Creating a COVID Christmas

Australians are looking to brands now for much-needed holiday season cheer.

Despite this year of uncertainties, one thing is for certain – Christmas is coming. Although it might feel a bit early, Pinterest insights suggest that Australians have well and truly begun planning celebrations for this year’s holiday season. And they are looking to brands to help bring the holiday cheer.

Pinterest users typically start their Christmas planning around September. However, holiday related searches on Pinterest started increasing from April as many crave the comfort and excitement of the holiday season. Christmas related searches were up 58 per cent in April 2020 compared with April 2019, with trends including Christmas aesthetic (156 per cent), DIY Christmas gifts (45 per cent) and Christmas cards (32 per cent) on the rise. Despite the pandemic, Australians are gearing up for a bigger and better festive season and nearly half of Pinterest users say they want brands to help them take the festive season to the “next level”.

The early start on Christmas celebrations has big implications for marketers as they plan their holiday campaigns. Christmas is already a competitive time of the year, with multiple brands trying to capture the attention of consumers. With many shoppers already tapping into a “forward planning” mindset, the time is now for brands to reach customers, remembering that when you reach people first where they make their plans, they’ll reach you first when they make their purchases.

“The challenges of 2020 have meant Australians are looking to the festive season for much-needed comfort and cheer.”

We can’t dismiss the fact that this year is shaping up to be like none other in recent memory, and brands need to account for the resulting shifts in customer demand and re-set expectations within that context, in particular when and how consumers want to shop. Things will be done a little differently this year, and it is up to brands to adopt new and creative ways to reach consumers.

Quarantine and social distancing rules have seen an explosion in e-commerce solutions with many industries experiencing huge uplifts in online sales. Brands have been incredibly nimble in adapting to these shifts in order to keep customers satisfied and, in some cases, just to stay afloat. Marketers can certainly expect the elevated demand for online shopping to run through Christmas and beyond and will need to optimise their e-commerce channels accordingly. Personalisation and carefully curated content will be key to providing each shopper with a bespoke, streamlined shopping experience tailored to their preferences.

The instore shopping experience, with its vibrant storefront windows, lit Christmas trees and festive decorations is traditionally a highlight for many shoppers. However, the pandemic means that this year many consumers will miss out on browsing for gifts instore, presenting a unique opportunity for marketers to create a festive shopping experience online that lives up to – or even goes beyond – the physical holiday shopping tradition. This could be recreating the shopping window experience or investing in beautiful product imagery or video to inspire customers as they make their purchasing decisions online.

With more consumers shopping online this Christmas, and the disruption and delays to many postal and delivery services, it’s likely they will be more

concerned than usual about logistics such as shipping speeds, delivery timeframes and customer support. Providing customers with peace of mind is going to be a critical part of a brand’s holiday shopping experience, and consumers will respond well to proactive messaging around how brands are addressing pandemic-related concerns such as hygiene, supply chain issues and customer support. This is as true for well-known, established brands as it is for new and emerging online retailers.

More than ever before, marketers will also need to carefully consider their tone and messaging of their holiday campaigns, responding sensitively to the needs and wants of the market. Around 40 per cent of Pinners say that this year, they want brands to help them bond with loved ones and create special moments with family. While Christmas campaign messaging tends to focus on the idea of togetherness, it’s likely travel restrictions will still be in place, forcing many families to connect virtually this season. This presents a unique opportunity for brands not only to adjust their messaging, but to think out of the box around other ways they can help to create a feeling of togetherness. With families likely to be split around the globe, we can expect many will be taking up the mantle to host the festivities for the very first time, creating a new audience for brands. From beginner turkey chefs to rookie decorators, there’s an important opportunity to speak to first-time Christmas hosts to help elevate their festivities.

The impact of the pandemic and the uncertainty many consumers still face means that costs are top of mind for early Christmas planners, as 40 per cent of people prepare to celebrate Christmas on a budget this year. However, it’s not just consumers who have been impacted, with many businesses also taking a financial hit, meaning it’s more beneficial than ever to implement creative yet resourceful marketing strategies. Brands need to be thinking now about what special sales and extras, such as free shipping, returns or early bird discounts, can be offered to keep customers engaged, but are also realistic from a cost perspective.

Australian based lingerie and swim brand Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore has successfully tapped into a younger audience and diversified its customer base on Pinterest. By tailoring campaigns that showcase the brand’s expansive range of bras, underwear and swimwear, including new designs, styles, patterns and fabrics, Big Girls is capturing the attention of consumers across Australia and New Zealand. By experimenting with various ad formats and creative content on Pinterest, Big Girls saw its ad views increase from 450,000 to 1 million in a short time. Big Girls is planning to run a number of sales events including a Christmas campaign to inspire holiday shoppers.

The challenges of 2020 have meant Australians are looking to the festive season for much-needed comfort and cheer – and many have been actively planning on Pinterest since April. Brands big and small have a unique opportunity to tap into this planning mindset, meeting customers where they are now and being a big part of their festive celebrations.

Carin Lee-Skelton, Australia and New Zealand country manager, Pinterest

This story first appeared in issue 30 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine

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