As we draw closer to the end of the year and the three headed monster known as the ‘retail period’ starts to appear on the horizon, I wonder how many brands are really ready? Have they made adjustments to their marketing plans to take advantage of this phenomenon or are they just flying under the radar and doing just enough to ensure they remain on the shopping list?
Over the years and after working on a number of different brands, this topic comes up more often than not. Action plans are either drawn up to take advantage of this time, or contingency plans are made so as not to feel the full force of the beast.
Brands have quickly caught on that purchase patterns change throughout the year and that brands have to stay fluid enough to make changes where necessary to meet certain retail nuances.
I have read a number of articles relating to what brands are doing to stay ahead of the curve and it seems that marketers are drawing from a broader pool of resources, other than their traditional ‘go-to’ people who operate as orchestrators. They are tapping into their respective talent pools both from within the organisation and outside of it.
Short term task teams are often put together at different times of the year to tackle specific projects when specific needs arise. The heavy retail period we are moving toward is just one of those times. Others include public holidays, various school terms, family occasions etc. Internationally some organisations have taken this one step further; instead of only setting up project teams occasionally they allocate dedicated marketing academics to create a single marketing language and approach for different times of the year. Internationally, Coca-Cola and Unilever do this very well.
Because of the amount of clutter that will happen over the heavy retail period, often marketers ask the question ‘how can we influence the consumer in their path to purchase?’ The short answer is that you can’t. You can make consumers aware of your product or service, give them all the content needed on why yours is the best across a number of platforms but ultimately the consumer makes the final decision.
In today’s market, shifting consumer attitudes and multiple connection points creates a chaotic reality. The traditional purchase model is dead. The singular orderly sequence that used to make up the stages of buying have been scrambled and therefore each person’s path is complex and unique. For consumers there are unlimited opportunities to get distracted throughout the shopping process. Some will get to the brink of making a purchase before regressing back to researching and browsing because it’s easy to do. Marketers need to be ready for any eventuality.
Because of the above points, marketers have become acutely aware that although they can expose and promote their brand/product on a number of engagement points, consumers are ultimately the ones to speak about a brand and become brand advocates. Word of Mouth (WOM) is once again becoming the preferred buzz word amongst marketers and now so more than ever, brands are gearing up to take advantage of it and creating platforms for people to speak about their brands, have open dialogue, and ultimately become advocates for the brand.
Research stresses that people are more likely to make use of a brand or product if they get personal referrals from friends, family or colleagues. It’s all a trust issue. WOM also has a dark side though, by providing consumers with platforms to discuss and recommend a brand it also gives them an opportunity to vent, sometimes with justification, sometimes without. The entire retail process has to be managed carefully so as not to damage the hard work that has already been put in place. It’s a fine balancing act, but the bottom line is that consumers need to be engaged and marketers need to provide a quality product or service.
Happy retail period people; love your shopping!
Jedd Cokayne is group head of Famous Brands at The MediaShop