Approaching Retail & Consumer Demand this Holiday Season – What Remains and What Goes

Q&A with Brandon Solis, Executive Director of Social and Connections 

As COVID has changed the way people discover, shop, and buy, how can brands/retailers better represent themselves this holiday season?

The ecosystem for brands will continue to fragment and the metaverse will only open it up further. Simple, strong brand propositions will help brands during this noisy period. Product differentiation is waning for most categories and the volume of messages coming from brands is increasing, so it will be more important than ever for a brand to explain their POV, their reason for being, and their unique benefits in easily digested, and memorable ways.

Adobe found that over half of digital Christmas revenue in 2020 came from smartphones and with that said, e-commerce sales will undoubtedly soar this holiday season – given this shift, how will marketing budgets shift?

We are already starting to see the shifts across many of our clients. Even when brand awareness is the primary objective, we’re recommending mid- and lower-funnel tactics, which can be efficient media plays, to incorporate more traditionally upper funnel messaging. By getting those above the line messages pushed further down in the funnel, we’re able to compete against historically granular messages. Strong brand propositions should not be exclusive to above the line, there is growing benefit for that type of storytelling throughout the ecosystem.

The thing that stays the same, from a media planning perspective, would be on the targeting and campaign strategies on the back end. We can still make recommendations on optimizations towards efficiency, but what audiences should be seeing more of is how a brand and product benefit can be relevant to the user. The challenge becomes increasing the message variation to A/B test campaigns, which creative agencies should see as a real strategic opportunity.

What are some ways in which brands can bring the in-store experience online and the digital experience to stores?

It is all about personalization. When brands started to get hyper-specific in targeting a few years ago with personalization, the focus was on using the data to speak to people directly. When it should have always been more about knowing enough about your audience to provide a personable experience. I believe brands will start to see more success digitally when the in-store concierge or clientele service people expect at some retailers brick-and-mortar start to show up in digital touchpoints. This can be like CRM emails not just using your name, but also creating an email drip campaign that is cognizant of weather, geography, or other contextual real-world elements that a user may be experiencing at any time. Which is different to how we used to do it with generic cookies or pixels, brands started to bring those learned data points into messaging, which we all felt to be more creepy than helpful in the long run. Those data points are still important, but we should look at those as evidence of behavior instead.

When it comes to the other direction, bringing the digital into stores, contactless check out, in-app check out, and customer inventory look up are already making its way into stores like Nike and Apple. However, I cannot wait to see how eCommerce shopping like virtual try-ons, recommended other items, and free shipping start to become more normalized in the real world.

Consumers are purchasing on social now more than ever. With that said, how can brands revamp their social channels to help with in-app purchases?

I think a few years ago brands and agencies were looking at social channels as either a brand play or a product play, where we would see those two things being mutually exclusive. Since the introduction of shoppable carousels, stories, and even the proliferation of things like Linkt.ree, we’re seeing that a product can carry a story or that a story can be the hook for a product. It hurts to say, but brands and independent creators are really doing a great job of understanding this. I still see creative agencies looking at these two types of content strategies as different things.

What will help brands revamp their social channels would be how they approach briefs. A simple construct of the ask: we need a brand story with the product as a hero OR we need a product story that carries a true benefit. I believe we can do this type of work across all different canvases and assets that social offers us. Our job as creatives, is to find the right tool (content, influencers, organic, paid, video, static, gifs, etc.) to accomplish it.