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Seasonal versus all-year: how to pack a punch in the discounts battle

By / / In Best practice /
All too soon, deals won in the discounts battle fought during major retail events such as Black Friday & Christmas fade into last year’s bottom line and marketers turn their thoughts to a new year and fresh battlegrounds! But Chris Baldwin has advice and strategies that will create value for retailers all year round.
discounts battle

From Dunkin’ Doughnuts to Mickey Mouse, we’ve a lot to thank our American friends for, with Black Friday the latest craze to sweep our shores. In recent years, leading retailers including Amazon, Argos and Currys PC World have used Black Friday to offer shoppers huge price reductions, and there’s no denying the flash sale has fast become a staple of the British retail calendar.

From emails whizzing into inboxes to adverts popping up on TV, shoppers were awash with deals in the run-up to this year’s Black Friday weekend. The number of shoppers purchasing their bargains in-store actually fell this year, with Black Friday footfall down 4.2% on 2016 figures. However, overall spending was up, according to figures published by research company Springboard.

High street stalwart John Lewis reported Black Friday 2017 as one of its most successful days, notching up its busiest ever single hour of online trading, while Argos said the number of online visitors hit 2 million in the four hours after launching its Black Friday deals. Figures from Springboard revealed that the volume of online transactions in the week before the event jumped by 11.3% as retailers chose to slash their prices early in an effort to carve out a slice of the pie.

Interestingly, despite all the hype, some retailers decided to avoid Black Friday altogether. Fashion chain Fat Face opted out of taking part, suggesting that sales in November were bad for UK retail, while Homebase, Marks & Spencer and Asda said they were committed to providing value for money all year round. But while opinion is polarised between those retailers who see value and those who don’t, the fact remains that a large percentage of consumers continue to show interest in promotions like these.

So how can brands make the most of these seasonal events? As with most things, the answer lies in the planning: retailers will need to take a considered, strategic approach to their seasonal promotions if they want to keep the tills ringing all year round.

Promotions speak louder in discounts battle

Whether it’s Black Friday, Halloween or Christmas, tying a promotional campaign to an event can be a great way for brands to drive sales and set themselves apart from the rest. However, to cut through the noise, retailers will need to plan and execute their promotions carefully. To begin with, brands need to have a solid idea of what they hope to achieve. Is it greater customer loyalty, a change in buying habits or simply an increase in sales?

discounts battleHow they communicate their promotions also needs to be tailored to their target audience. Sodexo’s ‘The Consumer Promotions: What Shoppers Think in 2017’ survey revealed that more and more people are engaging with brands online via social media. In 2017, 37% of people engaged with a brand promotion using Facebook, a rise of 10% on the previous year.

Lidl seemed to learn this lesson early on. Last year, the company made headlines for selling 40,000 lobsters in a single day after a savvy social media promotion saw the more people tweeted about the product, the more the price dropped. The clever Twitter campaign helped the store to sell more than 200,000 lobsters in total over the Christmas period.

Other promotions that can help to entice shoppers include:

  • Try me for free – these promotions work best at times of the year when consumers are cash-strapped and looking for something guilt-free.
  • Collector promotions – providing customers with a little extra is likely to bring them back. Extra loyalty points or offers can help build brand loyalty at a time when people are focused on value for money.
  • Gift with purchase – instant gratification can be a great way to give shoppers a little extra and encourage repeat purchases after the Black Friday frenzy has calmed.
  • Money-off coupon – value for money is still a top priority among shoppers. More than 50% of people told us that receiving money off their next purchase was the most attractive instant win promotion and encourages brand loyalty.
  • Prize promotions – one for the longer-term, brands can have a big impact by shouting loudly on product packaging. It’s disruptive, eye-catching and encourages people to repeat purchase.
  • A competition – in addition to promotions, a competition during any busy shopping period can offer the wow factor. A brand promotion offering a chance to escape the madness with a trip to a far-flung destination, for example, is a great way to stand out and feels a little more luxury, too.

Don’t forget the other 364 days of the year

While it’s easy to become swept up in the Black Friday hype, promotions should ultimately be about longevity, not a quick win. Short-term, seasonal activity might offer a quick boost, but it won’t drive ongoing valuable sales growth unless it’s part of a wider year-round strategy.

Brands expect events like Black Friday, Christmas and Easter to spark a rise in sales, but promotions at other times of the year can be equally, if not more, impactful. Businesses just need to evaluate what type of promotions work best for different seasons and products.

discounts battleFor example, January can be a great time to run a customer-focused campaign; the razzmatazz of Christmas has died down, so people may be more open to new ideas and messaging. Unsurprisingly, products with a healthy tag are normally a hit, as January often marks a ‘fresh start’ for many people. For shoppers who are strapped for cash after the holidays, campaigns that offer something for free or an experience can be popular.

The Body Shop carried its promotions through to March, bucking the usual Mother’s Day gift guides with its refreshing ‘Rock it like a Mother’ campaign, offering free makeovers to mums and encouraging people to share photos of women who had inspired them.

Promotions like these can help brands keep customers on board long after the Black Friday excitement has died down. Understanding the consumer mindset and tailoring promotions accordingly is ultimately what will make brands really pack a punch. Well thought out promotional campaigns that clearly resonate with their target audience will be the ones that inspire brand loyalty and drive growth – regardless of the time of year.

Have an opinion on this article? Please join in the discussion: the GMA is a community of data driven marketers and YOUR opinion counts.

Chris Baldwin
Author: Chris Baldwin
Sodexo Engage |

Chris Baldwin is director of Consumer Promotions and Loyalty at Sodexo Engage.

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