The holidays are getting closer, and now’s the time to act if you want to increase your 2017 ecommerce sales. No need to feel overwhelmed — here are 15 ways to gear up for the next few months.
Get rid of old stuff
Inventory takes up space, sucks up overhead, and drains profits. Get rid of your older inventory: Sell it at a discount, or even scrap it. Do this and you’ll find you have room for newer, more profitable products. A.J. O’Donnell, who runs Shop E9, a site that sells clothing specifically geared towards climbers, holds special promotions to clear out old inventory and make room for newer gear. “We’re focused on moving last year’s stuff,” he said, “so we can stock up on more products that are in-demand.”
Plan your inventory ahead
Look at your customers’ buying patterns and plan inventory purchases well in advance. O’Donnell spends time looking at prior purchases before deciding how to stock inventory levels. Melody Godfred, who sells self love rings and accessories from her online store Fred and Far, plans extensively. “We look at prior sales trends to see what styles have been the most popular,” she said. “Then we amp up production and purchases based on that.”
Check out forecasting software
“We use inventory forecasting software, and I adjust all my figures and assumptions based on the statistics it provides me,” said Yotam Tavor, who sells specialty shoes from his site Kyboot Walk On Air. “It helps me build inventory with more confidence.” Consider using inventory forecasting applications like Prophix, Demand Works, Adaptive Insights, or tools provided by your ecommerce platform provider. These applications will allow you to spend less time on data consolidation and more time analyzing trends and patterns in data, ultimately enabling you to prepare for whatever situation may come your way.
Play with packaging
Packaging plays a key role in Godfred’s branding. “We take a lot of care in how our products are packaged,” she says. “Our packaging is incredibly unique and very rich in terms of both content and presentation.” Re-designing your packaging may get you more attention — certainly it puts a fresh face on your existing products. Why else would the big brands do this?
Set different prices depending on the time of day, proximity to Christmas Day, region, or other customer behaviors by reviewing purchasing patterns and historical product sales. Tavor, for example, frequently bundles products or includes free shipping for certain items depending on their popularity, the time of year, or customer status.
Offer special promotions
Consider holding a special holiday deal or promotion. O’Donnell prices unique offerings and special promotions strategically, then gauges response and engagement. He also discounts older-moving stuff so he can clear it out to make way for new product. Of course, don’t give away the farm — be wary of any potential brand devaluation in your offering. But, if you can, consider a special promotion this holiday season.
Give stuff away
Luc Bergevin owns subscription wine company Foot of the Bed Cellars. At times, they offer discounts for first orders or give free bottles for referrals. People like free stuff, whether they’re your biggest or most loyal customers, or new customers. Offer up samples and freebies, and give your customers opportunities to buy gifts for their friends and family, too.
Expand your offerings
Although Godfred specializes in pinky rings, she’s growing her business to include items that cater to her market’s needs and wants. “We just launched an expanded jewelry collection and even developed new non-jewelry items to make gifting during the holidays a bit easier,” she said. “We’ve really made an effort in terms of product development to offer a more robust selection of giftable items that still maintains our brand quality and messaging.” Her business fosters a community and mission of self love that has resonated with customers globally, and they asked for more. Look at your prior sales and think about additional items you could offer that will appeal to existing customers or attract new ones. If people are asking for more, you’re lucky! Make sure to build to fit that need.
Make shipping easy
Customers aren’t excited about paying shipping costs, so make your customer experience better by offering free shipping or very simple shipping options. If you have to absorb any additional costs for shipping, build it into your sales price. “We have one domestic option for shipping and one international option,” says Godfred. “We don’t typically offer expedited shipping, since our product gets to your doorstep within two to three days regardless of what shipping option you choose. When it comes to holidays though, people procrastinate and do a lot of last-minute shopping — that’s when customers really need that overnight option.”
Advertise online — even on social media
You and I search for gift items and spend time on social media, and so do your customers. Be sure that your business gets exposure on search engines and social media platforms by engaging in strategic digital advertising campaigns. Consider a budget for Google AdWords, promoted tweets, boosted posts, and other online tools to drive more visitors to your site. Tavor, like many others, relies heavily on Google AdWords and Facebook advertising to drive traffic to his site.
Most of Tavor’s team is outsourced — he can hire contractors on demand for special promotions or busy times of the year. Bringing on independent contractors from sites like UpWork, Freelancer, or even Craigslist can help provide you with an extra set of hands without committing to employing someone year-round. “They’re more elastic,” he said. Sure, you’ll likely pay a little more per hour, but you have the flexibility to set terms and timeline.
Keep your staff flexible
Rather than outsourcing, Bergevin relies on part-timers for added support. “We have three part-time associates who we can scale up and scale down in terms of hours, based on how busy we are,” he said. Get seasonal part-timers from the community, a local college, or even high school. Allow them the ability to determine hours and keep things flexible.
Leverage your platform’s analytics
Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Big Commerce provide powerful reporting tools that track product sales, customer behaviors, margins, and profitability. “Shopify’s analytics are way more robust than any other platform,” says O’Donnell. “It helps me really make better decisions when it comes to targeting my audience on Facebook or targeting on Instagram and so forth.”
Leverage third party applications
Many ecommerce applications, including Amazon and eBay, have large communities of third party developers who have created specific applications to fill niche needs from inventory tracking to specialized pricing. Get familiar with what’s offered with your platform — these choices can have a big impact on your business.
Embrace workflows, triggers, alerts, and other forms of automation that your ecommerce platform provides. Automation tools, like Shopify’s Flow, not only save you time and money, but also provide a quicker response to your customers and thereby benefit your service offerings. Products like Avalara TrustFile can automate even your sales tax filing, saving you time during the end-of-the-year chaos. Tavor says, “TrustFile gives me the most accurate data, lets me manage my sales tax so easily, and gives me time back to focus on my business.” From email campaigns to sales tax, automation solutions are definitely a business plan you want to invest in.
If you take advantage of a few of these tips, you’re sure to see the gift of increased sales this holiday season. Ho, ho, ho!