Time, time, time! One factor which we all seem to have very less of and can’t get enough of.. Marketers use the time factor to increase sales by creating a (false?) sense of urgency. Now, don’t go raising your eye-brows at marketers! They use time-sensitive strategies to up the fun quotient as well as the brand value for the fashion label they are working for. So if you are a small fashion business or own a fashion boutique/web-store, here’s a low down on some of the most effective time-sensitive marketing tactics that will get your customers counting every minute they have before they get hands on your products!
1. Pop-Up Stores
This is the most exciting strategy for the customer as well as the owner!
A pop-up store is literally a store that pops-up some place out of nowhere to sell its wares for some time and then disappears. It is a make-shift shop where people can experience fashion tangibly and decisions (whether to buy/not) are instantaneous. It is much like having a regular brick-n-mortar boutique/store, except it stays for a very limited time.
Pop-up stores last for as few as 2 days to even over 1 month. It can be held annually, bi-annually or even more times depending on the overall goals of the boutique owner. They bring in their best products, do up the interiors of the pop-up according to their brand’s taste and tailor a specific experience for their customers with a lot of fun activities thrown in. This is a time-sensitive tactic because you are going to stay for a limited time and people need to visit/buy from you before you are gone. And for customers, it’s also about being part of a sudden event which everybody is talking of! This is a much beloved tactic used by online stores and is gaining wide popularity with the digital shoppers as they get to know a brand better when it comes calling to their town.
But pop-up stores are not limited to e-store owners. You can be a small local boutique too and pop-up in some other city to test the waters in that market before expanding your business. It is a great testing tactic even for those online stores which want to have a physical store at a fancy address. Or it could just be used as another brand exposure campaign!
Do not confuse pop-up stores with exhibitions. Having your own pop-up show is way different from holding a stall at a general exhibition for a couple of days. Though in both cases, time and concept are the same, exhibitions are very generic while pop-up stores are unique to your brand. A pop-up store is customized extensively just for one brand. There are no other brands to compete with, and the space and attention you get is wholly yours. You can use a lot of props, fixtures and furniture, tailor a specific experience for your customers and host unlimited campaigns in that time frame. Marc Jacobs is one great example who did this and accepted social media currency as the only mode of payment for his products.
The only down-side of having a pop-up is that it can be a bit expensive. You will have to pay rent on the location you choose, buy/rent fixtures for the pop-up as well as all the logistic expenditure involved. But planned properly, this one time investment can yield multiple returns in future. The benefits include, but not limited to, exposing your brand to new audience, increasing the fun quotient of your brand, giving your customers an opportunity to tangibly experience your brand/products before they buy, create buzz and being time-sensitive, drive up sales!
So the best places to have your pop-up stores would be areas with high foot-fall (provided there’s space to rent/ set up a make-shift store), high-end cafes/restaurants with a fashion theme, malls, or just about anywhere where you will not have too much competition but is easily accessible by people. How long you put it up completely depends on your budget, response and purpose/goals.
2. Trunk Shows
This is a popular strategy used by famous/independent designers for their eponymous labels. Trunk shows started out as an event where designers/vendors would showcase their wares to buyers/store personnel. But today, it is used a platform to put the designer face-to-face with customers (should I say, a chosen set of customers?!). The designer will showcase his merchandise in a specific store or hotel room or any special location. This is part of an overall brand strategy and works well for luxury products as it gives elite customers the exclusivity they demand. They get to preview the merchandise much before it goes out in public. They often buy it at full price and when they do, may be the only ones to do so, as copies of those products will never be made again. It then becomes a case similar to bespoke, where a designer has specially made the garment for that customer.
Trunk shows, which can happen on any given day of the year, are quite different from Fashion shows (that happen bi-annually according to the season). They are smaller in scale and set-up only for a limited set of people and the public may never get to preview these items. They will see it only when the customer who has bought it actually wears it out in public. What designers showcase in their stores or on the run-way are not usually exhibited at trunk shows. But there is no rule which says designers can’t show their runway wares here. In fact, many trunk shows are an after-math of fashion shows, where pieces that didn’t get picked off runways will be displayed at trunk shows with other collections. Fashion shows on the other hand are viewed by the public, and many copies of those items will be made and distributed extensively afterwards. But trunk shows are supposed to be a one-off event to showcase limited editions of merchandise.
And in the age where rules and stereotypes are meant to be bent and broken, trunk shows are taking the digital world by storm! While online boutiques resort to pop-up stores to create a unique experience, older established physical fashion houses are resorting to virtual/online trunk shows to appeal to a larger audience. They don’t have to have an ecommerce website, but they can still sell virtually in a time-limited way and reach a wider audience and get that sudden spike in sales. Trunk shows are no longer by-invite-only events, and pretty much anybody of the public can go if they RSVP in time (and can afford it, of course!).
So even if you are a small boutique, trunk shows are a great idea to draw your most loyal customers to purchase higher-end merchandize from you. Given that trunk shows are only limited edition stock, happening over one evening, and is the most unique item of yours people will ever own, customers are going to be watching their clocks closely to attend your event!
3. Flash Sales
You may be more familiar with this 24-36 hour only sale. You may have come across many deal-of-the-day websites, and you know very well why they are so popular. Now using the same concept, regular e-stores can hold their own flash sales. More and more online retailers are using flash sales to create buzz, draw attention/traffic and increase sales. Huge discounts, bundled up offers and cash-back promises are very characteristic of flash sales. They are not necessarily like end-of-season sales where items are cleared out to bring fresh stock, but more of a tactic to create urgency so people will buy before they miss out.
Flash sales occur more frequently than other forms of time-sensitive campaigns. You can hold flash sales before major holidays, events or seasonally. There is no specific reason or time to hold a flash sale. Considering the benefits of flash sales- increase in traffic, drive up sales, get rid of old stock, increase brand exposure- you can conduct flash sales as and when required to meet your projected goals. Fold it into your marketing strategy with other campaigns and there is no reason why you wouldn’t reach your business objectives.
A flash sale can get a little effort-intensive, as for ultimate success you’ve got to market it effectively across all your social media channels and through emails. Many go offline and have print adverts to heighten the craze! Do what it takes, but create that sense of urgency. It is like having an online pop-up store for one day with a thoughtfully curated collection of merchandize.
Be careful how Flash sales may affect your brand image. If you are a luxury player, you can hold Flash Sales, but steer away from calling it so! Send an invite to your mailing list for a one-day only preview of curated items or an Insider’s Only Sale, so it sounds better than a flash sale which is meant for the mass market. But at the same time, if you have budget friendly merchandise, Flash Sale is maybe one thing your customers are waiting to hear!
4. Contests & Sweepstakes
Who doesn’t love a contest?! It is the most engaging strategy to pull in traffic and new customers. Contests not only are highly engaging and fun, but are also time-sensitive. A contest runs only for a limited period of time, and people are going to fight it out aggressively and enthusiastically for whatever you have to offer.
I am not talking about the free giveaway types of contests. The contests I am referring to are profitable where your rewards may be gift cards, coupons, or small discounts which does bring in some sale through probable additional shopping. A discount which is earned by the customer. Contests entertain the customers and brings them closer to your brand, so they are willing to participate even for a small reward which is meaningful. And because it’s a competition, people are quick to jump in and give their best to your brand. Even though it may not pay you via money, it certainly pays with brand exposure and popularity.
Photo contests, highest-likes/tweets/repins contests, submit-an-idea contests, style-board contests, design contests are popular types where the reward can be anything you choose. Hell, you can use contests as a touch-point in the buying cycle itself of the customer! It can be a contest catering to individuals or teams and can use either one social media channel or multiple channels for participation. So as you can see, the types of and channels where contests can be held are totally limited by your creativity. It is only a strategy and the way you use it is totally dependent on you. Don’t forget, it is a great way to create urgency, excitement and high engagement!
5. Limited Stock & Limited Editions
As earlier mentioned in #2, limited editions are a way to offer exclusivity in a time-sensitive way to consumers. It’s a very well used (in fact, necessary) strategy by premier brands a la Gucci, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Vince Camuto, Yves Saint Laurent, Marks & Spencer, Freepeople and every designer worth her name. By creating a limited edition, you are saying hey listen, this is the only one time I am creating this product which, by the way, is one of its kind and if you don’t buy it now, you will never ever have a chance to own it. This makes people who were passive to your products, jump immediately into action.
Again, when you announce that you have limited stock of an item, you are creating artificial scarcity saying if you don’t buy this product now, it will be gone forever and you may never get it at this price and quality again. So people who are really in need of that product but have been postponing the purchase, will now buy it fearing they may never have access to it again. Trust me, this works! I have found myself many times in situations where I wished I had bought the product earlier because I could never find a similar product anywhere else and even if I did, it would be more expensive, so I go back to the original store only to find that it is gone, sold! There may be other products to choose from, but my heart will still be set on that one item which was love at first sight to me. This makes me actually sit up and listen when somebody says they have limited stock.
So notifying your customers that you have limited stock of an item, or are selling limited edition products will wake up the really interested ones and help drive sales for you.
There, you have 5 new strategies to try out for you fashion store today! Highly impactful and fun to do, there’s nothing as thrilling as a time-sensitive campaign. These strategies can seem like a humungous task, but it definitely pays off in the end. Get to work now, and announce to your customers, if they don’t buy now, they will regret it later!
PS: Hope this monster of a post makes up for the long time I was MIA. 😀