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GUEST COMMENT Preparing for peak: multi-faceted tactics to maximise results

The Christmas trading period is always one of wonder, excitement and energy for shoppers, as they hunt for the perfect products to make their festive season a memorable one. The same sense of excitement descends on retailers too, who typically generate around 30% of their annual total incomes in this Golden Quarter, with key sales opportunities like Halloween, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day and NYE celebrations.

But sometimes, like frantic last-minute Christmas shoppers themselves, the excitement can turn into mayhem for merchandisers if the right strategy isn’t adopted to prepare for this busy period. If retailers fail to plan the promotion of their stock well enough, then they face the prospect of having to make significant markdowns on their merchandise in the January sales, which can dramatically impinge upon profits.

It doesn’t have to be this way if retailers approach the season in advance by investing in a multi-faceted range of ecommerce tactics. Here’s how brands can maximise results and minimise the risk of left-over stock:

Perfect the Plan

Most people know the wise phrase ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’, but if you don’t prepare well enough in advance for the busy peak trade months, then it can have a huge impact on annual results given there is so much to gain at this time. Preparation this year is also more critical given the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, and the potential damage a no-deal could have on consumer spending confidence.

This puts added pressure on brands to plan key sale occasions like Cyber Monday well, and a perfect place to start is by focusing on the very basics, such as the customer experience and ensuring your tech and development teams have prepped your ecommerce site properly with solid infrastructure and extra resources to cope with additional traffic. Slow page load speeds and crashing sites leave a lasting bad impression which could not only put consumers off your special occasion sale, but also coming back to your website throughout the entire peak period.

A Smart Product Mix

Retailers only have a finite amount of time to sell through seasonal stock and one of the key priorities at this time of year is to ensure as much as possible is sold through at full price without having to go into markdown in January.

Consider factoring in merchandising data such as ‘week’s cover’ as an attribute when you order the display of your products in order to prioritise seasonal stock which you need to clear from your warehouse prior to the Christmas sales period.

Of course, you don’t just want to promote stock which you have high quantities of if no-one is interested in it, which is why merchandisers should use this data while combining it with other relevant commercial metrics to ensure product offerings are interesting and relevant to the personal interests of customers. Metrics like product sales and click-through rates can be very useful in this process to give a clearer indication of what will resonate best with your target shoppers.

Data science and automated merchandising methods will also prove their weight in gold when it comes to promoting and clearing through stock in an efficient and relevant way, as algorithms can easily detect and categorise product-level metrics on a mass scale, while giving you the ability to rapidly populate category pages with strategically placed items which fit your specific commercial and customer requirements.

These systems can also handle the task of stock replenishment and alternative product suggestions automatically which is particularly crucial during a peak period, when your products are much more likely to sell out.

Expert Curation

Automated methods are reliable for handling mass product placements and category page replenishment, but merchandisers can add significant value by overriding automated rules to showcase unique products which rapidly gain traction due to emerging market trends.

These sudden interests appear very quickly, and while a machine may need to mull over the sales data from the previous day to catch on to the fact a certain trend or product type has gained popularity, a merchandiser can react instantly and prioritise suitable products to ensure they can be easily found and maximise sales. By curating the experience and intervening in automated strategies when necessary to do so, merchandisers can add real value by capitalising on rapidly emerging sales opportunities which machines may otherwise miss.

Putting Shoppers in Control

Retailers should also not forget to give customers the ability to control their own levels of personalisation. You might have spent lots of time and effort to cleverly personalise the site to an individual’s tastes and preferences, but when they’re shopping for other people during peak, all of this work can go out of the window. Allow customers to choose who they are shopping for and use automated strategies to push appropriate products for differing recipient segments, in line with your stock strategies.

The creation of interactive gifting campaigns and fun shopping guides and surveys can be beneficial here to establish customer intent, while powering the personalisation experience. You can also still make use of all the personalisation data available to take advantage of the ever-growing “to me, from me” gifting trend, to encourage customers to also buy for themselves during the Christmas gift shopping spree. By combining these clever product promotion ideas with a solid stock clearance strategy underpinned by data science and automation, brands can prime themselves to tackle peak in a pro-active way which delights shoppers while driving standout sales.

Author: Katie Woodhead, head of experience consulting, Attraqt.

Image credit: Fotolia

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