Peak Performance Tactics for the Holiday Season

As the much-awaited Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and festive shopping season approaches, retailers are flexing their marketing muscles to seize sales opportunities using discount offers, free deliveries, bonus deals, and more. Amidst the excitement lies a lingering uncertainty about the spending capacity of local consumers this year, as a sizable portion of South Africans have weathered financial challenges. With the local economy showing modest growth in recent months, there’s no denying that the road to success may not be as straight as it seems.

Pareen Shah & Kevin Lewis

As a result, it’s become increasingly crucial for local retailers to monitor emerging trends and actively listen to consumer feedback in order to navigate these complexities effectively. Let’s delve into peak performance strategies that will set you up for success ahead of the holiday  season:

The Three Ps

Let’s start with the basics:

  1. Product – Do your research, assess current trends, and use your customer shopping data to ensure you’re stocking products that are in demand this season. Your stock availability needs to meet anticipated demand.
  2. Price – In a deflated economy, consumers are highly price sensitive, especially for non-essential items. All pricing should be transparent, without hidden costs such as handling or shipping fees. Many local retailers are also providing interest-free installments for higher-value baskets. Offering multiple payment options can provide an additional competitive edge.
  3. Promotion – Consumers are looking for the best value for their money. Negotiate with your suppliers to offer better deals and promotions to your customers. Embrace popular promotions like “three for two” deals, which have become a hit among local retailers. Free delivery remains a surefire crowd-pleaser, resonating well with shoppers. Remember, peak retail season is no longer confined to a single day; it has evolved into a month-long shopping event. Consider starting early on Black Friday or extending your promotions to seize every opportunity to engage customers and maximize your success.

Tailoring customer experiences

Traditional personalization tactics are losing their effectiveness in driving sales. Customers now seek tailored purchases that align with their needs, demanding stronger brand connections. To achieve this, a selective approach is necessary to avoid overwhelming your customers by requesting excessive data upfront – which often leads to high drop-offs. Instead, focus on communicating the value customers gain from sharing their data. This approach emphasizes the future of personalization known as “Progressive Profiling”, where customer data is collected incrementally, resulting in more relevant profiles built on accurate and up-to-date information. Adopting this methodology improves the customer experience, gathers precise data, and drives increased personalization and conversions. 

Leveraging Generative and Predictive AI

Generative AI models like ChatGPT have taken center stage, revolutionizing the online shopping experience. AI-generated product recommendations have been used by global e-commerce businesses for years, providing personalized suggestions to customers. While this hasn’t fully been adopted locally, retailers should embrace generative AI for creating original high converting content, enhancing text or website copy, generating image assets, and inspiring creative thinking. 

Standing out with intelligent, personalized messaging is vital to capture the attention of omnichannel shoppers this peak season. Leveraging this technology can significantly improve shopping experiences, foster customer loyalty, and add value for brands and retailers. The greatest impacts will be in areas such as:

  • Automation of marketing campaigns and the creation of content for emails, landing pages, texts, social media, and apps using automated audience segments.
  • Offering conversational site search across digital touchpoints for a more human and natural way to find the ideal product or gift. 
  • Providing a service that enables chatbots to understand, anticipate, and respond to questions with greater nuance and human-like expression.

Intelligent messaging and retail strategies

As consumer preferences shift and store traffic increases, several popular shopping trends from the past few years are experiencing a decline. Consumers are becoming less brand loyal and prolonging their purchasing decisions to find the best deals and value for money. With this is in mind, it’s important for brands to:

  • Reward long-term customers, or those who are high-value customers. Word-of-mouth still remains a good form of advertising, and word will get out that your brand rewards customers for their loyalty.
  • Highlight the value your brand offers consumers through leveraging user-generated content (UGC), especially across your social platforms. Spotlight your products and customer reviews using images and engaging short form videos that can be repurposed on your product pages too.
  • Optimize product pages across the digital shelf to include the most essential information that consumers want to know.
  • Optimize marketing campaigns by targeting the right audience to avoid budget wastage and deliver the right message to the appropriate market segment.

Site maintenance and easy checkout

Ensuring a user-friendly website navigation and a seamlessly smooth checkout process is paramount. Local brands can significantly boost conversions by providing “guest-checkout” options, allowing shoppers to complete their purchase without the need to register. This approach reduces shopping cart abandonment and caters to all shoppers. Site maintenance plays a significant role in customer experience. Ensure that your website and servers are able to deal with the significant increase in website traffic and transactions to avoid leaving your customers with a bad shopping experience. All server maintenance work should be done ahead of the peak retail season. 


Customers are no longer willing to wait for long periods of time before they receive their orders. It is important to ensure that the supply chain is managed effectively to avoid “out-of-stock” situations that will leave customers disgruntled. It’s vital for online retailers to choose a logistics company that will be able to deliver your products within the stated delivery time frame and that customers will be able to track their orders from purchase to door.

A Global Perspective

Embracing a global perspective, local retailers must delve into uncharted territory and begin experimenting with untapped strategies that have yet to gain traction locally, securing their position ahead of peak season and beyond. By exploring the following opportunities, brands can establish a competitive advantage in time for the peak season frenzy:

  • Capitalize on the social commerce movement and experiment with TikTok marketing and user-generated content.
  • Expand buy now, pay later (BNPL) to physical stores.  
  • “AI” is gaining momentum, and it’s expected to play an increasingly significant role in customer segmentation, targeted messaging, and digital marketing campaigns. While it’s still in the early stages, both agencies and retailers are exploring its applications and best practices
  • Voice search is gradually gaining traction with the rising adoption of smart home devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. While still lower in volume compared to traditional search methods, its usage is increasing. Retailers should focus on optimizing their websites and content to cater to voice-activated searches effectively.
  • Video advertising is on the rise as TV advertising declines due to the growing popularity of platforms like YouTube, especially during times of load shedding. Short videos are particularly effective, prompting retailers to allocate budget for video production.

Remember to maintain a strong connection with consumers even after the holiday season ends. Holiday shopping extends beyond the peak or festive season, as some customers indulge in desired gifts or make purchases to kick-start their New Year’s resolutions. According to Google research, 52% of South African consumers take advantage of post-holiday sales, and 62% of consumers agree that there are better deals available after the holidays than before. Building a lasting connection with customers requires brands to look beyond the peak season and identify key cultural and retail events that will consistently engage consumers. Proactive planning and engagement enable brands to stay top-of-mind throughout the year, ensuring you are the go-to choice when consumers are ready to make a purchase. With this approach, brands can foster loyalty and maximize success year-round.

Want to get ahead this holiday season? Check out our Holiday Season Guide full of trends, tips and best practices…

Getting Ready For The Holiday Season

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