End of year sales promotions are in full swing, be it at malls in the UAE or online. Retailers in the Gulf scored decisive wins with the campaigns they have been runnng since the second-half of November. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

The power of the festive season for retailers is undeniable. And the lead up to the holidays can inspire consumers with a magical glow - whether it’s eye-catching shop windows or the scores of festive-themed activities.

It’s when advertising is at its most inventive and appealing in the hopes of enticing consumers to spend, generating a bumper sales period for retailers. Dubbed the “Golden Quarter”, it’s the period between October and the end of December where the consumer festive calendar is at its peak.

Throughout this period there are plenty of key shopping moments that have traditionally focused on the allure of the in-store shopping experience and, in recent years, the more contemporary online shopping opportunities of White Friday and Cyber Monday. Retailers in the UAE are cooling off after a period of brisk sales, and getting ready for a flurry of activity as we enter the festive season.

A clear November spike

Our recent data show that user traffic on retailer sites begins rising in early November, or even prior, and continues to rise until the festive season. On average, buyers interact with a product in advance of the actual purchase approximately 40-60 per cent of the time. Therefore, it’s important for brands to be present when this browsing is happening, as consumers are in the consideration phase of the buyer journey.

Sales during key promotion dates are also heavily influenced by ad clicks from weeks earlier, highlighting the necessity of advertising early and continuing throughout the season.

As the festive season is already underway, what can retailers expect and what are the key trends going forward? The opportunity to increase sales and improve performance during the Golden Quarter is not going away any time soon.

There are subtle changes year-on-year that require retailers to make sure their strategy has inbuilt agility and flexibility to cope with the different phases of the festive journey.

Analyze to strategize

Analyzing each festive occasion and their strategic importance to your business will help determine whether the marketing focus is on all, or just a select number of promotional events. Given that the popularity of White Friday and Cyber Monday are the main events in the run up to the end of year festivities in the Middle East, more retailers should add it to their promotional calendar.

Retailers will need to be aware of any impact on their overall promotional strategy and put plans into action sooner rather than later in order to stay competitive.

Retailers need to factor in the diversity of the market and shifting consumer profiles. We know that a one-size-fits all solution is no longer an appropriate gameplan for the complex changes in consumer habits retailers are having to digest.

Retailers should look to factor in the rise of value-seeking consumers and conscious shoppers by carefully analyzing how culture, demographics, age and the economy impact the purchasing decision making journey. Sales conversion strategies need to be highly customized and be able to adopt the most appropriate messages at the most appropriate time to target and re-target consumers effectively in the run up to the winter holidays.

Factor in data above all else

The Key to success will be the ability to smartly analyze data that helps build a research-rich profile of EMEA consumers in order to add valuable insights ahead of the festive season. Data is now the new currency with which retailers can unlock what drives consumers to make a purchase.

Transparent, secure and trustworthy data and analytics can help expand brand awareness, enhance brand consideration and - ultimately - increase conversions. Together they comprise the main ingredients required for retailers to end the year on a magical performance note.

Our latest update following the White Friday weekend showed that the revenues of Middle East retailers soared around White Friday across the region, especially in Saudi Arabia, which witnessed year-on-year double-digit growth. Ecommerce is grabbing an ever increasing market share given the changing dynamics of retail.

It is imperative for retailers to chart out a winning and clear ecommerce strategy to capitalize on these trends in the future.

- Alistair Burton is Country Manager for Middle East and Africa at Criteo.