Written by Laura Gayle, Business Woman Guide
Back-to-school marketing is in full swing which means traditional holiday selling is not far off. Many businesses limit their seasonal sales pushes to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, perhaps with a nod to Valentine’s Day and summer. Don’t get us wrong, the traditional December gift-giving holidays are important. But stopping there is a mistake.
A single glance at the success of “National Donut Day” and “Prime Day” is proof that there are many more seasonal opportunities that creative companies can capitalize on. Bakeries and donut shops saw a 46% increase in sales revenue on National Donut Day this year. The holiday, which is celebrated on the first Friday each June, isn’t new. It was created by the Salvation Army in 1938 as a fundraiser to help those struggling during the Great Depression. But there has been a huge surge of awareness and interest over the past few years as chains like Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme have capitalized on it in their marketing.
Amazon didn’t look to the history books when it created its own brand new, blockbuster holiday. The e-commerce titan sold more than 100 million products on “Prime Day,” on July 16 this year. And although it didn’t provide specifics, it reported signing up more new Amazon Prime members during this year’s event than any other single day since the premium service was launched.
The lesson to e-commerce merchants is simple. If you’ve noticed a time of year when sales are sluggish, look for a non-traditional occasion like Pi Day (March 14) or National Siblings Day (April 10) – or create your own – and use it to give business a boost. Here are some things to take into consideration when hosting a sale for a non-traditional holiday.
Figure Out Which Days Align With Your Business
If you’re going totake advantage of a non-traditional holiday, you want to make sure it aligns with your e-commerce business in some way. For example, if you sell pop-culture merchandise that’s even remotely connected to movies or science fiction, May 4 is unofficially known as Star Wars Day, playing off of one of its most famous lines – “May the 4th be With You.”
If your business involves pet supplies, National Dog Day is a natural fit. You can remind people to get drool-worthy photos of their pooches ready to flood Facebook and Instagram with on August 26 and market your wares at the same time. However, you can also get creative here by showcasing your “dog-friendly office policy,” or bringing in a pet artist to do portraits of team members for a fun spin on social that dries home brand values aka must love dogs.
Put your thinking cap on and do some research, then come up with a yearly promotional calendar so you can prepare in advance and make the most of all opportunities.
Create a Selling Strategy
You have to figure out in advance what you’re promoting or discounting. Are you going to give a sitewide discount of a fixed amount, or are you going to apply it to certain types of merchandise only? Maybe you want to encourage people to buy more items and increase the discount for the more they buy. Be sure to clearly state how and where any promotions work. The sooner you have this figured out, the sooner you can put it on your website and give your customers advance notice of the upcoming sale via an email blast and site-wide notification banners.
If you’ve noticed a time of year when sales are sluggish, look for a non-traditional occasion like Pi Day (March 14) or National Siblings Day (April 10) – or create your own – and use it to give business a boost. Here are some things to take into consideration when hosting a sale for a non-traditional holiday.
You can promote your selling event through traditional channels like broadcast, print, pay-per-click, social. But you also might want to take a page from Amazon’s playbook. For weeks ahead of the big day, all of Amazon’s packages featured bright blue printed packing tape touting Prime Day. Custom packaging can help to build brand awareness and generate excitement for your event.
Get Your Site Ready to Handle the Load
Once word gets out that you’re going to have an off-season sale for a non-traditional holiday, you’re going to get a lot of people patiently waiting for the opportunity to buy at a discount. The worst thing you can do for them is to have a site that’s not prepared to handle the influx of sales. The success of Amazon’s Prime Day 2018 was marred by several glitches in the early hours of the event and while you may not experience quite the same influx of traffic, be sure to double check server performance, email opt-in forms and social media links to make the most of new site visitors. It is far better to have too much capacity than not enough in order to make the customer’s purchasing experience a smooth one.
Have Enough Stock on Hand
This seems like it should be obvious, but there’s nothing worse for a customer to find that the item they want is out of stock. So while you may want to put items on sale just to finally be rid of the inventory, this could backfire. For online boutiques, be sure to check in with your wholesalers about extra availability of the items you’re highlighting to make sure you can meet demand. If you’re concerned about a product not selling as expected, consult with the wholesaler about return options and/or shipping directly from the wholesaler for some items.
Figure Out How Much Stock to Have Available
If you’ve never done a non-traditional holiday sale before, it can be tough to determine just how much inventory you need. One avenue is to talk to your wholesalers or friend who run online businesses about their experience with other customers who do non-traditional holiday sales. They’ll have a good idea of how much stock gets sold by their other customers and can give you an idea of how much stock you’ll need. Another option is to pull up numbers from traditional holiday sales and look at how much you sold of the items you’re planning on discounting. This gives you a baseline on how much you need to order to be prepared for the big day.
Keep Customers Happy (even if You do Run Out)
Have a plan in place should any of your careful planning not go according to plan. For example, if you run out of stock because demand went beyond your projections, consider offering a backorder option on your shopping cart and add in free shipping for the trouble. This lets the customer get the discount, you make the sale, and you generate goodwill from the customer because you honored a discount when you had no obligation to do so. This kind of customer service can lead to repeat sales and good word of mouth about your business among their peers which can also lead to increased sales.
Increase Staffing for Order Fulfillment
One of the things people gave up when they transitioned to online shopping was the sense of instant gratification of having something in their hands when they made their purchase. Now they have to wait a couple of days or more for their item to arrive. Don’t let them down because you don’t have enough people to fulfill orders. Hire temporary employees to get the merchandise packed and shipped as soon as the order slip gets printed. The sooner the product is out of the building and on its way with a tracking number, the happier the customer.
Get Your Shipping Department Ready
There’s nothing worse than running out of shipping supplies in the middle of fulfilling the volume of orders. It costs in the form of idle labor and the need to buy supplies at retail prices if you don’t have a local wholesale supplier. Order more than enough supplies to ship everything you anticipate selling. You compensate for defective materials and accidental destruction of boxes during preparation. The benefit to you comes in the form of paying less for large quantities of supplies and you save money when volume returns to normal because you didn’t have to resupply at higher prices.
Make sure to alert your shippers to the potential for increased volume on that day and find out how they handle these kinds of situations. There are a number of ways shippers handle increased volume and preparation on your end translates into your packages getting onto the truck faster.
Don’t expect your first foray into non-traditional seasonal selling to give you the kind of massive sales boost that Dunkin Donuts and Amazon enjoyed this summer. Their revenue increases were the result of several years of building momentum. But if you commit to your annual marketing calendar and repeat your promotions at the same time each year, you will likely see steady growth as more fans and customers catch on.
Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger passionate about e-commerce and the ways technology is helping to rejuvenate the American dream. The Internet is amazing. Today, anyone with a good idea, some practical knowledge, and a strong work ethic can start a business. These lowered barriers are especially game-changing for women, who traditionally haven’t been encouraged to strike out on their own. I created this guide to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. For many of us, entrepreneurship is the key to true work-life balance.