Last year Burberry announced a monumental step within the fashion industry; replacing its four-show calendar with two runway shows and no longer producing clothes for specific seasons (with clothing made available for sale immediately after each show). The new format was called 'seasonless, immediate, and personal' - and other brands are starting to follow suit, including Topshop and Hunter.
Of course, Christmas will run from October to January for retailers, and it isn't likely that is going to significantly change any time soon. However, the elements and weather associated with different seasons can have a huge bearing on the high street, which can, in turn, have a devastating effect on sales and profits for many companies.
With the weather being as turbulent as it is, many of us are now desperate for a little bit of winter sun. As the sterling struggles, there are many places we can travel to without breaking the bank, with the ABTA reporting that five million Brits sought to travel overseas last winter to escape the seasonal gloom. As such, seasonal assumptions just aren't good enough when it comes to digital marketing planning.
The decline in seasonal campaigns
We are now in a completely globalised environment, therefore we can no longer rely on European-led seasons to control campaigns throughout the year. The trend got started in 2016 and relates to gradual climate change, warmer winters and wetter summers. According to a recent report by Retail Week and Salesforce, 86% of fashion retailers noted that changing weather patterns have impacted their business.
With the growth of mobile, eCommerce and social media, shoppers now treat retail in a completely new way, which many digital marketers and brands are still not prepared for. Purchase and search behaviour now revolves around being always-on and buying items as soon the shopper sees them. Both in-store and online businesses need to quickly adapt to meet this standard, to reduce reliance on season-based products and sales. By focusing on mobile technology, retailers will become far more responsive and will drive customer experience strategies.
However, despite unpredictable weather conditions, this will not be an easy feat for digital marketers until consumer search patterns change online. Brands need to be relevant to rank and be visible for key terms that people search for, no matter what. In this instance, digital marketers need to think consumer-first and ensure search data supports their actions. Core items shouldn't be pegged into seasonal buckets, and instead digital marketers should be working towards greater availability all year round. This would be possible by making sure they're promoting those products during peak seasons, whilst still maintaining visibility through digital channels at all times.
How to adapt to a new calendar
There are many approaches marketers can now take as we race towards 2018:
• By moving towards a retail environment where search patterns are shifting, digital marketers need to take a long hard look at data through a data management platform (DMP). They need to do this by evaluating audiences and associated purchase tendencies instead of placing small bids on thousands of search terms or constantly pushing small-scale digital PR campaigns to encompass their entire range. This approach will allow digital marketers to understand who their core year-round audience are, what they're searching for and when, and enable better targeting based on behavioural data that is personalised to their habits. Fuelling campaigns with this level of granular data maximises efficiencies and allows digital marketing budgets to go further.
• Programmatic is going in an exciting direction at the moment, and it is definitely something digital marketers should be considering if they want to introduce effective seasonless campaigns. Programmatic is key for creating responsive, personalised campaigns - and digital marketers should be keeping an eye out for Digital Out-of-Home, mobile advertising, programmatic TV and programmatic audio in order to advertise key products based on the weather.
• Paid search and Google Shopping should also be adopted as part of a seasonless strategy, as these channels allow digital marketers and fashion retailers to get really creative. By creating product-specific site pages, marketers could push the key products via paid channels depending on the weather. Umbrellas in rainy August, or bikinis if there is a heatwave in October.
From a digital marketing perspective, when considering SEO and user experience, moving towards seasonless campaigns is not a decision that should be taken lightly, as full-site optimisations could take months, or even up to a year, to fully implement. To support an organic strategy, creative and reactive digital PR and content strategies can also be made use of to drive engagement all year round. This would allow for a seamless customer experience journey that is in-line with the direction consumers are heading towards, based on weather and a see-now-buy-now mentality.
This article was first published on the Digital Marketing Magazine website.