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Why you need to start planning for Christmas marketing now

Clinton Willis - Head of Sales, NSW & WA, Print, Ovato

We’re at the halfway mark of 2021, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Christmas carols already playing in shopping centres around Australia.

That’s because in a mere 6 months’ time, the most wonderful time of the year will be upon us. It seems like Christmas starts earlier every year, setting in train an annualised retail bonanza that sends cash registers ringing around the country.

With “Do They Know It’s Christmas” echoing in your ears, you’re likely thinking you need to start your Christmas planning earlier, especially with all that’s changed in the last 18 months. COVID-19 introduced many people to online shopping and changed our expectation of retail stores, and there’s every likelihood that many consumers won’t be heading back in to stores to do their usual Christmas shop this year.

With that in mind, here’s what you need to consider as you start your Christmas planning.

The early bird gets the worm

Starting your Christmas marketing early makes more sense than ever because while COVID-19 restrictions wax and wane, it doesn’t take much for a city or state to be put in lockdown and your planning to be thrown into chaos.

You only have to look at the COVID-19 outbreak that sent most of the Northern Beaches of Sydney into lockdown in December 2020 to see how quickly circumstances can change. The most wonderful time of the year can quickly become the most confined time of the year.

With so much uncertainty, it makes more sense to plan your campaign now and start it earlier in the year, to build up a strong brand presence, awareness of your different shopping channels (both online and offline) and a loyal customer base ready to shop with you.

Keeping an eye online

Despite the uncertainty of lockdowns, Australians splashed the cash last Christmas. Shoppers spent over $55 billion throughout the Christmas trade period, which spans the second half of November and all of December. That figure included a substantial increase in online spending, with digital sales eclipsing the $5 billion mark across the Christmas period.

According to Australia Post, “almost nine million households across the country bought something online as people shopped for the things they needed, avoiding large shopping centres and other busy retail settings,” in 2020. More than 1.3 million of these households were first-time shoppers, with 93 per cent of initial purchases made between the months of March and December 2020.

After a year of getting used to online shopping, you need to make sure you’re offering a path to purchase to people who are more online than they have been in the past. But you also need to keep offline channels open for the people who prefer to view/try products in-store.

COVID opened up new channels for many who moved online, and more than ever brands need to cater for all the different kinds of consumers who will interact with brands across different channels. This also means that in case something unexpected does happen, you can ramp up complimentary channels as needed.

From the letterbox to the checkout

While online shopping is booming, catalogues continue to be a valuable contributor to marketing success for both digital and bricks-and-mortar retailers. And with the easy acceptance of QR codes for COVID-19 contact and location tracing, we’ve seen them become a functional and easy way of bringing catalogue readers through the sales funnel. Rebel Sports got into the Christmas spirit last year with its 7 Sporty Elves competition for Rebel Active members. And Amazon continued to win hearts and minds with its Christmas toy catalogue, which not only included cooking instructions for hot cocoa and a host of other activities for kids, but also featured QR codes that directed users to more gift ideas outside of what was shown in the catalogue.

Including QR codes in your catalogues speeds up the path to purchase for readers. A consumer can be flicking through a catalogue, see something they like, scan the included QR code and they can be taken straight to an online store where they’re able to make a purchase immediately.

With catalogues, you’re reaching people en masse, at home, and now with a path to purchase that doesn’t rely on them going to the shops.

It’s Christmas time

Being prepared to cater for a range of situations and consumer needs, and earlier and disrupted shopping periods have shown that flexibility is the name of the game for Christmas marketing.

So, start your Christmas planning earlier in the year, make use of technology that can make shopping easier, and expect the unexpected to have a successful Christmas in 2021.