Merry Clickmas: the impact of e-commerce on festive shopping habits

marketing 

First of all, can we all appreciate the incredible pun? Thank you very much, on with the article.

Christmas is turning into Click-mas, at least for businesses and marketers. Data is pointing towards a constant increase in online purchasing, the benefits of e-commerce for billions of businesses is rearing its head. Prime Day, Amazon’s weekend of discounts, is the herald of the online selling spree in the months leading up to Christmas. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday and the ever-present dominance of excessive consumerism is an all too familiar sight.

I wanted a) find another excuse to write about Christmas (sorry any grinches) and b) understand and show the growth, change and future developments in the e-commerce world, especially in the festive season.

THE RISE OF CONSUMERISM & CHRISTMAS

I (Kitty) am a huge history fan. Historical context helps influence decisions I make and I highly value the information from years gone by and how much they affect marketing decisions today. If you’re wanting to get straight into the nitty-gritty of marketing and consumer behaviour, then click here to skip!

Without further ado, buckle in for a very brief ride through the past 1000 years or so as we discover the history of Christmas in the UK and what’s brought us to the e-commerce world with a consumerist mindset that it currently exists as. 

Starting off, Christmas, as we know it, wasn’t a religious-based festival. It is widely believed that in order to Christianise a continent, leaders at the time took pagan festivals such as Saturnalia (celebration of the Roman God Saturn) and the Scandi festival of Yule and took some of the traditions but made it Christian. From the 4th Century onwards Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire, thanks to Constantine the Great. As the birth date of Jesus is still hotly contested 2000 years later, the date of the 25th is a date of celebration and reflection rather than an actual birthday.

Epiphany actually plays a much bigger role in the Western notion of Christmas than we may realise. Cited as the day the Wise Men arrived to give gifts to Jesus, it’s the traditional day gifts to family and friends were given. And no there weren’t definitely three, and no they weren’t kings, more like scientists or astronomers. Secondly, it would’ve probably been about two years after Jesus was born they actually arrived. Christmas day used to be a much more sombre day than we realise. Over the years they’ve merged into a similar festival and we don’t widely celebrate Epiphany in the western world. 

The introduction of widespread present-giving and celebration was the Middle Ages, with feasting, an abundance of wine, dancing, singing and general festivities. Since then gift-giving has increased more and more. Victorians had a large impact on our Christmas with the introduction of trees, cards and many of the other traditions we use today. 

Now Christmas is not only a time for families to get together but hails in sales, shopping and present buying. 

TODAY’S CONSUMER – HOW ARE WE SHOPPING?

Starting at home, a huge 73% of UK shoppers are planning to buy primarily online this festive season. From the 2018-19 period, online growth at Christmas in the UK grew by 10.1% Year-on-Year. This year, it will be interesting to see the recorded increase as you know the big C and all that!

For all the independent businesses, 50% of households surveyed by Rakuten Advertising purchased more from local businesses, 66% increased their online spend, and 35% of consumers searched for deals and offers. 

Over 70% of consumers don’t plan to decrease spend for 2020 peak shopping days, so it’s worth preparing for any eventuality. While sales may be slightly down YoY, it is more likely to be busier online than before. 

However, the spend is being driven towards smaller business over larger corporates. It’s also shown that last year retailers picked up most traffic on mobile but people were more likely to convert on a desktop. 

“Shoppers still prefer to convert on desktop, which pulled in 60% of sales despite attracting a minority of overall traffic (38%).”Adobe, 2019

Penguin holding cash, text readung 70% of customers don'tplan to decrease spending
choosing a digital over retail experience
spending on ourselves and family will increase
choosing desktiop
presents

MARKETING’S IMPACT ON FESTIVE BEHAVIOUR 

80% of festive shoppers are influenced by the internet before making a purchase, with search engines being the most influential. Work as a marketer, and you’ll know how crazy Christmas can get (especially when planning starts in June/July). 

With the UK spending approximately £20 billion pounds on Christmas alone there’s definitely money to make, especially as the advertising spend annually is £5.6bn (as of 2016). Per household (27.2 million in 2017) the average spend on Christmas is £719.30, and using the average advertising spend on each household at £205.88 and a return on investment of £513.42. Using the same figure as above, that estimates profit at £13bn. 

Craig Mawdsley, joint chief strategy officer at Sainsbury’s ad agency, said research has shown that the supermarket managed a profit of £24 for every £1 spent on its Christmas ad campaign in 2014. Big numbers. 

SEO, and specifically using local terms, has shown time and time again to be an effective strategy. Mobile searches for “___ near me today/tonight” grew over 900% in the last two years (to 2018). And during the pandemic has spiked exponentially. With the increase in voice search since then, people are asking smart speakers for things near them, open now and similar. If you’re able to provide a local service or product make sure you keep your website, social channels and Google My Business listing up to date. Optimising your SEO strategy for the here and now, will prove very beneficial, especially around busy shopping periods. The last-minute shoppers will thank you for it!

The seven touchpoint rule comes into play here as well, introducing a product, brand or service in seven different ways creates a “brand node” in the brain. Without delving too much into Jennifer Aaker’s brand dimension theory, the more personality a brand has, the more likely consumers are to engage with it. The preferred dimensions vary from generation to generation, and that evolves as generations grow up and into a place of having a higher disposable income. Creating multiple Christmas touchpoints cohesively in an omnichannel marketing strategy is the best approach to create a brand association. 

FUTURE CONSUMERS – WILL OUR HABITS CHANGE FOREVER?

With an increase in outbreaks of coronavirus, environmentalists and infectious disease scientists suggest that we could be entering a pandemic era. Rather than emergency cash injections, closures and preventative measures being sprung on us regularly, scientists are advising a change in lifestyle to combat future viruses. 

What could this mean for Christmas? Rather than focusing on large present splurges, buying for the world and his dog, could we instead be heading towards a smaller approach? Or will personalised gifts, sent from company to consumer, be the “new normal”? 

Whatever comes to be, the magic of Christmas is passed down by people, not gifts. People have realised that human connections are much more important than virtual ones, Zoom exhaustion a real thing and more in this lockdown time. Is our consumerist world starting to value the importance of human connection and interaction over products? Families are restricted from seeing each other on a frequent basis, and in ever-changing ways. Seeing one another is as much of the gift, if not more so now. 

Clicking for gifts

Gifting, a huge business at Christmas, worth nearly £10 billion in the UK alone, has predictions that 70% of shoppers do not plan to spend less. Certainly, figures this year will be less on presents, but will people be more inclined to splurge on food or experiences? While the pantomimes, winter wonderland and more are not going on, the hospitality industry could see an increase in family meals (within the guidelines of course). Could we even see an uptake of Christmas staycations? 

One thing that is certain is that e-commerce will not die, and will continue its exponential growth. 39% bought from some online stores for the first time during the COVID-19 peak in April. E-commerce has shown time and time again from growth YOY, partnerships with in feed shopping systems like Shopify and Instagram and it becoming integrated with every aspect of our lives, shows that it is here to stay. Never has it been easier to open a store and start selling without massive overheads. E-commerce has given entrepreneurs a chance to follow their dreams and passions, without the financial burden. 

Wrapping it all up

As we’ve shown throughout the article, e-commerce isn’t going anywhere. So how can you prepare for it? Firstly you can download our Christmas Marketing Checklist to make sure you’ve got all your comms planned in the right order. But the main points to consider are:

Set up your site to be scalable

We’re huge advocates of WordPress, especially when building scalable sites. Creating a site that is adaptable to whatever you need it to do is a recipe for success. Our work with clients has shown that across all industries a site and system that can grow and change with you is the key to being able to manage a site effectively. 

However, it’s not just your site that is important. Your server capabilities are just as essential here. Servers need to be able to load your site and ensure every visitor can interact with the site at a good speed. 

Preparing your SEO

We bash on about it a lot, but holistic SEO really is the foundation of a good website and marketing strategy. Looking at your SEO from a holistic perspective means that you can apply it as part of a wider website rebuild, rather than spraying and praying (never a good marketing strategy). It also brings, longer term, the best ROI for your business. 

Our advice:

  1. Make sure your shop is up and optimised by September (and actually just hide it and update it each year).
  2. You have Christmas content going out from September on your blog and social channels.
  3. If you are looking for backlinks – you should have started your PR in July but it isn’t too late. Blogger outreach can be one way to help boost your Christmas shop (and site).
  4. Be niche and specific, and don’t scrimp on your product descriptions.
  5. On-page/product optimisation is a must.
Product Photography

Having clear images that show off your product best as well as reflecting your brand is key to performing well at Christmas. Whether you want to do a festive flat lay to show off your products in harmony, or perhaps display them under a tree, people will love the small touches you make.

And it’s worth hiring someone to do it for you if you haven’t got the kit. Professional images are easily spotted and add an aura of sophistication to your brand. 

Importance of transactional email design and strategy

Having a good follow up chain post-purchase, with specific, segmented and targeted emails are so important. Keeping the basic template, or neglecting to update the templates regularly can be detrimental to your brand reputation. Here’s our way to determine when to send transactional emails:

  1. Map out the user journey on a flowchart, and mark at each point you would need to send an email, such as purchase completion, order shipped or for returns processing. 
  2. Look at previous purchases. Where are people typically falling out of the shopping funnel? Do you need cart abandonment emails? 46.1% of people open cart abandonment emails, 13.3% click inside the email, and of those clicks, more than 35% end up buying something.
  3. Do you need to send a follow-up email post-shopping to collate a review or similar? If a return has been received could it be worth asking for feedback?
  4. How are you collecting consent for marketing emails? If it’s at purchase, make sure to separate it from all other consent options in order to be GDPR compliant. 

Check your templates every three months, and make sure you’ve tested all possible routes.

WORKSHOP

Want to improve your marketing strategy?

Purpose-led Marketing

Purpose-led Marketing

Purpose-led Marketing marketing  I was grateful to be invited to talk with Steve Randell on the Share Your Difference Podcast in early 2020. But for many reasons that talk didn't happen until much later. And thank goodness. A particular global situation meant we...

Language and inclusion: a reflective overview

Language and inclusion: a reflective overview

Language and inclusion: a reflective overview marketing / content Language is our way of communicating, expressing ourselves and telling stories. It's what keeps us connected, and as author Edward Bulwer-Lytton said: "The pen is mightier than the sword."  As a...