Seasonal diversity: brick and mortar beats online
When I was living in London, one of the best things about the changing of the seasons was Harrod’s storefront windows. They would create gorgeous, color-soaked displays for every holiday and seasonal milestone, adding a festive feel to the entire city block. This is a tradition that most brick and mortar stores still embrace.
Online stores, however, prefer to stay within much narrower lanes, dedicating no more than a banner or sidebar to seasonality, if anything. Only for major holidays do they do anything remotely special. This amounts to a major missed opportunity. It’s much easier for online brands to experiment with colors, themes, and displays than it is for brick and mortar stores to do so. And yet the former lags behind in this respect.
How to set up a site for easy customization
A little upfront engineering work can make an entire site’s layout be driven by CSS, which makes it quick and easy to change. An even better approach is to provide simple visual tools designed for marketers. These tools allow creative staff to manipulate the CSS themselves, so that IT is not needed to make changes.
When I was at Zulily, we did just that. We delivered simple tools to our merchandising and design team so they could change background colors (and sometimes even add subtle imagery), button colors, banner colors, and key headline colors and fonts. This unleashed the creativity of the team to customize the entire online storefront as if it were a physical store. The team developed themes not only for different seasons, but also for various annual milestones such as spring break and back-to-school.
When seasonal customization = personalization
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Not only can brands change colors and themes for universal milestones, but they can also customize displays for individuals according to their specific traits. For example, when customers indicate to a brand that they celebrate a particular holiday, such as Hanukkah, Eid, or Christmas, the brand can create custom themes that show up only for those groups of people.
When national moments are being celebrated, such as a sports victory or an Olympic medal, the site can be customized accordingly for the people of that country. US-based customers might see a Thanksgiving themed display. People in China might enjoy a theme celebrating Chinese New Year. When you start treating your site colors, themes, and layout more like a physical store, you not only add freshness and interest to the experience of shopping with your brand, but you open up new possibilities for greater customization, relevance, and engagement.