Many retailers enjoyed their annual spike in sales around Easter, with the British Retail Consortium’s monthly figures showing a 4.2 per cent increase in like-for-like sales during April. The latest monthly report indicates that the warmer weather over the Bank Holiday meant consumers were eager to snap up deals on clothing to suit. However, the timing of Easter this year has actually served to distort the figures slightly, with the April increase preceded by a decrease in March sales following the absence of the 4 day Bank Holiday weekend. Looking at the last 3 months together to get a full overview of the annual growth, the picture looks very different with like-for-like sales growing by just 0.3 per cent over the period year-on-year – the weakest performance since December 2012.
To help drive sales at these peak times on the retail calendar, most businesses resort to promotions and price cuts to increase the number of consumers coming to their store or online offering. These price wars are great for consumers, but to compete solely on price is a dangerous game to play for retailers, ultimately putting profit margins at risk and calling existing business models into question. The key to attracting consumers, beyond just a race to the bottom on price, is to offer them a personalised and human experience of your brand – whether they are in-store, online or on a mobile device.
Digital and mobile technologies can help to enhance consumers’ experience within the retailer’s physical store. Believe it or not, many retailers are still only offering online customers traditional delivery options, when they should be offering ‘Click & collect’ or ‘Deliver to store’ services. These allow consumers the convenience of ordering items online, but then attract them into your physical store where there is higher potential of making an additional sale. In fact, one of the biggest talking points in the retail industry this year is Amazon’s discussion of anticipatory shipping, which shows a clear message to the eCommerce industry that delivering goods to customers in a fast and convenient way will be a key factor in retail success in 2014.
This point has been further extended by Amazon’s other announcement that it plans to start shipping packages to customers on Sundays, a project it tested successfully back in December 2013. Continuing to add pressure on its eCommerce competitors, as well as those brick-and-mortar stores struggling to maintain footfall this year, to offer the same level of convenience and speed when it comes to delivery.
Another hot topic already in 2014 for many retail marketers is personalisation; a recent survey by the International Data Corporation revealed that 53 per cent of shoppers enjoy receiving tailored and relevant product alerts based on prior purchasing activity, thanks to the convenience that it offers them. As the trend for personalisation grows, there are of course concerns around what data should be analysed and what should be kept private. In addition, with the news of Amazon’s anticipatory shipping, this highlights that there is a battle going on between expediency and personalisation within the retail space.
Attracting customers to a store, whether it’s digital or physical, remains the biggest goal for retailers this year and there is no better tactic than making your customers feel special and understood. After the Easter spending spree some shoppers may be slightly more restrained in the coming months and keep an eye on their bank balance ahead of the summer. However, with good weather comes a great opportunity for retailers to attract customers with a personal experience that competes on more than just the cost of a product.