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Managing the impact of seasonal fluctuations in retail

More Australian businesses are leveraging a personalised marketing approach to drive sales and manage shopper fluctuations

Consumers have changed more than just their transactional approaches to shopping. They’ve changed everything—from the way they shop, to the way they consume content. With the ability to gather information and explore global shopping alternatives at their fingertips, they are in control of their shopping journeys; and this has forced retailers to rethink the traditional seasonal retail calendar.

For generations, retailers have relied on huge windfalls from traditional retail seasons. Their businesses were built upon key seasonal periods of performance—Christmas, EOFY et cetera—seasons when the bulk of expected sales and profits were guaranteed. Today, while traditional seasons still provide noticeable peaks in shopper traffic and sales volumes, they no longer carry retailers through the rest of the year.

Why? Because Australian shoppers are doing things differently. According to Australia Post’s 2018 eCommerce Industry Paper, sales events have quickly become entrenched in the Australian online shopping landscape. Many of these events originated from overseas, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which grew by 27% in 2017. Boxing Day sales also grew by 35% and Click Frenzy sales were up 14% year-on-year.

The increasing popularity of such events has had a marked effect on seasonal growth. Shoppers now choose to wait for a bargain (online and in store), while retailers are having to manage fluctuating inventory levels and margin erosion. Aside from the traditional sales cycles, the other peaks are usually seen in May and November.

In addition to sales events, retailers are facing several competitive challenges, including the ease and convenience of mobile shopping, and Amazon’s enormous operational infrastructure providing not only the convenience of shopping, but low-cost products and timely delivery.

Changing retail’s dependence on its out-of-date seasonal calendar includes changing its entire ecosystem. From sourcing to inventory management, merchandising to advertising, retailers must break away from legacy infrastructures and systems to compete for consumers’ year-round attention and a share of their spend.

Retailers must develop long-term, personalised, shopper-centric strategies to include all customer touchpoints. Many Australian retailers are yet to deploy simple personalisation tactics, such as offering a customer a discount or voucher on their birthday, that drive customer loyalty.

Consumers expect some level of personalisation from brands with whom they interact on a regular basis, or even an infrequent basis. There is something to be said for retailers making every customer feel as though they are the most important consumer to interact with the brand. Consumers are more likely to do business with a brand if it offers a personalised experience.

Delivering personalisation to individuals at scale requires a combination of the right data and the right technology. To generate the greatest long-term benefit and keep consumers coming back for more, retailers must focus on these three areas: reaching the right consumers across their devices, building individualised and anonymised profiles that are enriched with each brand interaction over time, and making data-informed decisions about the best message to deliver.

With this approach, retailers can tailor their interaction and connect with their consumers in an ideal way to drive sales and manage shopper fluctuations.

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