Take a long, deep breath, because you’ve just survived another Black Friday and Cyber Monday! If you’re a holiday shopper, you might be experiencing a feeling of lightness now that the bulk of your holiday presents have been purchased (and maybe your bank account is feeling a bit light, too). If you’re an ecommerce store owner, you might not know what to feel. There may be a bit of relief, if your customer service requests have been overwhelming all weekend and now they’re slowly receding to normal. There might be a bit of stress, since you’ll be spending the week clamoring to fulfill and ship orders in a timely manner. And there may be a bit of uncertainty about what’s in store for the future.
Not to worry! We’ve been through it all with our ecommerce merchants, and can walk you through a few common outcomes – along with some tips about what to do next.
Scenario 1: Your New Ecommerce Shop Did Not Meet Your Sales Expectations
It can be very difficult to put time and effort into creating an online store only to watch it underperform. New ecommerce stores – those that have been online for a year or less – face a few hurdles that established domains don’t have to contend with. You don’t have the history needed for Google to “trust” you and rank you accordingly, for one. You also don’t have an established customer base to cultivate, the historical data needed to make informed decisions, or the budget necessary to compete with entire marketing teams who work full-time for larger online stores.
So, you can’t just “set it and forget it” after creating your ecommerce shop. If ecommerce were as easy as building a store and waiting for the customers to roll in, we all would have quit our day jobs by now. You wouldn’t just stock up a brick-and-mortar, open the doors and walk away, and you can’t do that with an ecommerce store, either.
What can you do? Lean heavily on marketing and promotions. Social media marketing is an excellent start, and targeted social media ads can go a long way in expanding your reach and generating excitement. From there, get people in the door with PPC ads while working on an SEO strategy for the “slow and steady” win. Encourage newsletter sign-ups with special offers or promotions, or develop a “refer a friend” program to reach new customers and develop loyalty. If you start seeing traffic but continue to experience lackluster sales, check out the conversion advice in Scenario 2.
Scenario 2: Your Established Ecommerce Shop Did Not Meet Your Sales Expectations
If your store has been around for awhile and you were anticipating more revenue than you generated, you likely fall into one of two camps: your sales have never been what you expected, or your sales used to be great but have since declined. Either way, you have an amazing secret weapon that will help you refine your strategy: historical data.
Take a look at your Analytics to see what’s going on. If you’re only receiving light web traffic, then a lot of the advice in Scenario 1 applies and it’s time to start marketing! If you’re receiving a fair amount of traffic but less-than-stellar sales, then a roadblock is preventing people from becoming customers. Common conversion issues include outdated photos or design elements, which diminish user trust; difficult or confusing navigation, which can frustrate the user and send them packing; or issues with the products themselves. Another look at your data can give you a feel for which conversion issue you should tackle first. If a lot of people are leaving immediately or after a couple of pages, you might look into updating your site design. If they’re looking at products and then leaving, there might be an element of your product line itself that you need to adjust. The most common reason people leave and buy their products elsewhere is price, so check out the competition and make sure your prices are keeping up.
If your sales are lower this year than last year, it’s likely that there’s more competition. Do your due diligence with competitor research and note who’s performing well and why. Then find the areas where you’re outperforming your competition – say, if you offer free shipping, a better deal, or higher-quality manufacturing techniques. You can use these to your advantage in your marketing copy, social media posts, and calls to action. Don’t forget to take a look at your own product performance; if there are certain products that continue to perform well, consider stocking similar or complimentary products. If you have some under-performers, identify why and allow your product line to evolve without them.
Scenario 3: Your Ecommerce Shop Exceeded Your Expectations – and You’re Struggling to Keep Up
Okay, this problem may not feel so fun right now, but it’s a good one! If you were simply bombarded with orders this year, then take a deep breath and get organized. Hire extra help if you can, even if it’s as informal as paying your nephew to help you pack and ship orders.
If you’re still worried about falling behind, this is the most essential rule to follow: communicate with your customers as early as you can, as honestly as you can, and as frequently as needed. For example, let’s say you know you’ll be back-logged with shipments for the next week. Tell the impacted customers now. Simply explain that you’re experiencing more volume than anticipated, apologize for the inconvenience, and let them know exactly when they can expect to receive their shipment. Most customers are actually very forgiving, as long as you don’t leave them in the dark about what’s going on. We all make mistakes, and if you remind your customer that you’re human, they’ll give you some leeway!
If there’s a larger problem or oversight – say, you miscalculated your stock and don’t have enough, or you know you’re not going to be able to make a shipment by Christmas – the same communication rules apply, but now you get to throw in an offer to make it right. Depending on the gravity of the situation, it may be appropriate to offer your customer a full refund, or you could simply offer them a discount on their next purchase as a “thanks for bearing with us” gift. Gauge customer sentiment and act accordingly.
Scenario 4: Your Ecommerce Shop Met or Exceeded Your Expectations, and You Met the Challenge
You have hit the Goldilocks zone of sales: the perfect amount for the system you have in place. Congratulations! Keep it up through the end of the busy season – there are a lot of last-minute shoppers, so things don’t really start dying down until New Year’s – and make sure your system for handling returns and exchanges is just as efficient as the rest of your supply chain. Then start planning! Assess your inventory and decide which items to restock and which ones to retire, and notice any strategies that could have been refined. Then plan out your content calendar, continue or grow your marketing strategy, and stay on your toes. Remember, competitor research is not just for the early stages of your ecommerce store; it’s ongoing. Keep track of your competition so you’re always equipped to outshine them.
No matter which scenario you experienced during this year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday, there are plenty of great opportunities to hone your strategy and knock it out of the park in 2017!
How are you feeling after Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Let us know in the comments!