It’s been a good week for retail. Compared to 2019, brands have been experiencing sustained revenue growth since May, accelerating from +3% in late May to close to 30% for the past two weeks. Naturally, extended restrictions in much of the UK mean that direct channels continue to show the most growth (currently hovering around +50%) but retail has also seen an improvement, moving into positive figures for the first time in June.
All of this is good news. And while footwear and accessories are still facing challenges (likely due to the continuing uncertainty around travel and events), homewear, furniture, hard goods and clothing continue to perform well. In fact, clothing is currently delivering the best performance of all as demand increases steadily thanks to lighter restrictions and the start of the sales.
That brings us neatly onto today’s topic: sales. We’re entering the peak summer sale period, a crucial time for any brand and particularly this year when brands can benefit from vaccine confidence and customers’ sense of optimism after 15-odd months of lockdown.
I always advise my clients to use the sales period to revisit marketing activities: average order values are changing so digital investment must be agile and it’s a great time to test new ideas and gather learnings. I’ve pulled together 6 tips that I use with my clients during sale – it’s an opportunity to be bold and try new things so use the time wisely and get in front of the right customers at the right time.
1. Stay agile
As I said earlier, average order values will be lower during your sale period and they’ll be more changeable too. Your marketing team needs to be in constant communication with Finance and Merchandise to make sure that you’re investing the right amount in your digital campaigns. It’s easy to over-invest on sale stock which will make for very happy customers but will hurt your bottom line. Equally, you don’t want to turn off a campaign that’s delivering great results just because you’ve run out of budget for that particular channel. Keep talking to Finance and find the right allowable costs over the period and make sure you’re maintaining the critical balance between marketing spend and stock levels during the sale.
2. Reward loyalty
Give your best customers a special sales preview to thank them for staying so loyal to your brand. Customers appreciate genuine surprise and delight moments and will feel valued when you invite them to a special invite-only sale. The preview introduces a sense of urgency and excitement while adding a countdown can help you drive response rates and encourage customers to buy before the offer runs out. The preview can also give you a quick insight into products and offers that will perform well in the general sale which in turn can help you make final adjustments to your campaigns before they go live.
3. Rotate, rotate, rotate
Customers are used to newness. They expect to see new offers regularly and can become disillusioned if discounts don’t look like they’re offering value for money. To prevent your sale from looking ‘stale’, rotate the sale through your key categories in order of priority. The changes in focus will maintain customers’ interest and will also enable you to test product performance during the period.
4. Keep it fresh
As well as rotating your key categories, use new price drops and add product lines to the sale to keep customers engaged. Communication is the name of the game during sale so keep your Merchandising team engaged with Marketing and you’ll be able to use your stock levels to inform marketing focus, delivering you an effective sale.
5. Personalise everything
The shopper of 2021 has high standards when it comes to personalisation. Use customers’ buying and browsing history to personalise their email content and AB test subject lines on every send. This will help you to build learnings on what works and optimise open rates, fuelling performance during non-sale times.
6. Protect your Operations teams
Peak can be a stressful time for direct-to-consumer brands, whether you’re a traditional retailer undergoing digital transformation or a brand new ecommerce brand with a digital-first mindset. As you optimise your marketing campaigns and drive more volume, be mindful of your internal capacity, particularly as social distancing remains in place and warehouses are under pressure.
If you need to manage operational pinch points, consider spreading email send volumes over a longer period or split the email database. This will mean that customers will receive your best offers at different times and will enable you to control order rates and protect your teams.
These are some of the main areas I’m focussing on with brands right now. All summer sales are important but this one is more important than most so you need to get the basics right. These tips will help you deliver profitable performance during the sale and prevent your systems from being overwhelmed.
If you want to learn more about what I covered in this blog or see how you can improve your sales performance, get in touch!