How did you fare at Christmas?
The Christmas period always provides analysts with a short concentrated period of time in which to evaluate retailers’ performance and to judge trend changes. There were ups and downs. This week Marks and Spencer Chief Exec Marc Bolland quit after the company announced its Christmas results: sales of general merchandise were down by 5.8% for the thirteen weeks to 26 December. John Lewis’ sales however rose 5.1% in the same period.
The online trend statistics however are much more interesting – M&S online sales rose more than 20% in the last quarter of 2015. And for John Lewis, 40% of total sales were online for the Christmas period. There can be no doubt now that digital has disrupted and forever changed our retail landscape.
Post-Christmas: What now?
Looking at John Lewis, their shop income in post-Christmas ‘clearance’ sales has risen by 16% so far, and the total increase including online is 23%. Buoyant. How have John Lewis worked their business model to create success and how can other retailers learn from that success?
1. Emphasis on quality and service:
Consumers are savvy, they research before shopping and understand when a brand can fulfil (or not) on its promise. Make sure your communications reflect who you are as a brand and keep improving your brand reputation year on year.
2. Think about your target audiences:
Have you got a communications plan covering each demographic and what they may want to purchase during this period?
3. Integrate your brand standards with a good online customer experience:
If customers don’t enjoy their experience of buying your product, it reduces their opinion of the product itself, and your conversion rate will reduce. Enjoy the journey, and customers are more likely to buy.
Make sure your mobile route to sale is a quick and painless process for customers.
Over Christmas, half of online orders at John Lewis were collected rather than delivered. Think about how to integrate your website with a ‘real world’ shopping experience. Shopping is a hobby and consumers need to feel like they are enjoying their recreation time. Click-and-collect is very popular at the moment, with Argos also enjoying returns from their partnership with Ebay for click-and-collect services.
6. Sharing positive experiences:
Make your online presence sharable. Work that word of mouth advertising. Use social sharing buttons during the experience, POS and post-sale.
7. Maximise the surge in ‘clearance’ sale traffic:
Work on your margins, how much can you afford to put into a clearance sale to optimise this opportunity and can you match these products with your target audience communications? Time is of the essence here.
8. Prepare for unpredictable weather:
If you are in clothing or sports for instance, there is a predicted cold snap coming which may help shift stock that hasn’t sold during the pre-Christmas warmer spell. Make sure that if there is a shift in weather, that you communicate to your audiences that their new needs will be met by your brand.
9. Social engagement:
Use social media to funnel your potential customers through to purchase. Create engagement through useful, relevant, timely and fun communications.
10. Social Advertising:
Be clever about your social advertising. Again, be timely to optimise the current peak in consumer spending whilst also being targeted to your audiences.
There is a really positive energy with shoppers at the moment, boosted by a better economy. Take that energy and make their shopping experience really pleasurable (and sharable) and reap the benefit.