Retailers Ride Holiday Growth Wave into 2011

Retail momentum continues, as consumers’ desire for discounts is fueling promotions and shopper incentives

Retailers were generally pleased with the 2010 holiday season, seeing 5.7 percent growth over 2009 and handily beating initial projections by the National Retail Federation.  In fact, the NRF further says that January marks seven straight months of retail gains, demonstrating that many consumers are ready to spend after a long and difficult economic slump. It’s a winning situation for consumers – retailers are anxious to maximize this upswing and are upping their game with continued promotions and discounts. 

Good news for shoppers who have come to expect some level of competition for their spending power. Their expectation of value is rock solid and increasing the pressure on retailers to deliver.  For retailers it is a bit trickier though, and marketing efforts must break through the barrage of promotional activity to really get the consumers’ attention as they travel the path to purchase. Shoppers have become savvier about sifting through their options – comparing prices and demanding value as they prioritize their spendable income.

In turn, marketers are layering additional tactics onto established and successful retail marketing strategies.  Capitalizing on what they already do well – such as developing incentives that demonstrate real customer understanding – marketers are raising the bar by adding underused channels such as front door marketing into the mix.  Bypassing a crowded field of messages, retail marketers are in some cases exceeding a 20 percent response rate.

Are your retail marketing initiatives generating the results you need, especially as Americans seem to be stepping out of their years-long spending slump? And if not, what are you doing to expand on your campaign strategies?

A Great Holiday Season for Retail Sales but What Comes Next?

As Shopper Attention Shifts, Retailers Put Finishing Touches on Post-Holiday Deals to Entice Consumers

In the final week leading up to Christmas, retailers are still reaping the rewards of a busier-than-usual holiday season with consumers checking those last few items off their gift-buying lists. In fact, earlier this week the National Retail Federation revised its holiday forecast, now projecting a 3.3 percent increase over last year’s figures. And while sales generally slow significantly after Christmas, retailers recognize some of the very unique opportunities post-holiday promotions can bring. 

The closer it gets to Christmas the more likely it is that people are trying to steer clear of the malls. But there’s something about December 26th that makes them more than willing to venture out again. After all the fun and stress leading up to the big day, shoppers are traditionally ready to think about an entirely different set of priorities. Diet, exercise and general ‘recovery’ from holiday indulgences commonly top the list, often paired with feeling like “it’s time to treat myself.”  Perhaps that perfect gift wasn’t under the tree, but several not-so-great presents could be returned and put toward what was really on the wish list.  Retailers rely on after-Christmas sales, gift cards and gift returns to keep shoppers strolling through their doors, and need to make the most of this post-holiday shopping period.

To rise above the hustle and bustle of holiday ads and messages, retailers may choose to take a more personal approach to attract post-holiday shoppers and clear out merchandise. Campaigns using channels like front door marketing can be executed quickly and easily, driving response with a compelling offer that gets consumers to act.  With a start to finish timeframe of as little as two weeks, retailers can have their branded message delivered to the front door of some of their best and most promising customers.                                                                         

What are you doing to get shoppers back into your store after the holiday splurge?

The Path to Purchase Starts at Home, During the Holidays and Year-Round

The Search for Value is Not a Linear Process, with Consumers Making Shopping Decisions Every Day in Every Way

Consumers consider brands as they move through a variety of daily events such as walking through a store, or even non-events such as opening the pantry door.  With major retailers referring to the path as a circle, a pool or even a puddle, it’s dramatically clear that it is neither linear nor defined by a particular channel.  The path to purchase is a big picture opportunity for retailers, fueled by mobile, digital, social, radio, television and print media – and advantage goes to markets using multi-channel strategies to layer messaging and offer consumer value all along the path.

A recent survey by retail industry analyst E-tailing Group confirms the consumer’s focus on value, indicating that merchants must get creative as almost half of shoppers will refuse to pay full price this holiday season.  Further customer service and promotions are heavily favored, and 39 percent of shoppers plan to complete most of their holiday shopping by early December (an increase over last year’s 34 percent.) Savvy marketers have recognized these factors as advantages for offering relevant information to the shopper early in the process, meeting expectations of brand value, keeping them informed and becoming part of the research and ritual of making shopping decisions.

Further, news from IDC Retail Insights points out that ‘sequential use of multiple channels’ by consumers will shift to ‘concurrent omnichannel behavior’ – meaning that new options such as mobile price research weakens the retailer’s immediate influence on purchase decision made right at the product shelf.  Brands that answer back with “three-dimensional selling,” working to solve a customer problem rather than sell a product, are on the right track by offering high value to reinforce greater brand appreciation earlier in the shopping chain.  The consumer may not necessarily care about which entertainment provider they use, rather they are more interested in the cost, availability and convenience enabled by their various options.

The path literally encompasses all aspects of shopping, from considering needs, evaluating brands, comparing prices, researching options and listening to recommendations from trusted friends.  For marketers, influencing customer choices involves strengthening the connection that comes to mind in each of these instances.   Reaching consumers early on the path maximizes the opportunities for shopper connections – whether it’s planning dinner, making a shopping list or just realizing the kids need new shoes.

Does your marketing strategy recognize the limitations of a linear view of the path to purchase? And are you doing enough to reach your customer early in the cycle, offering value and resonant messages that can linger for extended consideration and response?