The Season of Giving is Here and It’s Not Fashionable to Be Late

person holding present

By Lesley Duncan, Strategy Director, Assembly

Black Friday, Cyber Week, Cyber Weekend, or whatever you choose to call it, has arrived early this year. Most (68%) consumers globally plan to shop before Cyber Weekend. But a significant portion (31% UK, 43% US, 56% Canada) of the population is still holding out for sales, according to a recent Google & Ipsos Survey.

So, whether you’re ready for Christmas songs or not, I recommend you dance to the music, and start your holiday plans early. Allow me to explain…

The Shopper Trends

We’ll start with demand. Rewind to Christmas 2020, and you’ll recall that many of us were still rife with uncertainty. Many experienced pay cuts and redundancies. Lockdowns and positive test results kept families apart. So, it’s no surprise that a Pinterest and Dynata survey found 80% of shoppers are planning the biggest Christmas ever. The key word here is planning. Shoppers are more organised than ever. Half of my friends have already finished their Christmas shopping; with the other half giving it another week for sales to drop.

Brands, you get the point, it’s not fashionable to be late this year.

The Environmental Factors

I imagine we’ve all heard enough about Covid’s acceleration of digital trends, but it’s true. Older generations are now really comfortable purchasing online – they’ve had a lot of practice this year. They’re also more likely to be nervous about the rise in Covid cases this winter, making them doubly likely to shop online and plan ahead.

At the same time, Millennials and Gen Z are desperate to make up for lost time. It’s been a limited year, they haven’t travelled as much, their pockets are bigger and they’re less wary of crowded spaces. We can expect to see them out early and often, from the shops to the Christmas markets and back.

Beyond Covid, the UK fuel crisis and tax reforms have also left people feeling anxious – another motivator for earlier purchases.

The Supply Chain Disruption

Perhaps the biggest driver of urgency this holiday season is the global supply chain challenge. From widespread material and labour shortages to transportation stalls at customs and port services, to mass shortages of truck drivers, it’s a perfect storm for the dreaded ‘out of stock’ message. Ultimately, this means one of two things for shoppers: shop early (and probably online) or risk a last-minute sprint to retailers on the High Street or shopping centres like Westfield. And for retailers, it means promoting items with excess stock and creating exclusivity around the most sought-after items.

So… What is the opportunity for brands? The time is now. When November becomes the new December, you have a giant opportunity – practically wrapped in a bow. With two months of engagement to take advantage of, it’s a chance to collect first party data like no other. It’s arguably the moment to build direct relationships with your customers as we prepare for the death of cookies in 2023. This is true whether you’re a luxe or a fast fashion brand, whether you’re targeting families or Gen Z. Though, what this looks like will vary for different brands.

For fast fashion or Luxury DTC, it might look like promotions or alternative incentives, but in any case, it’s a chance to get customers to experience your brands and become advocates at the most magical time of the year. However, the important thing is to remain authentic and platform agnostic, engaging across social channels to reach your target audience with content that is native to those environments. If your budget allows, explore an experiential activation, a shoppable livestream, or venture into gaming or the Metaverse – now is the perfect time to do it, as it will have a multiplier effect on all media.

For luxury brands, it’s key to be part of the noise but with an emphasis on added value, like offering bundles, hosting private events for your customers, or offering something exclusive online. Delivering on VIP experiences whether online or in store from mid-November through December is vital. It’s worth noting that making your customers feel special isn’t limited to luxe brands. A simple glass of prosecco and a gift bag while I shopped in Boots made my day today – and I’ve already told five friends, plus all of you. (Hurry, @Boots, buy some more prosecco!)

For those targeting Gen Z, recent research from GWI shows they’re prepared to spend for the right item – younger generations are driving the growth of luxury, and Gen Z have the highest gifting intent for luxury goods across generations. As important as the right item, Gen Z care about the impact of their purchase. Brands may take a sustainability message or integrate an element of giving back. Gen Z will be especially conscious, and may be more excited by a non-traditional gift, something thoughtful, an experience or even a charitable donation.

For many families, the ‘family unit’ has become even more important, no matter what that ‘unit’ looks like. Brands like Disney succeed in tapping into the sentimental storytelling around a more unconventional gathering this year, while Ralph Lauren similarly speaks to family connection and togetherness in their ad, An Occasion to Celebrate. And a personal favourite, Etsy reminds us that while Christmas looks different, it can still be made special with Give More than a Gift – created by Stagwell agency, 72andSunny.

As ever, being human and authentic in brand messaging – whether sharing a promotion, apologising for shipping delays, or delivering a tear-worthy Christmas advert – is paramount as ever.

As for me… my ask is that we normalise giving gift cards this season. No inventory issues AND they give your loved ones the freedom to buy what they want!