It’s never too early to think about Christmas if you want your online store to maximise on seasonal spending. It’s no secret that people spend huge sums on gifts, entertainment and food over the festive season. Estimates suggest that in the UK we splash out around £19.5 billion on Christmas presents, food, drinks, decorations and parties.
What’s not so widely appreciated though, is how early that process starts.
This is not just about supermarkets stocking seasonal items as soon as summer disappears (did it ever arrive in the UK in 2019?) Selfridges in London opened its dedicated Christmas shop 149 days before Christmas Day this year, breaking its own previous record. The retailer claimed it was in response to demand from customers who wanted to start buying up gifts from summer onwards, to avoid last-minute panics or inflated prices.
Seasonal buying online also begins earlier every year. This is largely because consumers enjoy having easy access to ideas, inspiration and pre-Christmas bargains on the internet. What does this mean for eCommerce businesses? It means that if you’re not ahead of the game on using Google ads and paid social media to promote your Christmas lines, you could be seriously missing out.
During December, the average UK household will add an extra £500 to its monthly spend, according to the Bank of England. This is due to more eating out, larger food bills, alcohol purchasing and, of course, gift buying.
However, British shoppers spend around £446,000 on Christmas presents every minute, every day in November! Yes, that is just the cash they shell out on gifts! That astronomical figure doesn’t include extras like decorations and party clothes. Clearly then, Christmas shopping is not just focused on December. This has been particularly boosted by the increasing popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November – which in many cases now involve a week of special deals.
Brick and mortar high street retail brands – facing increased competitive pressure this year – are highly likely to kick off Christmas promotions around this time if not earlier, to capture market share early in the ‘game’.
All of the above shows how important it is for online retailers – and combined clicks and bricks businesses – to ‘set out their Christmas stall’ on Google and social media well ahead of time.
However, it’s vital to keep something else in mind too. Though spending cranks up to fever pitch in November and December, consumer research and purchase decision-making starts even earlier!
This is possibly truer than ever. In austere times, UK families are even more inclined to plan well ahead, to make sure their Christmas budget is spent wisely and well. They will be looking for those early bargains and buying things in advance to spread the cost of Christmas more evenly.
So, online searches for gifts and other seasonal items will start to ramp up from September onwards and will build up even more after Halloween is over. Check out this Google Trends graph which illustrates the pattern of searches with the word Christmas in, and the steady increase from late summer:
Heck, there are people who shop for Christmas gifts in every sale from January onwards!
Which leads to another important digital marketing tip for online retailers. You also need to start planning your post-Christmas campaigns now too! This gives your target customers an opportunity to budget both for seasonal spending, but also for any major purchases they want to make in the January Sales.
Getting the message across from now onwards builds awareness and brand interest and loyalty. Waiting until the Christmas rush leaves you at serious risk of losing out.
Having established that your seasonal Google ads and other paid social media campaigns need to be planned out now, what else can you do to get ahead on Christmas revenue? Getting your digital marketing right always starts from the point of looking at hard facts and statistics.
How did your online business perform over the 2018 festive season, and in this year’s January Sales? When were the peaks and which search terms performed well?
Also, what products do you want to push over Christmas, and what stock do you need to off-load in January? What keywords and USPs can you use to improve the ‘searchability’ of those items?
Look at previous website traffic not just in terms of how numbers rose from October onwards, but also Lead Conversion. Getting more site visitors with seasonal ad campaigns is not much good, if they were not your potential customers and they didn’t buy from you!
Once you have drilled down on information like this, an insightful digital marketing campaign can be formulated for Christmas, that gets your most profitable or appropriate products in front of consumers who are searching online.
Oh, and one last thing. Buy early for Christmas! By which we mean getting your stock levels up too, ready for the festive rush.