How can seasonal merchandising boost grocery ecommerce?

Published March 31, 2023

Seasonal merchandising has always been key for grocery and as the sector continues to move into the ecommerce environment, it’s becoming more vital than ever.

Businesses are having to stock their shelves for Christmas products earlier each year. Whether it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, or anything else, seasonal marketing can make or break a retailer’s year.

With restaurants and bars forced to shut their doors, grocery sales leaped. A survey of around 2,000 Americans found that 85% of people said they were paying more for their groceries since COVID hit.

Benefits of Seasonal Merchandising Strategies

As ecommerce grocery finds its feet in the online sector, understanding the most effective strategies can be crucial. However, while retailers are used to developing merchandizing strategies such as product grouping and placement, transferring those strategies into the online world can be difficult. Successfully unlocking seasonal merchandising strategies, though, can deliver a powerful tool to drive growth. Among the key benefits are: 

  • Improved customer experience: Customers crave a smooth and convenient online buying experience. They want to be able to find products they are looking for quickly and easily. In a world in which everything is available at the click of a mouse, their patience for delays is extremely limited.
  • Increased sales and revenue: Packaging and presentation strategies can help with impulse buys. In much the same way as strategic product placement on the shelves can cause customers to add new products to their basket, the same can happen in the online world. By grouping linked products together, or by suggesting other products people might like to add, retailers can significantly boost revenue per sale and customer.
  • Competitive advantage over other retailers: Grocery ecommerce strategies are evolving, which makes for a significant gap between those who are excelling and those who are playing catch up. By adopting an effective seasonal merchandizing approach, you can not only boost your sales but also gain a competitive advantage. It’s a chance to attract customers from elsewhere, as well as improve your general customer retention performance. The result is a significant and a lasting advantage when compared to your key competitors.

Furthermore, in a highly competitive marketplace standing still is not an option. Online grocery retailers are continually updating their processes and reviewing their strategies to make themselves more efficient. Those that are not doing so, will effectively find themselves being out-paced by the competition. It’s a process of constant evolution in which everyone is on a learning curve.

Those that learn to adapt and improve will quickly begin to outperform competitors on every metric. In this cut-throat environment, those who stand still will quickly find themselves going backward.  

Seasonal merchandising strategies for ecommerce grocery sites

Adopting new seasonal merchandising strategies, therefore, is more than just an opportunity for growth. It’s a business imperative to stay competitive. Adopting a successful strategy will be challenging, and there is no hard and fast template for success. Every business will be different and each set of customers will differ in terms of their expectations, characteristics and demands.

However, there are several basic principles that can stand you in good stead.

  • Understanding customer preferences: To meet customers’ expectations, first understand what they want. Successful businesses will have a good rapport with their customers. They will know their preferences and strategies that are much more likely to appeal to them. Digital technology also makes it possible to gather more data than ever on each customer. Analytics makes it possible to gain a granular view of each customer’s buying history, tastes and preferences. Over time you may develop a pattern of how each person behaves and the kind of products customers purchase at different points each year. This data can be used to develop personalized seasonal promotions for each customer, boosting retention, loyalty and conversion rates.
  • Creating seasonal product bundles: Enhanced analytics can also give you a greater understanding of which products are likely to perform well at which time. Based on this, it is possible to develop effective seasonal product bundles in which different offerings complement one another, offering customers further reasons to make purchases. 
  • Highlighting seasonal promotions and discounts: A seasonal marketing campaign is all about understanding where in the year you are, and the kind of products that are likely to perform well at any given time. For example, during summer, one set of products may be in demand, but during winter, preferences may change. Analyzing data across the year gives businesses an indication of which products you should highlight on your homepage at which time. 
  • Creating seasonal marketing campaigns: Marketing should be a seasonal affair. By planning ahead, it is possible to develop an evolving marketing campaign waccording to the time of year. Data analytics is critical at this stage to predict customer demands and plan seasonal campaigns ahead of time.

A great example can be seen with the Ingles Supermarket chain. Personalization is embedded into this website. From the moment the customer arrives, they are asked to submit their location. The site will then push products relevant to that area. 

Challenges and Solutions for Seasonal Merchandising Strategies

Cracking the seasonal marketing code is of course far from straightforward. It relies on an enhanced understanding of customers, trends and seasonal variations. For that, you need a firm grasp of data, but that is easier said than done. It can be difficult to know how to generate those insights, how to see what customers are buying and how to see what is happening in the wider market.

Security is also a significant concern. The rise of ecommerce sees businesses routinely storing vast quantities of personal data. At the same time, evolving data protection regulations place more stringent requirements regarding how that data is stored, managed and used. Keeping all that data secure is a major operation, especially for those grocery businesses moving into the ecommerce realm.

The key to solving these challenges lies in the use of technology. Today’s ecommerce store can leverage a host of technologies to improve operations and customer services. You can invest in advanced data analytics platforms that can help you deepen your engagement with customers and your understanding of their needs. Such data gives you all the information to develop, test and optimize seasonal marketing campaigns that can deliver real results.

Putting these strategies into practice can feel daunting, especially for companies with limited internal technical expertise. Working with a specialist partner can give businesses of all sizes the expertise that they need. Partnering with experts gives a business insight into the latest technologies, trends and strategies. By working closely together, you can get a strategy that aligns technology to meet your needs and helps you to develop customized, sophisticated seasonal marketing campaigns that help you to grow in the future.

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