As I child, I can remember being marched into the shops for new shoes and trousers before the end of the school holidays.
But British retail is changing. We are more likely to buy our kids school trousers, bags and shoes out of season during the sales, holding onto them hoping that the kids will grow into them just as the new term starts.
Is The Retail Sector in Decline?
The Body Shop is an example of how a once popular retailer has gone into decline in recent years. The Body Shop’s most recent sales results were down 4% on the same period last year, but it’s not alone. Shoppers are no longer following traditional buying patterns. Twenty years ago, we bought winter clothes in the autumn, summer clothes in spring, and Christmas goods in November and December. Now, we wait for goods to be discounted in sales and buy things at random times of the year. Unfortunately, many retailers have failed to keep up with modern shopping trends. They continue to buy in stock according to seasonal cycles and have suffered greatly as a result.
The Rise & Rise of Online Shopping
There are many reasons why the British retail sector is struggling, but online shopping is a significant factor. In the footwear sector, online sales now account for 25% of all sales. Shoppers are no longer walking into stores to buy footwear. Instead, they browse online collections.
Evolving technology plays a part, with online access easier than ever thanks to faster internet connections and the proliferation of online shopping portals. Shoppers can order a pair of shoes from Amazon and enjoy next day delivery using the Prime service. The other factor is choice.
Many high street retailers are locked into traditional seasonal buying patterns. In winter, they stock boots, and in summer, sandals. However, consumers don’t always want boots in winter and sandals in summer. They take winter sunshine holidays and ski breaks in spring, so they want choice. Online retailers offer a much wider range of products because their overheads are low. It’s a win-win situation for consumers, and a mortal blow for high street retailers.
Perpetual Sales Damage Consumer Trust
Discounting used to be a way of getting rid of excess stock, often at the end of a season when new stock was on the way and retailers needed to clear their shelves. Now, customers are more often than not waiting for goods to be reduced before they buy. Discounting has become the norm and every shop on the high street has some kind of sale running every day of the week. This has become more acute since the growth in the UK of Black Friday which has now expanded to cover the whole of November in some sectors. Experts believe regular discounting has led to a dilution of trust between customer and retailer. In other words, we tend to assume goods are overpriced, so we refuse to pay full ticket value.
British retailers also face another challenge with the weaker pound. If retailers pass on their increased costs to consumers, will they continue to buy?
How Should Retailers Adapt?
Many shoppers are waiting for prices to be discounted before they purchase. Cheap credit and low incentives to save have allowed shoppers the flexibility to buy months in advance of their actual needs during sales promotions.
The aim is to run regular attractive promotions to keep shoppers engaged outside of the Black Friday and Holiday sales stampedes. The challenge is maintaining profitability during the twin evils of weakened sterling and downward price pressures. Our suggestions for achieving this follow:
- Hidden tiered pricing (this is a personal favourite). Kellogg’s Cornflakes are an established premium brand. Rather than weaken the brand with discounting, they traditionally prefer to run ‘cut out and keep’ coupons. Time-strapped professionals are less likely to pay attention to this whilst checking out in Waitrose or Sainsbury’s. However, Kellogg’s believe that price conscious consumers are also more likely to have more time on their hands (I can clearly remember my Nan doing this) and will therefore take the time to cut out & use promotion codes. Marks & Spencer’s are still a premium brand. However, a quick Google will show you discount codes seeded across voucher and savings websites, many of which do actually work.
- Prepare a calendar of promotions to run each month. We regularly see client website data suggesting visitors are bouncing straight back out of offers webpages when no promotions are running. The key is to not destroy your margins by straight discounting but by offering bundled promotions – take a hit on certain items in order to maintain an overall healthy profit.
- Keep a close eye on the competition’s pricing. There are several internet based services which will alert you of a price drop by your competitors so that you can react if necessary as this will directly impact your sales.
I don’t know about you, but on the very odd occasion that I go shopping in Plymouth, I tend to venture in to Drake Circus Shopping Centre and very quickly I find myself lost in the collection of over 60 shops in one smallish space. Unless you’re a seasoned professional, it can be tricky to know where certain shops are and as a result, it’s actually quite hard to find the very thing you went in for in the first place.
Now you’re probably thinking what’s this got to do with Crescent Digital? And you’re right, the truth is, not a lot … in isolation. However it becomes infinitely more interesting when you start making comparisons.
Now imagine something like Drake Circus just a bit bigger than their 60 shops. Then when you have that fixed in your mind, think even bigger than that and just keep going. Keep going until to get to over 3 million shops and that ladies and gentlemen is size of the well-known shopping centre called The Internet.
The point I’m making is that the internet is massive and if you’re not careful you’ll undoubtedly get lost. The reason that’s important is because if you own one of the 3 million e-commerce websites, then the least you should be doing is signposting people to your specific site. If you’re not, you’re merely making up the numbers and the chances of anyone finding you are very slim indeed.
There’s a whole long list of advice that people will give you when starting up a business and probably the most overuse phrase is ‘get yourself a website’. Now, that in its own right is decent enough advice but I’d extend that slightly and suggest something wider still to say ‘once you have your website, think about how you’re going to drive people to it’.
As we all know from our own internet browsing, Google is the ‘main man’ on this sort of thing and the truth it’s not a quick and easy fix for anyone just to make it work for you.
Our advice is talk to a professional who can actually help and what we mean by that is talk to us here at Crescent Digital. Not only are we a Google Certified Partner, but we’re specialists in SEO, Adwords & Google Shopping which in simple terms means that we’ll get the orders flowing and make your phone ring.
We don’t mean to brag but a client approached us recently and was concerned about an escalating AdWords bill, coupled with a decrease in sales (the very worse kind of problem). We did what we do best and hey presto their e-commerce revenue was up nearly 40% and their AdWords bill was down 33% (the very best kind of solution) … now who wouldn’t want that.
So if you are interested in having a chat about how we can help, please feel free to give us a call … you certainly wouldn’t be wasting our time, in fact you’d be doing us a favour as we’d do anything to avoid going shopping again.
It’s sad but true, we are moving into the Autumn and soon many people’s thoughts will be on keeping warm and cosy. Its an important time too for business leads & transactions as we find it’s the time of year when staff have returned from their vacations and sitting down to discuss plans.
Remarketing with AdWords is a great low cost way to remind previous website visitors about your business https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2453998?hl=en-GB
The next few months are particularly important for retail sales of furniture and homeware and plans for positioning to take advantage of this should be at an advanced stage. If you need assistance or advice on planning your digital marketing campaigns for seasonal sales, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
For some sectors, Autumn marks a busy exhibition season, both domestically and Internationally and Crescent Digital are formally UKTI approved International digital marketing specialists, so we’re available to discuss how to help realise your ambitions.
At Crescent Digital, we love data and we’re always looking for trends to help our clients. One of the biggest spending Google AdWords clients this time last year were retailing Christmas jumpers with AdWords spend exceeding £500,000 in the run-up to Christmas. One trend showing strong growth throughout 2016 is the fashion for military and retro clothing, such as bomber jackets:
Hottest Selling eBay Category
Many successful clients started by retailing through eBay & Amazon and several of our clients sell multi-channel through eBay & Amazon in addition to their own web site.
Incidentally, our data shows the hottest selling item category (past 30 days) on eBay to be … Moth Balls.
We didn’t believe it either, but a quick glance at some products shows that there is potential for good revenue within these niches – 201 items sold @ £506 = £101,706 revenue for one product:
Google Penalising Mobile Pages With Pop-Ups
From January 2017, if your website contains pop-ups that cover some of the content; or the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content, your mobile search results may not rank as highly in Google.
Business As Usual
As for us, we are here for the duration looking forward to helping you grow your businesses, answering your queries and generally getting the job done.
3 years ago this week I was sitting in an office with the bank manager trying to convince her that quitting my day job in order to start Crescent Digital was a great idea.
Walking into our office this week makes me feel really proud of how far we’ve come. I would like to say a huge thank you to our amazing clients and associates who have provided us the opportunities and stretched us to help get us here – its really appreciated.
Although I had freelanced for many years and held previous appointments at board level, there have been a few things that I’ve learnt along the way that I’m happy to share, hoping that it may be of benefit to others:
- I’ve always loved niches in business. We focussed on ours in order to be great at what we do and this in turn allowed us to work in association with other great businesses where we complimented each other perfectly instead of being competitors.
- The extended informal network of professional associates, friends & family was crucial to bootstrapping the business, so don’t be afraid to lean on your network in the early days. Formal networking later ‘dove-tailed’ into this network.
- The business soon outgrew the home office. Renting commercial office premises was crucial in the business’s development in terms of professionalism, ambition and opportunities. I’ve also heard many instances of potential clients and investors using Google Earth to check credibility based on their address.
- Continually investing time & money in aiming to be the best has paid for itself. Each month, we spend several hundred pounds on software, data services and training. Several hours per week are invested in training along with training sessions at Google and National conferences. This facilitates our ambition to be the very best within our niche.
- It helps if the service or product is exceptional and generating referrals – if you’re burning marketing budget on promoting mediocrity, at some stage your marketing budget may dry up followed by your sales.
- It sounds obvious, but the service has to make / save considerably more money for clients than its fees and / or other client fees such as AdWords fees. In our case, we do the maths for the clients and if we can’t do what we do profitably, we don’t proceed.
- On several occasions, we have politely turned down the wrong types of clients. With hindsight, this was absolutely the correct thing to do.
- Embrace the stretch zone – it’s not always possible to avoid being in the comfort zone, but seeking challenges and opportunities to raise our game have kept things fresh and exciting.
- Self-Care is important – physically and mentally. Taking time off is difficult for many business owners for a number of reasons. However, I’ll admit I’ve not found it easy to have downtime and it’s still a work in progress.
Starting a business can be a roller-coaster and I hope this has helped. I’d also love to hear other people’s thoughts.
In a #FF (Follow Friday) way of providing some thank you’s, we thought we’d give out a bit of link love and provide names and links of tools that we use and love for managing search engine marketing:
- SEMRush – this is becoming our go-to tool for all things search related. Firstly, it’s great at analysing other sites traffic to which we don’t have access – great for potential clients and competitors analysis. For competitor analysis, we can view what keywords are working for them, their backlinks and trends over time. But here is what sets it apart – the AdWords analysis is fantastic for evaluating AdWords campaigns of your competitors: everything down to downloading spreadsheets of their ad text, keywords bids, estimated traffic, including text and shopping ads.
For more, visit http://www.semrush.com/uk/
- ScreamingFrog – for my tastes, ScreamingFrog feels a little ‘old school’ in terms of SEO. By this, I mean, it’s focus on titles, meta descriptions and alt tags. However, the paid version is great at spotting technical problems which may be preventing the SEO from being effective on the site. Fixing what you find in ScreamingFrog will not guarantee good SEO, but not addressing these problems will certainly compromise your SEO efforts.
For more: http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/
- Moz.com – I was using a subscription to Moz about decade ago when it was known as SEOMoz, but unsubscribed and it fell off my radar. However, since taking a paid subscription again 18 months ago, we haven’t looked back. It’s great at SEO analysis of your site, including authority, as we all know – not all sites or links are equal. The site audit’s can be a little over-zealous, but better safe than sorry.
For more, visit https://moz.com/
If I was stuck on a desert Island with only one tool, it would have to be SEMRush, purely due to the fact that it covers technical SEO, keyword , competitors and AdWords analysis.