How to plan for that all-important final quarter of the year

With the Christmas rush fast approaching, Lara Morgan says businesses should already have their end of year sales’ tactics up and running

How to plan for that all-important final quarter of the year

For many businesses, the fourth and final quarter of the year is the most important period of all. With Christmas just a few weeks away, it is a vital time for companies in the retail and hospitality sectors especially. It is also worth remembering that businesses need to keep one eye on the January Sales too.

This is the moment when all of your focus should be on executing your marketing plans, in the hope of celebrating excellent final quarter sales’ figures. Unfortunately, as the year comes to an end, and employees are starting to feel tired, some companies may find that staff sickness begins to rise.

Companies become slightly understaffed, just at a time when all hands are needed on the ‘battle field’. And this means that businesses have to be selective about what they prioritise and how hard to push their already over-worked staff.

Generally, consumers are always on the lookout for discounts and deals – and this year more than ever. In 2023, there will be huge pressure on margins: And all this during a cost of living crisis, when mortgage rates are really hitting the wallets of UK residents.

Therefore, the answer might be for businesses to accelerate their discounting earlier than normal. Here are three areas where businesses really need to think ahead: ‘Product Planning’, ‘Promotional Tactics’ and ‘Marketing Strategy’.

Product planning

  • The big objective is to minimise risk with product and promo strategy;
  • Forecast how much you expect to take per category;
  • Review in detail on a weekly basis;
  • If your September stock has failed to sell as planned, you are already sitting on excess stock and this could lead to problems;
  • Therefore, can you delay any orders for spring deliveries if you are currently overstocked?
  • Two key periods for trading are Black Friday and the January Clearance Sale. Don’t forget to plan for these;
  • Start pushing key categories earlier rather than later, to beat your rivals;
  • You’ve got a finite amount of time to sell winter coats etc – so don’t hold back as consumers rarely purchase out of season;
  • A big January Sales push is likely to have an impact on your February launch, so it’s good to be aware of that in your forecasting;
  • Be prepared to make lots of promotional decisions quickly, in response to your ever-evolving trading figures.

Promotional tactics

  • Decide which promo periods are most important and relevant to your business;
  • Test a few different promotions to check what works for you. It’s likely to be a challenging season with customers having less to spend than normal; 
  • Be aware of the discounting levels in your sector. It’s vital to remain in step with the market and not to offer 20% when everyone else is offering 50%;
  • Can you discount on your higher priced products to reduce impact on your ‘average order value’ (AOV)?
  • Understand the perceived value of an offer to your customer, and in context with your brand. And think about the perceived value of your discount when you are deciding. What will appeal most to your customer?
  • What products have you got that could push customers up to the next banding? Can you create an offer around that?
  • It’s essential to analyse the impact of your promotions. Have you actually made any more profit?
  • Everyone expects deep discounting by January but monitor what is going on now so you can position your own offer accordingly;
  • What volume are you trying to reach to achieve your sales targets?
  • Think about your messaging with regards to your seasonal sales and promotions. What is authentic to your brand, while remaining credible and appealing to your customer?
  • Use AOV bands’ analysis to help you look at your customer segments.

Customer relationship management and marketing strategy

  • How can you make customers feel less overwhelmed, yet more informed about the benefits you are offering?
  • Before you decide on your segmentation strategy, be clear about your goal. What are you trying to achieve and then match your targeting towards that?
  • Seasonal sales’ periods provide a great opportunity but if you are limited on resources, keep it simple;
  • You may wish to isolate your best customers and offer them some great early bargains;
  • Consider targeting your lapsed customers with seasonal offers;
  • Make a decision up front on how to deal with those who may complain about pricing. Perhaps offer them a thank-you voucher for their next order or even exclude them from your early mailing list;
  • Check your online product pages. Have you listed all of the correct product information? Is it structured and tagged clearly?
  • Have you maximised product images? This is hugely important and should not be overlooked;
  • Make it easy for customers to search and find their selected products online;
  • Provide reassurances about stock availability, delivery costs and customer reviews;
  • Offer alternative products if others are sold out;
  • Keep checking your website for glitches, especially when traffic is high. There’s nothing more annoying than clicking on a link, and then waiting ages for anything to appear.
Lara Morgan
Lara Morgan

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