While the last quarter of the year is the most important for many retailers, for those seasonal retailers who cater to Halloween consumers, it was actually the build-up to this week which was the most crucial period in their calendar.

American consumers alone spent $8.4 billion this Halloween according to the National Retail Federation. As more retailers, from grocery to fast-fashion, sought to cash-in on this lucrative ‘peak before peak’, seasonal retailers faced more competition than ever before. It was, therefor,e those who harnessed all they knew about their customers to create meaningful and personal experiences who came out on top.

One retailer who was razor-focused on preparing for the spookiest time of the year is gifts retailer Fun.com, who owns an entire sub-brand aptly titled HalloweenCostumes.com, one of the world’s largest online destinations for terrifying tricks and treats.

HalloweenCostumes.com receives the majority of the entire year’s business in the weeks and months leading up to 31 October. In fact, a single day’s transactions in October can be equivalent to the number of transactions it enjoys throughout an entire month in off-peak.

How this retailer prepared for its seasonal peak offered some important lessons to others on how to make the most of their own peak periods.

You need to know who your customers are

Whether it’s Halloween, Black Friday or something more unusual (for example, Amazon’s self-created Prime Day), all retailers have their peak periods. Whilst there are a host of strategies savvy marketers can deploy to encourage conversions – from abandonment recovery strategies, through to urgency messaging, and social proof – these can only be implemented effectively if you know who you are talking to and how they behave when they are with you.

To make matters more difficult, gift buyers – a key customer group during peaks – are notoriously difficult to identify and engage with. Our research shows that this segment of customers are opportunistic in their behaviour, seeking out big discounts but with a tendency to not return and repurchase.

It’s therefore key that you encourage users to self-segment, flagging why they are buying, what they’re looking for, and who for. This should then be enhanced using identification based on past buying behaviours, in order to create a more holistic profile of every visitor.

Fun.com segment their visitors to ensure they are providing each of them with a relevant experience, from a college student looking for something funny to a parent looking to buy costumes for their whole family. Tactics that can be deployed range from surfacing gift guides, through to urgency techniques, and employing abandonment recovery messaging around key dates to secure custom.

Smart recommendations

It’s one thing to ensure customers can quickly and easily purchase whatever it is they’re already thinking of buying, but when you have a limited peak period it’s critical to maximise each and every sale. Therefore, it’s important that every customer is presented with recommendations of other items they don’t yet realise they are interested in purchasing.

Yet, with HalloweenCostumes.com offering more than 30,000 products, it can be difficult for customers to identify, find and select the costume they’re looking for. If someone wants to purchase a Darth Vader costume, fielding even simple recommendations of similar products could easily result in an additional four products being sold: a mask, cape, lightsaber, and boots.

But, the more data that’s collected, the more intelligent these can be and the bigger impact they will have on sales. This could be as simple as comparing the results to the customer’s purchase history and filtering out those products that they’ve bought previously. Or it could be something more sophisticated, such as establishing that the customer is actually more interested in Star Trek than Star Wars and presenting them with the deals on those costumes instead.

By moving towards more data-driven, personalised recommendations, Fun.com saw a 28% increase in engagement and a 3.8% uplift in its conversion rate.

Keep in touch

Whilst sales might be seasonal for many retailers, their marketing can’t be. Every year they need to win back customers’ business and a year is a long time for customers to be expected to remember who a brand is and to return.

As a result, seasonal brands need to stay front of mind with consumers throughout the rest of the year. Visitors won’t be actively seeking out the website to stay in touch, therefore collecting email addresses during peak is central to these brands’ marketing strategies throughout the rest of the year.

Fun.com explored several different email collection methods, and key to testing this was identifying not only where in the user journey was optimal for collection, but also what needed to be offered in exchange. Obviously not all customers are identical, therefore customers were segmented, with different messages and offers to identify which set appealed most to which segment of users.

Through careful testing of personalised messaging and offers that were relevant to the interests of each customer, Fun.com achieved a 100% uplift in email acquisition – that means they started with double the number of users to market to this year.

For retailers like Fun.com seasonal peaks can be a life or death event for their business. With such high stakes, they provide perfect examples of how to approach a peak - harnessing customer data to create meaningful, personalised and timely experiences which convert. Make sure you collect and use your data to ensure your peaks are more treat than trick.  


By Geri Tuneva, head of marketing EMEA at Qubit


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