7 Tips To Win The Retail Holiday

The 2012 holiday season saw mixed results in the retail industry. Some retailers demonstrated strong growth, while others experienced declines. The fact remains that success was directly tied to strategic planning throughout the year, best practices and innovative initiatives centered around who else -- the customer!

Retailers will not fail if they truly understand their customers and put them at the center of their advertising and marketing plans. Yet many retailers have failed by appearing to ignore their customers. With so many choices, retailers need to work harder than ever to win customers all through the year -- and especially during the holiday season.

Here are seven straightforward, actionable tips for retailers to get customer-focused and win big this holiday season.

1.  Think like a customer

Help shoppers plan in advance and make the most of their dollars.

Most shoppers are looking for deals. They spend more time planning to get the best value. Surveys reveal that more than 50% of shoppers look for discounts of 20-40% from regular prices to even consider a purchase. 



Our studies indicate that shoppers look to retailers to educate but not overwhelm them on product choices, special features and value. Customers are there to shop -- not read. They will quickly dismiss complex offers, manipulative pricing schemes and non-relevant product details. In all communications, retailers must strive to ensure their customers can quickly and easily understand the message and what’s important, from the shopper’s -- not the retailer's -- point of view.

2.  Start early – really early

Black Friday has swallowed Thanksgiving and now starts the Sunday prior.

Earlier is becoming a key advantage for many retailers throughout the year, and the holiday shopping season is earlier every year. This year, retailers like Walmart and Kmart began holiday layaway promotions in September. 2012 saw retailers opening as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night to large crowds. This year, we expect opening times to be even earlier. 

While the media has portrayed the earlier Christmas shopping season in a somewhat negative light, customers have shown approval with their dollars. In 2012 an estimated 28% of people who shopped Black Friday weekend were in stores by midnight on Thanksgiving with even more taking advantage of pre–Black Friday and online sales. But being early isn’t enough by itself. Shoppers follow value. The combination of great values and early promotions helped many retailers be successful in 2012.

If you don't start off strong, it's hard to catch up. 

3.  Be loud and proud in promotion

Customers expect major hype. It’s okay to be loud in your holiday marketing efforts.

Business as usual just doesn't work for the holidays. Shoppers are looking for great deals, hot products and interesting gift ideas. Price optics, strong savings stories and special services are key and should be overtly promoted. Customers expect hype at this time of year. It's nearly impossible to be too promotional as you cut through the competitive noise and grab your customers' attention during the holiday season.

4.  Give compelling reasons to shop – every week

Provide relevant deals tied to how customers shop each week during the holidays.

Customers shop differently throughout the holiday season. Early-season shoppers are typically planners or budget-conscious customers looking for the right gifts for people on their list at a great price. Black Friday shoppers are deal-seekers who enjoy the lines and frenzy as part of the hunt. Female shoppers tend to dominate the first weeks after Black Friday buying gifts for the family. The last weekend of the Christmas season has some of the highest-volume sales days driven by last-minute gift shoppers, including people who are completing their gift lists.

Retailers can maximize their connection with shoppers by developing messages and offers designed for their mindset each week.

Make it easy to shop – whenever, wherever and however the customers wants

Let customers shop how they like. 

Shopping habits don't fit into channel silos. People use different channels for different needs. The vast majority of sales come from physical stores. In study after study, people  -- including younger shoppers -- say they enjoy shopping in stores. Despite attempts to migrate shoppers to digital, most say they still prefer to get their sale ads in print or direct mail. Online shoppers tend to be more laser focused than in-store browsers. While mobile transactions are small, this is becoming a popular way to compare prices and offers.

Successful retailers don’t try to “drive” shoppers to one particular channel. They make it easy to shop how the customer wants at any given moment. Omni-channel shoppers spend more than single channel shoppers so retailers need to make the experience seamless but tailored to the mindset customer have when they shop specific channels.

6.  Own your piece of Black Friday

Pick a specific part(s) of Black Friday week that best suits your business and own it.

Not all retailers have the product offering to get shoppers standing in line on Thanksgiving night. They should consider non-traditional sale hours and events like Black Friday afternoon or evening doorbusters and events. 2012 data shows that customers shopped early for select items like electronics and toys, then went back out later on Friday to search for deals in other categories. Set events around times that work best for your customers.

7.  Finish strong

Be exceptionally promotional and gift-focused in the final weekend and days before Christmas.

These are the top sales days of December. Customers are looking for last-minute gifts and exceptional deals to finish out their gift lists. Finishing strong includes the day and week after Christmas when shoppers are using gift cards, seeking clearance deals and often buying for themselves. Retailers who plan well with deals that entice shoppers to their stores and sites will see positive results.

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