Why Marketers Should Adapt Their Advertising Strategies to Align with New Festive Shopping Patterns

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By Tiffany Foxwell, Head of Client Services, Flashtalking JAPAC

As we approach the peak season for retailers, the shopping environment is changing once again, forcing marketers to reassess and evolve their strategies. This year, three factors are influencing this change:

  1. The seasonal purchasing period has broadened. Over the last few years, the traditional window of opportunity for ‘Christmas shopping’, where retailers make most of their profits, has significantly widened. Sales patterns have shifted, bringing buying decisions – and promotions – forward. For example, Black Friday has expanded from one day to a season in its own right, with activity spanning the whole of November. This is forcing advertisers to communicate earlier – and over an extended period – to influence purchasing decisions during Black Friday and Christmas.
  2. Shopping behaviours shift to omnichannel. The pandemic has altered the way consumers shop for good. In 2020, over two billion people purchased goods or services online, and during the same year, e-retail salessurpassed 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide. With parts of the world enduring multiple lockdowns, and uncertainty about what will happen during the festive season, this flight to digital will continue. The annual Christmas pilgrimage to the shops for last-minute panic buys is being complemented by more considered purchases from the comfort of the sofa across the multiplicity digital touchpoints.
  3. Shortages mean people will buy presents earlier. In 2020, the challenge for retailers was around managing demand: this year, supply is the issue. Port closures, global supply chain bottlenecks, a lack of raw materials, rocketing freight costs, and a shortage of containers will all impact product availability. CNBC even advised consumers to do their holiday shopping back in September to avoid disappointment.

For marketers, these changing shopping behaviours, extended buying cycles, uncertainties around lockdowns and potential shortages mean they need to adapt their approach now. To navigate these challenges over the peak trading season, having flexibility and agility around campaigns and messaging is crucial.

So how will advertisers deliver successful and timely campaigns this holiday season? The answer lies in balancing creativity with technology.

Engage the power of creativity…

Although we live in a technology-fuelled world of programmatic advertising, creativity remains central to marketing success. It’s creativity that sparks interest, builds awareness, and engenders emotion – something so important this time of year. And as many consumers worldwide have endured multiple lockdowns, often preventing them from seeing loved ones, tapping into this emotion seems even more relevant for advertisers as they plan for the 2021 festive season.

Christmas ads are often the most memorable – and persuasive – of the year. And just like last year’s approach, they need to be uplifting and positive, while avoiding the ‘c’ word (Covid) or directly talking about the pandemic.

Emotion is key because it drives engagement. Disney took the number one spot in Unruly’s 2020 Top 10 most moving Australian Christmas ads with its focus on the relationship between a granddaughter and grandmother. In fact, the importance of Christmas traditions had a positive emotional impact on 43.6% of respondents who saw it. And it’s this kind of engagement that drives purchases.

However, it’s important not to simply focus the messaging around Christmas. With traditional Christmas shopping just one part of an extended selling season, marketers must communicate earlier and over a longer timeframe. And while one message may have worked in the past, today, marketers must have the flexibility to evolve their messaging to reflect changing environments.

…while optimising on the fly

As marketers know, as well as creativity, targeting, relevancy, and timing are critical to effective advertising. In the lead-up to such an uncertain seasonal shopping period, adopting a dynamic creative approach is increasingly important. In harnessing dynamic creative optimisation, marketers can deliver relevant, engaging ads in real-time that tap into the many variables and emotions associated with the restrictions, regardless of the evolving situation.

Different scenarios require different messaging approaches, which must be planned in advanced. For example, for parts of the world that have opened up, advertising around families and socialising will resonate. But for others in lockdown, it’s a different story. Communications focusing on gifts for the home and connecting families through technology will come to the fore.

Ultimately, what’s important for marketers is evolving and adjusting their messaging quickly and easily, so content is relevant and grabs attention. The winners will be those who can rapidly analyse multiple data sources and combine this with intelligent creative suites and technology to deliver thousands of tailored ads that can reflect changing situations.

With the threat of shortages this year, shifts in stock will also require advertisers to update their messaging frequently. As products become unavailable, campaigns will need to be switched off quickly and replaced by new creatives that focus on available items. In addition, advertisers need to tap into shifting consumer attitudes and changing shopping behaviours by localising messages in response to regional restriction differences that play out over the next few months. Implementing a dynamic creative strategy allows marketers to manage these additional complexities.

This shopping season, marketers face a dynamic economic and social environment. Only by having an advertising strategy that is agile, responsive, and omnichannel can they be confident in their campaigns. Adopting approaches that place creativity and dynamic creative optimisation at the heart of their strategy will be critical to ensure they deliver relevant, timely and engaging messaging; giving them a solid foundation for a successful festive sales period.