Getting “business fit” for Christmas

Retail consultant Brian Walker gives his tips for retailers creating the window wonderland.

The team is on board, the stock is flowing in, the promotional plan is in play, the advertising is in shape, the online strategy is flowing and we are ready to take to the field to win the “Grand Final of Retailing”.

As the Australian representative of the Ebeltoft Group, a global alliance of retail consultants, we recently reached out to our global members to get their views on Christmas retailing and their views on best practice strategies to win. Among all best practice case studies that were mentioned, from Liberty’s in London to Australia’s very own David Jones, there was an underlying theme of the power of the visual merchandising with stores creating their own window wonderland.

It is through the looking glass that you first touch your shoppers’ hearts and minds, drawing them in so your store merchandising and sales staff can effectively do their jobs.

On average, a customer will have three seconds to be impacted by your window display. During this time, they need to be captivated, understand your offer, be compelled by your message and have their “buying radar” switched on.

Whilst this may appear an impossible task, it’s not and by putting “fit” business practices into place from the outside in, you have a considerably higher chance of engaging customers from the minute they see your window and enter the store space.

So how can you capitalise on shoppers walking past your store? We’ve put together some “fitness” tips by looking at best practice retailers from around the world to help you engage customers on the outside and drive purchases within.

Who’s your audience?

A Christmas designLike any great production, you need to know your prospective audience. Anticipating who they are and how to entertain them is absolutely key. One of our London based associates reminded us of UK retailer Liberty in London, back in 1983.

The whole store was unveiled to the city gift wrapped in a red ribbon specifically designed to target the spontaneous tourist and impulse customer that Liberty attracts at Christmas.

Why should they buy from you?

Once you understand your customers, you must then establish the reason they believe in you. What is your unique point of difference and why should they come in and purchase your products? What problem will you solve for them?

In 2014, Selfridges in London launched a Christmas VM campaign called ‘Destination Christmas’.

This direct but effective approach promoted themselves as the go to retailer for this period. From gifts and clothing to food, all categories were promoted in the windows seemingly solving the problems of many frantic shoppers on London’s Oxford Street.

Have you ensured brand consistency?

If you are a franchisee or a part of a bigger retail network, head office may send you a complete window display kit, your challenge is to execute it within the brand guidelines and ensure consistency across the store network.

John Lewis is a great example of best practice in this. Every year the UK market eagerly await the launch of the John Lewis Christmas TV adverts. These adverts then feed into the store windows of every John Lewis up and down the country.

In 2014, John Lewis launched an emotion filled campaign based around a character called ‘Monty the Penguin’. This penguin character (and friends) then became a consistent feature throughout all their stores, all departments and became a must-see window that year.

Know your window wonderland parameters

When did you last undertake a “window audit?” ‘Fit’ retailers intimately know their window real estate so that when they come to put on their production, they can build the perfect set.

Your aim is to find the most cost effective solution that you can put in place across not just one store, but many if applicable.

If your marketing materials come from head office, inform them of your window audit findings, so you can improve your fixtures, fittings and display as soon as possible.

Surprise and delight your curious audience

Christmas retailing is all about theatre. You need to find a way to not only surprise and delight, but also draw in your audience.

How can you create a window wonderland that makes them want and need your product or service? One of our English associates spoke highly of Fenwicks in Newcastle, which draws crowds from all over the north of England to simply see the window shows.

The stars of the performance

Your products or service are the star performers in your window wonderland production so make sure you create excitement around them.

Bergdorf Goodman in New York, continuously host product centric displays that inspire and delight by using the products in innovative ways.

Stars in the window sell so make sure they are well presented and that you have enough stock to exceed targets!

Invite them backstage

‘Fit” retailers understand the need to use the windows to invite their audience in. Whilst the visual element may do the job by piquing curiosity and need, there’s nothing like a strong written call to action that ties into your creative theme.

Create drama with rave reviews

This is the perfect time to think about how technology can help engage your audience. You need to activate interest using every one of the possible senses from music and smell to incredible visual creative.

We are now living in an omni-channel and mobile retail sector, so the customer journey to purchase begins outside your retail store.

Windows have the opportunity to connect with your customer, and potentially sell merchandise without the customer stepping foot in your store.

Ted Baker in New York, London and Tokyo produced interactive digital mistletoe windows in their ‘Merry Kissmas’ campaign of 2014.

With customers encouraged to take their photo under the mistletoe and spread on social media to be in the draw to win a romantic holiday for two, the window not only connects to the customers’ lifestyle, it engages socially, captures the Christmas spirit and organically generates word of mouth promotion, all leading to potential maximum sales within the Christmas period and beyond.

Make it feel like it’s always opening night

Keeping the window wonderland fresh is so important to capture repeat visitors. Make it clear when new products are available by promoting them in the window.

Happy Christmas retailing!

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