Five tips for marketing at Christmas

By Andreas Pouros | 04 Nov 2016

With more than half of annual retail sales occurring during the three months leading up to Christmas in the UK, and a large proportion of these happening between Black Friday and Boxing Day, the festive season can quite literally make or break brands.

To make sure the festive season goes with a bang, some brands are spending more and more on big, flashy Christmas TV ads and campaigns to reach shoppers in the run-up to the big day, however not every brand has the budget required to take part in what many now refer to as the 'Super Bowl' of British Advertising. But fear not! As with Christmas presents what counts is not what you spend but the thought that goes into it making your gift, or marketing campaign, really relevant and personal.

So, with so much at stake, and just a few months until the big day, what steps can marketers take now to ensure that their brand is at the top of the wish list this Christmas?

Create emotive content

To cut through all the noise, marketing campaigns need to spark conversations that are evergreen in quality and continue growing and developing long after seeding - and the best way to do that is by using emotion. John Lewis' Man on the Moon and Sainsbury's Mog TV commercials provide great examples of how to capitalise on human emotion. The first focuses on the less publicised side of loneliness experienced by many at Christmas, and the latter applies humour to unexpected, catastrophic events, whilst both also integrate the relatable 'time for sharing' theme to deliver a heartfelt message.

Although each campaign was entertaining and successful in gaining many millions of media impressions, it is less clear whether they encourage the buyer to make a purchase, choose one brand over another or simply leave viewers with warm and fuzzy feelings. Without spending £7 million, there are many other ways for brands to get their products onto Santa's sleigh at a fraction of the cost.

Outsmart the competition with a clever and creative SEO strategy 

With online shopping now accounting for  27 percent of the UK's entire retail market, a solid strategy for SEO is crucial for helping the search engine spiders to recommend and index your website. Marketers should ensure that online content revolves around providing answers to trending queries rather than simply telling the audience what you want them to hear. Smart content uses your assets, is entrenched in research, will contain useful information and be ahead of the curve. And importantly, it will help to drive traffic to your website and grow conversions.

Make sure you're mobile friendly 

Search engines rank websites based on their inherent authority, for example, are your pages being linked to by third party sources, as well as components that communicate positive attributes like the website's speed, efficiency and general user experience. They also look at how mobile friendly your website is.

Today, some 39 percent of people use smartphones as the primary mode of research for products and services (up from 19% in 2013), and purchases made using mobile devices are predicted to reach  $1.915 trillion  worldwide by the end of 2016. With that in mind, it's important to make sure you are offering mobile users a great experience on your website, while also considering mobile users carefully when planning your ads. For instance, it is well worth adding geo-targeting to the mix to not only enable you to serve real time ads to nearby, potential customers but it also provides you with meaningful and identifiable insights on what people want, need and are interested in during the festive season.

Show off your products effectively online

Product Listing Ads (PLA's) are continuing to go from strength to strength. Cost Per Clicks (CPC's) remain low, yet conversion rates and average order values are almost as high as pure brand, and the ROI is excellent. So how do you make the most out of PLA's at the most important time of the year? Marketers will need to ensure all of their products are in the feed, named and include prices. Each product should have its own line and all text and images need to be 'crawlable' so the links can be discovered and indexed. Your feed will have to be updated daily and product titles must be 70 characters or less and in this instance, the description lines must include relevant keywords.

Be smart about how you target shoppers on social

Social Media is constantly evolving which is making it more useful and relevant to marketers, but also more difficult for brands to use to their advantage. Having millions of followers does not necessarily mean engagement. At a time of the year where brands should be trying to reach the right customers with the right message, it is vital to properly know and understand them. 55 percent of all FTSE companies' followers on Twitter appear to be fake or inactive which means that content often isn't even reaching 'real' users. Marketers need to dig deep when finding out where their target audience is spending time online and take advantage of data driven tools and proven advertising platforms to obtain results based on tangible business objectives and not just brand awareness, likes and shares.

With the average household spending approximately £800 on Christmas shopping, including gifts, food and drinks, marketers need to plan early, set clear objectives and ensure all channels are working together simultaneously. And in most cases they won't need to spend £7m on a TV ad.

This article was first published on the Business Review Europe website.