How retailers can win at Christmas

Following a Champion Green webinar on the subject, retail marketing strategist Sharon Yourell Lawlor offers advice for local shops hoping to translate festive shopper needs into winning at retail this Christmas.

As the festive season kicks off in earnest, it is critical for retailers to illustrate how their businesses meet consumers’ festive needs.

People will be faced with more demands on their disposable income, more choice, more offers and more communication by retailers, than at any other time of year.

“Don’t be afraid to remind shoppers that by ‘shopping local’ they are supporting local jobs, a sustainable business community, and locally available goods and services”

The starting point is getting into the mindset of the Christmas shopper.  Purchase behaviours change subtly at Christmas as people are actively looking for retail solutions to imminent shopping needs; not just browsing.

Also, festive shoppers are more likely to be buying for others than for themselves; so it’s about meeting a need, more so than a personal desire.   They are often working to shopping lists of people and things to buy for and are keen to tick things off these lists. 

Make it easy for them!

With shoppers often working to budget, curate your online offering or instore merchandising; gift items under €30, stocking fillers under €15, gifts for him, treats for mum, the ‘money no object big statement surprise!’.

They are actively searching for inspiration, so categorising your offering will help.  Additional store staff on the floor, available to greet the customer and to offer help and solutions, is ideal.  Manning the tills is great, but customers may not get as far as a purchase if they can’t find what they’re looking for.

Festive shoppers also seek out recommendations and reviews from others.  Encourage your customers to spread the word, and take to social media to share your offering; particularly visual media like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Chrismas shopper needs

There are 3 key themed needs that Christmas shoppers have; the 3 Ss.

  1. Symbolic Gestures: The gift or small ‘thank-you’ people like to give over the festive season.
  2. Sociability: Those food, drink or entertaining accessories we purchase in planning for an increased level of socialising over the Christmas season.
  3. Show/Status: The items people invest in to ‘spruce up’ for Christmas. Think decorations, home improvement, entertainment systems, and dressing-up the family up for the big day.

If you are a retailer, think about how the products you sell can become solutions to address these needs, and then market them accordingly.

On your website, help shoppers successfully navigate their purchase journey, to convert within your eCommerce store.   They must instantly see solutions to needs, not a vast array of goods that can add to the confusion.  Sometimes less is more!

How to win in retail at Christmas

  1. Simplification: Simplify your festive offering and your solutions for the consumer.  Don’t go ‘information overload’ in the festive period or shoppers may delay purchase and potentially go elsewhere.  Empathy is everything.  Remember Christmas shoppers are often frazzled.  A smiling meet and greet assistant instore, or helpful webchat to similarly provide solutions, will make a difference.
  1. Synchronisation: Make it easy for your shoppers to make retail choices.  Ensure that all key touchpoints work together, seamlessly, to nudge the shopper along their purchase journey.  If the cashmere throw on offer is posted on social media this morning at a special price, or if it’s in the local paper, make sure it’s the first thing shoppers see in store and on your homepage too.
  1. Stand Out Appeal: Really think about the key things that your retail business offers shoppers that stand out from the crowd.   This is called your ‘Value Corner’. It might be your friendly and available staff, a free gift wrapping or home delivery service, the constant arrival of new stock, or flexible returns.  Ensure that you are communicating these benefits to your customers, and maybe focus on just one stand-out draw in your marketing, online, and in-person in your bricks and mortar stores.
  1. Sustainability: Consumers are showing a clear desire to make more ‘sustainable retail’ choices.  So, ensure your retail offering has ‘sustainable’ solutions and highlight them. That might be eco-friendly materials or ingredients, sustainable brands that back good causes, recycled, upcycled or vintage gifting, and, significantly in our pandemic times, locally sourced and made goods.

The notion of investment purchases that can become an heirloom, and buying one or two good items instead of fast-fashion or throwaway goods, is also gaining traction; so market accordingly!

Don’t be afraid too to remind shoppers that by ‘shopping local’ they are supporting local jobs, a sustainable business community, and locally available goods and services.

And, if you’re a small business and haven’t done so already, join the Champion Green movement, where you will find a wealth of ideas, advice and practical support.

Sharon Yourell Lawlor
Sharon Yourell Lawlor, founder of Think Plan Do Consulting, is a renowned consumer, shopper and retail marketing strategist. Sharon has worked for over 25 years in the FMCG industry and specialises in insights, strategy and changing shopper behaviour.