The numbers are in: the 2013 holiday season saw the weakest performance for retailers since 2008. Almost across the board, and in a variety of industries, even the world’s leading consumer product companies missed their internal projections. And to make matters worse, many experts are today predicting that what happened in December was not an aberration, but the new normal. So what does all of this doom and gloom mean for your business?
Not a whole lot.
Lacking from many of these negative news stories was the fact that online sales grew yet again in Q4. In the U.S, which is a strong indicator of global consumer patterns, eCommerce sales figures rose a full 10%, as compared to the previous year. In addition, it’s been reported that almost 50% of all smartphone users shopped for, or purchased, at least one holiday gift via their mobile browsers.
This is a Time of Incredible Opportunity for Your Business
The most important takeaway here is that there are still numerous opportunities for sales growth via eCommerce. And this holds true for both traditional retailers, and those who sell exclusively online. With the holiday season now over, sales are beginning to slow, which means this is the perfect time for you to begin reassessing your consumer marketing strategy. In particular, here are three key areas for you to focus on:
Assessing Your Website
Chances are that while you visit your website daily, it’s been some time since you last sat down and really assessed its functionality. So set aside at least an hour in the coming week to explore your site with a “customer mentality.” You should especially pay attention to whether or not your site seems to flow congruently, or if there are pages where it’s unclear what a customer should do next.
A good rule of thumb is this: no matter what page your visitor is on, there should always be a substantial call to action like “read more,” “request a quote,” “buy now,” or “signup for our newsletter.” If you have pages that seem like dead-ends, you’re losing sales.
Getting Serious About Analytics and Analysis
Related to the last point, it’s time you start seriously tracking the behaviour of your site visitors. If you haven’t added Google Analytics to your website, you must do so immediately. With this tool alone, you’ll be able to understand how many visitors you’re getting to your site every day, how they’re finding you, where they’re clicking, and how long they’re sticking around.
If you use an eCommerce platform, you should also be taking advantage of its reporting features. In particular, take a look at your shopping cart abandonment rate. Many of the most popular eCommerce platforms will show you how many visitors are adding items to their cart, how many are reaching the checkout page, and how many actually decide to complete their purchase. You may be shocked to find that while 15% of your visitors add something to their cart, only 3% actually hit “buy.” If this is the case, your number one priority should be going through your checkout process to figure out why such a big drop-off is occurring.
Planning Out Your Promotional Strategy
An overwhelming majority of online retailers – and this includes brick and mortar stores that also sell on the web – choose their promotions and discounts haphazardly. The way it normally goes is that the business owner, or someone in marketing, decides that they should run a promotion, creates a coupon code, and then throws it up on their Facebook page or website. Typically they get some extra sales from doing this, but the increase is rarely a game-changer.
Instead, assign someone on your team to schedule the promotions you’ll run over the coming year. Then, go a step further and actually determine how you will communicate these promotions to your customers and prospects. Really get detailed here: figure out which special offers will be available for everyone, which ones will be available through your website, which ones will be shared via social media, and which ones will be sent out to your email list.
Another great strategy when doing this is to tell customers about some of your promotions before they even begin. Doing so builds up anticipation, which in turn leads to a surge of sales once the offer does go live.
To Reap the Harvest You Must First Plant the Seeds
World-renown business consultant and author Stephen Covey talks constantly about the “law of the harvest.” Essentially, this maxim states that in order for your business to reap a bountiful harvest of new customers and more sales, you must first plant the seeds. This is exactly what will happen if you take the time to evaluate your online retail process over the next month. So let’s get to work!