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Mapping the marketing trends for 2021’s Golden Quarter

Mapping the marketing trends for 2021’s Golden Quarter

Making the most of this year’s Golden Quarter is going to require smart manoeuvring. While appetite for shopping and connection with brands has stayed steady despite multiple waves of pandemic challenges, marketers looking to maximise success this festive season now face a highly mixed picture of trends to manage.

With 63% of consumers expecting a return to normality only in 2022, it is clear health concerns are lingering. At the same time, however, they are gearing up to compensate for last year’s disappointments: a solid 70% are ready to spend the same or more than 2020, which is a promising prospect for retail brands. Meanwhile, we’re also seeing flow between online and bricks-and-mortar experiences, alongside a significant hike in conscientiousness around the environment and sustainability. 

So which key trends should retailers be harnessing to maximise rewards in the Golden Quarter? Considering the landscape, flexibility and hybridisation will be essential to successfully address current consumer habits and sentiments. 

Early birds on the rise

Whether it be due to pent-up enthusiasm or striving to mitigate against the unexpected, there is a definite uptick in consumers researching, planning, and purchasing ahead of time. Providing the insight audiences need to make the best choices is therefore a sure-fire strategy to build trust, confidence, and a returning client base. 

Recent studies reveal a 66% increase in Christmas-related searches compared to July 2020, while 30% of shoppers view Black Friday as their main opportunity for festive purchases. What’s more, the average consumer will start doing their research 5.7 weeks beforehand. For brands, this makes faster action a necessity. Planning ahead will be key to ensure they have a clear and timely strategy in place should there be supply chain issues, while the sooner they engage with consumers, the more likely they are to be top of mind when it comes to the final purchase. 

Few people are clued up on every single technology development, such as which Bluetooth headphones to buy, or where to find the best value speakers. As a result, it’s worth bearing in mind the importance of online reviews — relied on heavily by nine out of 10 consumers – and genuinely useful guidance. Highlighting positive reviews or providing more ‘personal’ feedback on tried-and-tested products helps brands stand out. Additionally, leveraging evergreen content such as supportive lists and guides can help meet the need for extra insight and keep brands relevant in a saturated market. This kind of content can be particularly useful for those consumers looking to be more careful and make considered decisions about how to spend their money wisely. 

Go hybrid or go home

As shopping becomes an increasingly hybrid experience, aligning with diverse online and offline consumer requirements and habits will be integral to bolstering performance. 

For the offline experience, providing streamlined services and communications will remain crucial, as over half of consumers are looking forward to celebrating the festive season with social activities that include shopping, drinking, and eating out. Amid ongoing safety concerns and the ever-rising lure of digital, however, sustaining a strong online offering is equally essential. 

Retail brands must maintain excellent levels of customer service and ensure a seamless consumer journey, whether it be through their online presence, in-person interactions, contactless delivery, or in-store pick-up. Succeeding in these areas is particularly important for smaller brands, who are competing with the fact that over two-fifths (44%) of consumers prefer gifting products from big brands. Or put simply, brands need to cover multiple bases.

In practice, this means creating a unique digital experience, having a mobile-friendly website, and mastering the art of ‘connected shopping’. Harnessing technologies such as augmented reality (AR) can help instantly provide more detailed product information as shoppers browse, alongside greater interactivity. Brands and retailers should expect consumers to check factors such as stock availability, reviews, or, what is also becoming a growing demand: sustainability credentials.

Go green, be seen

Since the start of the pandemic, consumers have not only adjusted their own green habits — moving away from single-use plastics and shopping for more seasonal produce — but also tying brand selections and purchase decisions to sustainable principles. As shown by 2020’s Black Friday trends, ethical buying is on the rise, with purchases influenced by both brand credentials and the urge to minimise negative impact. 

As a result, sustainability will be at the forefront of consumer concerns this Christmas; as will the desire for authenticity and wariness of greenwashing. In fact, many big brands and retailers are already announcing measures to curtail their environmental impact through efforts such as putting an end to the use of glitter, manufacturing products from more sustainable materials, or reducing plastic waste. With initiatives such as Love A Christmas Tree on the rise, which allows consumers to rent their beloved fir trees and return them to farms at the end of the festive season, there is evidently an increasing expectation for greener buying choices. 

Amidst a backdrop of tremendous change, the overarching atmosphere as we head into this crucial shopping period is one of hope and anticipation. For retailers wanting to ride this wave of seasonal optimism, the message is clear: be prepared, be flexible, and be green.

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