By Prelini Udayan-Chiechi, VP Marketing EMEA at Bazaarvoice
After poor sales in December and January,retailers are targeting consumers with season-appropriate deals and sales.For many European retailers, bank holidays have become key contributors to annual performance.The DIY market reports that customer reviews and online Q&As are accessed 15 per cent more often around the May and Augustbank holidays than the monthly average as people turn to consumer feedback to research the best tools and products. Whether at home on the couch or battling crowds in the aisles, holiday shoppers turn to mobile to research, buy, and, of course, to read reviews.
Figures taken from the Retail Traffic Index showed that December 2016, traditionally a retail bonanza for “bricks and mortar” stores, was the quietest December since 1998. This was despite massive levels of consumer traffic on the high street during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, both of which have disrupted consumer’s traditional shopping habits. As more and more consumers take to their mobile devices to snare deals during seasonal holidays, the online world becomes increasingly vital to retailers, with figures indicating that sales can account for up to 10-15 per cent of a retailer’s holiday sales.
This raises a series of questions for businesses, most notably: how do you set your brand apart from the noise, and how can you achieve cut through in a space that is still developing and an increasing number of companies are engaged in?
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Consumer adoption of smart mobile devices is proving to be the single most important trend in purchasing behaviour. For many, the chief benefit of mobile purchasing during these discount periods is having the time to review and compare purchases in comfort, rather than battling the crowds in the shops. In fact, the need and desire for pre-purchase research is growing, with 54% of online buyers reading online reviews before purchase.
Mobile devices are not just purchasing tools, but tools for peer validation as well. In 2016, Bazaarvoice’s ROBO (Research Online Buy Offline) research, covering over 4.5M data points across 32 retailers, indicated that shoppers interacted with consumer-generated content (CGC) before 45 per cent of offline purchases, and 82 per cent of shoppers conduct mobile research in-store for purchases they are about to make. This gives them instant access to information, product/service reviews, alternative brands/retailers, opinions of friends and family, and real-time price comparisons. Smart brands and retailers have adjusted their strategies accordingly. Once pure-play online ventures like Missguided and ModCloth have established pop-up and permanent brick-and-mortar offerings.Brands such as Burberry and retailers like IKEA have increased their focus on digital investments, realising that this is critical to deliver on consumer expectations.
Investing in a CGC strategy
Beyond the traditional ‘word-of-mouth’ scenario, consumer-generated content (CGC) is fast becoming recognised as a trusted and powerful form of communication between people and businesses. Whether in store, on their mobiles or via websites, consumers are turning to CGC such as ratings, reviews, questions & answers, photos and videos to make informed purchase decisions, especially when trying to evaluate the relative value of a discounted item. Indeed, a recent report from Bazaarvoice highlights that up to 30% of consumers have changed their mind about a purchase whilst in a shopping aisle, as a result of information gathered on their smartphone, and at least 39% of in-store buyers are researching and reading reviews online before they make a purchase.
With this in mind,it is crucial for companies to invest in a CGC strategy that provides customers with all the information they need. Only by doing this, will businesses gain the insight and ability to reach shoppers at the critical point in the decision-making process, and convert sentiment into sales during the peak shopping season.
Smart brands and companies are wising up and strategically release new products and offers to coincide with annual seasonal triggers, such as Bank Holidays and Christmas, particularly online. Bazaarvoice data shows that consumers during these sales periods are very much early birds: by 9am on Black Friday, people were online shopping and researching products for the big shopping day ahead. Similarly, with Cyber Monday, it seems the general populace went to work, checked some emails, and then reverted back to the ‘serious business of the day’ by 10am – online shopping. Making the most of gathering reviews during peak months can effectively carry companies for the rest of the year,and provide them with a degree of separation from competitors, while creating more of a buzz around products and driving sales.