The seasonal nature of shopping always presents a multitude of problem for retailers. The back-to-school season, not to mention the fall and winter holidays, are still months away but for businesses planning what to stock, how to display it and how to get shoppers engaged it’s just around the corner. People are looking for ways to save money, but it is important to remember that people see seasonal shopping as more than simply buying goods. Like all shopping, it is wrapped up in cultural and behavioral practices that represent a host of emotions and beliefs. If money and savings were the only issue, people would buy exclusively from warehouses or they would buy online. Part of your value lies in the cost of your products, but much of your perceived value lies in the intangible. And since seasonal shopping is usually more hectic, both at the store and in our daily lives, success means rising above the fray of your competitors shouting about how inexpensive their items are. Following suit will only add to the noise shoppers are struggling with and do nothing to differentiate your brand.
- Be bold: When times are tough the natural inclination is to play it safe, but this is a mistake. Take advantage of the fact that many of your competitors will be avoiding spending on advertising and marketing, or taking a “safe” approach in what they do. Don’t focus exclusively on value and savings, but remind people that holidays and seasonal practices are symbolically charged and need to remain so. People need to be reminded that it is OK to enjoy the season. The point is that people need to feel a sense of catharsis and release, not mediocrity.
- An image is word a hundred words: Don’t overwhelm people with too much text in your print ads, focusing on imagery that celebrates notions of kinship, home and well being. Even if the copy in your marketing campaign is focused on value and savings, remember that text needs compelling images. The images should use rich, warm colors rather than vibrant colors. This suggests comfort and stability, associating your brand with a sense of tranquility. Include images that reflect hints of nostalgic and the home, such as meals, gatherings of friends and pets.
- Indulge a little: Little luxuries are important when people are worried about the economy. You are selling an experience, not just products. Let people know going to the store is about more than the transaction. Remember, getting them in the store is half the battle. It’s OK to push big-ticket items, but pushing little luxuries will be more likely to get people in the door than telling them large-ticket items are on sale. Once people enter a space they trust and enjoy, they are significantly more likely to move from small indulgences to big-ticket items.
- Family values: Holidays and seasonal events (like going back to school) are a teaching moment in any economic climate, but even more so when times are tough. Take advantage of this and be a partner to parents. This establishes brand loyalty, increases the desire to buy from your store and turns you into something more profound and more intimate than a merchant. Stress your in-store events and partner with the stores around you that sell comfort items like hot chocolate, coffee and food. The point is to remind shoppers that your store is made up of people just like them, with the same concerns and same values.
- More than the money: Remind potential shoppers that gift buying isn’t just saving money, it’s about feeling good in an environment even if you don’t spend a lot. Everyone is talking about savings and stressing that means seeing your message lost in all the noise. Stress why savings matter and provide incentives that go beyond issues of money. After all, it’s better that they spend $20 than nothing at all. Offer more than free gift wrapping, offer people food, warm drinks, and a sense that your business is a place where the meaning of value goes beyond the pocketbook. In other words, messaging should welcome people into your “home.”
- Traditions: People look to tradition and romanticize the past when times are hard, so use language and images that are tied to celebrating the past. These symbols represent “simpler times” and provide symbolic associations with peace, stability and tranquility. The last thing people want is to be reminded of the current state of affairs and an unsure future. Be willing to use the actual names of the holidays you are promoting (not just the generic term “the holidays”) and imagery that speaks to maintaining tradition.