During the peak shopping period, Criteo’s Kenneth Pao says brands can achieve greater success if they understand what consumers value, combine the effectiveness of online and in-store for greater retail wins, and think outside the box with adtech tools.

Whether it is pampering oneself or picking up gifts for family and friends, the year-end holiday season remains a peak period for shopping. Regional retailers continue to up the ante on 12.12 sales with novel campaigns, from million-dollar celebrity endorsements to million-dollar prizes, in an effort to gain greater market share.

Against the backdrop of an increasingly competitive landscape, it is now more important than ever for brands to remain laser-focused on differentiating themselves and how they engage their consumers across online and offline platforms.

This begins with first understanding the regional consumer and their unique shopping behaviours in order to engage them in a personalised and impactful manner.

Capturing consumer spend is now a year-long process

Regional e-commerce players continue to break shopping records and unlock new achievements during major year-end shopping moments (Criteo seasonal sales dashboard, global – index daily product page view and sales for 12.12 vs first 28 days of October 2020).

From Lazada’s sales doubling to Shopee’s record-breaking 12 million items sold in 24 minutes, 12.12 emerged as the largest shopping bonanza for Southeast Asia in 2020 – specifically, a reported 305% increase in retail sales and 127% increase in traffic sales compared with 2019 sales.

Recently, we are starting to see increased sales spikes in Asia across double-day sales, even earlier in the year, during 2.2, 3.3, 5.5 and 6.6, according to the Criteo Product Insights finder.

Average index across apparel & accessories during 2021

In Southeast Asia, where over 70 million digital consumers have been added since 2019 and online sales are becoming increasingly prevalent and accessible, shoppers are now choosing to spread their purchases throughout the year, rather than only checking out their carts during year-end holiday sales.

Criteo’s Consumer Sentiment Index survey also revealed that more consumers are making advanced holiday gift purchases (Criteo’s Consumer Sentiment Index survey, September 2021, global – US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Australia – n=3,972; base: respondents saying they typically purchase presents for the holiday season).

In June, more than one-third of consumers were already considering what holiday gifts to buy and in September, this number grew to 55%.

Regional retailers and e-commerce sites have also been driving this demand with monthly promotions like 6.6 and 10.10 sales. For brands to capture consumer spend across the year, this will look like exploring a more holistic, year-long campaign that can drive sales conversions through sustained double-day campaigns to stand out from competitors, instead of putting all their eggs in their 11.11 and 12.12 sales baskets.

Understanding what consumers value

In recent years, brands have also become more creative with their 11.11 and 12.12 sales campaigns – from fancy prizes, to gaming and celebrity endorsements.

While this has successfully stirred up excitement amongst consumers, brands should not neglect efforts to unpack consumer habits on offline and online platforms for continued success. This will help them gain a competitive edge by identifying other avenues to connect better with shoppers via an omnichannel approach, with novel marketing campaigns that can help them gain an edge in a saturated and competitive landscape.

For one, more consumers are looking for personalised digital customer experiences. According to OpenText, 71% of Singaporean consumers are more likely to buy from brands more than once when they feel that they have been treated as an individual, rather than the same as any other customer. This demand for brands to engage with consumers in this way is mirrored across Asia Pacific, including India and Australia.

It is exciting to see brands getting on the bandwagon to create these personalised experiences. For example, LG U+ is using interest-based targeting to personalise advertisements for each customer in real time, boosting awareness, maximising engagement and successfully getting conversions.

Brands can also look into developing a stronger commerce media strategy by leveraging new digital advertising approaches that combine large-scale commerce data and intelligence to target consumers throughout their shopping journey. This ultimately equips marketers and media owners to drive commerce outcomes, including sales, revenue and leads, and manage, scale, and activate first party data to deliver the right promotions at the right place and time for consumers.

Combining online and in-store for greater retail wins

Fashion brands are increasingly taking on an “online for offline (O4O)” approach to appeal to customers who want to physically try on the clothes before making purchases and to those who value the convenience of online retail shopping. For example, LF Mall, a South Korean fashion firm, successfully transitioned online while capitalising on its success with physical stores, playing to both its online and offline strengths.

Here's why this matters. According to Criteo’s Consumer Sentiment Survey Index, most consumers – Gen Z in particular – will spend more time shopping for gifts in-store this year (Gen Z is the newest generation, born between 1997 and 2012; they are currently aged 9-24).

Simultaneously, because of the convenience and cheaper variety online shopping brings, e-commerce sales remain just as high, with a similar percentage of shoppers browsing online for gifts.

With both online and offline channels playing a crucial role in consumer experience and eventual sales conversion, brands need to ensure that their marketing strategies are tailored to suit their shoppers.

Thus, a strong omnichannel strategy will be crucial for brands to capture as much market share as possible. This includes keeping online transactions smooth and convenient and retaining the festive spirit in their physical store experiences, while enabling constant discovery of similar products to keep their brand and offering top of mind with consumers.

By strengthening their available platform offerings, brands can now provide shoppers with the ease of browsing and buying the products they want anytime and anywhere.

Thinking outside the box with adtech tools

With over 51% of video and connected TV viewers in Asia Pacific confirming that video streaming services have influenced their purchasing decisions in the last 12 months (Criteo State of Video & Connected TV Survey, Q2 2021, APAC, n=4176), it would be crucial for brands to start considering video as a medium to build their audience base.

This includes collaborating with advertising partners that can help them apply first party data to build audiences, and insight-driven tools with non-cookie identifiers that can help reach their audiences and expand their reach to new and existing users during these crucial festive sale moments. 

A first party media network can also provide additional insight into what consumers are purchasing and where they spend their time across publisher networks. From there, AI tools can make decisions based on these signals to build audiences that are similar to those of their first party data.

Street fashion brand, LAGIRL, is a good example of a brand that is harnessing AI and machine learning to refine its consumer engagement. It has since seen higher daily average revisit rates and increased conversation rates for products recommended to its consumers.

Taking your best shot this festive season

The shopping scene is evolving quickly. For retailers to win consumers over, it will require more than one-upping their competition with the latest celebrity endorsements or million-dollar giveaways. This starts with having an all-encompassing strategy that would lead to consistent sales by bringing in intelligent retail solutions and leveraging consumer insights to continually engage with consumer preferences and habits.

It is time to think outside the box to develop sustained retail momentum and see success during this festive period and beyond.