By Bradley Fagan, Senior Market Insights Expert, Uberall
Now is the time of year for Christmas adverts to grace our screens, but many marketing plans for 2020 that were already in the works a year ago have had to be adjusted to fit the realities of a pandemic Christmas. John Lewis’s uplifting ad about spreading kindness and Amazon’s short film about a young dancer whose Christmas performance has been cancelled certainly both reflect current moods and sentiments.
Without question, this holiday shopping season is going to be a lot different than in years past, but businesses can still ensure they have the best Christmas season possible by making the right adjustments to their marketing plans now.
Four key elements for a successful Christmas 2020 marketing game plan include:
Driving online searching to offline shopping
Government regulations on non-essential store hours and openings are in constant flux, with housing secretary Robert Jenrick recently announcing that shops in England will be allowed to stay open for 24 hours a day in the run-up to Christmas and in January.
As a result of restrictions and ever changing regulations, consumers are buying products online that they never would have considered before. Research by One Poll showed that nearly one in five UK consumers would be shopping from their mobile this past Black Friday – a 90% increase from last year.
But whilst many purchases will be made online this year, many consumers still want to shop in stores, preferring the immediacy and the in-store experience. Add to that, online and offline sales are no longer entirely separate. This holiday season, customers will be gathering information online first – not only for inspiration, but also to make sure stores are open and what safety measures are in place before even contemplating taking that first step outside the door. In fact, close to half of all Google searches are ‘Near Me’ searches for products and services nearby.
As well, Google reports that two out of three shoppers will confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it, so it’s crucial for retailers to keep their websites, apps, and business listings up-to-date to help consumers find what they’re looking for, when they’re looking for it, and avoid more trips than necessary. This is also the time of year for price wars, so businesses must be sure to keep their offers and promotions updated online.
Leveraging consumer desire to buy local
When non-essential stores in England reopened this June after the first lockdown, there was a 51.7% jump in high street footfall compared to the week prior, per data from retail expert, Springboard.
Consumers actively want to buy from local businesses, whether that’s because they want to support community businesses or because of the personalised experience and convenience. Ronan Harris, Managing Director, Google UK & Ireland, noted in a recent interview on Good Morning Britain that Google has seen a massive jump in the number of search terms using the word “local,” such as a 1,300% increase in people searching for “local farm box” and a 500% increase in people searching for “local beer delivery.”
But local isn’t just reserved for small businesses. Brands such as Marks & Spencer, B&Q, and Currys PC World also qualify as local businesses because their stores have a neighbourhood presence and they sell predominantly offline (or used to). Bigger retailers can still benefit from the “buy local” trend by acting locally, personalising offerings by location, and even considering collaborating in co-marketing activities with smaller brands.
Providing a frictionless and personal experience
Consumers are looking for frictionless options that allow them to make purchases that make them feel safe and at ease, from contactless payment and click and collect, to curb-side pickup. Some towns in the UK have even added short-term parking bays designed to make click and collect even easier.
In order for consumers to take advantage of these special services, it’s crucial that businesses update their online information to reflect these new services and offerings. Google My Business (GMB) listings are often the first place people consult to find current information about a business. In addition, Google introduced several new GMB features throughout the pandemic, from the “temporarily closed” option to the launch of the Covid-related health and safety attributes in September. Keeping GMB listings current and complete is more important than ever.
Similarly, businesses should make these updates on the key online platforms that consumers engage with, whether that’s Facebook, TripAdvisor, Nextdoor app or Apple Maps.
Finally, customising individual landing pages for each local outlet can inform consumers about location-specific offerings, giving them even more reasons to visit. Businesses can even segment landing pages by audience groups, separating them not just by location but also by past purchase behaviour.
Increasing personal attention and engagement on all channels
Whether in-person, via online reviews, or on social media, customers expect brands to be engaging and responsive. 86% of consumers are more likely to shop at a store that responds to reviews, but Uberall research shows that in the UK, large global brands respond to just 0.2% of reviews left by customers. Potentially, this is due to the sheer scale and scope of online reviews for global brands, but even brands with hundreds of locations can utilise technology platforms to centrally manage and respond to reviews for all of their outlets.
What’s more, the majority of brand interactions on Facebook now take place at the local level, and social media posts are one of the easiest ways to turn customers into loyal fans. Businesses can share news, offers and events that will interest local communities on social media.
Despite the challenges presented by this year’s Covid Christmas, consumers are still searching for products and services ‘near me,’ and are not only looking to buy online, but in store as well. Businesses that can pivot their marketing strategies to meet consumers where they’re at, and provide a compelling ‘Near Me’ brand experience from online search and discovery to in-store visit, are in the best position to win customers now, and in the future.