At Alix Digital, we are always keen to collaborate with fellow marketers and creatives alike. We believe that through collaboration and sharing expertise, the digital marketing community can excel through our current climate. 

It is no secret that the pandemic has shifted businesses into a new unforeseeable direction and with more and more turning to digital services to enhance their business, we wanted to discuss how this is affecting various sectors in marketing, leading up to the big day, CHRISTMAS!

To do this we have conducted a series of interviews with those in various marketing roles from businesses across south wales (and one from across the globe!) to discuss everything Christmas, Covid-19 and preparation. 

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION (SEO)

Alix Charles

We’d like to start with none other than our Managing Director of Alix Digital – Alix Charles. Alix is a digital marketer specializing in PPC and SEO. 

Hi Alix, when do you start preparing for Christmas? And has this changed over the years?

I try to start the Christmas plans with clients as early as possible. For some industries this starts earlier than others, for example, eCommerce typically has more considerations.

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

From an SEO perspective I like to cover the following (and more):
– Christmas pages (if any)
– Stock level changes
– Estimated traffic flow and a discussion to ensure that the client can manage the additional sales.
– General site changes (e.g. image changes, new banners, additional content)
– Offers that can be promoted through content and PR

How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content?

For many, the pandemic has made people more reliant on their website. Christmas last year saw an increase in traffic year on year for many sites. With this in mind, I have looked to get the relevant conversations in earlier rather than later for clients that are likely to be affected.

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

Don’t remove your Christmas page or name it with the year (e.g. /christmas-deals-2020). Try to keep it so that it can be used every year and simply remove it from the main navigation. That way, any backlinks to the page and history is not lost.

Thanks Alix!

PAY PER CLICK (PPC)

Gemma Tooth-Phillips

Next up we have our PPC expert of Alix Digital – Gemma Tooth Phillips. Gemma is the one who creates those ads that sit at the top of Google or shopping ads that catch your eye at the side of search results. 

Hi Gemma, when do you start preparing for Christmas? And has this changed over the years?

We have a few other dates to prep for prior to the Christmas run up, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday (Which no longer applies for just the electronic industry as all industries are now getting involved with the offers) so preparations start as soon as  possible.

When it comes to shopping ads the run up to Christmas preparations are made in October which carry us through to Boxing day deals. The dream is to plant the seed with clients about the Big C word earlier and earlier each year to avoid the big build up rush. I’m prepping my new diary now to remind me in August to have the chat. During recent years due to lockdowns we have seen more and more businesses who weren’t previously online come on board which has sparked more and more business to test how they can increase sales/leading through the world of digital.

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

Depending on the sectors each client is in depends on whether or not they run specific Christmas promotions or not. If promotions around this time of year don’t apply to our clients business we are always looking for important dates that we can utilise to drive more conversions. This could be anything from National days to jumping on celebration days. If clients are running promotions, knowing what those look like for clients and planning the best strategy to get the most out of the campaign is our focus.

How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content?

As mentioned as more and more businesses are introduced to the digital world who were not previously online it is all hands on deck getting ads up and running for them. This has proved to have a knock on effect to christmas preparations as many new online business tend to have websites that may not work for what they want to achieve (some may not have a website at all – which in turn prolongs the process of promoting campaigns) Having a website is essential to advertise on line although having a website that converts can be harder to come by when have not considered digital marketing before.

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

My top tip would be to get your clients thinking about the pre Christmas events as well as the Christmas events as early as possible. I would even go as far as to say, discussing what has or hasn’t worked from them this year and take the learnings on board in preparation for next year. (Even if they are reluctant to think of the following year at that point). Ensure Clients promotions are across the board (websites, socials etc) to reinforce the promotion every where the customer touches base.

Thanks Gemma!

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING (SMM)

Emily Sophia Davies

To round up our Alix Digital input we have our social media star – Emily Sophia Davies. Emily is a Digital Marketing Specialist here at Alix Digital who works in a number of areas across the company. She specializes in Social Media Marketing (SMM) which can include many things from content creation, planning, training and paid social ads.

Hi Emily, when do you start preparing for Christmas? And has this changed over the years?

Preparing for Christmas in regards to social media  is getting earlier & earlier each year. With the fast growing competition online, it is important to plan early to stay ahead and create original content for your accounts & business. I typically created a content calendar 3 months in advance, but I do start considering Christmas content as early as August.

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

There are lots of things to consider when planning social media content around Christmas. I like to plan content in line with the larger digital marketing plan of clients such as including special days, promotions & offers they may be running. I also like to include trends & on brand posts that are occurring all over social platforms.

How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content?

The pandemic has resulted in a social media boom. An already extremely fast pace & fast growing area gained extra force through the last year or two. This has resulted in huge competition to stand out for the crowd & create original content. On the other hand, it has made SMM more exciting than ever. With growing interest around networking platforms & the progression of online selling due to the pandemic, there is always lots to post & always lots to talk about. 

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

My top tip would be to get your clients/people running business social media accounts throughout the Christmas period, is to remind yourself of your personal business goals. Try not to get caught up in the competition of social media & remain true to your brand. With great planning, passionate content & a positive attitude your social media accounts will blossom over the Crhristmas period. 

Thanks Emily!

To get in touch with Alix, Gemma or Emily leave us a message at info@alixdigital.com or give us a call on 01792 398299. For more information head over to https://alixdigital.com/.

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Yasmine Grainger

Starting us off with some outsider input we have Yasmine Grainger. Yasmin runs SW Design and Print, a small, local design and printing company based in Swansea. SW Design and Print help businesses with all of their graphic design and print needs, from initial logo through to business cards, leaflets, brochure, banners and even promotional items. Yasmin looks after the clients, answering queries, sending quotes and processing orders. She also takes care of all the marketing including networking, social media management, direct mail campaigns and email newsletters. 

Hi Yasmine, when do you start preparing for Christmas? And has this changed over the years?

We start to advertise our seasonal products from September onwards, initially via our Autumn Newsletter. Our seasonal product range includes items such as Christmas Cards, Calendars and Wall Planners. Depending on what sector our clients work in, will dictate as to how early they start preparing for Christmas. For example, the hospitality sector tends to think about the festive season earlier than most, due to booking Christmas parties and events. Over the years we have started working on design for Christmas brochures and menus as early as May!

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

One of our busiest periods is the lead up to Christmas, mainly mid-November through to the end of the year. We can prepare for this by ordering in extra supplies for orders such as envelopes to go along with greetings cards, and wire binding with hangers for calendar orders.

We also take into account last posting dates by Royal Mail and other couriers, to ensure any urgent orders get to our client’s in time for Christmas. For the past few years we have sent out email reminders and posted graphics on our social media platforms to remind people of the cut off for greetings card printing and the last posting dates, ensuring no one forgets to order and also, so they can get cards and gifts sent out to clients, suppliers, friends and family!

How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content? 

During 2020 there was much less need for event brochures. Due to the nature of the lockdowns and social distancing guidelines, there were very little, if any Christmas parties.

We did however produce many calendars, wall planners, greetings cards and Christmas letters for our customers. These were still very popular during the pandemic as people were mailing to their staff, suppliers, customers and family members that they could not travel to see.

We are hoping that with the lifting of restrictions we will see the return of festive celebrations. This year we have already worked on numerous calendars and ‘Christmas Opening Times’ posters for pubs.

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

My top tip would be to never think it’s too early! Planning and preparing in weeks or even months ahead, will ensure you are producing quality content and graphics. Rather than leaving things until the last minute.

To get in touch with SW Design and Print leave them a message at mail@sw-designandprint.co.uk or give them a call on 01792 687 506. For more information head over to https://www.sw-designandprint.co.uk/

VIDEOGRAPHY

Chris Davies

Now let’s delve into the world of video with Chris Davies. Chris is the owner at Colour Black Productions, a video production company that specializes in brand films, corporate films, community films, social content and healthcare films. Chris has been self-employed since 2006, he set up a CBP 6 years ago to produce high quality video for his clients. His areas of expertises are filming and content creation.

Hi Chris, when do you start preparing for Christmas? And has this changed over the years?

Christmas can sometimes be a funny time of year for us. It is usually very busy up to the start of December but usually business drops off for the Chritsmas period until the second week of January. We work closely with our customers from September through to November developing video content to get them through the Christmas period. 

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

Key considerations for Christmas content tends to be the message companies like to send out over the Christmas period, so there needs to be some forward planning to ensure the content is created in good time of the xmas period. Christmas can be a great way to engage with your clients as during the xmas period many people will have time to view new content, research / develop plans for the coming year. 


How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content? 

Now that things are getting back to some sort of normality I think Christmas will not be too different from previous years. However during the lock down last year people relied heavily on video to communicate with their customers.

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

My Top tip would be to plan your content early and be ready to tweak things at short notice. 

To get in touch with Colour Black Productions give them a call on 07887951937. For more information head over to http://colourblack.co.uk/

SOCIAL MEDIA 

Lia Pritchard

Next, we have traveled across the globe to speak to the Welsh born Lia Pritchard, who now resides in sunny Brisbane, Australia. Lia is a Prop Stylist and Social Media Coordinator for The Prop House, an events and visual merchandising and christmas styling company. For Lia each day is different, with work ranging from designing and scheduling newsletters to social media content and working with clients to style their events. 

Hi Lia, when do you start preparing for Christmas?  And has this changed over the years?

As early as January we start thinking about Christmas (yes, really!)The Prop House team are planning, designing, and organizing our corporate Christmas installs ready for night shifts to begin as early as mid-October. Our close-knit team will double in size for the busiest months of our year where we build countless Santa Settings, trim hundreds of trees and hang thousands of decorated garlands throughout SE QLD. Although the way we celebrate may have slightly changed this past year, Christmas retail is bigger than ever, and our preparation has had to adapt to the demand.

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

We work on a lot of trend-forecasting, buying and vital logistics planning to ensure a smooth and safe Christmas period. Our sales team attend annual gift fairs to source new products and our design team work closely with a variety of venues and shopping centres to build a fun and fresh festive period. When designing, our team must consider multiple elements from health and safety and construction to costings and aesthetics. In Australia, we also celebrate Christmas in July as we are then in our Winter months. This is a great marketing opportunity for us to keep us on the forefront of people’s minds for the end of the year and promote our product and services. During July 2020, we opened a Christmas pop-up shop at one of the major shopping centres in Brisbane and July 2021 proved a little bit trickier with an influx of lockdowns, although our Christmas in July marketing look remained the same.

How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content? 

We hit a record of 98 Christmas installations in 2020 (during COVID!) and our Christmas retail department also reached all-time sales which was an enormous blessing after such a devastating year for the world of events. Honestly, we were underprepared for such a wave of jobs, but we worked together to make it work! The pandemic meant that our designing would come with multiple hurdles. For example, Santa now had to be 1.5m away from the families, furniture had to be wipeable and floor decals and bollards were added extras for crowd control and distancing. We aimed to keep our content light-hearted and festive, but also considerate of the elephant in the room by staying up to date with government policies and stay in continuous communication with our clients.

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

As a result of lockdowns, we have seen an influx of online shopping and social media content creation worldwide. Ensuring your online platforms are easy to navigate, are on-trend and relatable is vital for your audience to stay engaged and have trust in your brand. Staying kind and considerate to our clients, researching trends, and staying on top of government legislation are some key elements we’ve adopted over the past year which has helped us tremendously with streamlining our busiest time of year. Being proactive with replying to comments and sharing local businesses on our social media has also been a great way to stay connected to our clients and our friends and spread the love to the community.

To get in touch with The Prop House leave them a message at props@theprophouse.com.au or give them a call on (07) 3555 8660. For more information head over to https://www.theprophouse.com.au/

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Saffire Paris

Now let’s talk to Saffire Paris about all things graphic design in the lead up to Christmas. Saffire is a graphic designer at Astutis Ltd, a forward thinking company that specializes in teaching health and safety courses, and has recently started the transition to predominantly deliver their courses in the virtual space. The company has recently started a rebrand, so there are some exciting times ahead as the design team and Saffire help to develop the new identity of the company! Saffire designs the visual aspect of some of their online courses and creates presentations for tutors to use in their online classrooms.

Hi Saffire, when do you start preparing for Christmas? Has this changed over the years?

Personally I hate the preparation for Christmas (bah humbug!), but as I have worked in the design and marketing field for a few years, I am aware how important it is to think ahead for such an important time of the year. I usually start preparing Christmas strategies/ assets/ marketing materials in September, and that time of year usually doesn’t change. August is when the first mention of the word comes along, but September means planning, ready to start releasing content for when the season begins. Some places I have known start their campaigns in October, but the places I’ve worked for usually hold off until after Halloween for any digital advertisements.

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

Christmas is a hectic time of year for anyone, let alone businesses. The first thing in consideration is a solid strategy and content calendar. It helps to know what you are planning to do and when, and it sets a clearly defined set of goals and dates to work towards. It’s important to hook your potential clients early before their purses become a little tighter after Christmas. This time of year is perfect for sales and discounts, something with a cut off before the big day, so they feel like they’ve achieved one of their goals before the year is done.

Christmas is also the perfect time to generate new traffic as more people will be searching for new things to potentially buy/ invest in/ learn, and if your company is the one to make itself known to these new customers then it could be extremely valuable in the future, even if they don’t buy there and then. Social media is obviously key for this, but email campaigns can also remind customers that there are flash sales or new things on the website.

How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content? 

The company I work for has taken the pandemic and used it to their advantage, where most of their revenue came from physical events (classrooms in this case), they have taken the giant leap to mostly digital learning. This has set in motion a much more modern approach to every department in the business, such as a rebrand and an investment into new designers. This new approach is working extremely well, and we are now set to have a few solid campaigns going live in the Christmas period.

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

Plan! plan! plan! Communicate with your colleagues and/or different departments to get a clear idea of what the company needs to do to boost sales/ exposure etc. Research is also so important, user research, just general tips on the web, and your competitors. Once you know what your audiences want, it is so much easier giving it to them! Creating a content calendar helps to visualize when things will go live and helps with deadlines, it also helps organize what order to push your agendas so that there aren’t multiple of the same type of advert etc. on at the same time.

To get in touch with Astutis Ltd leave them a message at enquiries@astutis.com or give them a call on 0345 241 3685. For more information head over to https://www.astutis.com/.

Marketing Agency

Next up, Lloyd Haines, founder and CEO of global trading startup Haines Co. Haines Co. operates under three divisions of music, marketing and event.  Haines Co is a creative digital marketing agency, which offers 4 service pillars: Social – Web – Brand – Visual, adopting a multi-platform strategy, with strong focus on video, content creation, and lead generation.

As the CEO of the company, Lloyd ensures that they stay innovative as a team, staying ahead of the curve in the digital landscape, which, as we know well, is ever-evolving!

Hi Lloyd, when do you start preparing for Christmas? Has this changed over the years?

I’m super late with this as a consumer, I’m not gonna lie. I’m very much the type to start buying a fortnight before the big day, heavily relying on Amazon prime delivery and Black Friday sales! As a marketer however, it’s prudent that preparation is fully underway from November (today!), since Black Friday sales will be here before we know it, and we need to make a big impact in our social campaigns, for both our lead gen clients and our ecom clients. Clients will also be expecting content and blog postings surrounding season’s greetings, so it’s important that we align our scheduled content plans with Christmas themes, in order to stay current and celebrate!

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

It’s crucial to not have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to client content for Christmas. Not every client requires the same content segments, video campaigns, purchase ads, and so on, and each should have laser-sharp copywriting (tone, style, colloquialisms, sales approach etc) which pushes Christmas offers yet stays relative to the ethos and branding of the business at hand.

So many businesses fail to prepare their back-end properly, when gearing up for a big sales day, such as Black Friday, Christmas, or January sales, and end up with a crashing website. Some have a site that can withhold the influx in sales, but have no automated email system to increase the financial longevity of each sale – think of a one-time purchase with just one order confirmation email to the same sale being put through a strong sequence of 6-8 emails, with abandoned cart automations and exclusive discounts.

How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content? 

The pandemic has forced us to revise and elevate our content ideations strategies. Since lockdown, our Content Manager and Branding team worked tirelessly to devise fully branded content plans, which concisely deliver to our client who their target avatar is, how said target needs to be addressed and delivered content to, and what that content should comprise of, whilst keeping in mind the purpose of the brand and it’s resonating message as an industry-leader.

With this in mind, we take this now robust and scalable system into Q4 like a wrecking ball, smashing through the noise of our clients’ competitors, but doing so in a natural and cohesive way to the rest of the client’s digital assets.

Quite the juxtaposition, I know, but you shall see…

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

Breathe! Although it can be a daunting time of the year for us all in the digital world, it’s also a very enjoyable one, and one which can be fruitful with awesome case studies for you to take into 2022 to land new business and drive your business forward.  

To get in touch with Haines Co. leave a message at lloyd@haines.co or give them a call on 07342 043 096. For more information head over to https://www.haines.co/

WEB DEVELOPMENT

Lastly, but by no means least, we have the Commercial Director for Pixafusion Marketing Agency, Antony Worsley. As commercial director, Antony is responsible for all sales and project delivery operations from lead generation to client handover, in essence their client journey.

Hi Antony, when do you start preparing for Christmas? And has this changed over the years?

Our preparation for Christmas starts the moment our clients start contacting us about Christmas projects they want to put in place. This has not changed over the years other than in more recent times planning has become earlier in the year with some starting planning as soon as the Christmas season ends as the projects are so extensive.

What do you take into consideration when preparing for Christmas?

Above all our team, after all without them we could not deliver our clients Christmas projects. Our other considerations are often around timeframe and availability , especially if there are materials to be produced or printed as it is important to have the content and design work completed and signed off so that production and printing runs are booked in advance.

How has the pandemic affected how you prepare for Christmas content? 

On occasion it has impacted delivery timeframes due to either supplier deadlines, materials availability or some of the team having to self-isolate due to exposure to or actually contracting Covid-19. It’s a variable that you simply cannot plan for therefore regular communication with your clients is essential.

What would be your top tip to others when preparing for Christmas in the industry?

  • Start planning early
  • Get your messaging and content already designed and prepared

This Christmas could be different to many others as we are now out of the EU and still managing aspects of the pandemic. Many industries are seeing distribution and supply issues and in turn this is seeing costs increase, which could see Christmas offerings being curbed so it’s even more important for businesses to conduct their research and due diligence before they commit.

To get in touch with Pixafusion Marketing Agency, leave them a message at hello@pixafusion.agency or give them a call on 02922 680 669. For more information head over to https://pixafusion.agency/

Thank you all for giving us some insight into your world during the lead up to Christmas and how that has been affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Team AD!