The high-street favourites seeking a bumper christmas in trying conditions

In a year turned upside down by the pandemic, there is once again a growing sense of déjà vu. For retailers, the concern is consumers will have an urge to climb under the metaphorical duvet; to hunker down and wait it out until conditions improve. But the truth is there are encouraging signs of economic optimism for business owners, despite fresh fears of restrictions being reimposed.

Firstly, there are strong signals that this could be a bumper holiday season for retail. UK online spending reached £10.4 Billion in October, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index, up 5% on last year’s pandemic-influenced figure. As a result, the UK’s year-to-date online spending reached £94 billion, making it highly likely that ecommerce sales will set new records this year. The second factor raised by the Digital Economy Index is that the death of the high street appears to have been greatly exaggerated: due to concern over supply chain issues and shipping delays, almost a third of consumers plan to do some or all of their Christmas shopping in person this year.

Reputation replaces shoe leather

While robust consumer demand, both online and instore, will be welcome news to a retail sector that has been hit hard over the last couple of years, the challenge of capturing that demand remains. Adobe’s research uncovered a key finding that may help in that endeavour. This year, consumers are valuing convenience and experience as more important than price. Our poll found that more than half of shoppers were not planning to shop on Black Friday, and more than one in five will do all of their Christmas shopping on one website. Rather than endlessly trawl stores, either digitally or on foot, consumers are preferring to find a retailer they trust and stick with them.

It all means that retailers must, more than ever, find new ways to attract shoppers to their stores – both in person and online. Turning the heads of so-called ‘one stop shoppers’ requires more than offering them the best service and convenience. Rather, the best way is to provide bespoke experiences via targeted digital marketing, that shows you – as a retailer – know them better than your competitors. With that in mind, it is informative to look to those who are getting it right in order to learn from their success.

The more you know, the better you can serve

Marks & Spencer is one such brand – and they are reaping the rewards. In spring 2020, with Britain in the midst of a strict lockdown, the company accelerated its digital transformation with its ambitious “Never the Same Again” plan. Using tools such as Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target, M&S has striven to personalise their clothing and home categories, building tailored digital experiences around customers’ shopping habits. Within months of kicking off the programme, the retailer saw an increase of almost 50% in online sales across clothing and home goods.

Similarly, another staple of the high-street, Boots, transformed their digital offering by doubling website capacity and increasing home delivery slots, netting them a 78% increase in online sales. This in a time when, due to their essential healthcare status, some of Boots pharmacies were allowed to remain open despite lockdowns.

Capturing opportunity

That trusted, popular and established household brands such as these are placing such importance on customer experience and digital transformation sends a clear message to the retail sector. In the competition for consumer attention, there is no room to rest on laurels. Instead, this period of great upheaval is an opportunity to better connect with and serve customers. It may be cold outside, but as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. As conditions change, so must retail strategy, and those who embrace change will find themselves perfectly at home, whatever the weather.