While November and December, otherwise known as the peak sales season, seem far away, eCommerce businesses should start preparing now to ensure a smooth and successful season and a strong finish to FY23.
The pandemic has seen rapid eCommerce growth, with more consumers shopping online now than ever before. This trend is only going to continue, with online shopping frequency in Australia expected to remain 28% higher than before the pandemic.
Along with planning for peak sales season, comes the need to budget for the entirety of FY23. In order to execute any form of digital transformation, you need to ensure you have the resources allocated to do so, and further drive company growth.
Being proactive is crucial to avoid the common pitfalls that often plague eCommerce businesses during peak times such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas sales. At Black Friday Cyber Monday’s (BFCM) 2019 peak, businesses on Shopify processed $1.5 million in sales per minute. Therefore, to keep up with the growing demand and increase your eCommerce sales during the peak season, now is the time to optimise your digital strategy.
There is a need greater than ever before to continuously elevate your business in order to remain competitive and grow customer loyalty. To be able to execute this in FY23, starting your budget plan now is crucial in ensuring you invest sufficient CAPEX and OPEX to further improve your value proposition and unique selling point. Through leveraging ROI forecasts, keyword research and other forms of predictive analysis, you can accurately construct a budget plan that provides you with growth capability in every aspect of business.
By digitising key processes and elements of your business, you can improve their efficiency and performance, making for a better user experience. This improved performance is particularly crucial during the peak sales season when demand is at its highest.
Digitisation can also help eCommerce businesses to scale up their operations to meet this increased demand, whether that be through automating inventory systems, optimising your eCommerce platform or investing in a performance marketing strategy.
And remember - digital adoption doesn’t happen overnight. From strategising, to finding the right solution, to implementing it into your business and training your staff, a perfectly executed digital transformation can take around six months. That’s why May/June is the optimal time to begin the process - so you can be fully set up in time for the peak sales season.
Transforming your business digitally will help increase your eCommerce sales by gaining a competitive edge over rivals, and ensure that you're able to exceed consumer expectations at all times of the year.
It’s important to make sure your business and your technology operate seamlessly, particularly during the sales season, when even the smallest disruption can have a big impact on your bottom line.
So, how can you prepare and ensure a smooth sailing sales season and strong future ahead? Below are some key steps:
A great customer experience is essential for driving sales during the peak sales season. Putting the customer at the centre of your business with a customer experience strategy is particularly crucial during sale season, as this is when consumers are generally more impatient and overwhelmed.
According to Skilled, 79% of customers “dissatisfied” with a site’s performance are less likely to buy from them again. If your website page is too slow, customers won’t have a good experience and likely go to your competitor. That’s why developing a CX strategy that mitigates these factors, is crucial in the first step of you digital transformation.
Customer research enables you to fully understand the needs and wants of your customers, so you can deliver an exceptional customer experience come sale-time. Without customer research, you can sometimes miss the mark on what your customers really want, leaving them unsatisfied and choosing a competitor instead of you.
A key step is to reflect on the previous financial year, and figure out what worked and what didn’t work. With customers at the forefront, it's important to keep in mind what led customers to convert or what didn’t. Both qualitative and quantitative data can help you define the customer’s needs, and further craft the optimal strategy. Through A/B Hypothesis testing, Google Analysis insights and heat mapping techniques; you can quantify and measure your suggested strategy and further drive growth with data-driven decision making.
From inception to point of sale, right through to customer advocacy, connecting your operations to the customer experience at every touchpoint will help you gain a competitive advantage, keep your customers happy, and encourage them to come back for more, even after the sales season.
As you gear up for the peak sales season, reviewing your data will help you identify any potential areas for improvement or further optimisation.
For example, by checking your conversion rate against industry standards and competitors, you can gain a better understanding of whether what you’re doing is providing value. This will also help benchmark your performance in peak and non-peak periods and set realistic KPIs for the peak sales season and beyond. You can generally pay for this information via certain data sources, which can supply you with the relevant insights applicable to your industry.
Before FY23, reviewing your budget and ensuring that you plan for advertising, investment into new tech and a fully-devised campaign strategy is crucial in order to execute your digital transformation and drive growth in the new financial year.
As the peak sales season approaches, you should develop a full-funnel marketing strategy that targets customers through every appropriate marketing channel, and every stage of the purchasing funnel. Having an in-depth understanding of your customers as they move through the funnel makes it easier to create promotional offers and discounts that will entice customers to choose your business over your competitors.
Unfortunately, we often find there is a lack of breadth and coverage when we review businesses' marketing strategies. It can be easy to target particular parts of the funnel, and neglect potential buyers that may not be so obvious. From a refined customer experience, value proposition to execution, after-sale EDMs, chatbots and targeting paid media; there are so many different avenues to consider holistically in order to convert and retain a customer.
Without a full-funnel marketing strategy, you run the risk of wasting time and money investing in the wrong channels, targeting the wrong audience, or delivering the wrong message. A full-funnel strategy is a holistic, customer-centric approach that enables you to target consumers effectively and provide a seamless and consistent customer experience at every touchpoint. It means creating funnels within each channel, rather than viewing channels as being segmented by funnel stages by tailoring your marketing messaging to customers at every touchpoint, and across every channel (for example, your website, social media, or email). This approach assumes the customer journey never ends.
As you prepare for the peak sales season, it is important to ensure that your website is robust and able to handle increased demand. Looking through a technical lens, you want to make sure your website can handle an influx of traffic from all standpoints. An SEO audit can help you see where your website might be failing or has potential for optimisation, and further drive page speed (check your current speed here!). Optimising the user experience and user interface design will also ensure your website performs at its best to keep your customers from moving on to your competition.
Popular brands, such as Lululemon, J.Crew, and Lowe's, continue to add to the list of those having ecommerce websites crash during high-demand periods like Black Friday. According to ITIC’s survey, “81% of respondents said 60 minutes of downtime costs their business over $300,000.”
There is nothing more frustrating than leaving sales at the table, and preparing your website for scale is a great place to start, especially given this is where customers are generally converted. If your website can’t handle the traffic, it may lead to slow loading times, or it could potentially crash altogether, meaning you might lose hundreds, if not thousands, of sales depending on the severity.
Ensuring you have an optimised inventory and workflow management system is crucial for eCommerce businesses during the peak sales season. Automating these systems will help you to keep track of your stock levels, avoid overstocking or running out of stock, and make sure that your customers always have the products they need. There is also a strong opportunity to integrate with Warehouse Management Systems and freight and logistics to ensure speedy delivery.
This doesn’t only save time and reduce labour costs, but it also improves the accuracy of any data, which reduces potentially expensive mistakes. Selling a product to a customer, only for them to later be notified it's actually out of stock, can lead to unhappy customers who might leave a bad review, or never return at all.
You should also focus on maximising sales through your top sales channels, with an omnichannel approach. This kind of process is defined by seamless integration between any sales channel you have, including brick-and-mortar. The main benefits of this include real-time and accurate inventory tracking, effortless gift card utility and loyalty redemption. It is advantageous for the overall customer experience due to improved efficiency, leading to greater consumer retention and satisfaction.
This might involve using a popular platform like Shopify, which integrates offline and online, with your brick-and-mortar POS as well as social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
Omnichannel commerce offers seamless shopping between different channels, which can help you reach a wider audience and boost sales. An omnichannel retail platform such as Shopify can help you manage rapid periods of growth, by giving consumers the opportunity to purchase wherever and whenever they interact with your brand.
Customer relationship management is one of the most under-invested systems that can act as one of the greatest value drivers. CRM systems help businesses to personalise and manage customer data, automate marketing and sales processes, and improve customer service. For example, a customer that receives a personalised birthday discount or a thank you email following a purchase is more likely to engage and make a purchase if they feel valued.
This will help you to focus your time and money where it counts. By implementing a customer relationship management tool into your business, you can easily identify and build relationships with customers at all touchpoints. For example, Hubspot is one of our client’s preferred CRM platforms that seamlessly integrates your customer data with free CRM tools, and helps create personalised customer experiences across channels, throughout the customer journey.
No matter how well you prepare, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong during the peak sales season. That's why it's important to have a contingency plan in place.
An external partner/digital consultancy can assist you in developing a plan that’s catered to your business specifically. This can enable you to minimise the risk of disruptions to your business as well as help you resolve any issues that do arise.
We know embarking on digital transformation is an intimidating prospect, but by starting the process now, we can help you transform your business to take advantage of the peak sales season.
The team at BlueRock Digital are experts in all things digital transformation, so whether you want to optimise your website, automate your inventory or develop a sales strategy, we can help.
And with the government now offering to offset the cost of digital adoption, there really has never been a better time to start thinking about transforming your business. So, if you’re ready to increase your eCommerce sales, what are you waiting for?
To find out more, get in touch.