It’s not too late for the high street to make a success of Christmas

Black Friday is over and retailer’s sights are now being set on the Christmas rush, as retailers look to capitalise on demand for presents, food and drink, decorations and all manner of other festive paraphernalia. Good cheer abounds, year-end bonuses are still prevalent in many sectors, and consumers are often freer than usual with their spending.

Between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve last year, a reported £12bn was spent by shoppers, a record high. The winter months on the whole, have been booming. The Office for National Statistics, reported that spending increased throughout December 2017 by 4.4% when compared to the year before.

Yet initial data suggests that it was the UK eCommerce sector, not the high street, that benefited from the surge in Black Friday spending. We predicted as much last month on this very site. Many high street retailers are fearing the same fate for December and January sales. So the question is, while eCommerce looks set to continue its ascension, how can retailers attract greater in-store spending over the rest of the winter?


Inspire and delight

The good news is that consumers are never more engaged than in the run up to Christmas, and our recent Festive Media Consumption report found that 57% of consumers still find inspiration for Christmas gifts by window shopping and perusing the high street.

A further 47% source ideas from Christmas adverts on TV, news that could bode well for any opportunistic retailers promoting impulse purchases of pianos!

Physical retailers can also offer a slice of festive delight. Be it something as extravagant as a magical Christmas grotto, or something as simple as festive coffee cups, experiences lead to positive memories – that’s why even Not On The High Street is going against its brand name, and descending directly onto the Christmas brick-and-mortar scene with two pop-ups this year.

Other brands craft their experience as something more than just shopping. This year, French drinks brand St-Germain is opening a wintry bar in Covent Garden. If you’d prefer to simply be helpful, gift wrapping stations or in-store children’s entertainment can both make the experience of the Christmas bustle more bearable for shoppers.

Ultimately, these are all experiences and little touches that either help you stand out from an online-only retail experience, or start to match its convenience. Just make sure that you’re staying true to your brand and its values. Pop-up bars aren’t right for everyone; nor is gift-wrapping if your store is focused on speed and efficiency.

Add value

While eCommerce becomes ever smarter with recommendations, chatbot assistants and review systems as standard, many shoppers still appreciate the human touch that can be offered by high street retailers.

Charlie Mayfield, Chairman and CEO of John Lewis & Partners summed it up when we spoke to him recently: “We know that we can’t compete with Amazon if all we do is try to come up with better algorithms. We’ll never win. But what we can do is offer something that no one else offers.

“Let’s take women’s clothing, for example. You can get good quality women’s clothing now without having to go into a shop. So if you’ve taken the trouble to come into a shop, you need to be getting something extra. The shop assistants, and the interactions you have need to be adding to the experience of buying that product. It’s no longer enough just to produce quality products.”

Dive deeper with data

Omnichannel has been a buzzword for years now, yet there are still few examples of retailers being able to marry footfall data and online purchases particularly well. And while a ‘single customer view’ is still an outcome worth pursuing, it’s not the only way to utilise consumer data to create better experiences.

You can use your website – and other third-party online data sources such as Google Trends and search console – as vital research tools to help better understand what consumers are looking for.

Similarly, you could get ahead of the curve by launching a survey and going direct to consumers to ask about the gifts they’re most excited about, the ‘must-have’ items their kids are throwing into conversation every day, what might stop them from venturing out onto the high street, what kinds of offers would help you stand out…the list goes on.

Think ahead

Be sure that consumers remember where they got that fabulous present from! In these days of contactless transactions, and almost-brandless ordering of products on Amazon, it’s quite possible to become forgettable, particularly when you only have a limited time to stand out.

Think about the transaction as just a small part of your relationship with customers. Consistent branding across more than just your website, shop, or pop-up can help with building a meaningful relationship.

Christmas lends itself well to this, since it’s a time so associated with storytelling and relationships. You might struggle with digital competitors to win head-to-head on performance marketing or SEO, but by focusing on building a more meaningful relationship across various different touchpoints (radio, out of home advertising, or tv, for instance) you can build longer-term trust and loyalty that pays dividends over time.

By Mark Walker, marketing director at scalable intelligence platform Attest

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