Fashion: Avoiding a post-sales hangover this year

Here we go, then. Fashion’s annual binge, the summer sales. You’re going to sell more, to more people, faster than ever before. LET’S HAVE IT.

Obviously, though, there’ll be discounting. Something we don’t usually like doing. And some of your customers will be deal-hunters, who probably won’t come back once the sales are over. But who cares? BRING IT ON.

And then the summer hangover will kick in. When the tumbleweed blows down those new collection aisles and the website stats tail off.

So, how do you avoid that post-sales hangover? You’ve already upped your game compared to the rest of retail. You hold special preview weeks for your best customers to add a sense of occasion (let’s see an electronics retailer try that!); you steadily mark-down throughout the duration of your sale to maximise margins and manage stock; you trickle-release new items into your sales to maintain momentum and ensure repeat purchase. You do sales better than anyone. But at the end of it all? Your head still throbs and your heart still sinks.

There is one way, though. It’s all about extracting more value from your customers, taking something back from them in return for the discounts they crave. That’s where referrals come in: getting your existing shoppers to get their friends shopping, too. Dramatically increasing your customer-base by activating new shoppers who match the profile of your existing ones? That’s a big win. And referrals won’t just help you acquire additional customers every time someone shops, they’ll also help you develop a community of customers who shop more frequently – and at full price rather than off-price.

Not sure how it works?

Take a look at how one of our clients, the fast-fashion phenomenon PrettyLittleThing, are using their referral programme to grow their ‘squad’ of shoppers!

Now, PrettyLittleThing reward their existing customers for recruiting their friends with account credit, but you can move even further away from discounting by incentivising referrals with money-can’t-buy exclusives or experiential rewards. Tickets to runway shows, early access to new collections, exclusive customisations: these can all inspire your existing customers to help grow your brand and generate incremental sales.

And let’s not forget the enormous impact referrals can have on loyalty. Imagine persuading your best-friend to go and buy an Audi. You’re not suddenly going to go and buy a BMW yourself. That would be weird, maybe even a little rude. Instead, you’re even more proud of your Audi because your friend bought one, too. It becomes ‘your thing’, your club. In fashion terms, it becomes your uniform. And, once enough of your friends get involved, you wouldn’t be seen dead in anything else. That’s how you get customers to come back and keep shopping, on-sale or off-sale – and referral is by far the best way to create these micro-communities of true devotees.

No one’s saying that sales don’t have a place. They’re a necessary evil at worst, and the solution to a mountain of retail problems at best. But, it’s time to think about how fashion’s seasonal binges can lead to long-lasting highs, rather than short-term escapism followed by the inevitable comedown. We’d love to help you get there.

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