Despite a summer of confidence buoyed by the end of social distancing, the looming blizzard of fuel, HGV, and even turkey shortages threaten to leave some retailers skating on thin ice this Christmas. Unlike last year’s Golden Quarter, where analysts feared a plunge in consumer demand, stockpiled UK household savings (at their second-highest levels since 1963) could see many UK shoppers eager to indulge in well-earned retail therapy.  

This year, more than ever, brands need to nail their peak trading strategies. The sweet spot for most will balance responsible customer engagement with profitability. Whether it runs for weeks, or is won and done in a day, we’re sharing five best-in-class strategies to ensure your festive shopping season is a success.  

#1 Time for perfection 

Like Christmas decorations appearing on store shelves, each year the Black Friday extravaganza starts a little earlier. Make no mistake, many shopping lists are already underway. And after months of meticulous research, the question soon to be on everybody’s mind is… when will the deals drop?  

Awin network data reveals that last year the Black Friday starter pistol fired over two weeks sooner, with a tide of offers and sales commencing on the 4th of November. As wider UK supply chain concerns abound, it’s reasonable to expect that significant numbers of shoppers will aim to buy early, to ensure deliveries arrive in time for Christmas.  

Keeping with festive tradition, Amazon’s movements will be watched closely by all, and for good reason. Prime Day, which took place from June 21st to 22nd, fuelled a halo effect that benefited both direct and indirect competitors across the retail sector. Brands that deployed well-timed promotions reaped the rewards, achieving triple digit growth. Where once such tactics may have focused on mitigating revenue loss, savvy retailers are increasingly turning Amazon’s prevalence to their advantage. As a result, we expect many to take inspiration from Amazon when it comes to Black Friday timing, offers and pricing. But standing out on key days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be tough, further strengthening the case for going earlier. 

Although not yet the landmark event that it is in China, Singles Day (which takes place on the 11th of November) remains a much-overlooked opportunity. Awin beauty retailers that launched celebratory offers, saw sales grow by as much as 54% in 2020. As has happened with Black Friday in recent years, where other non-retail sector businesses such as travel and broadband service providers launched offers, pursuing a similar approach on Singles Day could pay off handsomely.  

#2 Stay frosty 

While a ‘first-mover’ approach won’t suit all, data-driven agility is a must for any retailer seeking to capitalise on the Golden Quarter. Market insights from sources such as Awin, which powers thousands of global retailer campaigns, can prove immensely valuable when benchmarked against a retailer’s own visitor metrics. Such enriched views enable rapid identification of consumer behaviour shifts, evidence by sudden traffic, conversion rate and average basket value step-changes. Where flexibility is baked into plans, there is undoubted potential to capitalise on these signals, deploying offers precisely when shoppers are ready to purchase, and before competitors have got there first.   

#3 Save smarter at scale 

In addition to timing, effective discounting strategies will be key to success. Awin voucher code tracking reveals an 18% uplift in redemptions this year to date, potentially highlighting a voracious consumer appetite for deals this Golden Quarter. Where some brands opt for generic site-wide savings, the smartest will pursue hybrid strategies that incorporate one or more of the following: 

  • Exclusive partner discounts to tap into select audiences 
  • ‘Stretch-and-save’ offers to encourage basket growth or product category or item level sales 
  • Technology partner-powered single-use codes to control redemption volumes 

Should supply chain concerns intensify, stock availability and shipping times will likely weigh heavy on shoppers’ minds. To address this, best-in-class affiliate programmes will ensure proactive communication of delivery windows to both partners and customers. Frequent updating of product feeds, and category or item level CPA adjustments through Awin’s commission flexibility suite will further minimise promotion of sold-out items.  

Undoubtedly, marketing automation will also play a pivotal role in delivering customer delight at scale. In recent months, Awin UK has seen a 20% increase in brands activating its pre-integrated technology partners. Funded on a cost per acquisition and seamlessly deployed via the Awin Mastertag makes working with these partners incredibly simple and cost-effective. From AI-powered personalisation technologies, to automated product recommendation, and intelligent offer solutions, these can all be utilised to deliver relevant, real-time, and responsible shopping experiences this festive season. With their performance integrated into Awin reporting, conversion assists between technology partners and wider affiliate channel campaigns are also fully measurable.  

For those brands with Awin’s multi-touch attribution solution SingleView enabled, the additional benefits of cross-channel attribution will yield conclusive return on investment metrics for technology and other affiliate partners alike.  

#4 Cashback be nimble, cashback be quick 

Cashback and loyalty will yet again feature prominently in Golden Quarter plans this year. Brands must however keep evolving customer expectations front of mind. Next-day delivery and instant gratification are now commonplace, so long wait times for rewards should be avoided where possible.  

Best-in-class retailers understand this well, ensuring that cashback and loyalty partner audiences are paid promptly through expedited commission approvals. To support better experiences, Awin offers a ‘green status’ to qualifying brands, paying commissions to affiliate partners in advance of receiving payments itself. Attaining Awin green status is one of the easiest and most impactful steps a brand can take to level-up their partner and customer delight.  

#5 In with the new  

Finally, for brands seeking to break new ground this festive shopping season, Awin has two high potential recommendations – Fintech and brand partnerships.   

Over the past 24 months, Awin has successfully forged partnerships with many of the world’s leading Fintech providers. With global audiences in the multi-millions, the scale now possible through these partners cannot be understated. Unrelenting feature innovation, open-banking architecture, and mobile-first experiences also enable advanced customer segmentation opportunities including;  

  • Look-a-like modelling 
  • Lapsed customer reengagement 
  • High precision new customer campaigns 
  • Personalised push notification calls-to-action 

As major disruptors to legacy banking institutions, Awin’s fintech partners attract highly engaged millennial and Gen Z audiences, making them a valued asset to any retailer’s programme. 

In August, Awin celebrated a major milestone – over one hundred active brand partnerships. For those new to this growth area, brand partnerships involve two complementary advertisers partnering to engage one or the other’s customers with relevant offers.  

Fully discoverable within the Awin UI, brand partnerships can take several forms, offering flexible and creative opportunities for reaching new audiences. Tastecard’s use of brand partnerships in 2021 is a great example. To create a new revenue stream during lockdown when its core membership offering was closed down, tastecard added ‘staying in’ discounts to their site under the inventive tagline, ‘In In is the new Out Out’.  

Partners such as BT, Sky and LOOKFANTASTIC, alongside more than 35 other major retailers offered exclusive deals to tastecard members, providing a whole new suite of benefits that could still be enjoyed during the local lockdown. Almost 400% additional revenue was tracked over the course of the following five-month period for tastecard, and the brand has since adopted brand partnerships as a permanent fixture in their affiliate strategy. 

Despite some of the headwinds many companies may be facing this Q4, the affiliate and partner marketing industry is brimming with opportunities for growing your business.  

Its diversity of partners, innovative solutions, and nimble agility provide a wealth of marketing tactics that can still be deployed in time for the Black Friday peak. It remains to be seen just how big the event will be this year, but with so many opportunities on offer, brands can rest assured their investment in affiliate activity will pay off handsomely.

Speak to your Awin account manager or reach out to the team today to put these strategies into play ahead of the Black Friday peak.