Seasonal events mean different things to different people. But if this is true, then why do so many businesses employ a “shotgun” approach when it comes to their seasonal campaigns?
Following the Pareto principle, 20% of your customer base will very likely be responsible for about 80% of your business. Unless you’re prepared to court a different group of people than you are already attracting, campaigns that appeal to that 20% are often the best way to maximize your resources.
You can’t please everyone, but you can craft a strategy that resonates with the 20% who matter to you most. That said- do you even know who those people are?
It’s surprising that even with the dramatic increase in the use of information technology in the past few generations, many businesses still have an unfocused approach when it comes to marketing. While this may still work in some cases, it’s now an often inexcusable waste of time and resources that could be better spent with a customer base that can actually give you better returns for your effort.
The Zara Example
Spanish clothing retail giant and fast fashion pioneer Zara gives us some insight on how information technology can positively affect seasonal strategies, and help you better connect with your customers.
Fashion-oriented companies like Zara are always faced with extremely erratic seasonal market conditions, arguably the most difficult of any major industry. Imagine if you didn’t even know what day Christmas was, but everybody else did. Now you have some sense of how it’s like to be in the fashion industry.
Zara, like other clothing brands also faced the problem of extremely long product development cycles. The challenge involves anticipating what trends might happen in by a projected time – not an easy task if you deal with extreme seasonal variance. Fashion houses typically take up to 9 months to develop product lines and make them available on the market- Zara often manages to do the same work in as short as two weeks.
Somewhat atypically of other high-street brands, Zara does not design for future projected demand. Simply put, they don’t design anything new. They instead follow current trends and maintain very close communication with store managers to find out what sells and what doesn’t. Unpopular items are pulled out in days, and new product lines are immediately pursued. If customer feedback indicates certain pieces would be more popular if altered in certain ways, the entire stock may be pulled out in hours, modified, and sold again in a few weeks.
Why Knowing Your 20 Percent Matters
Even popular items don’t stay stocked for too long. The reason is quite counter-intuitive. Zara’s knows its fashionista customer base, the 20% responsible for 80% of their income, very well. Keeping certain items scarce makes them exclusive, and few things matter to the fashion- conscious more than exclusivity. Combine that exclusivity with an extremely fast product-development cycle, and you get a winning combo- and guaranteed repeat business from hardcore fashion enthusiasts.
Here’s something to puts things into perspective. In Spain, an average high-street store will expect customers to shop at least three times a year. Zara expects them to come back at least 17 times a year. And they hardly do discounts either.
Zara’s in-depth knowledge of its core customers, exceptional IT system, and the agile manner in which it reacts to market conditions ensures that even in an industry as fickle as fashion, the negative effects of seasonality and random chance can be mitigated while still focusing on your core customers- with great results.
If you already know who your 20% is and you’ve decided it’s them you want to reach out to, it’s more efficient to focus your seasonal campaign resources where they will be the most effective and give you better returns. The other 80% can be taken care of the rest of the year.
The key to doing this is, as in Zara’s case is good internal communication, and the ability to use information where and when it matters. But these can’t help much if you don’t know anything about who’s giving you most of your sales. Worse if you don’t know how they see you. Developing or at least knowing your brand persona is an integral part of properly connecting with your loyal customers.
The next post in this series will discuss brand personas and how they help you connect with the customers who matter the most. In the meantime, please feel free to comment – disagreements are especially appreciated.
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