The quarter spanning October to December is crunch time for retailers, both online and offline.

The pressure is on for teams to meet their yearly sales targets, and the promise of a ‘golden quarter’ puts on the pressure to move massive volumes of seasonal stock. With retailers starting Black Friday sales early, there are signs that some consumers are getting tired of the price wars. With so many events and sales competing for attention, do retailers risk giving consumers sales fatigue?

Some retailers could be making a fatal mistake. By relying more and more on discounting, they are eroding their own brand value and point of difference, ignoring their best assets of content and customer engagement. When a sale becomes a price war rather than a special event, customers could be easily persuaded to try a competitor’s offer instead. As consumer spending has been squeezed over the last decade, we have learnt to prioritise price over all else. According to Deloitte’s Consumer Tracker for Q3 of this year, consumer confidence and spending are generally up, but retailers can still expect a rocky road through to the end of 2018.

Seasonal sales are a fact of modern retailing. Nothing could be worse for retailers than a lack of participation, except a lack of performance. Standing out during this key period is paramount and yet the crowded marketplace is making it even harder for retailers to be heard. This is why engaging customers ahead of time is so vital to success during the golden quarter.

Content can play a role in the process, adding a winning combination of search-optimised copy and impactful visual content to both streamline and enrich the customer’s journey. The essential point is to offer customers relevant and personalised offers which connect with what they are already thinking ahead of the sales. If a customer has a game plan of what to buy, retailers need a strategy of what to sell and when. In fact, there is likely to be more evidence on which to base your engagement strategy the longer in advance they plan.

Another strategy to employ is ensuring your digital presence can keep up with omnichannel customers’ purchase browsing habits. From remembering ‘last seen’ items to allowing you to ask product questions via voice assistants like Alexa, retailers that make it easy for the customer journey to jump platform stand a higher chance of maintaining engagement throughout the period of sales. A frustration for omnichannel shoppers can be a sub-optimally configured mobile experience. This often occurs when content and marketing teams find themselves under a burden of manual processes of editing content to display well on multiple channels.

Moreover, a manual approach to content production is causing some businesses delays in actioning the latest campaign, making it more difficult for retailers to strike at the height of a new trend. From the year’s must-have toy to cold-weather clothing essentials, to bridge the gap between warehouse stock and the latest trend, retailers require a high volume of quality content to shape the customer journey.

The double ‘velocity’ challenge of creating more content at higher quality, is leading content teams to operational paralysis. But by employing new technologies it is possible to achieve a velocity of content that meets modern consumers’ demands.

In essence, quantity must not compromise quality. Otherwise, brands risk undervaluing their most precious assets: existing loyal customers. Often with increased brand loyalty comes decreased price sensitivity. There is no need to start sporadically discounting goods if your loyal customer base is content buying at full price.

Ultimately, while no one is going to say ‘no’ to a good deal, price is no longer the definitive factor capable of solely influencing the consumer buying decision. Instead, it is being directly impacted by the level of affinity with brands consumers feel, which is directly linked to the content and platforms they communicate through.

By engaging potential customers before and through the sale period with relevant and personalised content, brands can turn the tables on the competition. Rather than a race to be the cheapest, the golden quarter is about providing the best customer experience, in contrast to other e-retailers’ frantic ‘buy buy buy’ messaging. Companies that don’t get it right might still have solid sales performance, but they could be left feeling cold by fickle sales-focused customers in the New Year.

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