For many retail entrepreneurs, the idea of designing, developing, and producing a product is already overwhelming. Creating content to share alongside product launches can feel like an immense task.
But a merchandise marketing calendar can help you create a plan and organize promotions, campaigns, cross merchandising, and related information in advance. Planning one month at once alleviates you from the pressure of asking yourself each morning, "What should I post today?"
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What is a Merchandise Marketing Calendar?
A merchandise marketing calendar usually takes the form of a spreadsheet that provides a birds-eye view of a retailer’s merchandise plan and marketing strategy for new product launches. It outlines new product drops, deadlines, and the required action to create and publish content to build brand awareness, generate leads, and ultimately increase sales revenue.
Here we'll learn more about the uses of a merchandise marketing calendar and the information to include to help you build and execute on a successful retail marketing strategy.
Who Should Use a Merchandise Marketing Calendar?
Merchants who sell a physical product via their ecommerce store, pop-in or pop-up shops, or who have a brick-and-mortar location can all benefit from a merchandise marketing calendar.
Planning how and when you will introduce new products to your community is a crucial part of merchandising. It helps keep them engaged and also helps refresh your website and store. Even if you're not launching a new collection each season, you can repurpose and promote previously released products as part of your merchandise planning and marketing strategy.
Repurposing your products and showcasing them differently can result in an increase of sales for an item that you've already had in inventory for a while. Repurposing refers to putting a different spin on an existing product by styling it differently, creating new visual merchandising or written content for that product, and reintroducing it to your community in a way they haven't seen before.
You know all of the products you carry, likely with your eyes closed. However, chances are that your customer might not remember something that they saw a few months ago.
What Information Should Your Merchandise Marketing Calendar Include?
Each retailer’s merchandise marketing calendar will look slightly different. However, I've provided a detailed overview of the information that can help to get you started. Once you’ve created your merchandise marketing calendar, you can add sections that you need or remove information that you don't need.
You can get an idea of what your calendar might look like from the sample above. SmartSheet also offers several marketing calendar templates you can adapt to meet your needs.
1. Merchandise Marketing Calendar Dates
You can organize a Google Sheet to include a new tab for each month of the year. I like to create the template for the entire year all at once, but you can also go month-by-month. Within each tab, the first two columns should be used to organize information by date, including the day of the week. Listing the days of the week can help to remind you of daily hashtags that you can use for Instagram, like #TacoTuesday and #WellnessWednesday, for example.
2. Merchandise You Plan on Marketing
The "Merchandise" column is where you can list the merchandise or products you would like to market on a given date. It can be a quick note that states the name of the product you want to sell, or it can go into more detail. It's up to you to decide if you're going to break down your merchandise marketing into daily campaigns or if you want to focus on a specific product or collection each week and focus on a different detail each day.
For example, if you have a printed blouse collection for fall called "Indian Summer Bouquet," you can do the following over a one week span:
- Monday: Introduce Indian Summer Bouquet collection with a lifestyle image
- Tuesday: Share the inspiration behind the collection with a photograph of your mood board
- Wednesday: Share information about the fabric printing process
- Thursday: Share information about where the products are made
- Friday: Offer styling tips for blouses from the Indian Summer Bouquet collection for casual Friday
- Saturday: Offer weekend styling tips for shirts from the Indian Summer Bouquet blouses
- Sunday: Share a lifestyle photo of someone eating Sunday brunch while wearing a top from the Indian Summer Bouquet collection
3. Marketing Campaign Ideas
Not all of your merchandise marketing efforts need to be considered a full-fledged marketing campaign with numerous moving parts. They can be simple yet powerful. Checking marketing calendars (AKA social media holiday calendars) online a few months in advance can help you brainstorm ideas for relevant campaigns. In addition to the holidays we all know about (like Black Friday-Cyber Monday), you've also probably seen hashtags on Instagram for #NationalCupcakeDay or #InternationalCoffeeDay.
I've included two links below for marketing calendars — look for national days or hashtags that align with your brand voice or mission. You can use these "holidays" to build marketing campaigns that resonate with your audience.
4. Goals and Objectives For Each Merchandise Marketing Campaign
A retailer's ultimate goal is to convert website visitors or physical store visitors into buying customers. However, there are often numerous touch points before a visitor becomes a paying customer. According to an article in Inc., "Most transactions don't happen during an initial visit to a website."
Defining goals for each of your merchandise marketing campaigns is one way to track and measure the success of your marketing strategy. It's also a great way to test and learn from the previous approach to adapt your future merchandise marketing game plan.
Here are some of the goals and objectives that you can consider for your next merchandise marketing campaign:
- Tell your brand story
- Educate your customer about a new product
- Upsell or cross-sell a specific product
- Generate leads (collect email addresses)
- Increase website traffic for future remarketing
- Build brand awareness
- Promote an event
- Convert visitors to buyers
- Promote a sale
5. Upcoming Retail Events
Include a section on your merchandise marketing calendar for upcoming sales events, like pop-up and pop-in shops, trade shows, and market appearances. Adding these events to your calendar is a great way to align them with your marketing schedule.
To build buzz for your products and the sales event, you can plan to market products that you’ll sell at the event during the days leading up to it.
6. Where You’ll Publish and Market Your Content
Now that you’ve decided which products you want to share and your goals for each, the next few columns in your merchandise marketing calendar are essential as they provide more specific details for content creation and sharing.Next, determine precisely where you want to publish the content for the most return on investment (ROI). Some retailers prefer to have fewer columns and group all social media channels into one column, but I like to separate them each into their column.
- Email Marketing
The headings for these columns is also a place to identify the owner for each publishing task. You can include their name in the title. For example, Instagram (Jill), Facebook (Jill), and Email Marketing (Jack). Adding the task owner to each column is one way to make sure everyone is aligned with marketing efforts and knows exactly where his or her place is on a retailers merchandise marketing calendar.
FURTHER READING: Learn more about how to leverage email marketing to promote your retail products.
7. Links to Visual Content Files
For many of the publishing outlets listed above, you will need visual content. You can save your images on Google Drive and then add a link to visuals on the chart. By doing this, each team member can find the photos as needed when they are ready to publish content.
8. Marketing Campaign Reports
Last, but not least, add a column for stats on your marketing campaign can help measure the success of your strategy. Depending on your goal for each campaign, this column may include specific numbers like conversion rate, click-through-rate (CTR), new email subscribers, and unique website visitors.
This column is also an excellent place to add a short note to yourself about something that you learned and would like to apply to future marketing campaigns.
Moving Forward With Your Merchandise Marketing Calendar
Even if you only have one or two products, creating a merchandise marketing calendar can help you plan your marketing strategy and keep your audience engaged. Your monthly plan may change from time to time, but with an organized outline, you'll be able to learn from experience and build a strategy for success.