How to Deal With Off-Peak Seasons in E-commerce

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Can you feel your pulse rate slowing down as your adrenaline gradually drops? For the first time in what seems like weeks, you are able to shut down your laptop, instead of just allowing it to hibernate whenever your head falls asleep on your keyboard. Unusually, your inbox and Facebook Messenger queues no longer have any unread messages. The last few packages for shipping just left your house a few minutes ago. For a couple of days, the hustle was real as you struggled to keep up with the surge in inquiries and purchases. That is the reality of almost every commercially-driven, simultaneous sales event.

That was your reality until today.

Now, you finally have the chance to breathe and take in the storm that ravaged your living room. You probably don’t even have the strength to cross-check your inventory list with your actual stock. But does the hustle ever really stop? What opportunities will you miss out on if you decide to close your store for a bit and mark yourself “on vacation”?

Every off-peak season in e-commerce promises with it a chance to finally rest, but there are many ways to deal with the downtime by remaining productive without exhausting yourself.

Evaluate Your Most Recent Sale

Perhaps the most important action to take right after a huge sale ends is to evaluate how it went while it’s still fresh on your mind. Brew a warm cup of herbal tea, open that box of biscuits, and start reviewing your files. Checking your metrics, while urgent, can be done in a leisurely manner. Identify the products that were popular this time around. Do you have enough stock at hand for this off-peak season, or do you need to reorder from your suppliers? Visit your e-commerce websites and check the reviews section. How were you rated by your customers? Did they leave feedback, and were you able to reply when necessary?

These questions are important to gauge the success of the recently concluded sale. On timely replies: while it’s easier to just leave customer questions unanswered as we might deem it too late to reply, it’s still important to take care of our customers. Better late than not at all. After-sales care is often neglected, and not addressing customer concerns guarantees there will be no repeat purchases. Additionally, remember that the feedback history of your store is always there, and other customers browsing through e-commerce sites will take note of your seeming lack of effort to resolve issues.

Renew Your Connections

Even with traditional stores, repeat customers are highly valued. These tried-and-tested customers are more than familiar with the items they bought from your store and used through the years. Oftentimes, they would even add new products to their carts, willing to experiment because they trust your store. They know your sales assistants and store owners by name, and more often than not, they are also well-known by your staff as preferred customers, having their usual purchases prepared ahead of time on a particular schedule or accepting their orders through a call. Store owners are never worried that these loyal customers might cancel or never pick up.

Because of the value and consistent traffic they bring to your store, use the off-peak season to touch base with and renew your connections with repeat customers. Their loyalty deserves to be appreciated, so instead of the usual generic email template sent en masse to your entire customer database, take the time to craft genuine correspondence.

If you’re generally comfortable with them, ask for feedback on their most recent transactions, or even their usual product purchases. These can be traced via various means such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Point-of-Sale (POS) Systems, or Order Management Systems (OMS). If you have yet to implement any of these, you may work manually and rely on your receipt booklets.

Remember that engaging doesn’t always mean you have to do a sales pitch. You can instead set the mood for a future sales transaction without being pushy. It’s also all right to ask questions that can make a difference in how you run your business. Are your products smoothening their workflows, lightening their loads, or maybe even sparking joy? Are there major improvements that they’d like to suggest? Any minor tweaks they’d recommend? What do they love about your products? What do they hate? How’s your store’s customer service? 

Definitely, you’re bound to learn a lot about these products based on the feedback your repeat customers are willing to share with you. You eventually discover how your products make a difference in the lives of others. Of course, while it’s always challenging to receive negative feedback, don’t be defensive when replying to their comments. These are welcome opportunities to learn and be better, both as a store and as an owner.

For those customers that you have close and genuine personal relationships with, you can be warmer and less formal. If you are connected on social media, focus on their noteworthy posts and then refer to them in your email.

Be sincere in your efforts to connect. Nothing turns off customers more than a disingenuous action. Check on them to find out how they are, share a little about how things are from your end as well, and only send news about products you feel will interest them. You can even mail them a freebie or sample. Warm and genuine interactions encourage further transactions.

Forge New Relationships

The off-peak season brings with it the time to bring in new customers by forging new relationships. Normally, what comes to mind is to tap a whole new clientele via cold calling. While this is the traditional way of reaching fresh customers, it often leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth, especially if done haphazardly. You wouldn’t want to go viral for the wrong reasons, especially if your sales agents are untrained in the nuances of making a sales pitch to strangers. 

Instead, an alternative method is to send out emails. When you use your existing customer database to send out product updates and new releases, include referral incentives for bringing in new customers who might be interested in your store. For emails sent to potential customers, apply these strategies to your email blasts to increase your chances of getting noticed.

Another way to attract prospective customers is to produce new content for your store’s social media channels regularly. While the goal of e-commerce is to make a sale, social media focuses on building connections

Determine which products are bankable and universally appealing, and then create conversations revolving around these products. Ask questions to motivate your followers to respond, and when they do, don’t be afraid to engage them back. Be lighthearted and friendly without contradicting your brand’s tone of voice

If you don’t have your own Social Media Specialist and a team of Customer Care Agents, involve other members of your core team with brand strategy and user interaction so as not to be overwhelmed. Just be sure that you are consistent and aligned with your brand.

For a more interactive reach, you can also use the off-peak season to create videos. Instead of just looking at static pictures, potential new customers would be able to see how your products actually work; this includes various factors that may apply such as ease of use, convenience, portability, and after-use care such as clean up and storage. Process and step-by-step videos can illustrate how more complex products are set up, assembled, and used.

While some business owners embed the videos on their sites, you may also use a third-party platform to host your videos, such as YouTube. There are many ways to maximize a YouTube account for business to ensure that the effort is worth it. 

For shorter videos, you can turn to TikTok where most uploads last for only 15 seconds. Just like YouTube, TikTok also has a guide specifically for business owners who plan on using their platform to entice new shoppers.

To prepare for the acquisition of new customers, visit our helpful article, which includes a checklist for scaling up your business.

Learn Valuable Skills

We’ve heard it so many times while growing up: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Parents all around the globe work hard not just to provide for their families, but also to give the best gift to their children – quality education. There might have been times during our younger years when we became tired of going to school, waiting for the time when we no longer had to study. Truthfully, that day will never come because the potential to learn never ends.

The stakes are even higher as adults because the studying that you’ll be doing will be for the benefit of your business. Sometimes, this might be the edge your business needs to overtake your competitors. Unfortunately, there’s hardly enough time to keep a business running, much less to learn a new skill, so the off-peak season is the perfect opportunity to devote time to this endeavor.

When deciding on the skills to either learn or polish, you’re bound to feel overwhelmed with the number of courses available online. Start with the educational platform you plan on using, which may depend on your business needs. There are plenty to choose from. Coursera is a massive open online course provider that works with universities and organizations. Course Hero gives you access to experts in various fields that guide you step-by-step. MasterClass leverages on having well-known industry leaders and icons as your teachers. Udemy focuses on but is not limited to tech and programming courses.

Some courses can be considered universally beneficial to all types of businesses. Look for courses that teach you to utilize the following software. Microsoft Excel organizes your data into spreadsheets, and learning different formulas can make calculations much easier. Canva is an easy-to-use design tool with plenty of preloaded templates to choose from. HitFilm Express helps you create and edit professional-looking videos. Calendly makes scheduling appointments painless and efficient. Hootsuite allows you to schedule content across various social media platforms.

For sharing with your team knowledge specific to your business, design modules that sharpen product knowledge to help members of your team improve. Set and then align expectations with your team to be on the same page. List down bottlenecks in your processes, and work at finding solutions. Identify customer pain points, and reach out to your front liners to solicit possible ways to address these. Highlight the importance of great customer service, and stress how every person working for your business needs to embody this. Finally, set some goals for yourself and for team members that will join you on this journey.

Be Productive All Year Round

After hustling continuously to meet the demands of sale events and peak seasons, we are tempted to step back and take a break during the downtime in between. While it is recommended to rest and recover from event burnout, store owners can still actively pursue growing their businesses at a slower pace. 

When you look around to pay attention to your friends, people in business, store owners, and even individual freelancers and consultants, it seems that everyone is involved in some kind of hustle. It’s scary to think that pausing for a bit to rest might impact negatively on our business. However, pausing is not stopping, and being productive all year round is achievable in smaller, digestible action plans, without driving yourself into the ground from exhaustion. 

Take deep breaths and simply do the best that you can to maximize off-peak seasons without the added pressure of an event. Not moving at breakneck speed at all times is something every business owner deserves.

Slow down. At least until the next sales season begins anew.

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