Black Friday is a phenomenon that has woven its way into the very fabric of popular culture, but the traditional industry notion that red ink on your balance sheet has to wait until the end of November to turn black is nonsense. Using the very same, though muted, strategy that has propelled Black Friday to arguably preposterous heights, other holidays throughout the year can be promoted to boost sales and cultivate loyalty throughout the year.
Many retailers regard the summer months as a slow time of year for promotions, but this does not have to be the case. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and the Back To School season all provide opportunities to attract customers with special offers that appeal to convenience factors and/or price sensitivities. Aggressive promotions around these selling opportunities often pay immediate dividends and when executed properly, drive recurring business throughout the year.
For these holidays, creativity is king. The opportunity is quite real, but capitalizing on it requires thinking a little bit outside the box; it’s unlikely that promotions like doorbusters are going to move the needle for Father’s Day. So what is the best way to leverage the lesser holidays?
Remove the guesswork from gift giving
A tie for Dad, flowers for Mom — the stereotype is played out, but it persists for a reason: most people don’t know what the heck to buy their parents. They want to be seasonally appropriate, but also give a gift that shows they spent some time thinking about it. Retailers that take the guesswork out of this process are rewarded with purchases from shoppers who don’t have the time to spend poking around for hours hoping to be suddenly stricken with an epiphany of what would make the perfect gift.
Making this decision easy requires a two-pronged approach: product selection and placement. Select a variety of merchandise that is likely to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Often, these products can be bundled together into special packages. Gift sets put together by retailers make product selection easy, but they are also original and don’t have the mass produced feeling of similar sets put together by manufacturers. The more creative the set, the more authentic it feels; and the more variations offered, the more likely shoppers are to find the “perfect gift.”
Placing holiday merchandise where it is easily found is also key to conversion. Creating a specialized approach for each event helps draw attention to it, and this can be challenging online. Ecommerce retailers should create unique sections around each holiday that list relevant merchandise and promote these shopping areas heavily on the front page using banner ads, unique color schemes, etc. Make gift sets searchable by price point and other easy identifiers to make finding the best fits easy, especially among people who start the shopping journey with a budget in mind.
Convenience really is the bottom line here. Retailers that make suitable gifts easy to find, filter, and purchase are the holiday shopping winners.
Each holiday is a link in the gift buying chain
Gift giving is often an obligation. Consumers who truly enjoy selecting the perfect gift are in the minority — most holiday shoppers simply want to find an appropriate gift at an attractive price point. Cultivating loyalty among these shoppers is different than for traditional customers, but just as valuable. Once a simple and hassle-free shopping experience is delivered, loyalty is generated through the promise that subsequent gift buying journeys will proceed equally smoothly.
Offers like coupons for return purchases and membership into buying clubs are effective tools for encouraging return visits. Remember that gift buying customers are different in that they don’t establish emotional connections as easily with retailers, since the products they purchase are often of little interest to them. Outreach and follow-up are important to these customers to help enforce the relationship and to remind them what holidays are coming up and what specials are available.
The goal is to create a chain of holidays, becoming the de facto source of excellent gift ideas that are easy to purchase and are loved by recipients. Simply providing the path of least resistance isn’t sufficient for generating true loyalty, but it does elevate retailers beyond commoditization and incentivizes the second and third visits that are necessary to cultivate loyalty over time.
Summer holidays will never take the place of the primary holiday season in the retail cycle, but they are severely underutilized by many retailers and represent tremendous opportunity. They are also excellent testing grounds for promotional ideas before rolling them out for winter holidays where the stakes are higher. Building a healthy promotion calendar centered around relevant holidays and shopping seasons boosts any retailers chance of tossing out the bottle of red ink well before November.
Zeke Hamdani is Director of Web Services for Celerant Technology