As we head into the peak retail season, I can’t help but wonder how businesses are going to cope with these recently increased controls. The eight weeks of peak trading deliver the annual profit for most retailers and many in hospitality and therefore, it is essential to get this right.
This year, we won’t be shopping the high street with our friends, having an office night out or multiple Christmas and New Year’s Eve outings. However, consumers need this holiday season and the joy it brings now more than ever. So being on the right side of them is going to be essential to long term success.
For obvious reasons, I am not going to focus on hospitality. Unfortunately for our friends in this sector, this year will not be the profit feast of yesteryear. The rule of 6 and various local lockdown measures have driven the Christmas social gatherings and parties underground…
So how can retail profit from the changes of circumstance and what should we be looking out for? Andy Mc Williams and I did a quick brainstorm.
Christmas has not been cancelled. For ecommerce players, it will be bigger in terms of volume as the shift to digital benefits from reduced footfall in store.
It will also be longer, with people spending from this month’s pay-check onwards. Consumers will seek to beat the rush and ensure that they get what they want, where they want it and sooner rather than later.
Incentivising core customers to spend early will have the triple whammy of banking profits, keeping existing customers happy and reducing the impact of distribution challenges. Under normal circumstances, retailers seek to flatten the traditional distribution peak. This year it will be even more important as white vans are in short supply and only Amazon has permission to deliver in a Ford Escort. So, if you are planning to acquire new customers and promote heavily through Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday please refer to the start of this paragraph.
When it comes to clarity of proposition, whether price, delivery or returns, don’t over-promise: customers are increasingly willing to vocalise when they have been ‘failed’.
Talk to the Micro Segments
People will be buying gifts and celebrating differently this year. How brands communicate with customers is going to be critical to their success. Covid19 has created an increase in the number of micro social segments. Overseas family members, lonely singles, shielded relatives and unintended savers are all areas of opportunity.
Take the latter group who have extra money in the bank as a result of reduced childcare, travel and other expenses – when are they likely to change from saver to spender? How are you targeting their disposable spend?
But whilst we need to be opening doors, there is also a need for compassion in communicating, especially with many in difficult situations or unable to celebrate the way they’d like to.
The Online Experience
Online gift-giving isn’t new, but it will be much bigger and reach a wider audience this year. The shielded and elderly won’t be seen in the shops on Black Friday. Many that previously only bought in-store will migrate online. So how will you ensure they have a good experience?
We need to consider the entire customer journey. If a customer is buying for someone and not able to give it in person, will you consider gift wrapping and cards as an added feature? The local gift shop does it….
For years retailers have been removing call centres but having a number to call rather than just social and email based CX may be required for new adopters…are you willing to consider?
How will you allow for easy and extended returns both on and off-line? This is going to be critical especially with the likelihood of shifting lockdowns and an increasing volume of international gifting. Imagine you send your relative a gift overseas, it goes through customs, arrives 20 days later damaged and you find out the return window is 30 days back to its country of origin? You probably won’t buy from them again.
And lastly, this may seem obvious but ensure your website is up to par and think ‘Granny’ when it comes to design and UX.
It’s no secret that takeaway, deliveries and cooking at home have become more popular over the last six months. With restrictions on closing times of pubs and meetings in public getting tighter, gatherings in homes will be the chosen way to celebrate. However, this also means smaller gatherings in general.
We need to think seriously about the implications from the size of a pack of pre-prepped sprouts to the actual turkey. Crackers for 12??
This will be a year unlike any other and too many businesses won’t be proactive enough and unfortunately may not make it past the season. If you are unsure how you can thrive this holiday season and beyond it, get in touch with our team.