“The most wonderful time of the year” as it is proclaimed in many a festive song. Televisions, newspapers, radios, websites are all filled with different marketing messages about the C-word everyone tries to hold back from saying until at least the beginning of November. Yes, we’re talking about Christmas. Now we’re into December, Christmas is well and truly, all around us.

This is the most important time of the year for the FMCG industry. This is where it is make or break for profit, with September to December 31st being the most crucial months in the year-on-year life cycle. But in recent years the competition has increased rapidly, with the likes of online shopping, Black Friday, January Sales, household incomes and (dare we mention) Brexit having large implications for both the online and in store market. Known as the ‘golden quarter’, it is also the time of year where retailers can really maximise on their private label products, with many releasing festive themed lines to cater for the multiple celebrations consumers indulge in. In 2017, private label sales grew nearly three times the rate of the overall grocery market, with products contributing to the strong end of year sales many supermarkets achieved. Nielsen data revealed that shoppers spent £500 million more on groceries in 2017 compared to 2016’s  festive season (an increase of 3.7%), with Tesco seeing the largest sales growth out of the big four. Within the golden quarter, 18% of shoppers said they purchased their groceries online (an increase of 2% compared with the previous year). These results are only going to rise higher in 2018 as more shoppers opt for the online option.

UK shoppers are increasingly turning to the internet to buy products they usually would have purchased in store. In a recent Nielsen Global Connected Commerce report it was revealed that 95% of UK shoppers are buying products online due to improved convenience and timely delivery guarantees. It should also be said that shoppers from across the globe are also becoming more confident with online shopping with 26% of global consumers purchasing fresh groceries online, an increase of 15% from 2016 (Nielsen, 2018). With this time of year being a busy one for many, online shopping is a key channel that can help a consumer save time, money and stress. Anyone who has visited a supermarket during December will have noticed the increase in the number of people shopping at the same time. Aisles become empty faster, queues build up quicker and stress levels are heightened. All of this is a turn off for many, which is why online shopping can be a welcome replacement for customers. Enter, the Christmas campaign.

As soon as November 1st hit, the big Christmas campaigns begun. Like a cannon being fired (coincidentally seen in the ASDA advert), the date signifies the start of the big marketing ploys, all with the same goal – to get consumers shopping. And this year each of the top UK retailers have taken a different approach to their marketing strategies, from the emotional to the funny to the relatable. The Advertising Association puts spend on seasonal advertising at over £6.5 billion which is up 5% on the amount spent last year. According to The Grocer, aggregated search results show there is a far greater interest in Christmas ads this year than last, which is why it is key for all retailers to ensure they’re truly maximising on their campaigns.

But the way in which supermarkets promote themselves has changed. One of the things that stands out is that none of them necessarily promote their products, but instead offer the enjoyable experiences of shopping.  As we mentioned last month, shopping is no longer about loyalty, it’s far more than that; pricing, convenience, quality and quantity are all key metrics. With it being a busy time of year, consumers are more likely to shop across a variety of stores rather than stick to one.

This year, a common theme is family traditions. ASDA, Morrisons and Tesco have all shaped their adverts around the notion of having the family all round for Christmas dinner. ASDA’s focus is on the range of gifts and food products each individual brings home for Christmas. Tesco focuses on the different ways families celebrate Christmas, highlighting popular (and unpopular) festive foods including the turkey and brussel sprouts. Morrisons also follows this trend, focusing on a mother getting everything she wished for as she looks around at all her family celebrating at the dinner table. These adverts offer a mix of sentimental and brand value, as each individual will have a different way of celebrating over the festive period. Sainsbury’s however, is completely different, in that it focuses on the big nativity play, a proud, emotional occasion for all parents and grandparents. The supermarket received huge social media interaction for their ‘plug boy’ section, with many shoppers highlighting the memorable moment. But most interestingly it does not feature a single product that can be purchased from the supermarket, unlike the others who use their ads to highlight key lines.

It’s interesting to see that the traditional marketing campaigns of yesterday have completely transformed, with all supermarkets looking to gain the most interaction. For example, one of the most talked about campaigns this year is Iceland’s no palm oil campaign. Although banned from being broadcast, it generated huge social media attention and is so far the most searched for ad. Despite this, the retailer still has TV spots, promoting their traditional range of food products that are perfect for dinner parties. Other mentions go to ALDI who have continued on the success of 2017’s campaign with Kevin the Carrot, placing him on a magical Christmas adventure. This year the retailer have even released a cuddly toy that sold out in a matter of hours upon release. Lidl have opted for the funnier side of Christmas, showcasing consumers going to extreme lengths to make it their best Christmas yet. Most interestingly is Waitrose approach this year with the retailer poking harmless fun at the John Lewis ad with the consumers wanting to skip over the Elton John fronted ad in favour of indulging in the festive treats they’ve purchased from the supermarket, with the tagline being ‘too good to wait’.

The way in which Christmas marketing campaigns are rolled out has changed significantly over the last 5 to 10 years, with retailers focusing more on captivating their audiences and creating an online buzz that stick in consumers minds throughout the festive periods. It’s no longer about representing the products on offer, but about creating a unique shopper experience. This is also apparent online, with the rise in ecommerce sales continuing to increase over the festive period.

The way in which consumers shop is changing and that’s why it’s important for supermarkets to resonate their marketing campaigns online as much as they do offline and with the more traditional mediums. The rise in online searches for TV adverts is also testament to the increase in digital interaction. Which is why it’s important to ensure you’re investing in your online store; from ensuring stock levels are kept topped up to ensuring you can fulfil the influx of deliveries that will be coming through in the lead up to December 25th. Another benefit of implementing your christmas campaigns into your online stores is the ability to add content to your product pages e.g. creating pages that specifically show food products shown in the TV ad itself. Within this digitally connected world we now live in, the experience seems to be far more worthwhile than the selling.

To find out how Nielsen Brandbank can help your ecommerce strategies, contact an Account Manager on +44 (0) 330 555 33 44 or email enquiries@brandbank.com.