Did the cost-of-living crisis take the shine off your Golden Quarter?

Amplifi looks at the lessons you can learn from last year’s Q4 performance – and how data management can help you fix these issues to reach your targets in 2023.

Let’s start with the obvious: 2022 was not an easy year for retail. Still reeling from Covid, the sector was hit hard by the escalating cost-of-living crisis and by Christmas, it was clear that retail’s ‘Golden Quarter’ – that flurry of seasonal consumer activity between October and December – had not returned to its pre-Covid shine. According to KPMG’s Retail Health Index, the sector’s health dropped to just 71 points, its lowest since 2011, and is anticipated to drop a further two points by Q3 this year.

But then, as a retailer, you know all of this. The question is, what can you do about it?

In life, and in business, there are things you can control, and things you can’t. There will always be external factors at play that influence the success of the retail sector: you can’t control your audience’s expendable income, or alleviate macro-economic issues, and this has always been the case. Yet there are brands that have survived recession after recession by changing their model, updating their customer experience, and reacting to changing consumer behaviours. The critical thing is making sure that you are addressing every internal factor that you can to secure sales wherever possible and – surprise, surprise – data is the answer.

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You can’t single-handedly make the cost-of-living crisis disappear, but you can give shoppers the information they need to make smart buying decisions.

You can’t win over every buyer based on eco-credentials, but you can be clear and transparent about your product’s environmental impact.

You can’t (and shouldn’t) eliminate returns from your buying model, but you can make sure that people are returning for the right reasons.

Here, we look at some of the lessons you can learn from last year’s Golden Quarter to take action with data and maximise your results throughout 2023.

Make it easier to compare items

How often do you make a purchase without comparing it to another similar product? In a cost-of-living crisis, no one wants to pay more than they absolutely have to, but it isn’t just about the price. Shoppers want to make fully informed decisions, based on product features, quality, and sustainability (which we will come to later). This is where having complete, reliable and up to date product information on every single product becomes so important.

Say, for instance, a customer is trying to decide between two products on your site. One is expensive, but has an in-depth product information explaining the materials, the style, the features, it’s eco-credentials etc. Another is cheaper but looks similar – yet it doesn’t have the same in-depth information available. Does the consumer choose the more expensive option as they are more informed about the product? Most of the time, no – they simply look elsewhere and find a match for a better price.

Data Management Fix: Implement a platform like PIM or MDM that makes data accessible wherever and whenever it is needed. Consumers should have access to the same information whatever product they are looking at, and wherever they are viewing it.

Shout about your eco credentials

As mentioned above, the decision-making process is becoming more complicated, and sustainability is increasingly becoming a key factor – and it is going to have an impact on those ‘Golden Quarter’ sales. In 2021, it’s estimated that 62% of UK shoppers looked to make at least one sustainable gift purchase, rising to 77% in the 18-34 age bracket.

Where once it was largely enough for brands to proclaim their eco-friendliness in blanket terms, consumers today want to know the specifics. Why is this product more sustainable? Was it produced by ethical labour? How much Co2 was generated in production? Can it be recycled, and how do I do it? What is the company doing next to further address its impact?

Retailers need to be especially aware of ‘green washing’ – making statements about their environmental credentials that they can’t back up. Consumers are more data-savvy and want to see evidence that their purchases are, in fact, as eco-friendly as they say.

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In recent years, fast-acting, data-driven retailers have sprung up that are making sustainability a fundamental part of their offering and are using it to attract a socially conscious audience, such as VEJA footwear or Lucy & Yak clothing. With nearly 30% of UK adults claiming that they are willing to pay more for products from ethical brands, these market entrants pose a real risk to more established retailers if they can’t make their own eco-credentials as transparent as possible.

Data Management Fix: Make ESG data accessible to customers wherever possible. The more transparent you are, the more consumers can weigh up their purchase. You can read more about Amplifi’s approach to ESG data here.

Understand when returns are part of the buying journey – and when they are not

Although 57% of online retailers report that eCommerce returns negatively impact their business, returns are firmly part of the online buying process: in fact, 30% of consumers avoid future purchases after a negative return experience. Why? Well, on one hand, no one knows whether a pair of jeans are going to look good when they buy them online, and it’s for this reason that delayed payment and try before you buy schemes are becoming so popular: as much of 41% of shoppers buy two versions of the same product with the intention of returning the ones that don’t fit.

However, 22% of products are returned for a very different reason: because they appear different from the description and photos online.

The first example is testament to the changing buying journey, the second is not: it’s poor data, and it can be prevented. Yes, there will always be instances where something just doesn’t ‘feel’ right once a customer sees it in person but returns shouldn’t be taking place because key details are wrong, like dimensions or product features.

Data Management Fix: Address your data quality and data governance. Regardless of what platform you use to host data, you need to know that everyone who uploads or edits that data understands what ‘good data’ looks like.

Your data is at the heart of every retailer’s success – regardless of the economic factors at play. To polish up your next Golden Quarter, read our guide, 3 ways to boost eCommerce with PIM, for practical advice on how the right data management can improve your eCommerce results.

Download Guide: 3 ways to boost eCommerce with PIM

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