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GUEST COMMENT Cashing in on the festive frenzy

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We are well and truly into the period of ‘festive frenzy’ – and it shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. Last year, estimates suggest that shoppers in the UK spent a staggering £24 billion over Christmas and this year that’s only set to increase.

It’s make or break time for retailers – cutting through the noise to reach spending shoppers is paramount – but with everyone competing for a share of the festive voice and wallet, how can retailers use their advertising campaigns to stand out from the crowd and get their fair share of spend this festive season?

Get ready for the Black Friday trigger

Since its arrival on British shores just six short years ago, Black Friday has had a profound impact on how the nation shops. According to a recent report from PwC, more than a quarter of the UK’s adults are planning to shop this Black Friday weekend, with total spend estimated to exceed £2.9bn – that’s an average of £203 per person, and double the amount spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year. And with chaotic in-store scenes, Black Friday spend has quickly moved online, meaning a digital-first approach is key.

And on eBay, our data is telling a similar story: Black Friday is here to stay. Last year, searches on soared by 760% on Black Friday, with shoppers making 20 searches an hour in the week that followed as they continued to cash in on the deals.

But Black Friday also acts as something of a starting gun, signalling the point from which Christmas shopping gets underway in earnest. Last year we saw searches across multiple categories rise 30% in the week following Black Friday. The biggest day in the shopping calendar clearly signals a dramatic shift in consumer mind-set, gearing people up for the all-important Christmas present shopping.

The good news for retailers is that they don’t need to rush to clear their shelves at a discount to capitalise on the hype. Whilst preparing for Black Friday is paramount, retailers should in fact be using it as a springboard to start peak season on the front foot – making the most of increased engagement opportunities with consumers to attract spend throughout the festive shopping season.

Identify the peak patterns

Whilst it’s widely acknowledged that most shoppers will indulge in the Christmas spirit at some point, retailers need to ensure they’re engaging customers through tailored ad campaigns at the right time in order to make the most of the opportunities. A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not cut it.

Instead, insights into how audiences shop, and when, is crucial to identify relevant windows of influence. This is exactly the thinking at play behind our Christmas tracker, which uses data from our 19m monthly users to provide retailers with a clear estimate of when to expect peaks in interest across the different categories in the run up to Christmas.

For example, our data shows that the clothes and shoes category enjoys a long, and typically early, period of interest, whilst the films and DVD category tends to be much later and shorter as shoppers look for stocking fillers and easy entertainment in the last few days before Christmas. Weighting budgets to these key windows of influence will help retailers to capitalise on the most popular periods.

Rob Bassett is head of UK and EU multinational advertising at eBay

Don’t sell – help to buy

As an industry we’ve traditionally tried to second guess how, when and where people are going to shop. But relying on stereotypical labels doesn’t work. Targeting men as last minute shoppers when they’re in fact a super-efficient Christmas planner is only going to alienate those shoppers. And in a world of ad-blockers and competition for share of wallet, retailers only get one chance to get their marketing right. Simply looking at shopper behaviour can reveal valuable insights and help retailers spot the shopping triggers.

As well as ditching the shopper stereotypes, it’s important not to get too hung up on specific dates. On, although 6th December last year was the peak day for Christmas shopping, we registered almost half a million searches for “Christmas” during August, showing that some people really do start the festive season when the sun’s still shining.

Using data, it’s possible to spot when people are searching for Christmas items and then target them with other festive adverts whilst they’re in the Christmas mood. Staying attuned to customers’ behaviour and using technology such as eBay’s mood marketing tool, retailers can ensure they’re pinpointing the motivation for each shopping burst, and getting in front of the right shopper at the right time. By providing this helping hand, retailers don’t have to ‘sell’ – it’s all about helping customers to buy.

Remain nimble and flexible

Even with all the planning in the world, it’s almost impossible to predict what will really happen this peak season, but the retailers who come out on top will be those who can react the fastest – and tackle the unexpected hurdles.

Keeping a close eye on the most popular festive items allows retailers to take the guesswork out of festive marketing. By identifying what is selling well, and indeed not so well, retailers can flex their advertising accordingly to get these products in front of the right people and take advantage of these peaks and troughs.

It’s also a known fact that external factors – from the latest TV shows and the unexpected resurgence of nostalgic items (who could have predicted the return of the yo-yo?) to the weather – impact how and when people shop, and retailers need to build an element of flexibility into their strategy in order to respond to these trends. For example, last year’s launch of the Great British Bake Off sparked a perhaps previously unknown interest in baking amongst the UK’s men, who made more than 380,000 searches for “cake tins” in August and September!

By remaining nimble and, where budget allows, incorporating a degree of flexibility into advertising campaigns, retailers will be in a much better position to react to even the most unexpected of fads.

With so many retailers vying for consumers’ attention this peak season, it’s never been more important for retailers to ensure they’re communicating with the right audiences, providing a helpful experience to truly make an impact and, ultimately, drive sales. It’s no longer enough to rely on guesswork and demographics, instead retailers need to stay attuned to the patterns their shoppers and following whilst remaining light on their feet to come out on top this peak season.

Rob Bassett is head of UK and EU multinational advertising at eBay

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