4 ways to hit the ground running during a difficult trading period

 

To help you through a tough trading patch, we’ve put together a list of 4 things your retail business can do to weather the storm.

 

Retail is an industry built on peaks and troughs. Seasonal events, changing behaviour and economic fluctuations all influence what consumers buy and inevitably there will be periods when trading is slower than you’d like. But this isn’t a moment to pause and prepare for the peak.

Even during a difficult trading period, there’s a lot that you can do to capture sales opportunities in the moment and make improvements to benefit future performance.

To help you through a tough trading patch, we’ve put together a list of 4 things your retail business can do to weather the storm, in order to hit the ground running during – and after – a bump in the road:

 

1. Get your ecommerce site in shape

Small changes make a big difference to conversion rates when consumers are shopping online, and a slow trading period provides a great opportunity to step back and look at how your ecommerce site can be further optimised.

Many sites still haven’t got the basics right, such as making sure product details are up-to-date, and providing clear information to guide customers through every stage of the purchasing journey. Take a close look at the UX and map how customers move through the site and the points in the journey where shoppers are dropping off. Make this the time to address your digital strategy. Think about why trade is tough? Is it because you aren’t acquiring quality traffic or does your problem lie with converting traffic?

Once you’ve identified where shoppers are being lost, create strategies that keep them engaged. Be tactical with your targeting and recommendations – you may want to introduce promotions, but make sure they are incentives that drive sales without hugely compromising profitability, such as spend and save promotions or multi-buy offers.

Perhaps this is the time to be bold rather than following standard seasonal or trend based promotions.

During slow Covid-19 trading months, a number of retailers are engaging with shoppers in more personal ways, by offering discounts to key workers, or sharing lockdown tips and freebies.

Beauty and cosmetics brand, Mecca Beauty, has successfully switched tracks to support the growth of lockdown beauty and cosmetic trade. Their virtual experiences and services now include Facetime calls with beauty sales reps.

 

 

Also, think about department or product types that are still performing well.  Are they visible and in fact prominent on site, and is your merchandising strategy too commercially-focused? This may be the right time to focus on the product types, brands and styles that are evergreen bestsellers.

Finally, make sure that you hold consumers’ attention right through the checkout process. For example, last chance to buy offers are a great way to increase basket sizes when customers are already committed to making a purchase. This is the time to test your basket strategies and the messages that go with. For instance, is ‘last chance to buy’ more compelling than ‘selected for you’ or ‘you may also like’?  You may discover that a particular product type works best with different strategies.

 

2. Look after your loyal customers

It’s natural in retail that the focus can sometimes be weighted towards new acquisitions over nurturing existing customers. However, it’s that loyal base of regular shoppers that will continue to support you, even in difficult times.

For many retailers, getting actionable insights from customer and product data is a huge obstacle for commercial growth and best experiences. The added advantage retailers have when marketing to loyal customers is the potential for collecting and enriching data based on rich history of behaviours and preferences. eCommerce departments rely on data but are often unable to use it to its full potential, often failing to connect customer and product intelligence across teams. Invest in the algorithmic technology that enables you to combine these insights with ecommerce strategy, in order to nurture your most loyal shoppers. And in doing so, make life more efficient for merchandising teams.

You want to be able to help your customers make better decisions, or nudge them to ensure they don’t miss out on a potentially attractive purchase?  For instance, by highlighting product scarcity (‘last in stock, selling fast’) you can ensure that customers don’t miss out on items they are interested in. Or if there are key features of the product worth pointing out, such as eco-friendly fabric or the latest trending styles, this can be signalled in banner messaging on product display pages and product listing pages.

Consider also how customer retention opportunities extend beyond the search and sales process, after they’ve completed their purchase at the checkout. Too many retailers create amazing online shopping experiences, but let carriers control last mile engagement, and miss out on the opportunity to continue to connect the experience and engagement, post-delivery. According to 2019 research from Ship Station, 96% of shoppers factor delivery into their purchase decisions online.

Look at how you can brand and manage delivery messages and use marketing messages that instil confidence and inspire so shoppers immediately want to buy from you again.

 

3. Build your brand community

Creating a successful retail enterprise is not just dependent on product sales; the strongest brands realise the power of creativity, and turn to editorial and PR power to nurture customer relationships when sales figures are in decline.

Use a slow trading period to dig beneath the surface of your customer DNA and discover what made them form a relationship with you, to build a brand community. Consumers are motivated primarily by emotion – even if they rationalise their purchases – and telling their stories can bolster brand sentiment and nurture stronger customer bonds.  

Consider how you incorporate the customer voice and user generated content into your digital marketing strategy, to create marketing stories for your core demographic. For example, shoppers may be interested in the trends influencing product sales, or they may want to hear what prompted another customer’s latest purchase.

 

4. Build non-commercial experiences that drive engagement

Just as building a brand community has long-term value, slow trading periods are often an opportunity to take a breather from day-to-day trading demands and create strategies for driving customer engagement in other ways.

Even if consumers aren’t ready to buy at this point in time, it doesn’t mean you can’t develop a relationship with them. There are some great examples of retailers using non-commercial experiences to strengthen brand affinity. For example:

  • Beauty Bay places a huge emphasis on content, packing its website with professional makeup artist and styling advice, and tutorials from top influencers
  • IKEA has introduced ‘learning labs’ to some stores, which give visitors the chance to discover how to re-use materials and upcycle, in order to reduce waste
  • Nike builds brand advocacy through its running club, connecting likeminded customers via an app which gives them coaching tips, and the chance to log their times for personal progress or to track performance against fellow runners

 

Keep calm and carry on learning

It’s easy to panic when sales start to dip, but an economic downturn doesn’t have to spell disaster if you’re smart about business priorities. The strongest brands use challenging conditions as an opportunity to reassess their business strategy and make tactical improvements.

The techniques we’ve shared are a great starting point to support trade in the moment, and also nurture customer relationships for the future. Who knows; the changes you make may attract a different type of customer, or evolve your offering to engage new audiences.

Whether you’re looking for short, medium or long-term gains, you can be sure of one thing. By working on your house when things are at a lower ebb, your business can capture low hanging fruit while the going is tough and emerge in the strongest possible position to maximise market share when trading returns to full strength.

 

Attraqt enables retailers to deliver highly relevant shopper experiences that meet critical business goals. Discover our solutions.

 

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