COVID-19 has significantly altered many traditions in 2020, and Christmas will certainly be one of them. Economic impacts, separation from loved ones, and potential lockdowns or ongoing restrictions will all contribute to a holiday season that looks very different from years gone by. But if there’s one thing Australia has demonstrated over the last few months, it’s an ability to find joy, laughter and connection even in trying times. COVID won’t steal Christmas from us.
As we get closer to the end of the year, however, you might be scratching your head about how to market to customers effectively in a time of immense disruption and change. There’ll be many articles telling you how to maximise holiday sales, and why certain channels or approaches are key.
Yet, now more than ever, you need to be aware that customers all shop differently. A one-size-fits-all approach will never work. This is particularly true when circumstances could change dramatically for your customers (or even the country at large) in the next week or month.
An integrated strategy that considers different consumer behaviours and applies a personalised approach will deliver better results for your business. Most importantly, it ensures you can be empathetic to the unique challenges and requirements of your customers this Christmas.
Here are some of the shoppers you’ll encounter:
Offering holiday discounts is a tried-and-tested retail technique, and The Bargain Hunter knows when all the best sales are and what to look out for. They love a good deal and they’ll do their research to find the best one.
The Bargain Hunter does their Christmas shopping early so they can spend plenty of time narrowing down the best deal, and they’ll be looking for retailers that offer free shipping, gift bundles and bonus gift-wrapping. With 63 per cent of Australians believing COVID-19 will impact their finances for two months to over a year, there will be more bargain hunters than ever this Christmas. There are even some people that buy their presents for everyone a year ahead in the January sales when they’re heavily discounted – so don’t forget to mark down anything seasonal for the early birds.
Your favourite customers: the ones who return to you again and again. And if you’re lucky, tell all their friends and family about you too! The Loyalist will turn to you by default for their Christmas shopping, groceries or delivery needs. If you’re a department store or offer a wide product variety, they might even get gifts to cover the whole family, doing the Christmas shopping all in one go.
To keep your loyal customers happy, don’t take them for granted. This is especially important in light of the fact that almost a third of Australians have tried a different brand since COVID-19 and 83 per cent of those intend to continue with this change. You want to treat them like a VIP in recognition of the value they deliver for your business. This could mean early access to sales offers, personalised communication or proactive messaging about deals on their favourite items and regular purchases.
Whether they’re from a big family, buying for a colleague or taking part in a friendship tradition, this person is looking for presents that won’t break the bank, aren’t too personal and might be more of a novelty item. Something they can give to that guy from the office they’ve only exchanged friendly nods with in the lift, or the sister-in-law they see once a year.
To appeal to this consumer, you want to offer one-off items that hit the ‘fun’ brief and don’t cost an arm and a leg. Even better if you can offer easy website categories for people to search for the recipient or occasion specifically, like Kris Kringle or general family gifts.
You know the type – they wait until a day or two before Christmas, when they hit the stores for late-night shopping and pick up presents haphazardly to tick them off the list. For these customers, you need clearly marked offers in store to grab attention, and make sure you showcase products prominently that you want to sell the most.
E-commerce shopping is set to change The Last-Minute Shopper’s behaviour significantly, particularly given the 20-35 per cent growth in consumers purchasing online across most categories. Many shoppers might find it easier to be organised with online shopping and will eschew the traditional Christmas Eve Westfield run altogether. Get their attention with eDMs or targeted online offers promoting your sales, shipping times and easy, quick shopping experience.
The Browser isn’t on a mission or hunting for something specific. They’re partial to a stroll around the shops, popping in and out of stores depending on what takes their fancy. They’ll do the same online – not going directly to your site looking for a product, but perhaps noticing a product they like on Instagram or spotting a great offer in your email newsletter.
To appeal to this audience, you need to stay top of mind. That means understanding where your customers are spending time online and using targeted advertising and a smart digital strategy to be there too. For bricks-and-mortar stores, you want to focus on engaging window displays, staff to offer a warm welcome, and providing gentle (read: not pushy) and friendly support to find them something they’ll like. This year, hygiene and social distancing will also be important. Many consumers may choose not to shop in stores that over-crowded and feel unsafe.
This purpose-driven shopper likes to put their money towards a good cause. At Christmas they’re particularly conscious of contributing to worthwhile charities and organisations, while minimising their environmental impact. They may purchase only from stores that are giving back to the community in some way, or choose to sponsor a cause rather than gift a physical item.
After a year in which we’ve seen the country ravaged by bushfires, ground to a standstill by the global pandemic and driven to action on issues like racial injustice and climate change, it’s likely that many people will be more focused on giving back at Christmas. Six in 10 consumers will change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact and for the consumers that value sustainability, over 70 per cent will pay a premium for brands that are environmentally responsible. And there’s a growing 40 per cent of consumers who seek products and services aligned with their values. These shoppers will opt for brands that have clearly defined values, offer sustainable products and packaging, and reflect a sense of community.
Not restricted to Christmas, the Showroomer likes to test out products in-person before moving online to hunt for the best price. They want to check fit, quality and dimensions in person but they don’t want to pay for it until they know if there is a better deal out there.
During a period of lockdown, it’s likely this type of shopper was forced to move purely online. Research shows that eight in 10 Australian Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have shopped online since the beginning of the pandemic, and 38 per cent of them have spent more time using mobile devices. They may be more comfortable now to buy a product without checking it out in person – or making liberal use of returns policies. To appeal to them this Christmas, make your returns process free and easy, and ensure your online presence and experience is given as much attention as your stores. A loyalty program will also incentivise consumers to purchase from you rather than a competitor offering a lower price, because they can build up points for bigger discounts or perks.
Unlike The Browser, who is prone to impulse buys, The Researcher doesn’t purchase anything until they’re extremely well-informed. This means reading reviews, browsing the catalogue, comparing pricing and double checking they’ve made the best decision possible.
When it comes to Christmas shopping, they’ve planned well in advance, with a list of all the presents on their list and ideas for what they want to buy. They’ll be less swayed by discounts or appealing store displays – they’re more interested in whether the products are good quality, long-lasting, ethically made, sustainable, unique… the list goes on. To appeal to The Researcher, you need an informative website that has all the detail they need as well as a simple, friendly customer service channel. It’s also important that your in-store staff are trained to answer detailed questions and can demonstrate the value of your products over competitors.
While all these consumer personas are unique, keep in mind that many consumers will fall under more than one category. A strategy that allows you to appeal to as many customers as possible and uses data to personalise your marketing across channels at scale will be the most effective way to reach and engage all relevant customers.
Crucially, brands need to approach the end of year sales period in a compassionate and flexible way, to meet customer needs in a challenging time and deliver the service and support they need for a happy Christmas – whatever form it takes.