Sunday, January 22, 2023
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Interview with Deb Gabor from Sol Marketing

Team eCommerce Next interviewed Deb Gabor from Sol Marketing to get more insights on Branding and marketing. Following is our interview with her:

Since Black Friday and Holiday are a time of year when people actually DO go to the brick-and-mortar store, what can retailers and brands do to use this crucial time of year to bond emotionally with customers?

Holiday shopping is a crucial time to reinforce brand relationships with people who are physically in stores to attempt to get them back to the stores at other times of the year. Brick-and-mortar retail offers opportunities for retailers to create meaningful experiences that drive emotional connections and make them indispensable to their customers. Some things that retailers do to make themselves irreplaceable at this time of year include adding gift-wrapping services, offering exclusive products not available at other times of the year, and gifting “bundles” that put together special sizes and formats of products otherwise unavailable. Savvy retailers often offer bonuses to their best and most loyal customers such as free alterations, extended return durations, multi-point shopping days (when they have a loyalty program), and even special in-store shopping hours to beat the crowds.

What impact do holiday sales and promotions have on brands?

The holiday period is often a time when retailers make their whole year, so many retailers and brands themselves put an outsized focus on sales and promotions at this time of year. Customers are trainable — they can be trained to expect promotions and sales at this time of year and often will delay certain purchases until they know what they’re looking for is going to be on sale. When customers become accustomed to only purchasing a brand on sale, that devalues the brand at other times of the year. The positive side of promotions and sales is that it gets customers talking and thinking about brands when perhaps they were out of sight and out of mind before. This year, we saw retailers starting their pre-Black Friday sales as early as October. Many retailers are rushing to empty out over-purchased inventory, hoarded during last year’s supply chain challenges. What’s on sale right now is less a reflection of what consumers desire and more about what retailers want to get rid of from inventory.

Early data coming in from pre- and post-Thanksgiving sales indicate that people are still shopping and the price cuts seem deeper than they’ve ever been, especially in the clothing category, which is one of the things retailers have too much of right now. Also, we’re seeing that people with higher incomes are still continuing to purchase higher priced and luxury brands, while people with lower household income are pulling tighter on the purse strings, and purchasing lower cost or store brands.

How can brands navigate this challenging time and ensure they don’t damage their brand, but rather leverage this time to stimulate growth?

Brands need to put the holiday period into the context of how they want to build their brand over the long-term. Brands and retailers should focus on developing Irrational Loyalty over the entire course of their relationship with their customers. While holiday shopping may be a good time to introduce new customers to brands, retailers need to assess and act on opportunities to add value to their customers’ lives while customers USE the brands. We recently launched some research which indicates that Irrational Loyalty doesn’t originate from “awareness” of a brand; it comes from being indispensable to people who use the brand over time. Savvy brand leaders will extend the goodwill they’ve created with customers throughout the year by reminding customers how much their brands value them  by encouraging them to use the brand and sharing helpful information that optimizes their use of the brand once the holidays are over.

Which retailers have announced or are planning interesting promotions/experiences that will help them build their brands?

I haven’t seen many interesting promotions this year. Brands are relying on discounts to help them capture attention and eliminate the glut of inventory they secured during last year’s supply chain woes.

What I have seen is that Free Shipping deals among online retailers are winning shoppers’ hearts and wallets, which eliminates one of the major barriers to online shopping. Sustainability is a trend that’s attracting consumers, especially younger ones. Recent research from Simon-Kucher (chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.simon-kucher.com/sites/default/files/studies/Simon-Kucher_Global_Sustainability_Study_2021.pdf) indicates that consumers are willing to spend substantially more on brands they perceive as “sustainable.” Smart retailers are bringing sustainability to the forefront of their merchandising strategies this season. Finally, the “buy-now-pay-later” type promotion is gaining traction among online brands, contributing to 2022’s record online Black Friday sales. While I haven’t seen “interesting” promotions, my own post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping in NYC was marked by thinner-than-usual crowds and huge unadvertised discounts, especially among clothing brands like Victoria’s Secret, which was discounts of 40-50%. Consumer electronics retailers like Best Buy and Amazon offered deep discounts. And brands like Walmart have leaned far into online advertising and social media promotions.

What is the future of Black Friday? How has the meaning changed? What can we expect for the future of holiday retail?

The main thing that’s changed about Black Friday is that there’s no real “Black Friday” that’s a single day. Since brands and retailers have been starting Black Friday months before the actual day, there’s no sense of urgency. It’s no longer a shopping “event” as it used to be. It’s not a social or cultural phenomenon or a family activity. Instead of looking at Black Friday as a moment in time, analysts will have to start looking at an entire shopping “season” that spans from September to the end of the year. It’s like a rose that’s lost its scent. While Black Friday set a record for online sales, I think we’ll see that trend increase through Cyber Monday and straight into the holiday season.

Fake brand holidays – do they work?

Fake brand holidays are nothing more than opportunities to discount things. They work for selling items, but for extending Irrational Loyalty over the long-term, perhaps not so much.

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