Practicing Product Rotation for Sustained Sales

Tips for positioning online inventory to attract buyers

by Dennis L. Prince
- Dec 05, 2008

Whether due to seasonal appeal, a sudden and unexpected peak in interest, or a need to respond to volatile market conditions, items in your inventory will likely have a "best time" to be put in front of your customers. While some items may be in demand year-round, many more are likely to have targeted appeal based on the calendar or driven by swings in the retail climate.

Recognizing the ebbs and flows of product popularity, and deliberately shifting attention to specific items in your inventory at opportune times, is known as product rotation. Some sellers are very skillful in this matter, and have been so successful that they've elevated the practice to an artful skill level of sorts. Others spill out every item in their inventory on the virtual front table, hopeful that such mishmash will offer something for everyone and anyone who happens by.

The key to sustained sales, however, is carefully selecting and positioning timely offerings in a way that attracts buyers at peak interest (or peak need) periods. If you want to ensure your sales can be sustained through the changing seasons and market situations, here are guidelines to ensure you'll keep making sales, week in and week out.

Keep your stock current

Here's a note for those who maintain an online fixed-price offering: Although product rotation is a strategy that you might choose to adopt, there is one tenet you cannot ignore. You can't sell what you no longer have. How many times have you visited online stores or sites, eager to purchase some promised goods, only to be greeted by the words "SOLD OUT" stamped across the image of the item you crave? Further, have you ever been frustrated when you inquire about an item shown as available only to find it was sold weeks ago? If so, you know that such a seller is clearly not minding the store. The point is, if an item is sold, get it off your virtual shelf and replace it with something you do have.

If you have goods that herald an approaching holiday or are affiliated with the current public frenzy, get them in front of your customers fast

'Tis the season

Naturally, seasonal items should be placed prominently in your virtual store window or featured in your current batch of eBay listings just prior to their annual peak period. The same goes for trendy items or those goods that are "all the rage" at the moment. If you have goods that herald an approaching holiday or are affiliated with the current public frenzy, get them in front of your customers fast.

Tough trade-offs for tough times

If you've noticed certain times of the year when your top-dollar items tend to languish a bit, especially in times of economic pressures, consider offering more lower-priced goods. Though it's natural that folks shy away from big purchases at certain times of the year (annual tax time is still one of the most notable, though times of economic uncertainty can cause drop off, too), customers are generally in the mood to purchase something, right? Be sure to bring forth your low- to mid-priced wares so there's still temptation for your customers to find something affordable they'd like to bid on or buy. At the same time, you'll protect the value and investment in your higher-end goods when you hold them back until a time when consumer spending is a bit more relaxed.

Become an online matchmaker

Sometimes, a lone item seems to never find a buyer. It just languishes as it looks for an owner. But marry that overlooked piece with a complementary element, and you could find the fast path to a quick sale. If that set of attractive napkin rings appears destined to house a family of dust bunnies, try setting a nice set of dinner napkins alongside them to give those rejected rings more immediate purpose, function and appeal. Whatever it is that might be gathering cobwebs on your shelves, try to rotate complementary items along with the wallflowers and see if you can catch a buyer's eye.

The lure of good deals is often enough to get customers into your store where they can stroll the rest of the aisles

Get a win from a loss

You've likely heard the term, "loss leader." One good hook that reels in customers is offering decent items at fire sale prices. Establish and flow inventory into a special area where you'll mark down prices—try to offer more than just a scant couple of items—and where shrewd buyers will gather to comb through the great deals. Then, once they've ventured into your cyber shop to claim a bargain, be sure they're within easy sight and reach (virtually speaking) of your regularly priced goods that might also appeal to them.

Position, then re-position

If, despite your best marketing efforts, some goods still seem to elude your customers' desires, consider setting up a "sales table" in your Web store or listing a batch of marked-down auction items. Building on the tactic of utilizing loss leaders, remember how simply applying the label "sale" to an item can be enough to generate interest without having to drastically slash prices. To that end, you might consider procuring and rotating items to keep that bargain area stocked at all times. Again, the lure of good deals is often enough to get customers into your store where they can stroll the rest of the aisles once they've come inside.

Take a cue from your customers

Finally, the key barometer of your overall product placement prowess is actual buyers' activity. While some sellers get caught up in thinking they know how to best market their goods, the truth is that actual bids, wins and sales will serve as the irrefutable report card. Monitor your eBay bidders' activity as well as that of the patrons who visit your online store. Then be attentive to their wants and needs and be ready to shift your featured inventory at a click of the mouse when you see what's really hot—and what's really not—in your online inventory.

About the Author

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.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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