We’ve just finished the final days of one of the silly seasons for many retailers. I’m referring to Valentine’s Day followed by Mothering Sunday just 3 weeks later in the UK this year. It’s very common for businesses to follow a retail calendar with peaks and troughs in sale volume throughout their season and for many businesses February 14th and March 6th spark two big spikes of activity which can make or break their numbers.
Companies that focus on physical gifts, flowers, food gifts, health and beauty, jewellery and even some fashion and accessories brands can gather sales momentum from these two key calendar events.
Being the platform supporting some of the most successful referral programmes in the UK means Mention Me has interesting data at our finger-tips about shopping, customer acquisition, and referral behaviour. About 30% of our clients are impacted by ‘gift-for-her’ purchase motivation and this year more than ever we’ve noticed an interesting shopping dynamic starting to form with these clients.
To see how it's working let’s compare two business: one with a refer-a-friend programme and one without.
For the business with a thriving referral channel Valentine’s Day starts a cascade of events: For each 100 gifts bought, up to 50 shoppers share a referral offer at the same time. These referred customers have an amazing seasonal stimulus just around the corner in the form of Mothering Sunday.
Having a referral reward means these newly introduced customers are much more likely to shop with the brand. A virtuous circle is formed. Delighted Valentine’s customers refer their friends, introducing new customers (boost #1). When those friends purchase the original customer gets a reward to incentivise them to another purchase (boost #2). So Valentine's purchasers introduce Mother's Day purchasers, who spur the Valentine's purchasers to return for Mother's Day.
After Sunday March 6th there is a trail of extra orders produced as the final group of incentivised shoppers make their purchases.
This is the basic phenomenon. Some of our smartest clients are amplifying this even more with special promotion points, bespoke offers and seasonally adapted creative.
The business with a referral channel benefits from a distinct uplift in acquisition. On average adding a referral programme to the marketing mix increases new customer acquisition from 15-30%.
For the business without a referral programme the seasonal dynamic misses out on that amplification. A great Valentine’s Day might boost Mother’s Day - but then again it might not. March 7th is just as likely to be spent tidying up.
In the past few years UK retail has jumped on the opportunity of adding shopping stimulus days to the calendar: Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been the subject of much press and Amazon has tried it’s hand at creating its very own special day “Prime Day”. But if you aren’t an incredibly influential retail giant your chances of adding new peak shopping days to your calendar are pretty tiny.
Much simpler to leverage the seasonal peaks you already have.
Will we see this phenomenon at other times during the year? I predict some other time periods and events where the referral amplification multiplier could increase sales:
- White goods on Black Friday spawning gadget and smaller electrical gifts at Christmas
- Spring Summer fashion buys amplify sharing of mid-season sale finds
- Build a higher sales peak from the Euro and the Olympics this year using Spring health / fitness and sports customers
Can you think of any more?
And what about the other dynamic that has followed along with the new dates in the retail calendar - deep discounting? We’ll cover that in Part 2 of our analysis - how you can reward positive brand sentiment rather than offer indisciminate discounting; watch out for it next week.