The major winter holiday shopping event season (also known as the Golden Quarter) is now done for another year. Marketers may be forgiven for needing a breather. Starting from Black Friday through to the Boxing Day sales, the numerous shopping events that make up this period represent a crucial period for brands to reach their audiences and maximise sales.

However, it’s not all silence until we reach the final quarter. Opportunities like these are scattered throughout the UK calendar – with Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Easter already fast approaching. These events are growing in importance as concerns about high inflation still dominate UK households, especially with UK retailers reporting subduedsales during the Christmas period.

It’s vital to cut through and make an impact during these one-off shopping events. They only come around once a year! For brands, the key to this is keeping one thing in mind at all times: customers. 

Knowing your target audience

Far too often when approaching seasonal shopping events, marketers are focused solely on driving sales at that moment. But as key as these periods are for a brand’s bottom line, they should also be viewed as an opportunity to build lasting relationships with shoppers. As sentiment and the market changes, closer ties with consumers will allow brands to weather these shifts and maintain loyalty.

To build this relationship, brands first have to understand the wants and needs of the target audiences they are trying to reach. While concerns may shift, ultimately the questions consumers are asking during this period remain the same: Is this the best price? Is this the best quality? Will this arrive quickly?

It’s important to recognise that different customers will have different priorities. For example, those shoppers in the Baby Boomer generation prize price as the number one factor when making decisions. Whereas, Millennials are brand driven, but not loyal. Understanding these nuances, and aligning your messaging with them, is key to successful marketing campaigns.

It’s also vital to recognise the three parts of the purchase journey: before purchase, during purchase, and after purchase. To build lasting relationships with consumers during this vital period, marketers must view this journey not as a funnel, but instead as a cycle. Communication across all three sections is vital, and creative assets must be cohesive and seamless throughout if brands are to turn shopping event bargain hunters into loyal, returning customers.

Building bridges

As with any campaign, messaging is vital during shopping events. This goes beyond show-stopping creative; although this is always a plus in the crowded seasonal marketplace. Brands also need to ensure that they reach their target audience where they are – at the right place and at the right time.

Part of this is about finding where your target audience is most likely to be, and delivering them messaging in that environment. For example, both Baby Boomers and Gen X respond well to video ads, while Gen Z browse items on social platforms before buying via mobile. Interestingly however, Gen Z is also most likely to buy in-store. Millennials meanwhile sit across a number of formats, and reaching them means utilising a cohesive multichannel experience.

Just as important is utilising messaging that aligns with your customers’ values. Increasingly, consumers are looking for companies that echo their social values, with two-in-three believing brands should take a stand when it comes to certain issues. Gen Z in particular prioritises brands that both highlight diversity and champion sustainability. Marketers must understand how these values align and then highlight this through targeted messaging.

Thinking outside the box

While understanding and building relationships with consumers is vitally important during shopping events, ultimately marketers need to combine the insights gained from closer relationships with inventive and impactful ad formats, alongside precise targeting.

As the third-party cookie depreciates, marketers will need to take advantage of other privacy-secure forms of targeting to reach their audiences. In this rapidly shifting ecosystem, marketers need to utilise both contextual and behavioural data to reach audiences without cookies. This will enable marketers to gain a holistic overview of shoppers and reach them across a range of environments.

Deals and sales are key to success during shopping events – especially with consumers under economic pressure – but these have to be activated at the right time and advertised via the right format if they are to grab the hearts, minds and wallets of audiences. Online video formats, for example, directly appeal to both Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. They are also a highly impactful format to drive awareness for promotions; achieving 20% lower CPMs when utilised alongside contextual and behavioural-based audience targeting.

Final thoughts

Native ads are also powerful during key shopping periods. With calls-to-action and headlines able to be easily personalised for target audiences, this naturalistic format can drive 3x click-through-rate when utilised alongside targeting. Even CTV advertising can be further enhanced to help consumers take that next step. By using QR codes embedded within ad creative, advertisers can help create a more direct path to purchase for audiences.

The rush to maximise returns during shopping events may leave some marketers blinkered to the long-term impact that advertising during this key period can have. But by only focusing on the here-and-now, marketers miss out on an opportunity to build a closer relationship with target audiences and lose out on the continued gains that these bring. This doesn’t mean the pressure on this period should lessen, however. Marketers need to blend the knowledge of their audience with highly creative, highly targeted messaging. These are the keys to success if they are to make an excellent shopping  season, and even beyond. 

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