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Shopping around the Christmas tree: key retail trends

Shopping around the Christmas tree: key retail trends

Despite the uncertain climate, UK consumers seem determined to have a very merry Christmas this year, with 75% of 18-34-year-olds feeling seasonal activities are more important than ever. After all, as Band-Aid famously sang, “at Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade.”

This positivity is great news for retailers looking to end a turbulent year on a high. Almost 60% of consumers aren’t planning to reduce spending this festive season, and 16% are actually planning to spend more than they did last year. To capitalise on this enthusiasm for seasonal shopping, retailers need to recognise this will be a Christmas like no other and understand the trends that will drive purchasing over the coming weeks.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

With Amazon Prime Day unusually taking place in October, it feels like the Christmas shopping season is already well underway. Chocolate coins, advent calendars and fairy lights are beginning to nudge Halloween treats and costumes off the supermarket shelves and many people are looking to buy early. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has launched an ad campaign encouraging consumers to shop early and spread demand, to keep everyone safe over the pre-Christmas period. As Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, explains:

“Whilst celebrations will no doubt be a little different this year, we know customers will want to keep Christmas special. That’s why we’re encouraging people to shop early and prevent the last-minute rush so their fellow customers and all the store colleagues, warehouse workers and delivery drivers working behind the scenes, have the space they need to stay safe and well.”

Almost 30% of consumers had already started Christmas shopping by mid-October, and an additional 25% expected to start before the end of the month. For the retail sector this makes waiting until Black Friday to launch offers or campaigns far too late. As well as ramping up festive marketing activities as soon as possible to avoid missing this early peak, they should use real-time insight to adapt their campaigns to consumer mood as the season progresses and provide a consistently optimise shopping experience.

Tis the season to be online

Online shopping has steadily increased over the last few years, but the pandemic and associated restrictions have accelerated this shift to ecommerce. Emarketer predicts online sales in the UK will increase almost 35% this year, pushing ecommerce past 30% of total retail sales for the first time. Traditional retailers that previously stuck to the in-store shopping model are having to move online, with even Aldi now moving to boost customer loyalty by offering online grocery shopping with click and collect.

This acceleration in ecommerce makes optimising the online shopping journey more important than ever before. From first product search to checkout, retailers need to make the process as simple and friction free as possible. And they don’t necessarily need to restrict efforts to their own web stores. With third-party sellers on Amazon making more than $3.5 billion during Prime Day, retailers would do well to explore a variety of online channels.

All I want for Christmas is new

The world changed dramatically in the past few months, along with consumer needs and behaviours, so anything retailers learned from Christmases past should now be taken with a pinch of salt. Many people developed new hobbies and interests during lockdown, for instance, meaning their Christmas wish lists will be completely different from last year. Their priorities may also have changed, with shoppers specifically looking to spend with ethical businesses that authentically support worthwhile causes and have true brand purpose.

These changes in needs and behaviour aren’t likely to slow down in the run up to Christmas. With an ever-evolving patchwork of local restrictions, shoppers won’t be able to finalise their festive arrangements until the last minute, and unexpected changes of plan will be the norm. To cope with these continually shifting conditions, retailers will need to be agile, using real-time granular insight to understand evolving trends and meet consumer needs. They must measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns and use the resulting insight to optimise in-flight, to ensure they are reaching and resonating with the right audiences.

As a specialist technology PR agency, GingerMay works with a variety of tech providers that can support retailers in making the most of the Christmas shopping season. Get in touch to find out more at hello@teamgingermay.com.

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