It’s always a good idea to plan for the massive, hectic Q4 sales season as early as possible. But it’s also never too late to optimise your tactics – and implement new ones – as the season approaches. Give yourself a gift with this simple idea: don’t think that because you’ve been planning for months now, that there’s no room for improvement to your Christmas marketing strategy.  

We are approaching the blockbuster shopping season, with Fung Global Retail & Tech predicting an overall retail sales growth rate of 3.5%, and e-commerce sales expected to grow at higher rates than last year’s 14.1% of total retail, according to ONS. Our research shows that after last year’s generally strong Christmas sales, shoppers are prepared to ensure their friends and families feel especially loved: 90% of online shoppers we surveyed said they planned to spend the same or more this coming festive season.  

There are so many innovations that are being enacted in retail and e-commerce from which brands can benefit. Here is some of the advice I have been giving marketers during an amazing period in the history of retail.

It’s not too late

Performance marketing and programmatic media buying enable brands to get to market and support their products while optimising performance in real time. The days of spending the bulk of budgets at the Upfronts in May are over; technology makes marketing that much more responsive to what is going on in real time. We’re now working with actual transactions as they happen and brands that are able to respond to opportunities, and take a flexible budgeting approach to shift activity into channels that are performing, will win in this highly competitive time period.

Performance marketers also get the added benefit of ensuring their products gain higher placements in organic search. The additional exposure of paid placements results in higher sales, which then impact organic search algorithms. And once that placement is gained, it tends to be sticky. It’s harder than ever to get top placements when shopping spikes and more brands crowd in. Shelf advantage will go to those who already invested and have begun implementing their performance marketing strategy early – even now for next year.

Budget for the whole season

The festive season starts before the last pumpkin is carved and continues through January. One of the biggest mistakes we see is marketers cutting off support on Christmas Eve. Our data shows that the week between Christmas and New Year sees incredible conversions and early January is still busy with gift card usage. Make sure you have the funds to support performance marketing throughout the whole period and pace well.

Help consumers choose between the product options

There are over 10,000 products for Toys & Gaming on just a single retailer on our Exchange. With so much competition, paid placements are the way brands get the right products in front of shoppers, especially if they are a newer concept to market and not featured highly in organic listings. With 60% of shoppers starting their journey on retail sites, not search engines, paid placements are helpful attention drivers for product discovery.

Transition more shopper marketing activity to online

With 44% of online shoppers saying they regularly use a voucher or other promotion, make sure more of marketing spend is shifted to online. Many shoppers will be looking for vouchers for both online and offline activity. 

We’re also seeing a wholesale change of brands’ approach to marketing. Increasingly, brands are pulling trade funds out of sales and putting them into marketing budgets for the best of both worlds: trade funds used on tactics like paid search that include elements of branding and sales driving. Most trade budgets are directly tied to sales volumes, giving them the opportunity to increase as sales grow, vs. fixed marketing budgets that are locked early.

Manage the digital shelf

Sort orders lean towards products that have been on the market longer and those with a lot of volume while your newer, higher margin products are less likely to appear. Plus, being visible on the digital shelf is a lot harder than the physical one. Paid placements can impact organic rank but most importantly, create high visibility among in-market shoppers. Yes, we know that content and reviews are very important, but just like in all media, good placement trumps creative and content.  If your product isn’t viewable on the shelf, none of the rest matters.

Hopefully, every marketer can find one or two – or several – ideas in here that can help them unwrap themselves a very merry Christmas.