How to crack online marketing for a Covid Christmas

By Harmony Murphy, GM advertising UK at eBay Advertising

This year has been rife with change, disruption and uncertainty. Coronavirus has influenced many aspects of our lives and every industry has had to adapt.

In retail, ecommerce spend has skyrocketed with consumers investing record amounts of time on the internet. And, as we look to the festive season, changes in consumers’ behaviour, priorities, interests and income means brands face a challenge of epic proportions as they seek to make their Christmas campaigns relevant to an evolved — and still evolving — audience.

With our recent research revealing that 27% of consumers plan to start Christmas shopping earlier than they did last year, one thing is certain; there’s no such thing as ‘too early to plan’. If they haven’t already, brands need to take steps now to fire up their festive marketing strategies.

So, what should retailers focus on to win share of the market at this crucial time?

First, prioritise brand awareness early on. Investing in online marketing is a simple way of accomplishing this — ensuring they get in front of consumers in the early stages of the purchase funnel. Just because a consumer is aware of a brand, though, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll convert. Having a compelling e-commerce proposition in place is paramount – ensuring that the whole online retail experience is seamless and enjoyable will work wonders when Christmas shopping really kicks in.

Second, in a world where COVID continues to keep us on our toes, marketing campaigns must be adaptable and flexible in order to respond to changing consumer needs and behaviours. We’ve seen firsthand how the pandemic shifted the way that people are shopping. Our insights show, for instance, that purchases are predicted to be more passion-driven this Christmas — with over half (56%) of consumers revealing they’ve taken up a new hobby or interest during the lockdown. Baking (20%), gardening (20%) and DIY/ home improvements (14%) were the most popular new passions and, with 75% of respondents saying they intend to continue with their new-found hobbies for at least the rest of the year, these interests are likely to influence Christmas wish lists.

Finally, to truly understand their customers’ changing habits and ensure they’re engaging with them in the most meaningful way, retail brands must make sure they have access to the freshest insights. In a world where budgets are shrinking, brands can no longer afford to waste money serving irrelevant content to audiences that won’t be interested in them — and, now more than ever, we can’t assume that interests won’t change. Just because someone showed an interest in running six months ago, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be interested in the latest trainers now. Equally, a person who never showed an interest in fitness previously may have become an avid athlete during lockdown.

In this day and age, there’s no excuse for not knowing what your customers want. By using fresh data and remaining nimble, brands can build much better connections with their audience and ensure they’re only engaging shoppers with the most relevant content that makes them click this Christmas.

And, although it’s been a difficult year for retailers, if brands are willing to embrace change, stay flexible and take the time to understand their audience’s mindset, the investment will be well worth it — both during peak season and into 2021.

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