Jingle Hell: How to make the most of seasonal shopping events

Holiday sales are well underway, but is grabbing a bargain causing a headache for consumers? And are the ever-expanding discount events giving retailers hell? Laura Barnes investigates.
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Retailers and consumers alike have already been battling through Black Friday madness and crawling through the abundance of Cyber Monday deals, but the discount rollercoaster is far from over as shoppers scramble to find last-minute gifts in time for Christmas and plan out their attack on the January sales soon after.

For retailers this means an almost continuous plan of action for taking advantage of every type of customer and shopping habit to ensure they nab every potential sale they can.

While this holiday season provides an abundance of great offers for consumers and more opportunities to make sales for retailers, is the pressure of Christmas time causing Jingle Hell for everyone involved?

On the consumer side of the coin, a new report from online loyalty programme Rakuten.co.uk has revealed just how stressful this season can be for shoppers.

Its research found that more than a quarter (28%) of the customers it surveyed feel stressed when it comes to Christmas shopping. 27% outlined worries about how much it’s all going to cost as a cause for concern.

With so much expectation and hype surrounding key shopping events, 46% of those surveyed admitted to shopping differently at this time of year – just to get through the task ahead.

“Our own research has found that stress levels rise in the peak season, with more than a quarter of customers surveyed admitting to feeling stressed, and nearly half revealing they shop differently at this time of year,” Sebastiaan Rasterhoff, head of open e-commerce Europe at Rakuten.co.uk, tells PCR.

“However, shopping should be a fun, not feared experience, especially during the festive season.

“There are numerous ways that shoppers can get the gifts and deals they actually want, without feeling overwhelmed or that they need to overspend.”

Always be prepared Rakuten found that one of the ways shoppers are managing the stress is by being more prepared.

More than half (56%) of customers are giving themselves more time to shop online in the months leading up to the main event. For 16%, Christmas is a year-round concern and sees them stocking up on gifts throughout the year to help spread the cost and make their lives easier. However, not everyone is as organised, as 15% of those surveyed still believe that the last-minute trolley dash is still the best approach.

“The ability to shop online should take the stress out of shopping, no matter how you prefer to do it and how much time and budget you have. Being loyal to a brand or retailer can also lead to better deals and offers in the long-term,” says Rasterhoff.

Seeking out deals online seems to be a key part of the Christmas shopping psyche. Almost two-thirds (64%) of customers Rakuten spoke to actively hunt out the best prices and shop around comparing different brands before making a purchase.

However, one in five (19%), prefer to shop with brands they know and trust. But, no matter how good the deal is, high quality (66%), brand trust (64%) and free delivery (64%) are the top considerations for converting online browsing into buying.

Retailer Insight

What retailers can take away from this survey is that it’s impossible to find a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to appealing to customers. But what’s encouraging to hear is that more and more shoppers appear to look for bargains throughout the year rather than just during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the weeks leading up to Christmas.

While this does mean retailers need to be continuously appealing to consumers, it also shows that not everything hangs on those precious few weeks.

Another interesting, if not slightly concerning, point that the survey reveals is how much less stressful shoppers find buying goods online compared to in-store.

Almost three quarters (74%) of people agreed that buying gifts online is less stressful than shopping in person and over two-thirds (68%) said they could usually find better bargains online as well.

If consumers already have this mindset, the chances are they are expecting to see better deals online compared to in- store, and as such may head online first before heading out to their local high street. So, if you’re a retailer with a web store, it’s more important than ever to utilise it this Christmas, especially when it comes to mobile users.

Smart Shopping

The proportion of Brits using their smartphones to make purchases online during the lead up to Christmas is up a massive 44% compared to the same period last year, according to the latest Ve research.

Its study examined 50 million online browser sessions across 3,000 retail websites during the third quarter of 2017 and the same period in 2018.

Martech company Ve, which develops eCommerce technologies for retailers, found that the growth in sales is followed by a further 6% increase in browsing via a smartphone, placing mobile as the dominant channel for browsing in the UK – registering more sessions (53%) than desktop PCs and tablets combined.

“Ve’s data indicates that UK retailers are beginning to meet the mobile-first expectations of the modern online shopper and in good time, given the continued demise of the desktop PC and even the tablet – all of which are fading towards irrelevance as the mobile experience improves,” says Ve CEO David Marrinan-Hayes.

“The main challenge for brands is to develop and deploy mobile experiences that are relevant and bring value to each potential customer. Done correctly, personalised messages and content delivered direct-to-mobile via SMS or Web Push Notifications, can be welcome interruptions and lead a customer into making a purchase.”

Getting personal

Marrinan-Hayes believes brands must build campaigns that interact with individuals in a “uniquely personalised way” if they hope to retain customers using those channels.

“By no means is the desktop or tablet experience dead in the eyes of consumers. However, greater efforts need to be made by UK retailers if they hope to capture the attention of consumers in a mobile-first environment,” he warns.

“This means investing in greater levels of personalisation and delivering onsite experiences that are contextually relevant to each user. At Ve, we’re working closely with a number of UK retailers to understand their users more and develop experiences that are tailored for them, from product discovery through to an eventual purchase, and beyond.”

Retail sales aggregator LovetheSales.com reported that 72% more UK retailers took part in Black Friday this year, compared to 2017. “2018 has seen one of the toughest years for retailers for a long time. Uncertainty around Brexit and reduced spending confidence from consumers have been significant issues,” says LovetheSales.com founder and retail analyst, Stuart McClure.

“Retailers who are known for eschewing the Black Friday furore are returning to it in 2018. This is testament to the fact that it’s been a tough year, and that many need the seasonal boost to their sales.”

So, whether you’re sick of discount deals or not, it’s clear that the seasonal shopping events are here to stay.

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