Three Ways to Drive Sales During the Retail Off-Season

How do you keep your retail business profitable during off-season? JB Brokaw, our President for North America, answers.

Just like fashion trends, retail sales ebb and flow throughout the year— with euphoric periods of high sales, as well as phases of stagnation and revenue decline. These lulls often force retailers to offer steep discounts and special offers, most often at their own expense.

So what can be done to overcome these painfully low periods, without hurting your margins?

These three tips can help keep your revenue in the green — all year long.

1. Employ always-on prospecting campaigns 

Fluctuations in website traffic due to seasonality can affect sales, but it can also lead to inconsistent performance early on in your retargeting campaigns.

Take FashionValet, a growing e-commerce retailer in Malaysia, for example. FashionValet had sporadic seasonal web traffic and sales, with some spikes around new product launches but otherwise a consistently low volume of sales. In order to reach new individuals at a steady pace, FashionValet initiated a prospecting campaign based on look-alike modeling in order to find new potential customers whose behaviors closely resembled those of existing customers. Critically, this campaign targeted new customers, rather than people who had already converted on the FashionValet website.

By adding this prospecting campaign during its low period, FashionValet was able to draw in more first-time, qualified users to its site. New visitors stayed on the website longer and browsed more pages on average. This healthy flow of new users led to a 41 percent sales increase and a 20 percent CPO drop, which increased the company’s revenue and maintained stable website traffic throughout the slower periods.

2. Use CRM data to re-engage existing customers

You collect valuable first-party CRM data from your customers, but are you really using it to its full advantage? A study by Econsultancy, “The Role of CRM in Data-driven Marketing,” found that only 30 percent of marketers surveyed felt that the data they have available enables them to deliver personalized advertising to their customers. CRM data is key to recognizing your customers across devices, learning more about their purchase behaviors, reaching them in the right place with the right message, and ultimately bringing them back to buy — regardless of the season.

Let’s take a closer look at the types of customer insights you can mine with CRM data. By analyzing your customers’ shopping behaviors, you can learn which individuals are more likely to buy new arrivals or participate in sales and promotions, and then target them with personalized ads related to their previous purchase history. You can also look at customer basket sizes to assess the average basket value of shoppers over time (remember to take product returns into account!), which will enable you to identify your high-value customers and invest more in nurturing those relationships.

And let’s not forget up-selling and cross-selling — real-time advertising technologies like programmatic display make it possible to match your customers’ on-site behaviors or previous purchases with complementary product ads that surprise and delight.

Most importantly, be sure you are using your CRM data to build intelligent segments for better engagement across channels like email, direct mail and programmatic display. For example, you can target customers who have purchased during a certain shopping holiday with promotions for the next one. With programmatic, it’s also possible to segment customers based on the CPO you are looking to spend depending on each segment’s potential lifetime value, as the cost to reach existing customers that purchase frequently will vary from the cost to reach first-time buyers or individuals who have just not purchased in a while.

3. Build supplier relationships — and sales — with co-marketing

The low sales season is also an opportune time to join marketing forces with your suppliers through co-marketing campaigns.

Say that you’re a marketer at Macy’s, which sells products from brands like Nike. With a co-marketing campaign with Nike, you can leverage trade marketing budget set aside by the brand to promote Nike’s sales in your store. Using programmatic technologies, these ads could be either static — perhaps a classic co-branded banner — or dynamic, to showcase Nike’s best-sellers on your site, or products similar to what a particular user has viewed on your website. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two.

For instance, If your customer has been shopping for running clothes, then a co-marketing banner might display a static promotional banner showing “30% off this week only!” alongside a dynamic product banner that showcases all of Nike’s latest running gear in complementary colors to those she had previously searched for.

You could also reverse the equation and target brand-website visitors with co-marketing ads for the retailer’s website. In this latter example, the supplier gets more brand awareness and increases sales with the given retailer, while the retailer has the chance to broaden its reach and online traffic through its trade marketing budget.

Data is key to boosting sales in the low seasons

Off-season doesn’t have to mean a drop in sales if marketers have the foresight to plan ahead. Whether it’s ramping up prospecting campaigns, efficiently using CRM data, or running co-marketing campaigns with your suppliers, you can work with your advertising partners to find the best solutions that provide a steady revenue stream all year round.