As tenured eCommerce and Bricks and Mortar Retailers, the start of August always flags in our heads as the time to start planning for the critical Christmas season.
For many Retailers, a significant proportion of profits come from successfully trading the 10 weeks from early November through to early January. It’s therefore critical to get your plans (and back up scenarios) in place ahead of the period when the business is completely focused on customers and fulfilling the service promises made to them.
Start with the basics
Even great brands have products that fail.
Take Crystal Pepsi for example. Cruelly dubbed the “Soda World’s Greatest Fail” – a great product idea, poorly executed.
Amazing product is, of course, important, but it’s not the whole picture when it comes to marketing, so when you are setting up your plan for peak, start with setting your framework for the basics.
The 4Ps of Marketing : Product, Place, Price, Promotion
Great products fill a space for your customers – they solve a problem, or help them to create a dream.
At peak, the goal is to increase demand and to have the right balance and (just) enough stock to meet it. For lifestyle brands, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, encouraging customers to immerse themselves in the way of living presented by that brand – looking for add-on purchases as well as volume increases.
From a Digital Marketing perspective, the Product discipline is all about understanding the space your products fill for your customers, and creating engaging product descriptions and imagery that demonstrate how each product helps them to fill that space. Don’t forget to update your keyword research to be found for the search terms your consumers are using this season.
In today’s hybrid world, customers will choose how they want to engage with you. You can no longer think of Online vs Physical customers, or Social Media as the world of the young.
Many customer journeys travel through a mixture of channels before deciding to buy, so it’s important to understand which channels your customers are most likely to use, so that you can engage with them appropriately at each touchpoint.
Think about where your customers will look for inspiration when they are looking for a business like yours, where they’ll do research and compare you to your competitors, and where they go to share good (or bad) experiences. Talk to them appropriately in the right channels at each stage and more browsers will become customers.
Premium brands will target “first price, right price” to protect the value of their brand. They will constantly monitor prices of their competitors, the relative quality of the product and the service proposition to check that whatever their price-point, that they represent value to their customers.
Avoid price matching – this generally ends up as a race to the bottom, so focus on value first.
Consider your price architecture – often known as “Good, Better, Best”. Good is your entry price product, usually volume drivers, Better is your core pricing and Best is your Exit / Premium priced product. Decide how to divide up your messaging to talk to each price bucket so that you are seen as accessible, yet premium to your various customer segments.
Promotion means discount, right? Well, no, not always.
Promotion can be shining a spotlight on a hero product or range of products through advertising, an amazing visual display or through using feature spaces on your website.
Of course it can mean discounts too
- Temporary promotions – commonly money off, BOGOFs or Gift with purchase (this is all about driving volume, so make sure you’ve done your breakeven analysis to know the volume you need to generate to compensate for the drop in % margin)
- Customer discounts – usually loyalty offers (to increase AOV or frequency of spend, so set your targets so you know the discount has grown your business)
- Sale – permanent discounts (to clear stock, generate cash and make room for the new collection)
Use your website and Digital Marketing channels to showcase your promotions – sales and offers often attract new customers, so use your Social Media & Google Ads as well as eMail and website to get your offers noticed.
Think of the 4Ps as the backbone to your marketing strategy for the season.
Plan your Operations
As an eCommerce business, your customer service, pick, pack, despatch and delivery services are obviously critical. No business wants to be remembered for failing to deliver Granny’s Christmas gift, so plan your resources so that you are confident that you can meet your customer promise. It’s also important that you agree last order dates for each of your delivery propositions.
Most businesses with big Winter peaks apply change embargoes to their IT systems from October, so now is the time to plan any updates that will improve customer experience to your website and it’s supporting infrastructure.
Research what matters to your customers today
Behaviours adopted during the Pandemic, the Cost of Living Crisis, and Supply Chain (and therefore stock availability) issues related to both of these plus the war in Ukraine will all affect how consumers interact with you this peak – doing what you’ve always done will leave you missing a trick or two.
Think with Google have recently issued an interesting report which covers the consumer trends they are seeing for this peak period for you to consider as you build your eCommerce marketing plans – here are the highlights :
- Shopping earlier to spread the cost (Google and Ipsos research says that 21% of people surveyed in the EMEA region had started Christmas shopping in June!)
- Health and wellbeing has become a bigger priority for people post pandemic.
- Fun is back on the agenda. After 2 years of restrictions, people are seeking out travel, and new and exciting experiences.
- Concern about finances – at times of financial uncertainty, price and value are higher priorities than usual in the minds of shoppers.
- Research starts online. 48% of consumers surveyed said they look for inspiration online, no matter where they end up transacting – the world is becoming increasingly channel-less.
- Local matters. Searches for “open near me” have grown by 400% year on year globally. Map searches generated through Google My Business are generating both online and in store visits.
- Seeking data privacy. Google reports that if a brand has a poor data hygiene perception, a customer is half as likely to share their email address with them.
Do you capture “lessons learned” at the end of each Peak Period? If not, this is something to start doing – always at a point when the experience is fresh in everyone’s mind, so mid January is a great time.
Kick off your planning session with a review of what went well, what didn’t go so well, missed opportunities last year and the actions you promised yourself you would take to mitigate this year. Then mentally turn yourself around and take a look at what has changed and is happening in your business and in the competitive landscape today. Strike off any actions which are no longer relevant, and add new ones based on your research that will help you compete for peak 2022.
Our principals are both eCommerce veterans, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like some support planning for peak 2022.