Emilie Manoury, Digital, eCommerce, and CRM Director at Clarins talks us through her biggest learnings from their busiest time of the year.
This year will be Emilie’s fifth peak season at Clarins and during that time she’s learned plenty about what does and doesn’t work in the world of eCommerce. “I think sometimes you learn more from your failures than your successes,” she muses, so here are Emilie’s top 10 learnings from the past five years.
Lesson 1: Start early
“It’s never too early to start preparing for peak,” she says. “Optimization for SEO takes time, it’s not an overnight success. So the sooner you start optimizing your pages for gifting terms and Black Friday terms – well, good for you!”.
Emilie recommends kickstarting your peak season prep over the summer, like Clarins do, and nailing down your SEO strategy by September at the latest. This gives you enough time to launch your optimizations early, giving them the best possible chance of success when peak season hits in October.
You’ll also want to spend time A/B testing your UX solutions in advance. “You’ll want these learnings before peak season, so when the traffic comes you’re directing customers to the winning solution,” she says.
Lesson 2: Align your teams internally
According to Emilie, the key thing to remember is that peak season is a much wider project than just your eCommerce team. You’ll need to consider and align with your CRM, IT, Media, and Customer Service teams, plus your supply chain, for the best chances of success.
It’s important to ensure each team is ready to cope with the increase in demand and is fully briefed on what’s coming up. “To me, alignment between these teams is the key success driver of a proper peak season.”
Lesson 3: Don’t leave anything to chance
One thing Emilie believes brands don’t prepare for enough is over succeeding their targets.
“Sometimes you plan a big gift and promotion,” she explains, “But then it’s gone before you even reach Black Friday. So what do you do?”
Emilie leans on her own experience with this one, having spent the first year at Clarins faced with this problem unexpectedly. It may have taken Clarins a few years to nail down the solution, but she’s learned to prepare backup plans to avoid customer disappointment. This includes having backup products, visuals, and comms ready in case your hero product sells out quickly.
“Basically, it’s making sure you prepare for success. And if you over-deliver, then you’re ready for that too.”
Responsibility and accountability are also a top priority for Emilie. “It’s important everyone knows who to call if something goes wrong, and who is doing what on what particular day,” she says. With multiple website changes needed during the Black Friday to the New Year sale period, everyone’s role and responsibility must be watertight – especially with many people taking annual leave during this period.
Lesson 4: Be clever with media investment
“No surprise, it’s the most expensive time to invest in media!” says Emilie. “So you need to ask yourself the question: is it worth it?” And sometimes, media investments aren’t the answer.
Emilie made the decision a few years ago to stay away from media investments during the Black Friday period for Clarins. In her experience, the period is too competitive and ROI is virtually non-existent. So it’s worth asking yourself whether your budget may be better spent elsewhere.
Lesson 5: Storytelling is key
“Everyone is talking about big offers and great deals on Black Friday, so how are you going to get the customer’s pocket share? Why are they going to choose your brand over another brand?”
For Emilie, it’s all about telling a consistent story and making sure you engage your audience. It’s not just about offering them good deals and offers, it’s about bringing them along on your brand journey, appealing to their emotions, and making them feel valued and respected.
Your story needs to be evident and consistent across your website, social media, blog, PPC ads, and more. Take your customers on a coherent journey and they’ll build trust with your brand, which will make them more likely to shop with you over competitors.
The marketplace is crowded, so don’t launch a great offer and expect that to be enough.
Lesson 6: Timing is everything
Emilie believes a strategy behind your timings during this period is key. “When are you going to start your Christmas campaign? When should you begin talking about Black Friday? Are you doing an entire month or just the weekend? Make sure you nail this down early on,” she says.
But for real success, you can take this one step further. Think about your customer and put yourself in their shoes. “Do you want to be the first email when she wakes up? Do you want to be the first email on her lunch break? Or when she’s put the kids to bed?”. Get inside the mind of your customers and then strategize your timings.
“Prepare early,” Emilie advises. “Decide what works best for your brand in terms of timings, then plan accordingly. And remember, sometimes less is more.”
Lesson 7: Appreciate the full team effort
While it may be your eCommerce and digital teams who prepare your site in the run-up to Black Friday, the group effort doesn’t stop there. There’ll be warehouse teams and delivery teams, too (affectionately called the ‘Make It Happen Crew’ at Clarins).
At Clarins, this means working together as closely as possible with other teams.
“We need to let these guys know we have their backs and that we’re in this together.”
“Over the past few years, I’ve insisted that my team goes to the warehouse to help pack and ship orders, plus be available to help on the customer service desk. It gives everyone a really good feeling of team spirit.”
Lesson 8: Align your in-store and online teams
Emilie has learned from experience that eCommerce is often seen as ‘stealing’ in-store sales, but this isn’t the case. “It’s complementary. If customers want to shop in-store, they’ll go to the store. If they want to shop online, they’ll find us online. Don’t worry, we’re not stealing anything!”
But breaking down these barriers requires communication. So Clarins eCommerce team makes sure to educate the in-store teams on what they’re looking to do online and how they’re looking to do it. Following the event, they’ll share learnings, revenue numbers, and NPS scores, plus the positive ‘halo’ affect the online experience had for the brand during peak season. “Communication between teams is key,” she concludes.
Lesson 9: Be thankful when it’s over and make sure to celebrate together
For Clarins, it’s important to celebrate success together. Instead of fluffy promises of drinks when the peak season is over, Emilie suggests organizing official team events in advance for when the hard work is done.
“Planning a celebration in advance helps take the pressure off,” says Emilie.
“I know my team is going to do a great job, so I’d rather plan to celebrate with them in advance. It’s a subtle difference, but I believe it’s worth it.”
What’s more, as peak season is so busy, teams often find themselves working late nights and on weekends to get things done. “I’ve learned that you can’t just expect this from them though,” she says. “Instead, last year when we planned out the days everyone was working, we ensured in advance that they’d be given time off in lieu to make up for their extra hours. It helped take the pressure off everyone.” It’s something she’ll be doing this year, too.
Lesson 10: Have a post-peak plan
“So you’ve acquired so many new names in your database, but what are you going to do with them? Are you just going to wait until next year? I think that’s a waste,” says Emilie. “You need to have a plan in place. If you don’t touch base with those newly acquired customers soon enough, they’re just going to drop off.”
So before you start peak season, make sure you have a strategy for your new customers when the season is over. How are you going to make them loyal customers for next year? Make sure you nail it down to keep new customers engaged.
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