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Why Ad Testing Is Going To Be Key For Retailers This Holiday Season

With a new law on the number of people meeting together in the UK coming into force today, strict lockdown restrictions still in place across many parts of Australia and widespread economic uncertainty around the globe, the 2020 holiday period is going to be very different — and retailers are going to need to be prepared for it.

Speaking to Fashion Magazine Drapers, the MD of retail research for GlobalData, Neil Saunders, said: “Retailers hoping for a cracking Christmas to offset a difficult year are likely to be disappointed, although their fate will hinge on what kind of lockdown restrictions – if any – are in place.”

US retail giant Walmart recently announced its decision to close on Thanksgiving, ending a long tradition of kicking off its Black Friday sales early. But, according to Business Insider, very few other retailers have spoken publicly about what Black Friday will look like this year. “In the rare glimpses into their plans, it’s clear that the pandemic is presenting a challenging situation and one that many retailers still have no idea how to handle.”

A holiday season like no other

The Grinch hasn’t quite stolen Christmas from retailers yet, though. According to new research by Alvarez & Marsal and Retail Economics, the value of online retail sales in the UK is estimated to increase by an additional £4.5bn by the end of 2020.

New research from Rakuten Advertising also found that 70% of consumers in APAC have no plans to defer shopping for major holidays such as Christmas or Lunar New Year, despite over 40% of global peak season shoppers citing a decrease in household spend due to Covid-19.

US home improvement chain Home Depot previewed its holiday 2020 shopping season early this month, announcing that their Black Friday specials will stretch on for nearly two months, hoping to keep customers returning regularly to check out their latest offers.

The UK department store chain best known for its big budget Christmas campaigns, John Lewis, has also brought forward its holiday promotion, launching its online Christmas Shop in response to the high level of customer searches on its website for Christmas products, which according to the retailer are already up 370% this month on last year. This is the earliest it has ever launched its online Christmas shop and 10 days earlier than last year.

John Lewis Xmas Shop 2020

As retailers across the world gear up for the holiday season, the biggest challenge they will face is uncertainty as no one knows what situation they’ll be in.

This uncertainty, coupled with changing consumer buying habits and physical retail locations becoming more limited means marketing planning for the holidays, has become extremely challenging, and harder for retailers to know when the right time is to activate campaigns based on these shifting factors.

That’s why this holiday season, pre-testing is going to be essential for brands who want to ensure their campaigns hit the mark and connect with audiences.

Meeting consumers where they’re at

A recent survey of 2,000 UK adults found that 63% agree that brands should not spend money on big, lavish Christmas ads this year, as big-budget “blockbusters” fall out of favour in the Covid-19 era.

The survey, by OnePoll and production company Truman Films, also found that a third of UK consumers said they would feel less positive about a brand that spends a lot of money on Christmas TV ads considering the impact of the pandemic. But who knows if people will feel differently once the festive season kicks off in earnest.

Due to the continued spread of Covid-19, our lives are in a constant state of flux and making sure advertisers meet consumers where we are is going to be key for campaign success.

xmas meal

An ad showing a big Christmas party with friends hugging and kissing while social distancing measures are in place, or a spot showing a big family Christmas gathering when we are unable to meet up with loved ones due to lockdown restrictions are not going to resonate with consumers as they don’t paint a picture of the reality they find themselves in.

Retailers need to be aware of this when planning their holiday campaigns. Pre-testing can help them understand how their ads will resonate with audiences before they go live, highlighting any potential issues with the creative and narrative. They should also ensure they have the tools in place to be able to make last-minute tweaks in order to resonate with the changing environment.

Our emotional testing and targeting tool, UnrulyEQ, reveals the emotions that ads evoke, as well as how effective they are at driving key business metrics like brand recall, purchase intent, and brand favorability.

Our Creative Studio also offers brands a great resource for making last-minute edits and changes to their creatives to help ensure they resonate with their audience this festive season.

To find out more about UnrulyEQ and our Creative Studio get in touch.