Resources / Retail Promotions Best Practice

Chapter 1

Retail Promotions Best Practice

Introduction

With the omnichannel retail world changing quickly and significantly, creating more competition among retailers, sales promotions have grown in importance when it comes to strategic retail initiatives aimed to improve revenue, market share, profit and business growth.

But with the introduction and growth of more sales channels, comes the increased complexities in how sales promotions can be added to your existing strategies.

Although individual goals will change for each promotional campaign, there are some goals that should underpin each and every sales promotion you run. Your promotions should strive to increase your in store and online sales traffic, attract new customers to your business, reduce excess inventory and keep your shoppers coming back for more.

Omnichannel sales promotional strategy

Before omnichannel, sales strategies could easily be described as merely activities that the marketing or advertising departments would use to promote products.

Sales promotions have now evolved to ensure that products are not just marketed effectively by the marketing or advertising departments, but that all customer-facing teams within a retail business are included in strategic thinking as well. Sales promotions are no longer standalone strategies.

Post-omnichannel, all planning and launching of sales promotions should ensure that the right message is reaching customers (the right ones) at the right times. With data being ever more detailed, accessible and able to be personalized, this should be relatively simple to achieve.

When developing your first omnichannel promotional strategies, you will need to keep these three core points at the forefront of your mind:

  1. Coordinate promotional efforts across all departments in one central management system.

  2. Analyze previous promotional efforts to gauge what needs to be changed for future promotions to be more effective.

  3. Keep adjusting your promotional strategy on an ongoing basis.

Once your experience with omnichannel sales promotion grows, you can really start to hone your skills for what your target market want, and what works well for your business and products.

Here are some further best practices to keep in mind (divided into three main categories):

Requirements

  • To ensure your customers are receiving consistent brand messages from each marketing and/or customer facing team, define and outline your omnichannel promotional goals. Share these company-wide.

  • To create a relevant and exciting shopping experience, conduct detailed persona research to understand your ideal customer’s preferences, age, gender, location and other key variables affecting your promotions.

  • To truly create effective sales promotions, avoid mass promotional strategies, and instead create customer-specific strategies using your persona research findings.

Technology

  • Ensure you are able to collect and store customer-specific data in a central management system, accessible to all necessary individuals in the business.

  • Use modern analytics engines and reporting to dive deep into customer preferences, buying habits, browsing habits and any other key variables important to your sales promotions.

  • Adopt cloud-based systems to support your advanced analytics tools and business growth.

Personnel

  • Appoint an individual who will be in charge of championing your next-level, customer-centric promotional strategy.

  • They should be tasked with ensuring the marketing or advertising teams are transforming customer behavior analytics and data into engaging, exciting, personalized omnichannel sales promotional strategies.

  • Consider creating a supporting team who is able to truly understand the data available to you, who can identify customer-specific data points and analyze customer behavior data, in order for the relevant teams to produce the necessary campaigns and strategies.

How to use flash sales in your promotional strategy

One specific type of sales promotional strategy you may want to consider is flash sales.

Flash sales are discounts or promotions offered for a limited amount of time. The quantity of items available throughout the promotion are often limited as well, ensuring you trigger FOMO (fear of missing out) within your customers’ thoughts, resulting in impulse buying.

Some retailers choose to have flash sales at the very core of their business, such as fashion retailer, Palace Skateboards or gaming retailer, Penny Arcade. Whilst others, such as cycling retailer, Planet X choose to offer flash sale events as part of a wider promotional strategy.

You may also want to use flash sales in your promotional strategy to help clear out dead or unwanted inventory. If those items are seasonal or speciality products, selling them on may ordinarily be a challenge. But with the introduction of a carefully thought out and orchestrated flash sale event will really help to create some buzz around those items, helping to shift them quickly.

With successful flash sales, technology will play a large part in ensuring your team can keep on top of order volume, winning high levels of customer satisfaction and thus, loyal customers.

Let’s take a look at this in detail…

Automation technology

We all know today’s modern customer wants their desired product to be available when they’re ready to buy, have same or next day delivery, a smooth buying process, and know when to expect their order. These are some high expectations to keep on top of, yet automation technology will allow you and your team to do just that.

With flash sales doubling or even tripling order volume in a short period of time, automation technology takes over to do the heavy-lifting and download all of the orders into one central management system, ready to be automatically allocated, fulfilled and invoiced. Customers are delighted with receiving timely updates as they see their order wind its way through your workflows, ensuring they are much more likely to boast about their new purchase with friends, family and peers.

Real-time inventory

Not having the correct inventory and sales data can always be costly, but this is even more true when thinking of flash sales in your promotional strategies.

But with a business management system behind your flash sale that is able to offer real-time inventory updates, your customers never fall prey to ordering out of stock items, and you never have to worry about disappointing customers or receiving negative feedback.

Furthermore, this data can also help you establish which products should be included in the flash sale in the first place.

Real-time data

Data is a crucial part to developing successful flash sale promotions.

Perhaps you discover that a particular branch in your business is underperforming compared with other branches? Perhaps a few different product lines are not turning over inventory as quickly as you’d planned? Or maybe your customer lifetime value ratios (CLTV) are flat?

Whatever it is that you discover in your business, it will be real-time data allowing you to access that information easily, enabling you to make key decisions quickly on which products to include in your flash sales promotion, and which customers you want to involve.

Flash sales best practices

With the technology behind your flash sales sorted, here are some best practices to keep your flash sales successful:

  • Determine the goals of your flash sale. Are you intent on clearing out dead inventory? Or do you wish to raise brand awareness of your business and products?

  • Identify your target audience and ideal customer profile. Ensure your flash sale is tailored and personalized to what your ideal customers would prefer. This should be based on extensive persona profiling.

  • Advertise in the right places at the right time. Target audiences will browse and shop in different places, in different ways and at different times. Ensure you know how to capture your target audience’s attention via the right medium at the right time.

  • Set the rules with your shoppers. Flash sales differ from more common forms of sales promotion, which means you will need to devise a specific set of rules and guidelines for your shoppers to adhere to. They should expect this. Some examples of guidelines to consider are no-returns policies and same day delivery (but not free shipping).

  • Start small. As with any new business endeavor, you should start small so that you can understand what works best for you, your business and your customers. Run a mini flash sale of just a few products for a short period of time. Then analyze your numbers, including sales revenue, website visits, conversions, abandoned cart rates and profitability of upsell and cross-sell.

  • Monitor customer service and satisfaction throughout the sale. Flash sales are only meaningful if your customers are left with a positive perception of your products, brand and company. You want positive social amplification, not negative.

Five sales promotional ideas

Flash sales are just one promotional sales idea you can involve within your business, but there are plenty more.

Consider these real-life examples of what other retailers have done:

1. Customer-targeted & channel-specific promotions

With the ever expanding array of data available at your fingertips, you should consider targeted promotions across a variety of mediums (dependent on what your customers are looking for).

You could send targeted emails, create banner ads to be shown in email signatures and social media feeds, develop and launch mobile apps, and track website visits and behavior.

When acquiring loyal customers, both customer-targeted and channel-specific promotions are crucial.

By understanding how your target audience behaves when browsing and buying through the various sales channels in your arsenal, you can ensure you’re selling the right products on the right channel, and displaying the right promotions on the right channel.

Take Shoppers Drug Mart as an example. Based within the pharmaceutical industry, they decided to stop sending weekly circular emails as these types of email weren’t producing the desired open, click or conversion rates they wanted. Instead, they created and sent customized weekly emails featuring a handful of promotions tailored to individual shoppers’ preferences and purchase histories.

Shoppers+Drug+Mart+Emails

2. Pop-up shops

Whether you are currently an online merchant only, thinking of introducing a store in a new location or just want to create some extra buzz around your products, pop-up shops can offer a lot of creativity and flexibility when it comes to sales promotional ideas.

Something you may notice from reading about omnichannel sales promotions is in the fact that they should accurately reflect your brand’s values and personality, as well as that of your customers. Pop-up shops are no different.

One retailer who really managed to get this good balance in their pop-up store is menswear label Northern Grade. Their fashions are classic, timeless and stylish. These qualities were all represented cohesively within their pop-up shop designs, with the use of rustic tables, magnifying glasses, refurbished pallets and vintage trunks. The effect was like walking into a bachelor pad within the 1930s – a truly memorable experience for their target consumer.

There is a lot of information, best practices and ideas on how to make pop-up shops a complete success, so we’d recommend you peruse the pop-up shops advice section for more detail.

Learn more about the perfect pop-up shop experience.

3. Loyalty programs

Typically aimed at those customers who purchase frequently, loyalty programs differ from the most common types of omnichannel sales promotion. They have a long-term focus, rather than intended to create near-term sales.

However, similar to other sales promotions, you should ensure that your loyalty programs suit your ideal customers’ values and preferences.

Take eco-friendly outdoor apparel company, Patagonia as an example. Within their own strategies, they realized that a traditional points or discounts based loyalty program wouldn’t work for their type of customer. Instead, they launched the Common Threads Initiative (now called Worn Wear), helping customers to resell their durable Patagonia clothing via Patagonia’s own website.

Patagonia+Worn+Wear+Program

Discover more best practices for loyalty programs in this detailed guide.

4. Product giveaways and competitions

This type of sales promotional idea offers potential customers the chance to try out your product, whilst enticing them to buy your items if they like what they’ve tested.

This makes your brand more memorable for when they come to buy at a later date, and provides value and a reason to purchase with you.

Fashion brand, Land’s End successfully launched a campaign during the holidays to allow customers to win gift cards for their store. Their #SantaForADay contest involved them tweeting questions to their followers, such as: “Day 34 and the FINAL #santaforaday question: What one Santa characteristic do you admire most and why?”

This was a fun and unique way to develop engagement with their brand, whilst maintaining a loyal following and added revenue for their business.

5. Price match promise

If you have many competitors around you, price match promises can be a great way of securing sales, whilst promoting your brand as “the place to buy”.

Your customers are persuaded to spend with you, whilst you promise to refund the difference should they find that same item cheaper elsewhere. Your customers have nothing to lose, and you have a solid customer base to gain.

There are a variety of big box retailers involved with price match promises, including Target and Best Buy. But providing you are able to be competitive with your pricing, there should be very little stopping you from trying this out within your own omnichannel promotional strategy, providing your ideal customer is attracted to cost savings.

Further Reading

Why Data Analysis and Automation are Critical to a Successful Flash Sale Strategy

Mastering the Art of Omnichannel Promotion Management

Flash Sales: The Fun, The Fame & The Fortune That Can Follow

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