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5 marketing predictions this holiday season

How prepared are small businesses this winter?

For many UK businesses, 2021 is a make-or-break year. Although we've seen positive signs of recovery and growth, for one in six businesses, winter holiday sales account for the majority of turnover. 92% of businesses are concerned with the changing health conditions that could yet again require fast marketing pivots. But surely businesses are now prepared for this?

Let’s explore the latest trends and predictions for what could be a make or break year for many businesses.

1. A Black Friday reset

Black Friday business participation is still more common than not. Nearly three-quarters of companies plan to run a Black Friday promotion but smaller companies are less likely to participate due to the limitations of their digital technology. Inflation is also a major concern. And let’s not forget the rocketing shippings costs, delays to orders and a lorry driver shortage could just be too much for many smaller independent businesses.

Love it or loathe it, Black Friday does provoke a strong response amongst people and businesses have become far more aware of this. Three quarters of businesses claimed Black Friday is outdated and over three quarters of companies claim to be using the pandemic to reset their Black Friday practices. They are well aware of the more socially conscious shopper, particularly amongst millennials. Expect to see subtle changes in the month ahead.

2. The dual online and in-store experience

There is no surprise to hear that mass awareness of supply issues will lead to consumers bringing their Christmas purchasing forward to November to guarantee the availability of their desired gifts. Some retailers have already urged shoppers to buy gifts early given the possibility of shortages closer to Christmas Day.

Research confirms that footfall is expected to be 17% lower than in 2019, but this would be 81% above where it was last year when much of the country was in lockdown. According to Techradar, retailers are unlikely to host large-scale events. It could be perceived as irresponsible to encourage large gatherings whilst COVID-19 infection rates are still on the increase. This could lead to consumers once again shopping in the comfort of their own homes.

There is no question, businesses are feeling better prepared for marketing this holiday season and equipped to change their plans at a moment's notice. Customer profiling and the ability to offer a dual online and in-store experiences have been instrumental.

This season is expected to once again be a digital marketing Christmas, with spend on search advertising forecast to increase by 15%, while online display advertising rises by 12.7%.

The pandemic accelerated our online buying behaviour and most smaller businesses simply didn’t have the infrastructure in place, but this holiday season has been the key milestone that so many have been working towards.

3. The adoption of cryptocurrency

There is a feeling consumers will spend more this season but they’ll participate in new schemes. One-fifth of consumers plan to use cryptocurrency to make a purchase as a gift. Three-quarters of businesses are planning to be set up for this and eager to experiment. They see this as the future.

In addition to crypto, many companies are planning further digitisation with gifts, cards, and wish lists and three quarters are planning to introduce a subscription in an attempt to increase customer loyalty. Businesses are having to fight harder to win over customers and offer more choices than ever. Today's consumers needs to feel more empowered.

4. The acceleration of AI

Operational motivations and having a true competitive edge have accelerated the use of AI. In fact, 87% of firms are using or exploring how to integrate the technology into their business. The top motivations are supply chain driven, as well as offering a more innovative experience, improving customer service and personalisation.

Watch to see how this evolves over the next few months with even greater use across different channels.

5. Rapidly changing customer policies

Businesses learned the hard way last year and many had to change their outdated customer policies. 100-day refunds were rolled out and 'speed' became the deciding purchasing factor for so many of us shopping during the first national lockdown. Next-day deliveries are now expected.

However, with major supply chain issues, businesses have had to be cautious with their delivery terms this holiday season. Nearly half of businesses have already changed their customer delivery terms to address supply chain issues. Reuters have advised that standard online delivery times could extend to 10 days, with some retailers scrapping next-day delivery altogether. This will require swift marketing to manage customer expectations.

The future

There is no doubt this holiday season is an instrumental one for so many businesses in the UK. They have the dilemma of boosting short-term sales and participating in mass promotions versus balancing their brand image and reputation.

But digital brands will thrive again this winter and it is a huge gamble to write off these dates on the retail calendar. The winners will be those offering a hybrid approach combining in-store and an online experience and embracing new technology.

This year we’ll start to see a different type of marketing. One which will be more considered, more sophisticated, and more discreet in terms of the targeting, message, and methods used. Let's see how it unfolds….

For more inspiration, read 8 Christmas marketing ideas 5 reasons to develop a customer charter and why customer experience should be a priority for small businesses.


Springboard – Holiday marketing report




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