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Customizing Your Retail Calendar to Your Consumer

Is it me or is it pretty transparent and predictable when retail sales will hit the calendar?

As a consumer I’ve been trained to ‘hold out’ on making a purchase until I know I can expect a sale. As a marketer, I’m disappointed when I see trite, overused attempts at making a “standard” sales event somehow interesting or fun.

Year in, year out – when it comes to electronics, “Back to School” and “Holiday” sales are status quo. Clothing companies follow each season’s attempt at moving merchandise off the shelves to make room for the next season’s new colors with 40% off. The automotive industry has to clear the lot with an end of year clearance and for some reason recognizes our founding fathers’ birthdays and encourages gifting cars during the holidays (side note: how many people really are getting cars as presents?!).

All the companies within the same industry are following the same standard – B-O-R-I-N-G.

Sure, sales may often need to revolve around distribution and seasonality, but there is definitely an opportunity to break from the pack within an industry and tie your product/services closely to consumers’ lives.

Here are a couple of strategies to consider when making your retail calendar more relevant to your customers:

Let consumers’ needs and top of mind interests drive the context for a retail sales event
Let me be clear – I’m definitely not saying ditch the Back to School sales event – your six year old most likely needs some notebooks and pencils for their first day back, BUT it could be interesting to add a layer on top of your marketing calendar that takes into account what is top of mind for your consumer and how your product/service might play into that need. Use market research online communities and monitor brand social media mentions to get context around what is most top of mind for your target, in terms of current events, what is going on in their life right now, what types of culture they most enjoy – basically anything. Leverage the knowledge you gain about who they really are to form the context for your campaign.

Plug consumer insights across your organization
Put an action plan in place that allows you to make quick decisions and be nimble enough to react to consumer needs and sentiments. You can learn lots and lots about your consumers, but if you can’t act on those learnings without getting paralyzed by approvals ten times over up the corporate hierarchy chain, you’ve probably already run out of time. Give customers a voice in each facet of your business, and ensure your company is nimble and quick-moving enough to react to new information quickly. With the pace our world is moving, there’s not enough time to plan for a six month TV spot shoot. What can you do swiftly and quickly to get word out and product into their hands when it really matters?

One really great example of this was the Hyundai Assurance campaign back in 2009, when the recession had hit it’s hardest and American car company’s sales were down by 50%. You can read about the campaign here. Hyundai looked beyond the typical marketing calendar for the next sales event, but really got to understand their consumer’s needs and fears during this financially worrisome time. The campaign restored confidence in consumers big ticket purchase by promising if they purchased a car and then lost their job, Hyundai would purchase their car back from them. Their success was astounding, leading to an increase of 14% YOY, when all other car brands had a decline in sales in 2009.

I’m curious to hear more examples. Are there other campaigns out there that you think follow this suit of really getting to the core of consumers needs when it comes to customizing retail events and being able to put them into action quickly?

Communispace’s market research online communities (MROCs) have helped some of the world’s most admired merchants get in touch with their customers. To read Shopper Marketing’s September feature on our work with GSK/Alli, Walmart, and others, click here [pages 14-16].

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