standard – and is why we will continue to utilise this powerful channel as integral component of our marketing.”
By utilising our quality marketing data, we can help retail brands to deliver relevant and effective communication to engage, acquire and retain the best customers.
Throughout the year we have seen clients not just continue to use direct mail, but actually increase volumes as the years unfolds, and we know it works. This is also true of door-drops and partially addressed mail. Direct mail has proven to be a highly trusted and resilient channel for marketers over this uncertain time; on it’s own and as part of a multi channel approach. Increasing engagement, brand reputation and increasing ROI only scratches the surface of the benefits. Now is the time to back your brand with direct mail!
Get in touch with REaD Group today!
This week kicked off with positive news for us all. A vaccine is ready to roll out, retailers can open 24/7 over the festive season and of course the countdown to Christmas has begun. Using this marketing momentum for retailers, the time to grab your consumers attention is now.
Direct Mail has seen a huge increase in engagement over this year. With more people than ever working from home and the need for more tangible and personal communication at an all-time high, 40% of consumers agreed that direct mail became a part of the new routine. We saw clients increase their mailing volumes month on month, and a recent campaign for a leisure retailer saw a huge 86% increase in sales as a result.
Direct mail offers a lasting, trusting and tactile form of engagement that plays an essential driving role for your customers brand journey. Research from Royal Mail – Marketsearch 2020 shows that 88% of consumers engaged more with direct mail in 2020 than ever before. Engagement and online traffic increased by 64% and online sales increase by 25%. However, direct mail can never reach it’s full potential without the addition of digital marketing and email communication. Email has a much shorter life span but delivers the immediate and up to date content to keep your brand present for the consumer. When primed with direct mail, customers spend 30% longer engaging with digital communication. The two side by side offer a unique brand experience – increasing brand engagement – instilling brand loyalty and providing timely and personal communication throughout.
To ensure these channels are utilised to the full, communication must be timely, accurate and compliant. With quality data, correct addressing and relevant content, the two can work seamlessly:
– Drive customer engagement
– Increase ROI
– Promote positive brand reputation
To find out how REaD Group can help you unleash the full potential of your data
Understand your customers with Actionable Insight
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
For most of us in the UK, we think that Black Friday was invented by Amazon but that’s not actually true. Police in Philadelphia first used the term “Black Friday” in the 1950s when large crowds of tourists and shoppers came to the city the day after Thanksgiving, creating chaos, traffic problems and looting opportunities.
The term soon grew throughout the U.S. and today it commonly marks the start of the Christmas season, where shops compete to offer the best deals.
The concept was first brought over to the UK in 2010 when Amazon promoted a range of discounts and deals to consumers – and we were hooked! Then in 2013, Asda held its own Black Friday sale which turned into mayhem, making national headlines as customers physically fought for flat-screen televisions. Since then the sales have grown year on year, although much of the shopping is now done online and is more of a weekend than a day, and has extended to almost every retailer and across different sectors.
In our house, the phrase “let’s see what we can get on Black Friday” delays any thoughts on Christmas shopping for at least a short period of time.
From a Customer Engagement perspective, I always find Black Friday a bit disappointing and this year was no exception. Every year I hope to see more personal engagement, more creativity and more relevance. In the year of GDPR when brands’ email lists have been decimated (using the literal meaning here) I had hoped that this would be the time to use smaller lists to build bigger relationships. I asked around a few friends and everyone felt the same; not very much of the messaging sent out felt that it was personal.
In general, the emails were all pretty much the same: We have a Black Friday sale, we have some offers and some might be interesting to you. For example, this one from Jones Bootmakers, someone I have bought from in the past has no products I have browsed, no styles I might like, in fact not even something that shows I’m a man (no jokes please). They do get time to make sure I know that it is only selected lines though!
Not surprisingly (maybe) Amazon got it right. They actually targeted based on what I’d bought, and the email body contained books I had browsed but not purchased. Even if the image was a bit generic (I promise I have never thought to buy a Call The Midwife book).
Am I missing something, surely the customers that retailers have now are the people who said they wanted to still be contacted? And surely, they are also the people who have either bought, browsed or given an indication of interest in certain products? This generates really useful data and that data should then be getting used in these sorts of communications.
This is it, the biggest sale day of the year and yet we send generic emails with generic content. As a data marketer I feel disappointed not just in the brands but also in my industry. After all this time we are still failing to get the basics of personalisation right most of the time. Is this down to lack of data being made available? Or is it a lack of imagination in using it? Either way we must do better.
So, a target is set: For next year’s Black Friday to get at least one email in my inbox, personalised to me, from a brand that I work with, who are using data well. See you then!
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
It’s been a turbulent few months for the UK retail sector – Debenhams and House of Fraser both recently announced multi-million pound losses. On the other hand, Tesco revealed a rise in their annual profits to £1.3bn and Sainsbury’s and Asda announced a ground-breaking merger to make a super-supermarket.
The level of competition between retailers is reaching fever-pitch. Amazon’s seemingly never ending reach, the growth of online brands such as ASOS and boohoo, and the general rise of the discount retailer have disrupted a sector that has been slow to respond. It is therefore vital for retailers to demonstrate their value to consumers and develop robust strategies to capture and retain customer attention and loyalty. A strategy that has proven highly effective in both the past and the present? Loyalty schemes.
Is the loyalty scheme on its way out?
While some have criticised loyalty schemes in recent years, they remain a powerful way of connecting and engaging with customers. In our recent Retail Trend Report we found that there is an intrinsic link between how long a loyalty scheme has been running and the level of customer loyalty. The research found that Tesco lead the way in supermarket retailers when it came to customer loyalty – the Tesco Clubcard was the first scheme to be launched (in 1995). Consequently, retailers with less mature loyalty schemes have lower levels of trust – Morrisons was ranked 10th for customer loyalty and only launched its scheme in 2014.
Some critics have insisted that the loyalty scheme is dying out, however, Tesco’s announcement earlier this year that they were going to downgrade their Clubcard programme was met with widespread backlash from customers. The demand is still there it would seem. Loyalty schemes offer a tangible value and benefits to the consumer, and many budget and plan accordingly to make the most of them. They may not necessarily attract new customers but certainly encourage more frequent purchases and customer retention. Loyalty schemes have become expected as part of the offering by consumers – gaining points rather than just lower prices.
Changing consumer landscapes
It has gotten to the stage where many consumers are experiencing ‘’offer fatigue’’; being bombarded with endless 2-for-1-deals, flash sales and coupons to the point where they become desensitised to all of it. Comparable prices are no longer the differentiator, consumers expect retailers to offer them deals that are suited to their individual shopping habits.
With discounting so rife, consumers are no longer prepared to buy full price products unless they absolutely have to, which has meant that supermarkets like Co-op have suffered for a number of years now. In order to break the cycle, retailers must renew their focus on their customer loyalty propositions to make it worth customers investing their time and money in selecting their chosen retailer’s products. But how exactly?
The Digital Shift
Facilitating an easier process for customers to access their rewards is one way of tackling this challenge. Customers are increasingly using contactless technology and phones to make payments, and the prospect of carrying a wallet bulging with loyalty cards is becoming an increasingly unattractive one. It is high time that retailers shift their loyalty card schemes to digital platforms.
Tesco recently set an example by launching a contactless version of their Clubcard last year, followed by a Tesco Clubcard app. Customers who are presented with wads of paper coupons after swiping a loyalty card are, more often than not, unlikely to retain these for a future purchase.
Personalisation is key
Saving money is no longer the only priority for customers – they have come to recognise the value of personalisation and appreciate receiving deals that have been intelligently tailored to their shopping habits. Retailers therefore need to make sure that they are segmenting their customer data and analysing it to ensure that they are building and engendering trust and anticipating customers’ needs.
Building customer trust is a gradual process and not an overnight fix; this makes loyalty schemes more significant than ever before. Retailers must ensure that they are clearly explaining the benefits of a data-value exchange to their customers and remaining as transparent and open as possible.
Brands must demonstrate through these retail loyalty schemes that customers that consent to share their data stand to be rewarded for their loyalty and custom. And for those brands with long standing schemes already in place – now is not the time to abandon them! They’re a key means of understanding customer habits and maintaining valuable patrons.
The recent implementation of GDPR has provided a welcome impetus for brands to take this initiative. All things considered, by introducing loyalty schemes and using segmentation to enrich customer understanding, brands should soon enjoy better communication with an increasing number of data-savvy consumers.
25th September 2017
By Scott Logie, MD, Insight at REaD Group
While online retail services are commonplace and very much taken for granted these days, I remember a time when this was certainly not the case. Christmas 2002 – what feels like a bygone era now – was the first time I used Amazon to buy a few gifts for friends and family. Foremost in my memory being a spectacular Stanley Kubrick DVD box set intended for a friend of mine. Although I ordered in plenty of time, no box set ever materialised and I was obliged to venture out and purchase another to avoid being red-faced on Christmas morn. I duly complained and another set was dispatched without argument. It still has pride of place on my DVD shelf to this day.
I was gobsmacked at the time. No aspersions were cast on my honesty, nor whether the package had actually arrived – no argument at all in fact. Just a replacement product dispatched in a timely fashion. I had to admit that I was more than a little impressed after such a poor first impression. A new standard of customer service had been set in my eyes.
A mere 15 years later and this level of service has become the norm, and most can scarcely remember a time when it wasn’t. It has become clear that this provision of quality service has now become functional and can no longer be thought of as a differentiator. The question of what makes us loyal when it comes to our engagement with brands, spanning a range of sectors, is one without a simple answer.
However, as is indicated in our Retail Trend Report for 2017, one particularly successful method for promoting trust and loyalty appears to be through offering reward schemes and cashback to consumers. There is clear evidence in our research that brands with highly established reward schemes, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, have greater customer trust than those with no or only recently introduced reward systems.
Nevertheless, this alone is not enough, brands must strive to be more transparent and be seen to both preach and practice strong values for this loyalty and trust to be truly sustainable.
If we compare our most recent research to our findings from our 2013 Retail Report, we can see that loyalty has undoubtedly increased in those four years. However, while retailers can take encouragement from this there is still plenty of room to improve. Now is certainly not the time to ease up on the pedal. Essentially though, a higher proportion of brands seem to be raising the bar and increasing the pressure for others to follow suit and provide consumers with improved emotional and more rewarding relationships.
One cannot help but be intrigued at how the introduction of new technology may provide brands with a means to enhance their emotional connection with consumers in what is increasingly perceived to be a non-personal world. More advanced technology such as virtual reality seems to be gaining popularity at a steady rate, especially with younger customers. This could certainly present an exciting opportunity for brands to add an unprecedented level of engagement to their customer relationships in the years to come.
Want to know more about how to effectively engage with your customers? Contact us today
12th April 2016
There isn’t a shopper out there who hasn’t seen the impact of the two great warmongers on our high street: recession and the internet. The empty facings, plethora of charity chops, and low price outlets have led many to believe that the high street isn’t just dying, but is dead, and has no chance of ever being resuscitated. And yet there are many examples of small towns, town edge malls and inner city developments which are bucking the trend and showing signs of fighting back.
So how do the high street retailers bring back the shoppers, and what does the future hold for the high street?
The economic downfall has limited retail sales and provided a strong rationale for shoppers to use the internet instead! In fact, 83% of consumers claim that they have, or would, shop online due to increased options, discounts and a broader selection of goods. People are more inclined to search diligently for a bargain from the comfort of their own home than brave the damp UK high streets – particularly at busy seasonal times.
The impact of online sales varies by retailer and by sector of course, but the most dramatic shift can be seen in music and film retail, where online retail is relentlessly crushing its high street counterpart. Conversely, sole internet players such as Asos and Amazon, with no bricks and mortar shops, are expected to double their share of the total market.
Electricals stores are also under pressure with just over a quarter of their white and brown goods now sold online. US retailer Best Buy pulled out of the UK last year closing all 11 stores while rival Comet was sold for just £2. Dixons Retail, which owns Currys and PC World, have also seen underlying sales in the UK and Ireland fall by 7%
And yet in fashion, just 9% of sales are online but this is still significant enough for several retailers – including Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and BHS – to be looking at store closures. So e-commerce can enhance the high street; retailers just have to get smart. As with most things, innovation is probably the key. There are no longer any fixed rules when it comes to consumers, or even businesses, buying anything.
So retailers need to be flexible, explore all viable channels and use innovation. In the future, retailers need to employ a series of engaging techniques to persuade its customers that the best deals can be found on the high street.