Our writer says retailers need to stop making their customers feel under siege.
As someone who does most of their clothes shopping online, this is the week every month that my inbox begins to full with marketing emails, all filled with the same urgent message.
'Give yourself a payday treat', '10% off payday treats', 'Wear it now and don't pay until NEXT payday!’
I understand that retailers have only one mission and that is to get me to spend my money with them. However, I think they are in danger of killing the golden goose by bombarding their customers this way.
Not only do I get a huge number of marketing messages around payday (seriously, when did ‘payday treats’ and ‘payday sales’ become such commonplace messages) but throughout the month I get sometimes daily marketing from some brands.
Yes I can unsubscribe – and I have – but the truth is that I don’t want to totally opt out of marketing messages. I want to hear about new lines and sales.
But some of my favourite brands email me almost daily, with increasingly desperate attempts to get me to their website.
Those increasingly desperate attempts
It’s not just the payday messaging. If I have browsed an item and then changed my mind, I get sometimes three emails ‘reminding’ me about it.
And if I don’t open the marketing emails then I get even more urgent marketing emails demanding to know ‘Is it something we said?’
Then there are the 'flash sales'. No wonder I rarely buy items outside of a sale these days; my favourite brands launch ‘flash sales’ at least once a month in an attempt to drive me to their websites.
And that is just the email marketing: online advertising is even worse. Dresses I have considered and then not bought haunt my online experience, they follow me from website to website thanks to cookie-enabled personalised advertising.
Then there’s the credit offered. New fintech firms allow retailers to sell their clothes to customers even when those customers don’t have any cash – with credit being offered until payday.
Such desperation to secure my spending, regardless of my finances or their reputation feels unnerving. As if they are furiously fighting to get as much of the pie as possible before it’s all gone. It does not feel sustainable.
I don’t mind brands marketing to me. I don’t mind retailers wanting to make money. But I feel under siege by their sheer relentlessness.
That’s not good marketing, it’s not good for customers and it’s not even helping the brands.
If you need to buy something and have the funds available, why not pay for it with a cashback credit card then clear the balance in full? This way you'll get rewarded for buying things you needed anyway.
This desperation to wring every penny out of their customers may be understandable. There’s intense competition among clothing retailers, both on and offline.
Customers don’t have the same kind of disposable as they have had in the recent past and there have been costs associated with Brexit that are putting extra pressure on UK businesses.
But the relentless sales don’t help. I freely admit that I now pretty much only shop when there’s a sale.
That is partly because of the changing retail conditions; I’ve been trained to expect regular sales and I no longer see the original price as the right price. That’s not my fault, that is the result of retailers frantically trying to entice me to spend even when I am not planning to.
It’s not good for customers – we are incentivised to spend money as soon as it lands in our bank accounts or to spend even when there is no cash in our accounts.
And it’s not good for the retailers. They look desperate, they cheapen their brands in their customers’ eyes and it’s not sustainable. Many of them are now struggling with the endless sales they are expected to offer.
Last year research by Klarna showed that 53% of retailers agreed that ‘always on’ sales are damaging profits. The need to keep up with competition and meet consumer expectation for a bargain is damaging their bottom line.
I think it’s also damaging their relationship with customers. The relentlessness of online marketing like e-marketing is so very off-putting that it has stopped me from shopping with brands I like.
Imagine going into a physical store where the staff followed you around pleading with you to make purchases and waving the stuff you’ve looked at in your face. You’d never return to that kind of shop.
Well, online retailers that I have enjoyed shopping with are guilty of a digital version of exactly that and the result is exactly the same – I don’t want to shop with them again, not even if I genuinely like their designs.
This week I unsubscribed from five different retailers’ marketing. Two of them then breached GDPR rules by continuing to send me messages.
I did not want to unsubscribe. I’d be happy to receive two or three messages a month, telling me about new items available or even offering me a discount occasionally.
However, this relentless, grasping, greedy and desperate demand for my spending has just turned me off. I don’t want a relationship with brands that think that is okay.
I want to build a lasting relationship with clothing brands I trust. I want to trust their supply chains and trust their prices rather than buy something and then see it with 40% off days later.
I want to know that they want an ongoing customer relationship with me, rather than feeling like they want to extract every penny as fast as possible.
That’s before you even begin looking at the damaging effects of fast fashion, where we spend money we don’t have on poorly made clothing we don’t need, damaging the retail market, damaging our pockets and damaging the planet.
Retailers feel increasingly greedy and desperate. It’s not good for them and it’s not good for their customers. Something has to change because the current situation is unsustainable for so many reasons.
What do you think? Is it unsustainable? Who is to blame, the retailer or the shoppers? What’s the answer? Have your say using the comments below.
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