For many retailers the October to December Q4 Golden Quarter in 2021 will be crucial, according to eight out of 10 marketers in the UK. However only a quarter say they’re prepared for the peak gift buying season.
Every year online shopping is increasing and it is expected to account for almost 22% of all retail sales by 2024. Unsurprisingly, 2020 saw an estimated 45% increase in US ecommerce sales in November and December, compared to 2019.
Most experts agree that ecommerce will continue to grow and play an important part in Golden Quarter sales in 2021, although overall growth is expected to be subdued.
Is your ecommerce store ready for the Golden Quarter in 2021?
In preparation for this busy buying season, there are some important points to consider to be sure you will achieve your share of the opportunities.
Buying behavior – 2020 was an unprecedented situation, so it will be important to take a considered view of what seasonal shoppers will be looking for in 2021. Online buying increased to 25.7% of total retail sales in November to December 2020, up from 19.2% in 2019. However, in 2021 the pendulum could swing back in favour of in-store shopping or ‘brick and click’ options.
Timing – campaign content and timing will be important ingredients in your digital marketing strategy. Early buying is expected to begin in October, so there’s no time to waste to prepare for seasonal sales. Black Friday has been a feature of the Golden Quarter for over a decade. It has now become at least a weekend and possibly a whole week. However, large discounts and obvious consumerism might soon be replaced by a more thoughtful drive to tempt new customers and referrals and to build brand loyalty. Predictions also anticipate a second peak in buying in the week before Christmas.
Data – more than ever before, high quality data will be essential to identify your core customers, increase conversion rates, improve profitability, and drive customer lifetime value (CLTV). Search, social media, and email marketing will all have roles to play, but there’s also room for innovation in data-based systems and processes that will deliver exceptional customer experiences across all your channels.
Trends to watch
The recent report, The Christmas Forecast, looks at retail sales this Golden Quarter with forecasts by sector.
Clothing, health and beauty, toys and games are all expected to see modest growth while food sales will see a downturn compared to 2020.
PwC has been tracking consumer confidence since before the global financial crisis in 2008. Public sentiment this summer was more positive following a significant drop in 2020. At +10, it is the highest since the survey began, despite delays in easing pandemic restrictions.
However, optimism needs to be balanced against the impact of remaining restrictions and reductions in government financial support, which could still affect sectors such as hospitality.
As consumers look forward to more buying choices most sectors will expect to see modest increases in sales in Q4 compared with the same period in 2019, except clothing, which is expected to see a downturn. For retailers that continue to have a brick and mortar presence, creating integrated online and offline experiences will help to attract existing and new customers after an austere year.
Preparing your ecommerce store and digital marketing strategy
Agility – when you’re unable to rely on previous data to indicate how to plan this year you will need to make decisions quickly as patterns emerge. A predictive approach supported with data-driven modelling capabilities will give you a competitive advantage.
Retailers looking to forge ahead this quarter will be working with partners who can extend their skill set to digitally transform stock allocation and replenishment, logistics, category management and planning. The winners will have the tools they need to make sure they have the right stock in the right place at the right time, and available through the right channels to meet customer needs.
Minimizing friction – part of your goal this year will be to minimize friction between your online and offline channels. A coordinated multichannel approach will support your Golden Quarter sales and provide a consistent brand experience. Integrating your business systems to provide a single view of critical data across your whole operation will help you to meet customer expectations, improve efficiency, and avoid errors and delays due to data duplication and manual data entry mistakes.
Marketplaces – alongside the major marketplaces there’s increasing interest in emerging niche marketplaces like Zalando and Newegg. Your marketplace strategy could make a big difference to your performance during the quarter. If you focus on just one or two marketplaces you could be leaving the way open for your competitors.
Mobile – Adobe found that almost 40% of Christmas revenue in 2020 came from smartphones, so delivering quality customer experiences for mobile devices will be essential.
Hybrid – With less ability to browse in person last year, in-store shopping became more intentional and transactional. For many, online/offline hybrid solutions like curbside pickup and buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) redefined expectations for convenience.
At the same time digital shopping has become more immersive, offering digital equivalents of in-store experiences. This could include styling and how-to videos, live fashion shows, augmented reality, messaging with sales associates, and personalized recommendations.
This hybrid experience creates convenient, frictionless, omnichannel opportunities to deliver in-store experiences online and digital experiences at your premises.
Social – purchasing on social is gaining momentum and many shoppers are turning to their social media channels for gift ideas, especially for personalized options and curated recommendations. Facebook Shop and Instagram Checkout could be options for you.
At Williams Commerce our skilled digital marketers can help you make the most of your online opportunities during the Golden Quarter. We can help you to transform your business and achieve your goals. We take a holistic approach to create a fully integrated strategy specifically for you.