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GUEST COMMENT Wrapping up your Christmas marketing

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Last month, Mintel forecast that internet transactions made over the golden quarter will surge. Online is expected to account for 13% of sales in December alone, which translates to £4.7 million spent by just over a quarter of Brits who are leaving the stress of high street shopping in favour of home in their search for the perfect gift.

As consumers increasingly favour online, retailers will face more competition than ever before despite an increase in opportunity, particularly as savvy customers surf the web for the best deal. Retailers need to focus not only on keeping up with shopping trends but on providing the brand experience customers want in the run up to the Christmas shopping season.

Christmas is a make or break period for retailers. 2013 saw an average increase in sales of 5.3%, and to replicate this success, optimising advertising and marketing campaigns will be absolutely key to encourage customers to purchase.

Provide a glittering experience

An online presence alone is no longer enough. To build sales momentum before the golden quarter, retailers need to be innovating to provide a sparkling customer experience. Ecommerce is saturated with retailers selling myriad products, meaning that in turn the share of market is decreasing. Therefore, the journey to converting needs to be as convenient as possible for the consumer, in order to encourage them to part with cash.

In addition, online shopping is changing; Mintel revealed in June that tablet sales are now outstripping desktop sales, with 51% of Brits now owning tablets. Despite a lifespan of only four years so far, tablets have completely changed the way people browse and shop. In fact, in a report from the IAB in April, it was found that 58% of consumers now use tablets as the “device of choice” for browsing the internet at home.

Tablet shopping is designed to be a different experience than browsing a store and this should be harnessed by retailers. It gives retailers the opportunitiy to remarket browsed items or serve ads based on products they have browsed, replacing the traditional role of a store assistant asking to help the consumer find items of interest in-store.

Tablets are a great shopping platform for consumers, and retailers ned to adapt by creating dynamic content to encourage the shopper to engage online and make a purchase. For example, ‘catwalk’ videos of models in garmets encourage shoppers to purchase by providing an accurate portrayal of how the clothes will look when worn and a range of images optimised to appear when opened on tablet allow shoppers to examine fabrics.

It’s now crucial that insights around tablet shopping and resulting consumer trends should be considered by retailers when selling online.

Remind customers that a brand is not just for Christmas

Driving customers to your site is half the battle; keeping them is a whole new ball game. Compared to in-store loyalty schemes, online the concept of loyalty becomes much more complex as customers are much more likely to shop around for a bargain.

This is known as showrooming – when a consumer will look at a product in store, and then purchase from a different retailer online at a different price. Retailers need to ensure they are two steps ahead of the competition by providing customers with an experience of the brand which will keep them front of mind in December.

Working with trusted loyalty partners helps retailers safely and effectively drive brand loyalty, as well as attracting new customers. For example cashback sites like Top CashBack or points schemes like Nectar can set a brand apart as it rewards customers for a purchase.

In addition, by ensuring that retargeting is served in a relevant, unintrustive way, brands can offer customers information they want to see and can remind them of products sold by a brand. The discovery phase is crucial to driving sales so retailers should think about serving ads to customers who have browsed but not bought at the right time with an offer they cant turn down.

Retargeting can be mutually beneficial when conducted properly. The IAB revealed that 28% of consumers would be keen to share personal information with retailers to receive relevant advertising so this personal experience is key. Customers receive relevant ads and retailers receive higher loyalty through understanding how customers are shopping. By doing so retailers can then ensure they are front of mind with the consumer when they go to make the final purchase.

Although we are almost three months away still, in retail terms, Christmas is just around the corner and retailers need to be planning and executing campaigns to ensure they are a step above the rest as we cross the final hurdles towards the all-important golden quarter. By tailoring marketing to customers’ shopping habits and innovating to produce standout campaigns, retailers can ensure they are providing the best brand experience and in turn will see their Christmas sales sparkle.

Nick Fletcher is director of Service Strategy, Rakuten Marketing Europe

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