Saying the ‘C’ word in September | Christmas marketing

Why your Christmas marketing plans should already be underway

No, I’m not talking about that word.

I am of course talking about Christmas. More explicitly, about why Christmas content marketing plans should be fully in the spirit right now.

I used to work for a health and beauty brand, and the first drop of Christmas used to kick off in late September building up to the sales peak.

I know, September, but technically we are already running out of time. By industry standards, Christmas typically starts in late summer.

It all feels a bit wrong, but as we are all flipping our sandals off to bask in the sun, brands are kicking off the Christmas season behind the scenes.

Christmas therefore comes early for marketers. Identifying a strategy early on for the most important shopping time of the year is the difference between success and failure.

Why should you think about Christmas so early on?

As we all know, good marketing doesn’t just happen, right?

It takes insight, planning, revision and development long before it even reaches the consumer.

As a key sales period, Christmas planning needs to be considered throughout the year. With the weird one we’ve been having in 2020, it’s even more important to be ready.

Retail in particular has been hit hard by the pandemic, so nothing can be left to chance for Christmas 2020.

According to a poll by American Express, 32 per cent of people have already started their Christmas shopping.

The main reason is to try to keep costs down, through buying early to spread the spending and grabbing discounts as they pop up.

That said, despite the financial pressures of Covid-19, 60 per cent of people asked said they intend to spend the same or more this Christmas compared with previous years.

Shoppers were even buying artificial Christmas trees throughout July and August.

Yes, really.

Christmas marketing

So what is driving this?

Retail therapy; it’s not called that for nothing.

People shop to make themselves feel better, or because they are bored.

Facebook IQ trends identified that self-gifting and seasonal shopping can cheer us up in difficult times. With more time on our hands, we’re also more receptive to news and new products than ever before. Plus, we quite like getting stuff done when we’re thinking about it.

Other insights have shown that Gen X and Boomers are dominating mobile and ecommerce growth, and we’re likely to see the rise of ‘mega sales’ given the economic downturn.

The ‘Christmas creep’ however, will happen earlier this year as retailers know they won’t be able to rely on last minute discounts to drive people to stores.

The pandemic has changed the way we shop, and this Christmas we’ll see a huge shift in in-person sales.

How can you get ahead of the game for Christmas marketing?

Brands need to get a head start on the competition.

During the ‘Christmas months’, the market is oversaturated. Pretty much all businesses will launch some kind of jingly campaign geared towards Christmas.

This means that you need to start refining your messaging, budgeting, collating databases, and finalising your marketing plans, now.

Influencer marketing

A key activity for getting in there early is to work with influencers to start seeding your product ranges through social media.

Followers are loyal and can be easily persuaded, so a recommendation from someone with significant impact within a community will get you those early sales.

Talking to your VIPs

You’ll also want to begin to reach your past customers.

These people have already bought from you, perhaps at the same time last year. They already know your brand or product, and hopefully have had a positive experience in the process.

Look at what they bought, what they’ve expressed an interest in, and what other data you have on them. Hit them with your best CRM.

This is an email I received from Dunelm yesterday.

Get in front of new customers

For new customers, it’s about introducing them to your brands to inform their consideration phase while they have time to think about it.

14% of festive season shoppers surveyed in the UK use Facebook products to get inspiration for shopping and gifting. So if you’re not already using Facebook or Instagram ads, this is a great place to start to begin reaching a new audience.

By implementing marketing strategies early on, you can start to entice customers to buy gifts in a timely fashion, instead of the mad panic around Black Friday.

Questions for your Christmas 2020 marketing plans

Here are a few pointers to help you to form your seasonal plans for 2020:

Can you start any new partnerships to help boost local footfall?
Businesses that provided a service to their communities during lockdown will be rewarded with loyalty. If you can team up with other likeminded businesses, you might be able to piggyback each other’s returns.

Can you supporting communities that might have been affected by the pandemic?
Again, playing a role in your community might just set you apart from your competitors.

What can you learn from last year and do differently for 2020?
What was it that worked or didn’t work for you last year? How can you adapt to reflect the changes for 2020?

Are there any contests to run to grab attention?
Could you give something from your Christmas offering away, perhaps? This is a great data capture tool, but also if done well, can give you organic reach through engaged followers.

What offers and/or shopping events can you run to build sales?
Given that people might be shopping differently, can you develop virtual shopping events or product launches using some of the technologies that we’ve all become experts in lately? Think exclusive Zoom events, Facebook or Instagram Lives etc.

How can you reassure customers that in-person sales are safe?
If there’s one thing that Covid-19 has taught us, it’s that we can all think outside of the box. Could you offer a kerb-side pick up, click and collect, free local or same day delivery etc.

Hopefully after reading this, you are no longer banning the Christmas word in September?