Global retail specialist Smollan, representing some of the world’s most loved FMCG and commerce brands, looks at what retailers need to focus on as the “silly season” gears up for the all-sorts of promotional days and the importance of capitalising on purchase power.

We have only just said Happy New Year and yet here we are. Ready to once again, like a well-oiled machine, roll out the red carpet for a myriad of promotional days. From Bosses Day to Black Friday, the chunk that is the Festive Season and the look ahead to Back to School 2023.

However, with the intensity surrounding inflationary concerns, unstable markets, revenue goals along with geopolitical global events that knock the supply chain pendulum, how do retailers find the sweet spot around which day(s) to focus on? Is it all or nothing relatively speaking? Or is it more about defining historical data as a basis for making the right decision?

The pandemic taught us so many lessons around being agile, fresh and to turn the expected on its head, that we may need to pause and instead of dusting off ideas, lean in for a considered view around which horse to back instead of trying to do everything.

In a recent Forbes piece it was suggested that, prior to even considering which day to participate in, retailers above all else would be wise to plan for an extended ecommerce driven season. Based on 2021 US stats, holiday shopping was pulled forward by up to 17% in November and December as consumers spread buying behaviour. Chances are that this year may well be the same. Secondly, optimising all systems in anticipation of traffic surges is key to making sure that consumers are not met with out-of-stock items, especially with competitors in the ecommerce space ready to swoop in.

While the bigger picture serves to inform, home turf offers the relevance required to bed down strategies. Zuko Mdwaba Area Vice President at Salesforce SA, suggests that this year in preparation for the “silly season”, over and above choosing which days to focus on, retailers will need to make sure that they develop data acquisition strategies, bridging the physical-digital divide, and build stronger partnerships. On a bigger scale, the industry will need to invest as heavily in the post-purchase experience as in the path-to-purchase, combining test-and-learn tactics with proven revenue drivers such as flash sales and special promotions.

The foundation, as one considers participating in all or a few promotional days, is historical data. Auditing last year’s campaign performance will guide the process. Prioritising the campaign or channel that came out tops will allow retailers to double-down on what’s known to work without necessarily putting all eggs in one basket. The focus then, as retailers prioritise their promotional day strategies is to take into account current trends, emerging digital channels and the refreshed expectations of consumers going into the season.

In South Africa, as reported on earlier this year, we are reminded of the significant shifts influencing shopper expectations around ecommerce’s firm foothold; privacy becoming a legal requirement; value becoming more than just a matter of price it’s also about retailers showing quality and purpose; multi-channel and mobile shopping and making customer engagement a top priority.

“Take last year, with Amazon Prime Day 2022 selling over 300 million items at the rate of 100,000 items per minute amounting to over $3B in profits. That is a beautiful thing in of itself, considering that in the lead up there were concerns that it might be a rather beige day. Undoubtedly it comes down to solid preparation despite a complicated reality whether locally or globally that affects all paths to purchase. Whether retailers take a tailored approach to promotional days or instead cast a wider net, the golden key for me has to be about delivering excellent customer service where going the extra mile is everything,” said Mike Smollan, Chief Growth & Innovation Officer, Smollan.

Promotional Days undoubtedly revolve around increased sales and competitive pricing, however careful planning is required to target the correct event for the right return, where in addition you delight existing customers and attract new ones.