It is summertime and the long-awaited holidays are around the corner. The new season hits the thermometers and shakes not only consumers’ bodies but also brands’ foundations. Every year the sales actions start earlier in order to catch unaware shoppers. However, that’s not enough for current demanding customers. A flexible but lasting price strategy, a clear positioning online and offline as well as the optimization of key processes such as accessibility, delivery and returns make the difference among the fierce competition during the hottest and most festive time of sales of the year.
As usual around this time, the Association of German Textile retailers – in short BTE – is warning of the consequences of starting sales too early. The truth is shoppers are exposed unnecessarily to a great amount of sale tags since May. When summer started last week and everyone has two months ahead in which the beach parties and the swimming pool plans will multiply by 10. Then and not before it’s when the prices should be competitive and lower because it is when so or so shoppers see the opportunity to renew their wardrobe or to pick an absolute bargain up.
» The experiences of well-run companies show that far too early price reductions affect valuable gross profits negatively and have no effect on season sales in most cases,“ the association warns. «
Dilemma! – Online or cross-channel?
A viral influencer campaign or an innovative flagship-store are just two examples of the latest strategies carried out to take the lead in fashion, a very competitive and intense market, where players must squeeze their minds to compete. According to the study made by IFH Köln, KPMG, und BTE the online-share within the fashion sector will increase from 21% to 36% until 2025, naming brick and mortar stores the sufferer of this development.
Here comes the dilemma: Traditional players such as Inditex or H&M presently are diving deeper into the e-commerce channel as a cheaper way of boosting sales growth. However, in the particular case of the Spanish giant, far from putting aside their stationary shops, they are promoting a cross-channel concept in which they integrate their stores and online activities to better meet customers’ demands by rolling out several initiatives like allowing customers to pick up or return online purchases at its stores, installing smart fitting rooms and implementing self-service check-outs.
As Aristoteles once said: “Virtue is the happy medium between two extremes”, what means that the combination of both is the winning bet. This is exactly what the latest ECC-Brandsmonitor reflects. All the fashion brands in the German top 10 deliver a smooth customer experience by featuring product videos or a “Shop the look”-function, together with the optimization of cross-channel services such as online availability checks or the possibility to book an appointment.
But whatever the case, all the best practices named can definitely help to deliver a faster and more effective customer service during the sales period when stores are especially overcrowded. However, a proper cross-channel strategy requires a clear technical and business process integration in order to reduce potential confusion for everyone.
Finally, in order to keep customers happy during summer sales sellers must avoid overstressing their customers’ patience. Therefore, retailers should adjust and simplify delivery and returns processes with the idea of not being a PITA for that customer that, for example, it is relaxing with his tablet on a hammock by the pool waiting for the fabulous package. Reducing resources allocated for unprofitable customers as well as the promotion of active participation in reviews under the premise of incentives may help to increase customer satisfaction.
Customers are the kings of the party. They are the gatekeepers, deciding who is coming in and who’s not. In order to get the ticket, their trust should be conquered. Don’t look for trouble, look for solutions instead and make their journey easier. Fashion doesn’t reward the better, but the smarter. In line of the recent studies mentioned, playing your cards on a cross-channel scenario and putting together all the pieces looks like a promising move. However, there is no unanimity to this respect. What is your play?