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‘Looking Past The Discount’: Can This Peak Shopping Season Be The Start Of The Retail Resurgence?

Malaysia’s retail industry is suffering its worst decline in 33 years.

Photo by Mad Skillz on Pexels

The challenges caused to businesses in 2020 means most are looking for sales season to be huge.  Outbrain’s Helena Gamvros, explores the best performance strategies to make the most out of the fast-approaching peak retail season. 

This quarter is gearing up to be the best of 2020. We’ve had so much going on that has directly affected our economy that this upcoming sales season is a chance for many to start to rebuild. Malaysia’s retail industry is suffering its worst decline in 33 years. According to Trading Economics, retail trade has declined 1.5% year-on-year in August 2020, following a 3.8% drop in the previous month. While it’s the sixth consecutive month with decline, the losses from the pandemic shock are slowing as customers adapt.

And if Malaysia follows the pattern of China this year we can expect to see some green shoots soon. 

One thing is for certain, we can safely say that Covid-19 will not break the holiday spirit, According to a consumer insight survey undertaken by Radical 66% of shoppers are expected to increase online spending in this flash sale season with days like Singles Day, Cyber Monday and Black Friday on the horizon. 

The Malaysian consumer has proved now more than ever, there needs to be a solid focus on your online experience. According to GlobalData’s ecommerce Analytics, Malaysia’s e-commerce market is estimated to register 24.7% growth in 2020. 

We’re likely to continue to see restrictions on movement due to Covid until at least the end of the year, so getting that ecommerce piece right is more crucial than ever before. 

Consumers are now changing where they shop, why they shop, and how they shop. These enforced changes will create new habits. So for many retailers there needs to be key changes in strategies to help target this new wave of customer. 

A strategic approach

For retailers, there’s a now or never moment coming. There are more affordable ecommerce solutions available to even small businesses, and because of this your customer base is now anyone with an internet connection, not just people visiting your stores.

So, how do you connect with them?

There are three main points you need to consider:

  1. Cut through the noise;
  2. Start even earlier;
  3. Target, optimise, target. 

To get customers you’re going to need to invest in your marketing. We’re among the slowest for advertising growth globally, with many of those 62% (according to the 2020 Magna Advertising Forecast) of small and medium sized businesses operating in the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors slashing spend during the pandemic. 

Consumers are exposed to a lot of advertising every day. To cut through the noise you must make sure your creative and content strategy hits the right people and stands out from the crowd. 

We’ve always known there is a lot of over-saturation, but now we’re balancing that with nativagting all these new buyers and sellers shifting to online. Now more than ever is a time when you need to make a meaningful connection with your customer and not just become part of the noise. 

This can be done in a multitude of ways, yet my advice is to focus on what makes your offline experience special and mimic that online. Customers find comfort in meaningful connections which needs to be done by looking past the discount, so to speak. 

By thinking beyond one-time purchases or visitors you can drive repeat engagement by utilising incentives, providing closed-door content and making consumer trust one of your main goals. 

Another way to cut through the noise is through the proper use of headlines and copy, to capture attention through images and branding. My favourite mantra is fail to plan and plan to fail, which is why this sales season starting even earlier will be key in driving sales. Especially as 30% of Covid-era consumers plan to utilise Cyber Weekend as their main holiday shopping time. 

There is so much to do, and so little time. 

A great place to start is building your audience pools. This will take time, but is one of the most important aspects as segmentation is everything when it comes to more cost per acquisition (CPA) driven targeting and retargeting, personalising ad experiences and efficient optimisations. 

From soft conversions to hard conversions, all the way to generating ‘Lookalikes’ off your first party data, you need to look at the pools that are the most important to you going into that shopping season. Soft conversations can include new website visitors or email engagements, while the trickier conversion pools can include add to cart purchases and repeat purchases. 

However, don’t discard looking back at pools that didn’t convert last holiday, or even pools for October that didn’t convert to sales – they’re all valuable and have a long lifespan. My suggestion is to use pay day sales or Singles Day as dress rehearsals to really get your strategy right. 

That brings me to the last strategic point to really increase your effect this holiday season: target, optimise and target. This includes breaking out campaigns by platform, thinking outside your vertical, target for conversion and expanding regionally. As more shoppers shift to mobile you need to make sure you’re creating experiences for the intimacy of the small screen, especially in the discovery phase. But keep in mind, desktop and tablet still win out for overall e-commerce conversion rates.

Covid-19 has seen a lot of categories climb in popularity as consumer habits shift, notably health, fitness and home goods. Yet these categories can be used to the advantage of all, which is why retailers also need to think outside their vertical. Your consumers are interested in many different topics, so you can miss potential customers because you’re not showing a wider group you have what it is they’re looking for. 

The takeaway here is give yourself some room to explore. 

There may be opportunities in things you haven’t considered, this is how you can lead more new customers you may not have usually connected with through your funnel. These strategy suggestions can help give you the lead you need to make the most out of the peak sales season. But they’re also not just for the golden quarter, by cutting through the noise, planning and strategising, you can adapt your offering to maximum efficiency year round.

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