Seasonality: Determining Best Seasonal Marketing Practices

With spring finally here, there’s more to be excited for than flowers and sunshine.

A seasonal shift can be an incredible opportunity for retail growth, and it all starts with determining how seasonality affects your business.

But how do we understand and make use of seasonality? While some businesses vary dramatically with season, there are some general best practices and analysis from which most retailers can benefit.

Defining “Seasonality” for Retailers

There are a couple of different ways to understand seasonality in retail. At the most basic level, seasonality is a change, however large or small, in traffic. The point in the year where you experience the highest volume of traffic is colloquially referred to as your “in season,” whereas your “out season” is when you experience the lowest volume.

But traffic isn’t the sole metric that can seasonally change. Conversion rates, order value, and even participation can see peaks and valleys as seasons shift.

It may seem obvious, but conceptualizing these yearly traffic changes is the first step to capitalizing on them in your marketing efforts.

Types of Seasonal Marketing

There are two basic types of seasonal marketing that most organizations make use of: Long-term seasonal and short-term seasonal. Though there are pros and cons for both, it’s necessary for retailers to develop strategies across both categories to achieve optimal results.

Long-term seasonal efforts include special offers, sales, and promotions around long-lasting or ongoing seasonal events. These are your standard seasonal marketing efforts, or times of the year retailers build campaigns around. Short-term seasonal marketing is much more precise, focusing on one-off events or specific holidays.

For example, you could run a long-term seasonal campaign this spring to help promote sales over the next three months, while jointly running a targeted short-term seasonal campaign that focuses specifically on Memorial Day.

Effective Use of Long-term/Short-term Seasonal

Long-term seasonal is much more effective at creating associations and using subtle, low-risk marketing to capitalize on volume (or the lack thereof). By appealing over a longer period of time, consumers see long-term seasonal marketing as less of a “sell” and more of “quality” of the company or a projection of its image.

Short-term seasonal can afford to be less subtle, relying on time-sensitive tactics to make an impact. For transactional marketing where the point of focus is on the moment of sale, this is key. Short-term seasonal campaigns are highly effective at creating a sense of urgency and prompting consumers to “act now,” which can dramatically bolster sales.

While both can yield positive results, they are not without pitfalls.

Long-term efforts have a tendency to get static and lose relevancy, especially in terms of an ongoing sale, whereas short-term efforts have far less time to engage people and have to be focused on specific buyer personas.

Effective seasonal marketing relies on a perfect melding of both types in order to make up for where each falls short. This can be a challenge, but by creating a general, long-term seasonal campaign with specific short-term seasonal benchmarks, you can capitalize on your business’ seasonality during both in and out seasons.


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