The retail calendar is dead.
Historically, the retail calendar was a well-known, trusted, and predictable framework for the strategies, budgets, and plans that would drive growth throughout the year. It has served brands well in the transition from offline to online over the past decade. As every element of retail changes, it seems as though most brands clung to the traditional retail promotion schedule. However, as consumer purchase behavior shifted from in-store to online, other retail trends and standards shifted as well, creating a domino effect of change and ultimately uprooting even the most foundational retail strategies—including the sales calendar.
1. More options mean a new playing field.
The rise of online stores paved the way for smaller and niche brands to access a larger audience and compete with big box brands, further increasing the number of choices available to consumers. While more optionality may initially be seen as a challenge, this trend has allowed consumers to select the brands they want to interact with, which means that big-name stores are no longer the gatekeepers to the latest and greatest products or services. This shift creates an entirely different playing field and triggers the need for ongoing creativity and innovation from brands and technology partners.
2. Promotions are easier than ever.
If there is one thing brands are concerned about, it’s the idea of discounts. No brand wants to lose brand equity or value. Yet the increase in competition and the social trends driving consumers to shop small have highlighted the need to incentivize spend.
Looking beyond traditional coupons, technology platforms led to the rise of promotional codes, referral programs, and flash sales. The increase in available promotions showed consumers they were not at the mercy of holiday sales.
Online brands can work directly with their website or sales platforms such as Shopify, Woo Commerce, Squarespace, and others, in order to develop and promote unique sales events but there are also opportunities beyond native offerings such as referral partners and third-party platforms like Prizeout.
3. Brands can be heard without needing to shout.
One of the driving reasons for steep discounts during the holiday season has been that brands needed to stand out from the crowd and capture consumers’ attention. Now, the ability to target an audience engaged and connect with them at the right time can be maximized. The same technology platforms that help execute promotions help brands and service providers capture data to develop meaningful communication and promotion cadence for their target market. Now, retailers can stop trying to be the loudest and instead strategize smarter. For example, here at Prizeout, we saw one of our merchant partners utilize the data available to them and launch a promotion in February which saw results on par with their holiday performance, further highlighting the idea that smart strategy leads to success.
All of this isn’t meant to say that the holiday shopping and promotion season is done for and should be written off. In fact, smart brands would be best served by making the most of the year-round opportunity to gather data, identify core times throughout their audience’s buying cycle, and test promotions during the year when other brands aren’t fiercely fighting for a consumer’s attention. Brands can then take those learnings and implement the best-performing strategies when consumers are primed to spend during the holidays and ultimately create their own brand-specific promotions calendar.