8 in 10 marketers say the festive season is make or break for their brand

Following a fallow year, Christmas 2021 is make or break according to 83 per cent of UK marketers, warns a new study from Sitecore, the global leader in digital experience management software. Despite this, shocking results reveal only a quarter of marketers are prepared for the Golden Quarter – even though shoppers (20 per cent) are already browsing for gifts.

The study of 400 UK marketers highlights that almost half of those with stores (45 per cent) believe this holiday season will be the last chance to prove the value of their physical presence – signalling increased concerns about the future of the high street.

As brands hope for a “mega Christmas” to see them through to 2022, Sitecore is advising marketers to capitalise on earlybird shoppers – and fast. Over a quarter (28 per cent) of consumers are planning to holiday-shop before the end of summer. The most common reasons are: to take advantage of sale prices (46 per cent), spread the costs (44 per cent) and avoid the crowds (42 per cent).

In Black Friday’s home territory – the USA – 17 per cent fewer marketers are offering promotions compared to last year. On this side of the pond, many UK marketers are planning promotions this Black Friday (68 per cent), but its popularity may wane as a third (33 per cent) believe that Black Friday is synonymous with mass consumerism and is becoming outdated. The risks of large crowds was a further red flag for 36 per cent of marketers.

In addition to this, half (49 per cent) of marketers admit online discounting has become more competitive than ever in the last 12 months – showing the clear need to create seamless and personalised customer experiences, rather than slashing prices, to stand out from the crowd. Given the majority (74 per cent) of marketers admit digital marketing has taken a back seat in favour of investment in other areas this year, swift action is required, with 93 per cent of marketers believing digital marketing is now business-critical for surviving the holiday season.

Paige O’Neill, CMO, Sitecore, comments, “These findings point to a dramatic shake-up on the horizon for both the UK’s highstreet and eCommerce landscape. It’s now or never for those brands looking to thrive, or even just survive, this festive season, with the onus on them to deliver the most compelling and engaging digital experiences possible. The next few weeks will be critical for realising these plans and taking advantage of technology in the critical run-up to the holidays.”

With shoppers having already started their Christmas shopping, marketers are now left playing catch-up, rolling out plans to revolutionise the Christmas shopping experience, boost sales and ultimately keep the business moving forward. These plans include:

Trialling subscription-based engagement (71 per cent) – to connect with customers in a hyper-personalised way

Optimising the supply chain through AI (62 per cent) – making sure we don’t see another year of late deliveries

Introducing new virtual services for trying on clothes and visiting stores (61 per cent) – providing excellent experiences for those shopping from home

Improving customer service through AI services like chatbots (57 per cent) – to further engage with customers at home

Selling directly to consumers via their websites for the first time (29 per cent) – helping engage customers directly and build brand loyalty

Sitecore commissioned this research to help marketers who are fighting to survive and thrive post-pandemic. Sitecore technology accelerates the path to purchase and improves overall experience, while enabling marketers to truly understand their customers and build strong relationships through personalised digital experiences.

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