There are many challenges that come with running an ecommerce business. And one of the biggest is battling to maintain a continual uptrend in sales.
It’s for this reason the final quarter of each year is looked upon with such excitement by retailers of all sizes. With the 2016 holiday period generating total retail sales of $658.3 billion in the US alone, the opportunity to take advantage of increased consumer buying is huge.
But being prepared is essential if your business is going to make the most of key retail dates at any point of the year.
That’s why we asked nine ecommerce experts for their very best advice on maximising sales in Q4. These guys have been there and done it with their own ecommerce businesses. And here are their top tips on how they get the most out of the year’s final quarter.
Chloe Thomas – eCommerce MasterPlan
Add some simple emotional nudges to buy. Once set up these will encourage every single site visitor to purchase without you having to do anything else.
- Use Urgency – with a countdown to the deadline for next day delivery
- Use Scarcity – with a “only X left in stock” message
- Build Trust by featuring your overall review score in your header, including number of happy customers.
Use all 3 by flagging “X customer bought this in the last 24 hours” type messages – take a look at a Very.co.uk product page to see what I mean.
Claire Taylor – SimplyVAT
Avoid European Union VAT tax authority penalties by making sure you know your VAT Rules when selling internationally.
For example – when using Fulfilment Centres (eg. Fulfilment By Amazon FBA), it is important to know where your goods are being held as there is an automatic obligation to VAT register in each European Union country where stock is held.
If a trader is not aware of the overseas stock movements and fails to report them, this can result in late registration, late filing, late payments and penalties and interest payments being applied by the tax authorities.
Joel Kalinowski – Ecommerce Expert and Consultant
Take a look at your transactional emails – specifically abandon cart and product recommendations. These emails are automated, so they are easy to forget about, but they also do a lot to build your business, and revenue.
Make sure your abandoned cart message is active and up-to-date (including any offers/discounts). Product recommendations help you squeeze extra dollars from customers who just purchased, but they only work if they have relevancy.
Make sure these emails are triggering after purchase and providing relevant recommendations for other products that specific customer may want. If you don’t have either of these transactional emails running, now is the time to start!
Jeremy Biron – Forecastly
Focus on your most profitable products first. We call this the A-List. Things get crazy in Q4 and you want to make sure that you don’t accidentally run out of stock of one of your most important products.
Check your “A-List” products regularly for inventory counts and have extra safety stock to protect against a stock-out. Use data to help build your demand predictions for these items and account for seasonality.
Q4 forecasting shouldn’t be a guessing game.
Burc Tanir – Prisync
Q4 is when the ecommerce market gets incredibly vibrant with crazy deals offered worldwide, during times like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day, all going on around the quarter.
Therefore, ecommerce retailers of all sizes from all around the world, should think further about applying smart pricing strategies during those times to make most out of that bonanza!
James Gurd – Digital Juggler
My advice is based on plugging common gaps in your trading and customer service proposition. Gaps that, if filled smartly, can support conversion rate and reduce cost by improving internal efficiency.
Here are 10 top things to tackle for your ecommerce business:
- Have you planned for increased capacity across the business and ensured your systems, processes and people are ready e.g. Is your tech support team providing out of hours support so the website doesn’t stay down on a key trading day?
- Have you done an exhaustive UAT on all your campaigns, promotions and price changes? This means putting a robust process in place to ensure the product catalogue in your commerce systems is aligned with source pricing and inventory files, promotions work as expected (e.g. If the there’s a site wide free item for orders over £X, does this item get added to the basket correctly?), expiry dates are set for promotions etc.
- Have internal teams been briefed? Your campaigns are as good as your ability to execute them, so ensure everyone who is customer facing has the right level of briefing to know how to handle customer enquiries, including issues.
- Do you have real-time dashboards and alerts set on key KPIs to be proactive in monitoring site and campaign performance – during peak trading, it’s no good waiting until the next week’s reports to discover a problem
- Do you have remarketing campaigns set-up to target people who visit but don’t purchase? For example, running paid social and display ads to people who have added to basket but abandoned the checkout
- Are you using exit intent for key user journeys to reduce your total abandonment, for example displaying a strong service or promotional message to people who exit the website with a product still in their basket?
- Have you ensured you offer the best possible delivery service to be competitive? People expect to be able to order until right up to Christmas Eve, so how efficient is your delivery service?
- Do you make your customer service proposition clear to people on the website, for example using site wide messages in the header and footer? This is a great way to publicise things like free delivery and last order cut-off dates/times
- Have you created any seasonal product bundles to encourage people to increase their average order value in return for a bundle discount?
- Have you defined a plan to maximise the revenue opportunity from your affiliate marketing partners? This is a great time to incentivise them to push your brand and products, with improved commission and performance bonuses.
Tom Buckland – ghostmarketing.co.uk
Reach out to influencers. People in Q4 are ready to buy, so make sure you get in front of your target audience through influencers.
This can be through a guest post on an influencer’s blog (which is great for SEO too), or just a standard shout out on their Twitter, Instagram – or even better, their YouTube channel.
Joshua Price – suspensionexperts.com
As your sales volume increases over Q4, so does the risk of suspensions from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay – more orders means more opportunities for complaints and mistakes.
One thing you can do now to reduce issues is increase your dispatch latency / handling time to 4 days or more, to ensure you have plenty more time to dispatch your orders at peak times.
Gaby Young – Feedvisor
Apply a Competitive Pricing Strategy to Stay Profitable
Since competition for the Buy Box culminates during the holiday season, sellers may get caught up in a price war. It’s important, therefore, to decide on a competitive strategy up front. Is your focus on volume of sales or profit margin?
If you want to fight tooth and nail for the bottom line penny, you might sell out faster, but in the end you’ll miss the margin. An algorithmic repricing solution like Feedvisor can help to avoid price wars and maximize your Q4 profits.
FBA and Seller Fulfilled Prime will give you a leg up on the competition as your sales continue until December 24, whereas if you use FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant), your sales will decline.
If you want to win the Buy Box, then ignore the low-cost sellers. They’ll be out of stock before the season kicks in.
For example, if your competitor is selling a Halloween costume at rock bottom prices and it’s September, then chances are they might end up making a 5% profit on that item. But by October, they will sell out. And that gives you the upper hand to price competitively. So if you wait till mid-October, then you can make 40% profit on that item.
And there you have it. World-class advice from nine leading ecommerce experts. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and smash those Q4 sales – good luck!!
Looking for more advice like this? Visit Veeqo Academy for free guides, on-demand masterclasses and exclusive insights, designed to make you the best retailer possible.