Retail marketing 15.09.2020
Planning for the 2020 festive shopping season

How will in-store seasonal promotions change this year?


Just as high street retailers start to tentatively re-open their doors, they’re expected to turn their attention to the biggest earning period of the year—the run up to Christmas.


There’s no getting away from the fact that consumer spend is likely to be down this year.


Halloween will be the first real test for seasonal promotions. Black Friday will provide an indicator of consumer spending patterns. Christmas will be the biggest measure of all, coming at the point that the full economic impact of Covid-19 is revealed.


But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for optimism. According to The Grocer, consumer spending during the last significant recession in 2008/ 2009 was up 11% on the preceding three months. It’s true that during tough times the world needs a little sparkle.


The Covid crisis has also heralded a new phenomenon—the ‘insperience economy’, which is predicted to be worth £168million over the next 12 months. With a likely shortage of Christmas parties this year, this Christmas looks set to be the biggest ‘insperience’ of them all.


The usual structured planning calendar for the Christmas period is off the table (many of the usual July retail showcases are cancelled) and ‘pivoting’ is the name of the game. The dizzying pace of change as the crisis progresses means no-one really knows what will happen by the end of the year.


Messaging and sentiment will be as critical as stock and promotion planning. Shoppers will be keen to enjoy Christmas, but they may also be nervous about spending.


So how do bricks and mortar retailers get the balance right—and create as much magic of the season as possible to excite and reassure nervous customers?

Lessons learned from Covid for Christmas retail



Lockdown saw an immediate switch to online shopping, even amongst groups who hadn’t typically shopped online.


And although the switch to digital presents some challenges for high street stores, in other ways it has opened opportunity and provided direction for future planning.


It’s about understanding the new buying habits wrought by the unique situation and thinking laterally to maximise their potential.


For example, the use of click and collect has increased significantly over recent months. Ensuring your click and collect process is smooth and representative of your overall customer experience is now fundamentally important—even more so in the run up to Christmas.


But it also provides a reason for customers to visit your store. Is it possible to make the most of your shoppers’ trips to collect their goods? Perhaps by setting up a pop-up Christmas shop outside your store? Nervous shoppers who are keen to avoid going inside may feel less nervous about browsing goods outside.


The wealth of data collected during the crisis is also a key to opportunity. Information collected from shoppers as they’ve switched to buying online provides a treasure trove of insights into the types of products purchased, by who—and the path to building a richer relationship and a more impactful in-store experience.

Understand how shopper habits have changed



We know from recent buyer behaviour studies that people are less likely to shop around when they do venture into stores.


Convenience is critical. Shoppers want to visit the minimal number of stores and buy as much as possible in one place. With social distancing still the norm (and looking likely to last for some time to come), this new behaviour could still be the case by Q4 as we move into Halloween, then Christmas.


But rather than see this as a barrier, it’s important to take advantage of the preference for single store shopping and do what you can to ensure customers choose your store, and purchase more than they typically would when they’re with you.


Communicate with them at home—via email, your social media channels, even direct mail—and make your range of seasonal products as enticing and accessible as possible when they’re in store. Nurture the balance between convenience and the enjoyment of shopping by demonstrating that you can cater to their needs, while exciting them with inspirational festive ideas and reasons to stop and browse.


Your window displays could be the most important tool at your disposal this year. All high street retailers will be competing for shoppers’ attention and precious queuing time, so it’s crucial to use your windows to demonstrate that their wait for you will be worth it (particularly as the weather gets colder and wetter).

An impactful window display can attract shoppers

There are multiple ways to dress and layer your windows, but while it’s important to showcase your seasonal products you could also use them to build relationships with your shoppers with timely and community-driven messages. Consider the following:

  • Making your messaging local and relevant with localised welcome graphics
  • Tie-ins with local community groups and Christmas initiatives (such as donating to food banks)
  • Giving out key messages about your opening times and click and collect services
  • Using displays that can be switched out quickly – working with your printer to get contingency plans in place for rapid production and distribution.


In-store, you’re likely to be working with reduced floor space for festive promotions, so it’s important to think carefully about your POS and incorporate impactful formats that optimise the space you do have. Consider less intrusive options that could replace your usual displays:

  • Floor and hanging graphics
  • Shelf fins
  • FSDUs incorporating interchangeable messages on different sides



Halloween image source: POPAI

Above all, think about the impact on your colleagues. The run up to Christmas is likely to be the busiest period since lockdown, so ensuring your staff feel safe and comfortable dealing with customers in the new environment is critical.



Experience is everything



For any retailer who hasn’t yet embraced the omnichannel experience—now is the time.


The key is to use your digital and bricks and mortar environments to complement each other. Each has its unique characteristics that the other can’t serve, and the two must create a seamless brand experience.


Stores create a deeper emotional connection with customers and it’s this that will help the very best hold firm as we continue to live with the current extraordinary situation.


They are the only location where retailers can offer the full brand experience and provide a valuable focal point for browsing and impulse buying.


It’s stores’ role to inspire and bring your brand to life. And never more so than during the festive season.


Experiential retail marketing can provide a reason for customers to make a trip to your store.


Sampling may be (literally) off the table right now, but building stories around products (or multiple products), demonstrations and displays can help to build excitement.

  • Integrate impactful graphic displays to make the experience immersive
  • Try clever lighting to highlight key products
  • Add motion with light displays
  • Use your cleared floors to your advantage. Place your most important seasonal promotions in the direct eye-line of your shoppers
  • Display items together to allow customers to visualise how they will work in combination and encourage cross-sell.


The retail experience has been redefined, so work with it. Remember, keeping customers and colleagues safe must remain the core of everything you do right now, but there’s still room for some festive excitement.

Get in touch

Can we help you with your festive planning?

Our retail team is working with a number of retailers to navigate the latest guidelines and plan promotions that work in real store environments.


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