Sales and promotions are two of the most tried and true retail strategies. Even before COVID-19 caused seismic shifts across the industry, just 60 per cent of fashion products were sold at full price. Discounting practices, however, have accelerated significantly during the pandemic as retailers cut prices to make up for lost in-store sales, substantially impacting eCommerce margins and creating a promotional habit that is hard to break.
While discounts can work in the short-term, they can become a slippery slope. Consumers tend to remember what they historically paid for a product, and are often not willing to pay more in the future, especially during an economic downturn. Instead, they may hold off on a purchase altogether, wait for the “next” discount or, worse, potentially shop with an alternative retailer. Trade declines as a result and retailers once again resort to promotions or discounting to lure shoppers back in.
While determining pricing policies and discount strategies may not sit squarely in the remit of marketers, there are a number of marketing initiatives that can help mitigate the challenge. Becki Francis, Associate Director of Strategy (Retail) at Movable Ink, gives five strategies digital marketers can leverage to drive increased value for customers without relying solely on discounts.
1. Find more meaningful ways to drive loyalty
Brand affinity is becoming more important than ever before. Consumers are far more likely to buy a product if they have a connection to the brand. They also want to use their purchasing power to reward brands that demonstrate empathy and understanding. In fact, more than 70 per cent of shoppers say that a company’s values play an important role in purchase decisions.
Identify what value your brand provides for the customer. Consider using loyalty points, free samples with purchase, or access to exclusive content to encourage customers to complete the identified next best action—whether that is making a purchase or completing another high-value action like downloading the app. As brand loyalty increasingly becomes predicated on a brand’s values, try highlighting societal or environmental initiatives in your marketing communications where applicable. For example, localise content to highlight community initiatives your brand has contributed towards, or highlight the number of items recycled from resale projects or carbon savings from e-vehicle deliveries.
2. Bring the in-store personal touch to your digital channels
While in-store shopping is still fairly limited due to COVID-19 precautions, retailers should not underestimate the power of a personalised digital shopping experience to drive brand loyalty. Bridge the gap between the personal approach of an in-store associate and the comfort of digital channels by offering online consultations, live chat functionality or personal shopping appointments. Leverage real-time data to bring live appointment availability into customer communications, and add handy add-to-calendar reminders. Not only will this add a personal touch, but with real-time data, you’ll ensure that customers never see information or availability that is out of date.
3. Lean on alternative high-value perks, like free delivery
Free delivery is increasingly becoming more of a conversion driver. In fact, a recent survey found that nearly half of customers ranked free delivery as the leading digital purchase driver, beating out promotions (39 per cent). When applicable, be sure to highlight your free delivery option and the value proposition. For example, if a browsed, carted, or recommended item qualifies for free delivery (ie, it exceeds the delivery threshold), be sure to advertise the benefit when re-targeting the product. If the customer’s basket value is below the threshold, consider dynamically showing the remaining spend required to qualify for free delivery.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of convenience
Although cost and value are certainly factors in a customer’s buying decision, 66 per cent of shoppers say that they’re willing to pay more for a great experience. By making the shopping experience as convenient as possible, you’ll encourage more customers to convert. Some tactics to engender a seamless, best-in-class experience include flagging recently abandoned or browsed products outside of the expected trigger message, layering on helpful, high-value communications regarding delivery information, inventory levels or rewards accrued if the purchase is completed, and reminding customers to rebuy replenishable items in a timely fashion with dynamic and personalised reorder CTAs.
5. Keep personalisation top of mind
Promotions and sales are an inevitable part of the retail game, and are valuable sales drivers for retailers, especially around key seasonal events like Black Friday. This begs the question: how can retailers trade effectively through those seasonal events without falling back into regular discounting habits? In these instances, preserve brand integrity and product value by personalising discounts, making the incentives appear more relevant. Consider positioning the discount as a time-bound, private event, or adding a flair of exclusivity by only including the promotion details or code within an email. To add another layer of personalisation, tailor promotional messages to customer behaviour by highlighting recently browsed categories or favourited brands that are included in the promotion.
Tough trading conditions certainly have an impact on marketing teams, but those conditions also offer the opportunity to highlight your brand’s value and drive increased loyalty. While sales and promotions will likely continue to be a mainstay in the retail industry, these five strategies can help digital marketers break out of the vicious cycle and rely instead on brand affinity and personalised experiences to drive business metrics.