Retailers have just navigated what is historically the third biggest shopping event of the year – the Back-to-School season. This gave them the chance to explore new post-COVID sales and communication tactics. But now Black Friday and Christmas are fast approaching.
As we head into this “golden quarter”, it’s important to take note of the things retailers have got right in recent months, as well as the areas for improvement. Here are our key takeaways:
- Get creative with your services
Despite fears of a potentially lacklustre Back-to-School season, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer recorded sales jumps both in-store and online. According to Retail Week, part of the success came from the launch of their new shoe-fitting services. John Lewis recorded a 15% uplift in school uniform sales compared with last year, with a major spike coming from the sales of school shoes.
M&S, on the other hand, recognised that most parents would prefer to shop from home this year. So, it created an interactive online shoe-fitting guide to allow parents to size up children’s school shoes independently. In early September, this service was accessed over 11,000 times.
- Focus on online order fulfilment
E-commerce has undeniably become a vital platform while consumers have been spending more time at home, so much so that mid-market UK online retailers have seen an average annual revenue increase of over 15% since April. With this in mind, how can retailers best use this prominent sales channel in Q4?
Well, M&S thrived by increasing its Back-to-School online stock by 75% compared with last year, as well as introducing an ‘Email when back in stock’ function for all school items on its website. Through these tactics, it was able to fully support customer demand and increase sales, even when its stock was low.
The ‘fulfil-from-store’ capability from The Foschini Group (owner of Whistles, Hobbs, and Phase Eight) serves a similar purpose, since it allows the retailer to offer in-store stock to customers, not just stock from the warehouse. This function played an integral part in clearing sale stock from stores during lockdown. It also continues to increase conversion rates during busy periods – over the week of Black Friday, for example, the group makes 12% to 15% of overall sales through fulfilment from store, including click and collect.
- Now isn’t the time to go quiet
A third of e-commerce companies will choose to opt-out of seasonal campaigns this year – an unprecedented rise from only 6% in 2019. However, consumer demand is trending in the opposite direction, with 34% of shoppers planning on increasing their year-on-year peak sales spend.
Considering companies that maintained their social marketing budgets reaped the rewards over the recent lockdowns, and that consumers and brands interacted much more on social media than they did pre-pandemic, it’s clear that consumers still want to see and engage with businesses online this year.
Retailers can therefore use the upcoming sales as an opportunity to connect with customers through relevant, useful campaign messaging and their social media platforms.
- Offer value, not discounts
In April, right on through to the Back-to-School season, retailers drifted towards discounting excessively in a bid to drive demand and sales. While this works in the short-term, the benefits are short-lived.
Rather than extreme discounting, retailers can use customer data to offer personalised deals and genuine support at the checkout. Doing so will promote active customer value, relationship, and retention management. Take a read of our recent blog on rebuilding customer loyalty after COVID-19 for more advice on how to do this.
- Reinforce your not-so-confident consumers
Even with the recent reintroduction of COVID-19 restrictions, consumer confidence in the UK was on the up in September. It grew up to -25 after the remarkable low of -36 in early June. Positively, confidence has crept forward for nearly four months now, but it is questionable whether this will remain in the run-up to Christmas.
To help your customers feel confident when spending over the next few months, retailers can offer interest free credit as a payment option at the checkout. This will enable your customers to split up the cost of their purchases, making them more manageable, and stimulating further confidence when shopping during these uncertain times.