Nothing beats the holiday shopping season to boost moribund sales, push annual revenues into the black, and end the year on a high note.
In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales can account for as much as 30 percent of a business’s annual revenue, with the average hovering around 20 percent. But what comes next once consumer fervor dies down?
For many brands, the early months of the year are a little grim as they come down from the highs of November and December consumer activity and settle into a post-holiday sales hangover. Although there’s no way to replicate the success of the holiday shopping season, companies can carry that momentum into the new year and maintain healthy sales – with the right preparation, that is.
Start the year out right
Revenue downturns are extremely common at the beginning of the year, affecting various consumer brands from toy manufacturers to electronics companies. If sales from the holidays are not as high as expected, that drop-off can be devastating.
No one wants to start the year off on the wrong foot, but it happens to even the most visible brands. After a slower than expected 2016 holiday season, toy manufacturer Mattel’s revenue fell below Wall Street predictions by $130 million, according to Fortune.
That sales slump carried over into the first quarter of 2017, with sales slipping across various product lines. Mattel leaders took this moment to reconsider how they approached customer awareness and determine exactly why certain products and SKUs succeeded in some markets but not others.
This isn’t meant to serve as a cautionary tale but as an example of what brands need to do to make course corrections and begin the year in a strong market position. You can’t rest on your laurels, regardless of how high sales were during the holidays. A new year means shifting gears to match consumer demands and looking for every opportunity to build up your brand.
Play to the season’s strengths
January and February are not quite the dead shopping months they’re made out to be. Plenty of brands enjoy robust sales all winter long. The trick is to tap into the consumer mindset at this point in the year, and market to it. For instance, many people make New Year’s resolutions to get in shape and lose weight. To capitalize on this annual trend, shoe manufacturers and apparel companies can focus their store displays around athletic gear like running shoes and workout clothing to entice shoppers.
Other industries can follow suit, too. Consumer packaged goods companies can create displays around some of their more health-conscious brands and product lines or even give more shelf space over to those SKUs that will appeal to consumers with active lifestyles.
Alternatively, in many parts of the country, this is the time of year when people spend the vast majority of their time indoors and need plenty of diversions. Give them alternatives to Netflix binges by refocusing efforts around products that are geared for indoor use.
Data from a 2016 eBay Advertisement report brought other consumer trends to light, including an increased likelihood that shoppers will splurge on purchases for themselves at the beginning of the year. Considering how much people spend on gifts for their friends and family during the holidays, it makes sense that they would turn around and treat themselves during the following months.
According to eBay’s data, consumers are also more likely to buy practical, large-ticket items like refrigerators and washing machines over the winter. This may, in part, be because people hold off on making such purchases when budgeting for holiday presents.
There’s certainly a lot of opportunity here to capitalize on consumer trends and changes in shopping mindsets to increase sales.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Not all holiday shoppers are buying gifts for others. They may simply be looking to take advantage of the best deals of the year. Look at the ongoing popularity of major sales days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Are consumers more active on those days solely because it’s the best time to get their loved ones exactly what they’re looking for, or are the bargains simply too good to pass up?
According to Kissmetrics, companies can maintain their sales momentum into the new year by continuing to offer enticing promotions and discounts, even pushing winter clearance sales to move unsold holiday inventory.
Sales and promotions are winning strategies regardless of what time of year it is, but those offers need to be prominently featured in store displays to grab the attention of in-store shoppers.
Get eyes on the ground
Dynamically responding to winter sales trends requires a well-run field team to document store display and shelf conditions in real time. If point-of-purchase retail merchandising displays fail to promote the most recent product offering or sale, brands miss a massive opportunity to drive customer awareness.
Maintaining optimal in-store operations is no easy feat when frontline employees are tethered to slow, manual processes. Recording information by hand or through a spreadsheet is tedious work and prevents field staff from auditing more stores in a given day. Furthermore, it’s common for frontline workers to set aside one day every week to compile reports and submit them to the main office. Not only is this another drain on their time, but that information could be outdated by the time it reaches administrators.
If brands want to stay agile and quickly adapt to emerging shopping trends, they need an efficient, real-time execution management solution. Some of the most important features to look for in such a software platform include:
- Compatibility with all major mobile devices, so field teams quickly move from store to store and document store conditions.
- Real-time update capabilities that empower frontline employees to alert administrators when merchandising display execution standards are not met.
- Analytics and visualization tools to help brands glean impactful insights from their field data.
- Image-capturing tools to accurately showcase store shelves, displays, and marketing materials in real time.
As great as the holiday shopping season is for business, there’s no reason to let your momentum slow down going into the new year. Let your in-store merchandising efforts support your broader marketing and customer engagement goals, and you’ll prolong those warm, fuzzy feelings throughout the winter.