In years past, the term “peak season” has typically referred to the higher sales, and in turn the higher profits, retailers see in late Q4. But now that data on every aspect of our businesses is readily available, we need to expand the conversation past revenue to include a far more valuable benefit: Business and consumer insights that can drive a more profitable strategy in 2019.
In fact, during peak season 2018 your business likely collected so much data that trying to get value from it can be overwhelming. Assuming your focus is ecommerce, you’re gathering purchase and customer information from your websites and mobile applications. Perhaps you’re connecting promotional offers to point-of-sale efforts. Digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa give us data about consumer needs and wants. Google Shopping is predicted to have the largest growth opportunity for retailers ever in 2019. We’re even starting to understand how to gather data from customer interactions with products inside physical stores.
Simply getting your arms around this vast volume and variety of data can be challenging. But if you can turn it into enhanced knowledge of your customers, their product preferences and how they like to buy, it will be a truly worthwhile effort.
Here are just a few areas retailers are using peak season data to improve future strategies, as well as some questions to consider when examining that data:
Improving products and refocusing production
Higher Q4 revenue is always welcome. But look beyond the dollars and examine your sales and customer data to uncover longer-lasting benefits and growth strategies. What products did customers flock to this year? Was there a lower price point for that item? How effective were your loss leaders in getting customers through the door? And if a specific item saw a higher rate of returns, what was the reason?
Understanding why consumers accepted or rejected a particular item can help you shift output in 2019. You can stock up on items that sell and reduce production on those that don’t, saving time and money in production and in your fulfillment centers. You can also provide sales and returns data to your R&D team, giving them a foundation of knowledge as they adjust products to better meet customer demand.
Bringing this data into sales and operations planning enables more effective use of resources across your supply chain as well. Using this data to segment your customers, you can better understand which items they see as worthy of higher investments, and which ones they’ll only purchase with a discount. Tailoring offers based on geography, demographics and other factors provides a friendlier face to your customers, helping to drive loyalty.
Streamlining ecommerce offerings
It will come as no surprise ecommerce flourished this peak season. Online sales accounted for $6.2B of Black Friday revenue, according to TechCrunch.
Every digital step a consumer makes on your website or mobile app is valuable insight – even the order in which they browse your site. Are they spending time on your homepage, or are they immediately going to specific product pages? Are they reviewing customer testimonials or product videos? Are they using chat to reach support, and is that function user friendly? Can it directly enable purchasing, and does it track customer information?
You can also gather data on the checkout process, a critical element in closing the sale as 69% of shoppers abandon their carts before checkout, according to Statista. You may find that pricing or shipping rates are the issue, or window shoppers are researching offers without buying. But if they’re making it several steps into checkout and abandoning the process, the data might tell you it’s the checkout function that’s losing sales.
By examining user data from your omnichannel solutions, you can drive a better customer experience and higher revenue throughout 2019. This holds true whether operating in a B2C or B2B model. Remember, it’s all about the customer!
Realigning your marketing efforts
Understanding how and where customers buy your product will help you improve your offerings. But you also need to consider who is buying, and why. Data can help you better understand what marketing tactics are resonating with your target audience, or whether you need to adjust your efforts to reach the right consumers.
Start by reviewing how many people redeemed discounts, and through which medium. Are your customers downloading digital coupons, or using a specific promo code? Did they see that discount on a commercial, in store or on your website? And which audiences does that channel or website reach?
Compare the data you’re collecting from each medium to your audience personas to determine whether you’re allocating your marketing/advertising dollars to the right channels. You might even find your ads perform well on a website that reaches a different audience, suggesting an untapped market that might benefit from a new advertising campaign.
Any way you slice it, data-driven planning is powerful
With so many potential paths through your company’s Q4 data story, identifying your biggest pain points is critical to examining the right data. Determine which areas lagged in 2018 and how they can be addressed in 2019. Leverage analytics to look for trends in the data that might provide solutions. When you allow data to drive decision making, you’ll develop stronger products and campaigns that bring in revenue long after the snow melts.
Doug Kimball is Vice President of Global Solution Strategy for Stibo Systems