The Golden Quarter of retail: how to plan a successful content strategy

By Chris Haines

The Golden Quarter has officially started and is widely seen as the most lucrative time of the year for the majority of retailers. Retailers start preparations for the peak seasonal trading period from October to December well in advance, but with more and more shopping days popping up in these months, planning a cohesive strategy is increasingly challenging. 

While many may think that Christmas is the be-all and end-all for retailers over the next few months, those in the know recognise the importance of planning for all the key shopping dates that are coming up. With Halloween, Bonfire Night, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Singles Day, Christmas Sales and New Year’s Day all squeezed into a short period, retailers must plan all their assets ahead of time to ensure that they benefit from the velocity of continuously fresh content.

In an era where content is king, a retailer’s content strategy must deliver to secure gold. Below are the best ways to turn a tidy profit at the close of the year. Let’s jump in.

Direct your customer

During this busy period, the priority for marketers must be timely, contextual, and high-quality content, which engages and informs customers, and retailers would do well to identify their core audiences each holiday.

Not all shopping days are born equal for all retailers. While there is certainly an abundance of major events and shopping days, it is wise to target the most lucrative days based on your sector.

Last year, Black Friday itself was worth a total of £2.9 billion in sales to the UK economy and, along with Cyber Monday, are two of the most important dates in the calendar for technology brands. However, they were almost a non-event for fashion, food, and beverage retailers.

Bauble on Christmas tree

For instance, the luxury department store Selfridges decided to completely avoid Black Friday and Cyber Monday altogether. Instead, the store created its own shopping event called ‘Christmas Come Early’, which offered shoppers discounts both in store and online. Selfridges’ discount strategy follows the same path as Amazon, which also has its own ‘Prime Day’ shopping event twice a year.

It is a risky strategy, therefore, to compete with the likes of Amazon Prime Day and Selfridges’ ‘Christmas Come Early’ events. They’re both well-marketed tentpoles that create plenty of buzz, and the attention of shoppers will be fixed on both.  However, fashion retailers can instead take advantage of the party season and focus their brand engagement strategies and campaigns around it.

Ultimately, in an age where customer attention spans last mere seconds, timing when, where, and how content is used to make your brand stand out and capture the imagination of customers is key. Attention is the new currency and the ability to be agile with content production and delivery is the killer advantage retailers can implement to gain attention and sales.

Christmas Tree in middle of shopping centre

Recognising how and when your customers shop and putting in place a content strategy that will ensure customers are informed as to when is best for them to make a purchase is becoming increasingly important.

Online promotions, earlier sales, and an increasing number of major shopping events can lead to shopper confusion.

Using an informative content strategy that signposts when customers should shop, via content such as promotional banners that display products that are on offer on the homepage, will help both retailers and customers avoid confusion during the Golden Quarter. This way you can maximise your content efforts to create a genuinely engaging campaign that the shopper will be interested in.

Tell your story

Standing out against the intense competition during this period is hard for any retailer. Products and services are crucial, but it is only with a more sophisticated content strategy that retailers can hope to drive customer engagement and conversion during the Golden Quarter.

This is where brand storytelling through content comes into its own. One of the most prominent examples of this is John Lewis’ annual TV advertisement campaign. Last year alone, John Lewis’ latest release gained 20.9 million views on Facebook and YouTube within three days of its launch.

Of course, the content of this ad was used on social media, traditional media, and was leveraged both in-store and online. By adopting a strong multichannel campaign which told the brand’s story across all platforms, the retailer was able to raise brand awareness while also communicating a strong message.

Typewriter on table

While most marketers will not have the budget to deliver the multichannel storytelling campaigns of John Lewis at Christmas, it is certainly possible to engage customers with quality content that is delivered at the right moment.

The modern customer expects immersive experiences, and, in the digital age, this is delivered increasingly online and on mobile. A consistent stream of excellent content - customisable product previews, 360° views, and interactive AR and VR experiences - is crucial to grabbing and holding the customer’s attention.

Telling the brand’s story through engaging rich media and content-driven experiences will ensure you are remembered by customers when they make their purchasing decisions. With so much competition for retailers in the digital age, telling the right story at the right time could be the difference between success and failure.

Being able to deliver an effective content strategy can be challenging for marketers due to the volume and velocity of content now required. However, great content is no longer a nice-to-have; it is an essential.

Products on tablet

Striking gold this quarter

Retailers must be using all the tools that allow their marketing teams to schedule content ahead of time to inform customers what promotions they are running during the holidays.

At the same time, they also need a great deal of agility to change and adapt their content according to buyer reactions, competitor activities and seasonal trends. A lean, optimised content production process will help retailers stay agile and deliver the immense amount of content modern customers need.

A powerful content management platform will also enable them to take advantage of micro trends, allowing them to quickly create content to promote similar products as and when the next must-have item is discovered. This will ensure retailers are communicating a clear message to shoppers in a period that can be confusing for customers and marketers alike.

Chris Haines, Director of Consulting, Amplience

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