Retailers have experienced so much upheaval over the last few years that it can be difficult to remember what ‘normal’ looks like. 2020 saw the overnight pivot to full online retail, 2021 had the uncertainty of exiting lockdowns and the rise of rapid delivery, and 2022 has seen the supply chain crisis and global inflation. Throughout this time consumer behaviour and expectations has been in a state of unprecedented flux. The key to navigating these choppy waters is the continuous review of marketing campaigns to ensure they are pliable enough to adapt.
If Christmas 2021 was all about dynamic marketing to replicate the best of the online and bricks and mortar experiences, 2022 is more about being highly tactical, efficient and competitive. People are likely to be on tight budgets – meaning they will buy less and be on the lookout for bargains. This may, counterintuitively, result in the Black Friday sales period being the biggest ever. There may also be another burst of last minute shopping as consumers play chicken with retailers – holding off purchases in the hope of provoking and then capitalising on pre-Christmas sales. Indeed, statistics from last Christmas show that the majority of online purchases are made in November – with an additional spike the week before Christmas. I would expect this behaviour to be even more pronounced this year.
To execute a highly tactical marketing campaign you need the right marketing infrastructure in place to anticipate and respond to market and consumer dynamics. Ideally, a system that allows your business to quickly respond on every relevant marketing channel with the right content. It should integrate into your sales and website analytics so you can easily track the effectiveness of each marketing campaign, and decide which products need a harder push.
It’s important to remember you do not need a big monolithic tech stack to execute this. They are generally too inflexible, expensive and, with Christmas fast approaching – too time consuming to set up effectively. There are a range of new solutions available that, via APIs, can usually be easily integrated together. This means you have the freedom to build a suite of tools that work for your business. In addition, you also have the flexibility to swap out different solutions as your marketing develops. Headless CMS aligned with good data infrastructure is a combination that enables the highly response, data-driven marketing that is ideal for the festive period and beyond.
Marketing technology has also advanced to the point that, with the right system, you don’t need a whole team of ‘power users’ with deep technical expertise to build and execute campaigns. Nevertheless, it is essential that marketers have more strings to their bow. Understanding what your customer data is telling you and how you should best respond, is arguably much more important than being able to write snappy copy. As a result, your marketing team has to have a range of skills and they need to be fully integrated into your wider business. Information must flow from sales, customer service and backend analytics to your marketing team and vice versa. Gaining the ‘single customer view’ is of course the holy grail of any marketing department. However, with budgets tight and time short, you can gain a lot of ROI by upskilling your entire team on expertise such as the basics of data analysis. This can be done quickly and effectively through online courses. The result will be that your marketing team can become much more proactive – campaigns will evolve quickly in line with data insights and innovative ideas will come from your entire team.
In essence, your business moves from a top down marketing strategy that is defined well in advance, to a more fluid dynamic where tactical initiatives can be built and executed quickly to respond to consumer behaviour. Not only is this the best way to engage with customers during a period of uncertainty, it enables you to outmaneuver your competitors and operate with maximum efficiency.
Changing your tech infrastructure and upskilling your team might seem like a crazy initiative to undertake in the run up to Christmas. However, time pressure is an excellent motivator and you do not need to achieve everything all at once. You can start small, by reviewing your marketing tech stack and determining whether it’s fit for purpose and plug any big gaps you see with new tech with the view to a more complete overhaul over the course of the next year. Similarly, audit your team’s skills, identify where you need additional expertise right now, with the intention of undertaking a long term, holistic upskilling program. Christmas is the best time to see how beneficial a dynamic and multi-disciplinary marketing function can be. What you learn over this period will inform how you can best invest and plan for the future.