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GUEST COMMENT Recovering the Lost Christmas of 2020

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The past two years have been challenging for UK retail. The sector has had to grapple with the implementation of Brexit trade rules and a global pandemic, which has led to increased shipping charges, changes in consumer behaviour, and, sadly, many closed stores. As Christmas 2021 approaches, brands must summon up all their creativity and marketing know-how to recover from the disappointment of the 2020 festive period and have a successful end-of-year.

We know eight in 10 (83%) UK marketers believe this festive shopping season will be ‘make or break’ for their brand, but the ongoing supply chain issues pose a threat.

In fact, consumers have already been warned of wavering stock supplies in the lead up to the festive period, with some stores reporting a shortage of festive favourites like pigs in blankets, Christmas trees and turkeys. To combat this, retailers have resorted to asking customers to start shopping early to avoid disappointment. 

With our research revealing half of British consumers plan to celebrate more than usual this year, brands need to be ready to offer quality Christmas experiences now. They must grab the opportunity to change the future of retail for years to come by using technology to connect the in-person and online customer experience before it’s too late. 

Evolving consumer habits

Consumers have changed the way they like to shop. The pandemic accelerated the need for retailers to prioritise their online presence, with 44% of consumers saying they plan to shop solely online this Christmas. But as retailers reopened their doors this summer after lockdowns were eased in many parts of the world, consumers remembered what they like about in-person shopping. That’s why integrating physical and virtual spaces has become essential. 

Currently, consumers want a personalised shopping experience completely tailored to them and this Christmas will be no different. 47% of Brits said they would shop with the brands that champion their loyal customers with exclusive, pre-sale deals in the run-up to Christmas. A quarter said they would like to receive suggestions and reminders to help them plan their spending. 

Brands need to make sure their businesses are ready for a new style of holiday shopping that puts the customer at its heart. Bespoke deals, targeted products and a combined online and in-person experience are becoming more valued by customers, so it pays to make shopping experiences as easy, seamless and personalised as possible.

Satisfying demand in turbulent times

Communication is vital in difficult times. Using tactics such as regular email updates for those who have opted in, to update them about upcoming stock, or implementing chatbots to allow customers to get real-time information about specific items’ availability, will enable retailers to keep customers happy and engaged. Taking advantage of technologies such as AI and chatbots and using them to improve online customer service (57%) – can prove an excellent way to engage further with those shopping from home. 

Cherishing customer data

Maximising the use of customer data, which means discerning insights in real-time, is key to understanding how consumers want to shop, what they want to buy and when they want to buy it. With 63% of marketers believing that customers will be willing to share personal information if it means they will get a personalised experience, the challenge is to know which data is worth collecting. When done well, brands can develop customer profiles that are individualised enough to increase purchases and improve brand perception. As the conversation about data sharing and privacy preferences continues, brands need to be transparent, open and honest with their customers. 

Ho ho hopeful Christmas sales

This Christmas will be different from past festive periods, and that’s before we consider how high-street stores might have followed stricter Covid-19 guidelines once again. Throw in the known challenges of supply chain disruption, inflation and evolving purchasing behaviour, and it is easy to see how difficult retailers have it. However, with adequate planning, integrated and better-tailored customer shopping experiences these issues can be minimised, and can lead to record-breaking sales. 


Lee Miles, Chief Customer Success Officer, Sitecore

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