Experienced sellers will tell of the almost predictable drop-off of business during the summertime months. This is the time of year when many folks step away from their online buying to enjoy a much-needed getaway. For sellers, it can be a time of uncertainty, a stretch of weeks when sell-through rates waver and often recede.
Although this might appear to some as the harbinger of bad times coming, seasoned sellers anticipate the potential slowdown, and some even embrace it. Since summertime is regarded as a season of refreshment for those who have dutifully tended their tasks for the past six months, this is your opportunity to make a mid-year assessment of your activity.
Here are some tips and tactics to help you take advantage of the season, making proactive moves to help maintain your online sales activity while also giving your online business a bit of a tune up in anticipation of those end-of-year holidays that will arrive faster than you realize.
Adjust Your Inventory
Astute sellers are constantly assessing their inventories of goods, determining what's selling, what's languishing and what can be done to appeal to buyers' wants and needs of today and tomorrow. Here's your mid-year checklist, then, for what you should be considering as you review your goods for sale:
Consider advertising a summer sale, enticing buyers to act now while you offer limited-time deals
- First and foremost, offer seasonal items. Even though sales might taper off during summertime, that doesn't mean buyers have stopped buying. On the contrary, sellers can do very well if they offer summer- or vacation-related items. Some sellers can effectively redefine their business' appeal when they "flip the switch" and go about offering items that appeal to travelers, "staycationers" and do-it-yourself fixer-uppers. If you have goods that appeal to this sort of clientele, trot those items to the forefront of your online offerings while the season is peaking.
- Clear out stagnant inventory. Throughout the first half of the year, you've likely discovered that certain items have been languishing on your virtual shelves. Rather than continue the care and feeding of those less-than-stellar goods, now is the time to consider dropping your prices slightly or bundling goods together to realign their potential appeal. Consider advertising a summer sale, enticing buyers to act now while you offer limited-time deals. Although this sometimes means these goods won't yield the profits you originally intended, you can effectively reclaim your investment in these goods, gaining you capital to re-invest into more desirable items.
- Don't abandon your high-end goods. Resist the temptation to slash prices on your genuinely valuable higher-end products when sell-through rates lag a bit. Even though pricier items might not sell as quickly during the summer slowdown, there are always buyers seeking top-tier goods. While you should certainly draw more attention to seasonal items and those on-sale goods during this time of year, be sure to proudly display your finer items at all times of the year. This is the sort of approach that will help customers understand the breadth of goods you offer, year in and year out.
- Investigate new types of goods. This is also a good time to look back to the past months and determine what items seem to have been in demand (both in your sales as well as in your competitors' sales). At the same time, carefully analyze the current cultural and consumer "buzz" for what might be the next big thing. Armed with this information, consider if there are additional sorts of items that might fit well in your business plan and could warrant an investment.
Take advantage of the opportunity to make fixes, enhancements and other alterations to your online storefront
Adjust Your Business
If you've wondered about the best time to modify your business policies, methods, and tools, a summer slowdown is the perfect time to make a few tweaks. Here are some things to consider about how you're doing business and what you could do to improve it:
- Seek more ways to more fully satisfy your customers. When your business is running at full speed, it's challenging to offer the high level of customer satisfaction you'd hope to provide. If time permits during a summer lull, engage your customers with surveys, polls and direct e-mail "suggestion boxes." These are the golden opportunities to further polish your customer service methods.
- Keep in contact with your customers. If business slows a bit and it's been awhile since you've heard from your regular patrons, consider publishing a discreet message to let folks know what's new at your store. Use newsletters, mailing lists and blogs to communicate what's for sale, what's on sale and what you'll be featuring for the second half of the year. This is a good way to maintain customer interest in your goods, and it can also serve to maintain your sales levels during summertime.
- Revise, reorganize and revitalize your operation. If you find some extra time on your hands during summer, take advantage of the opportunity to make fixes, enhancements and other alterations to your online storefront. Consider adopting new software applications that could save you time and effort. And look at your physical processes (packing, shipping and so on) to determine if there are improvements that could be made.
Adjust Your Perspective
Since it's the vacation season, don't forget to relax a bit. There's no sin in taking a bit of time to recharge. Active online businesspeople are as much deserving of a little breather as anyone else, especially considering that many still balance online selling with their "regular job." Don't underestimate the importance of the fresh perspective you'll gain—for yourself and your business operation—when you simply allow yourself a brief respite. After all, you've earned it.
While no seller wants to face the prospect of a dip in customer activity, the good news is there's plenty that can be achieved, both in sales as well as operational efficiency. The fact is that summer's coming—so why not welcome it?
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Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
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