Whether it’s a one-day online super sale, a major sporting occasion or a traditional local city event, seasonal activities can be a real driver for your e-commerce sales. Scheduled in advance and properly planned, they are also a great way for e-tailers to connect with audiences even on a global scale. And as exposure grows, so will the opportunities and sales. Here are 3 tips to help to you get maximum leverage for your seasonal e-commerce sales.
From 11.11 Singles Day, through to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the year-end kicks off with a whole series of phenomenal online shopping events that set virtual cash registers ringing around the world. And if July’s Amazon Prime Day is anything to go by, e-tailers need to be ready for the rush. Launched in 2015 and recording sales of 900 million U.S. dollars in its first year, Amazon’s big day has grown to an estimated 4.19 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. Impressive! But when it comes to the wow factor, internet sales days know no bounds. Take Alibaba’s Singles Day. Last year it hit 1 billion U.S. dollars in sales in just two minutes, and topped 10 billion after an hour and six minutes. These events transcend cultural boundaries and geographical borders to become widely-anticipated festivals in their own right. We live in truly incredible times with e-commerce!
Stand out amongst the crowd
You don’t have to be one of the global giants or super brands to appeal to the online masses – this is the beauty of e-commerce.
Even if you’re a local merchant, you can and should leverage on your own business identity in your own way to ride on the shopping craze. Make it a point to stay on brand, using seasonal events to strengthen it further. This will help maximise your brand recall factor and keep on top of your customers’ minds.
You can do this through various ways such as keeping a simple calendar of special content or events one to two weeks before the big occasion. Plan micro-customer events, use social media to launch events or simply launch a marketing campaign. The point is not to wait till the eleventh hour to enter the fray. Be the early bird! A good way to start is to list the kind of events you think your customers would be interested in. What is relevant for them? Where are they likely to be?
An e-tailer that does this well is UK-based Soap & Glory who recently launched a series of make-up tutorials in time for Halloween, and along with Facebook’s video tool, encouraged fans to organize their own ‘Watch Party’ to like, comment and share tutorial videos with their friends, complete with product recommendations. Check out their Facebook page to see how they’re always picking up on events and calendar happenings.
Engagement and personalization are key to standing out, and it’s a well-proven fact that in today’s business climate, consumers (especially the younger generation) appreciate being properly engaged by brands. A simple way is to ensure your content or website is easy to use and follows good User Experience principles. A fast and simple check-out process will go a long way. Instead of offering generic promotions or offers, consider providing personalized or tiered offers to your customer persona groups and effectively communicating that via the relevant channels for each group.
A good thing to remember is e-commerce has opened the doors for more competition and this means more clutter in the online shopping space.
Price isn’t the only factor today and while choice is great for consumers, it means that brands will need to think out of the box, be different and experiment with new technology or engaging ways to reach and keep their customers.
Amazon, for example, has done this with their ‘Amazon GO’ concept stores. But you don’t need to be a big brand to execute such ground-breaking ideas.
Experiment with the tools that are available to us in today’s diverse digital world. Many brands are already leveraging Instagram stories to produce interesting videos to engage their audiences. Glossier, the cult make-up brand, uses Instagram Stories as a place to demo products, offer tips on how to wear each item, and feature real users wearing their products.
Facebook Messenger also introduced image-based ads for messenger, which allow brands to send coupons, banner ads and more in an instant. There are also third-party tools like Recart, an automated cart messenger allowing brands to push notifications to generate more revenue from cart abandoners.
Think global. Go global
One thing that successful e-commerce brands do today is that they don’t limit themselves by geographical boundaries – and neither should you.
A simple way to approach this is to reach out to expatriate populations; nothing stands out more to a person than a taste of home or familiarity – leverage this when you think about your strategy. Khanapakana.com, for instance, serves the Indian expat community in the US while also offering exciting new products to traditional US online shoppers.
Beyond this, you can think on the flipside and reach out to new customers abroad using a sort of blue ocean strategy. A good example is the story of Chinese and European luxury brands – gone are the days when Chinese customers flock to Europe for their annual shopping spree. These brands are now dedicating huge resources to reach them online in China.
Net-a-Porter is now available in the Chinese language and currency, and offers free express shipping with a minimum purchase and free returns within 28 days. You can choose to have your items beautifully packed in their signature black boxes and ribbons (for free), somewhat simulating the experience you would get in a luxury boutique.
If you are not sure where to start in understanding overseas trends or interests, try Google’s Trends tool. This analyzes keyword searches in each country. Play it smart, and you can leverage digital ad buys that hit the right spot and bank on more traffic and sales from a trend happening in another country.
Operational readiness is your backbone
You can have all the best plans and content in the world, the best experiences and products for your consumers, but you will lose out, and quickly, if your operations aren’t prepped for the peak season. While it’s a no brainer to ensure adequate inventory levels, consider setting up ‘out-of-stock’ triggers.
E-commerce means optimal websites, not just on the front end (User Experience), but also on the back end. Ensure your website loading speeds are up to par and able to support the increased traffic and orders if all goes well. Keep your site secure and tested, especially during off-peak periods. On your product pages you’ll need rich descriptive product titles, updated images and body content that incentivizes consumers to add items to their shopping carts. Good reviews, if you can get them, are the icing on the cake. Remember to also set up a good analytics tool on your website to track activity during the peak seasons. The learnings are important insights to leverage the next time around! Setting up dynamic ads for your cart abandoners is a good way to maximize your sales.
Pack a punch with your packaging. Quality materials and appealing designs not only help differentiate you from the competition but also drive repurchase rates and help create a memorable experience during seasonal peaks. If you’re expecting increased orders, look up your historical data and plan ahead. It’s important to also think green when it comes to your packaging strategy to cater to the eco-conscious shopper. This can help your brand stand out.
Shipping is also an important consideration and can even influence a buying decision at the last minute. Will you offer free shipping? What will the minimum purchase be? What about free returns? The move toward free shipping for holiday orders is well-established – even for international buyers.
Whatever the case, your logistics process has to be efficient without compromising your entire customer experience.
This can be costly to do on your own, so engage a good third party vendor like DHL who is well resourced to support you on this front.