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EDITORIAL How marketing became the real winner this Christmas

Image: Adobe Stock

Image: Adobe Stock

After months of decline and turmoil, initial figures from the Christmas shopping period indicate that sales are strong. The latest Mastercard SpendingPulse figures, based on payments made across all platforms, suggests that overall sales are up 3% on last year.


One of the key drivers of this has been marketing. At a time of huge pressure on retailers to sell – and with everyone shouting at the same time to attract the same consumers to spend – getting marketing right is more crucial than ever.

According to a number of studies out this week, the retailers that are getting under the skin of how to dangle themselves in front of shoppers most effectively are reaping the rewards.

Research by Mailjet into how the supermarkets are using direct marketing has concluded that this year M&S is the front runner among supermarkets at this crucial time.

The research analysed emails sent by nine of the leading UK supermarkets – including M&S, Asda, Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Iceland – and scored the emails according to a range of direct marketing metrics including responsive design, personalisation, campaign content, shopability and cross-channel elements.

M&S scored 10.5 out of 15, with Asda and Waitrose close behind on 10. M&S was marked out for its cross-channel marketing and its creativity, but what the Mailjet survey found overall was that all supermarkets were failing at personalisation.

In fact, most brands failed to add any personalised content at all, despite most of them requesting additional data such as name, surname and postcode during the signup process. Only Waitrose was even on first name terms with its customers in its marketing.

Aside from getting personal, retailers also need to be thinking outside the box with their marketing this Christmas. As a separate study from eBay warns this week, retailers need to hold back some of their online ad spend for next two weeks.

With just a few days to go until Christmas, it may be counterintuitive to think that such last minute spend could have any impact, but eBay’s data shows that there are a lot of late Christmas shoppers out there all ready to be swayed right up until Christmas Eve. In fact, retailers should be looking at how to engage with shoppers right up until New Year’s Eve.

The reason is that there are a load of cash-rich and time-rich shoppers around, trapped in ‘Christmas Limbo’ and looking to shop. According to eBay’s research, in 2018 daily searches on climbed 62% in the three days following 25th December and remained consistently high for the final days of the year – highlighting an additional retail moment for brands to add to their (post-advent) calendars.

Similarly, retailers also need to look at how they use search as a means of advertising. In the age of social influencers many see search as less significant in the marketing mix, but they are wrong.

According to Yext, year-on-year growth in clicks on search listings went up 20% in 2019 compared to 2018, meaning that UK consumers are relying more on search when on the purchasing journey.

At the same time, UK shoppers are finding what they want faster – with clicks (customer actions) growing by 20%, as impressions growth stood at only 2%.

Reviews, too, are on the rise, with the number of reviews growing by 35% in 2019 compared to 2018, highlighting the importance of professional and consumer opinions during the consumer journey.

Taken together, these three studies indicate that marketing is becoming perhaps even more important to retailers than ever. The catch is that it needs to be personal, it needs to be creative and it needs to leverage all the platforms and channels available.

The retailers that can get their creative and engaging messages out there tactically are the ones that are the real winners this Christmas. Let’s hope it is you.

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