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Adding festive cheer for retailers this Christmas

Thursday November 3 2011

Marketing communications specialist Richard Evans asks whether the current trend towards deep discounting and early festive promotion are the best ways to keep the till ringing during this crucial retail trading season

Marketing communications specialist Richard Evans asks whether the current trend towards deep discounting and early festive promotion are the best ways to keep the till ringing during this crucial retail trading season

 

Most will agree that the combination of ongoing recession, 2011ís wet summer and the August riots has put immense pressure on retailers to profit as much as possible from the upcoming festive sale period.

 

Richard Evans, director of marketing for email services provider Silverpop in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region also highlighted how last yearís inclement weather also resulted in lower than expected sales. And, following recent comments from KPMG revealing retailers make 75% of profits in the last three months of the year, high sales figures this quarter are a must. "Some retailers are simply extending their holiday sales period, with Selfridges and Harrods having opened their festive themed stores in late July," he said. "They have been quickly followed by various stores across the country rolling out dedicated Christmas aisles over the past month in an attempt to increase spending and drive sales.

 

"But is this the most efficient way of driving sales, especially as consumers are displaying a tendency to save, not shop?" Evans asked. "In an attempt to artificially boost sales, constant deals and promotions are being offered to entice consumers. However, this may now have caused a tendency amongst consumers to shy away from full price items, reducing profits even further."

 

Customer engagement is way forward

 

In order to drive consumers back into stores and end the lacklustre retail atmosphere that has dominated the High Street, Evans said that businesses must look for new ways to use established online technologies that engage and open up customer markets. "Emails, mobile, and social marketing provide such a wide range of possibilities that High Street shops need to start using these channels not just for online shopping, but also to drive footfall into their physical shops as well," he explained.

 

But he added a major problem for a business was defining how and when to engage with their customer base. "With a myriad of marketing channels, new technologies and digital devices, selecting the right time to send a message is now more complex than ever," he continued. "Sending messages through channels that arenít regularly used, or at times when they arenít being read, dramatically reduces the ROI [return on investment] of your online marketing scheme.

 

"But this is a problem easily solved by leveraging data and consumer preferences to help guide your online marketing messages. Does a consumer prefer to receive content via email in the morning and Facebook in the afternoon? Do they only read messages once a week? Do they consume information on a mobile device or whilst behind a PC? Answering these questions allows you to efficiently communicate with consumers on their terms, increasing engagement, reducing message wastage and hopefully improving response. Email, mobile and social are amongst the most personal channels, so engaging with customers on their level, not yours, is a major step to building lasting relationships that will boost profits on the high streets in the near-term and provide a steady stream of revenue to follow."

 

Meaningful content necessary

 

Evans stressed the content of these communications should also be a top priority as, without relevant information, recipients will simply switch off. For this, he said customer data should be used to create highly targeted campaigns on a personalised level. "For example, customer input on preference forms as well as their onsite behaviour can help guide marketers towards creating more relevant communications that focus in on individual consumer interests, thereby increasing the likelihood of driving sales," he suggested.

 

"Tracking behaviour on your website will provide you with the same information, as you will know what specific customers have been looking at, and follow-on content and communications delivered in any media can then be tailored accordingly. Use short, sharp and attention-grabbing subject lines that reinforce both the brand and the value of the communication, and give consumers enticing reasons to shop that are individually tailored to their preferences and interests."

 

Evans also said retailers also need to start thinking about what newer technologies can offer customers: "Checking in via location services such as Foursquare, accessing content via mobile devices using QR [quick response] codes and even augmented reality allow interactivity on a scale never seen before, and create a seamless blend of online with the High Street. Exclusive deals available only through these methods can be advertised and supported by established marketing channels, changing the High Street experience and increasing shop floor footfall. Such opportunities could be the drive that will help bring the retail sector out of its slump and get the returns that are so desperately wanted," he concluded.