Ideas for making the most of your Christmas marketing

Brendan Straw, Chief Sales Officer, Ovato

It seems like the lead up to Christmas begins earlier every year. Where once bunting and Christmas carols began at the start of December, now it feels like they start sometime in November, or even in late October. The reality is, consumers are no longer waiting until the last minute to do their gift shopping.

This early Christmas buying can be attributed to several factors, the first and foremost being the many Australians are shopping earlier thanks to overseas mega-shopping events such as Black Friday (the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday) and Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving). Further to this, year-round access to coupons, discounts and online stores has given shoppers the power to purchase at a time that’s convenient to them instead of when stores decide to start their Christmas season.

The earlier start to the holiday season has some top agencies beginning work on their advertising from July. Meanwhile the online retailing powerhouse eBay has diversified its typical retail activities into the traditional bricks and mortar space by opening a specialty Christmas pop-up store to place itself at the forefront of consumers’ minds in the lead up to the holidays.

With other businesses innovating in creative ways, it’s critical for you to have a marketing approach that can also reap the benefits of this longer sales lead into Christmas, so you can enjoy your share of the sales bump that a merry Christmas brings.

You need to change your marketing approach to get in earlier and hit harder.

Where to begin?

The good news is you don’t have to reinvent the marketing wheel. To begin, it’s worth looking at your existing marketing plans for the holiday season and seeing where they can be tweaked as opposed to completely rewritten.

For example, plenty of retailers put out a bumper Christmas catalogue, to get as much of their seasonal stock in front of consumers through their biggest catalogue offering of the year. It’s almost a Christmas tradition to receive a thick wad of advertising offering low prices and gifts that are sure to send Mum, Dad or the kids wild with excitement and anticipation for Christmas morning.

Getting ahead of the pack and sending out your Christmas catalogues earlier in the year can get you some welcome exposure, simply by being first. Selfridges is an excellent example of a business getting out ahead of its competition at Christmas time. It opens its Christmas shop a whopping 149 days before Christmas, a decision that is regularly rewarded with year-on-year record sales.

Taking it a step further, you can follow the lead of Ovato client Myer, who delivered a personalised Christmas catalogue to its top customers using variable printing technology and advanced customer data and insights. A personalised catalogue that arrives in mailboxes before your competitors will put you miles ahead of the competition.

Digital delivers

While you’re getting ahead of the pack with your physical marketing, you need to be stretching your lead with your digital marketing too.

It’s to be expected that you’re already running, or planning to run, a social media marketing campaign over Christmas. Targeting your content based on what customers purchased last year is an excellent way of providing personalised offers and relevant products as Christmas approaches. You could also get smart with targeting new or potential customers, by reaching people who follow similar stores or brands to yours, and providing them an early-bird discount if they do their Christmas shopping with you. Getting in first with a voucher or offer means you can win their loyalty before the mad rush in December.

The humble email

eDMs are another effective way to maximise sales ahead of Christmas time. For example, develop a range of personalised or ‘specialty’ gift guides showcasing your products and services. Each of the emails could be designed with products for a different person in your customer’s life, be it a partner, parent, sibling or friend. You could even offer discounts to VIPs and loyal customers you want to go the extra mile and encourage them to shop early. Personalisation based on customer data, such as including a map location for their nearest store, or a selection of items based on their demographic, will provide an even better experience.

The classic Christmas shopping experience

It’s also worth contemplating classic Christmas shopping traditions which continue to be very successful.

The traditional Christmas story-based shop windows from large department stores such as David Jones, Myer, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Barney’s continue to pull in massive crowds ever year.

In 2018 Selfridge’s used a glam-rock Christmas setting to liven up its Christmas window displays. Designed and made in the UK with many sustainable materials, the windows are a clear departure from the displays that we would usually associate with Christmas.

Retailers are also increasingly turning towards a special customer experience to make themselves stand out from the crowd. For example, the Myer Christmas Giftorium lets you take the Rocket Ship Lift to Santa’s Wonderland where you can ride the Santa Land Express, purchase a personalised Toblerone chocolate or make your own fragrance from Hunter Lab.

Harrods in the UK, which has had a Father Christmas in-store since 1955, partnered with Swarovski to offer a truly unique customer experience at its Christmas Grotto. Invitations to the Grotto are only offered to Harrods Rewards customers of a certain level in recognition of their loyal custom throughout the year.

Enjoying the Christmas cheer

Ipsos research shows that the average Australian shopper is planning to spend 17 per cent more on their holiday purchases this year than the year before. That’s a significant jump in spending, and it’s a potential goldmine for a canny business looking to generate sales in the last half of the year. Now is the time to nail down your Christmas marketing plans and ensure that you’re leading the holiday season from the front.

Find out more about the retail trends you need to watch out for to stay competitive.