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November 29, 2016 - jking

Digitized workflows can help brands prepare for a hectic holiday season

The holiday season has a reputation for being a busy, chaotic period for retailers and manufacturers alike. As retailers face an influx of consumer activity, brands must find ways to make their products stand out amid a wave of sales and rebate programs all vying for attention at the same time. You can offer SPIFF programs, consumer rebates, channel marketing programs and similar tactics to keep your products competitive in the complex sales environment that comes with the holidays, but can your programs function at the torrid pace of holiday shopping?

"Consumer behaviors can change at the drop of a hat."

The holiday pacing problem
Sales come and go in a matter of days – and sometimes hours – to gain attention during the holidays. Consumer behaviors can change at the drop of a hat with new products gathering momentum and unexpected items gaining traction in the market seemingly all the time. These conditions add up to a situation in which brands cannot afford to simply look at last year's sales data, develop their channel management plans and set everything into motion. Instead, monitoring programs on an ongoing basis can provide the visibility necessary to respond to an especially busy sales season.

The problem here is that most brands need much greater visibility into how their various programs perform in near real-time to change strategies on the fly, especially during the fast-paced holiday shopping period when many organizations scramble to keep up with consumer demands. Channel management software platforms aim to resolve this issue, improving collaboration between brands and the channel partners they depend on. Digital tools are starting to displace the slow, manual processes that have limited transparency in the past, and they can enable brands to manage channel programs with greater precision.

This year's holiday outlook emphasizes the importance of moving quickly in response to shifting holiday demands.

"This year's outlook emphasizes the importance of moving quickly in response to holiday demands."

Looking at the 2016 holiday shopping season
In October, the National Retail Federation projected the holiday season would get off to a slow start because of uncertainty surrounding the election, but that shopping would pick right back up afterward as consumers became aware of the political situation when the election year dust settled. In that study, the NRF projected the average consumer will spend approximately $935 during the holiday season, a slight dip from 2015, but still a huge improvement over other annual figures going back to 2004.

People aren't buying goods for just gifts, as 52 percent of consumers are expected to take advantage of holiday sales to buy items for themselves. The study also found more than 80 percent of consumers would be willing to spend $25 more on an item they weren't planning to purchase if they found a good sale or promotion.

Consumers are expected to spend heavily this year, and brands can use sales to get their attention. However, they must also diversify how they reach customers. A Deloitte study found that the gradual move toward more online shopping during the holidays will hit a peak this year, as consumers will likely spend between 17 and 19 percent more on ecommerce than they did last year. That means revenues between $96 billion and $98 billion from November 2016 through January 2017. This online sales spike sends a message to retailers to ramp up their websites, but it also puts pressure on brands to track sales performance across a wider range of channels as they work to assess marketing, SPIFF and rebate programs.

Using channel management solutions to stay ahead
Establishing a great channel marketing program is only the beginning. Brands that can respond to ongoing holiday shopping trends and adjust their plans accordingly can gain a key edge during a season when spending happens at a blistering pace. Improving channel management processes is instrumental here, and modern platforms can:

  • Unify data from diverse channel sources to provide big-picture insights into sales performance.
  • Provide direct reports on the results of SPIFF programs to keep brands constantly aware of activity in the channel.
  • Digitize all data gathering and reporting to easily unify information from online and brick-and-mortar sales locations.
  • Enable channel partners to easily log details or communicate with brands via mobile devices, keeping lines of communication open.

Digitizing the communication and reporting workflows within the channel lets brands assess their holiday engagement programs as they unfold, helping them adjust even in the busiest times, opening the door to increased revenue potential.

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