When it comes to e-commerce, business owners are always looking to accentuate the shopping experience for the customers, increase sales and get more products into the hands of the people who want them.
Here, pre-orders become a powerful tool as it allows the business owner to increase sales and strengthen customer relations by converting a potential sale into a definite purchase.
Pre-orders have the potential to help your business gain the clarity and visibility that you’ll need to better forecast revenue and predict the demand and supply. Furthermore, it allows for the customers to enjoy the thrill of anticipation for your new product to arrive at their doorstep- that could become their favorite.
In this guide, we’ll go through everything related to pre-order like how it is beneficial to an e-commerce business, how to build a good pre-order strategy, and things to consider when conducting a pre-order strategy.
What is a pre-order?
A pre-order is an order that is placed for an item, that either hasn’t been released yet or is currently not in stock.
These orders are shipped to the customer once they are launched or available. In a nutshell, pre-orders allow customers to place an order for a product before they are available.
Essentially, pre-orders act as a means to reserve the product (that is either out of stock or soon to be launched), thus guaranteeing the customer access to it at the earliest.
Pre-orders can help improve the cash flow, build better customer relations and loyalty, and help forecast demand accurately.
Download the ebook!
In a hurry? Don’t worry, we got you covered. Download the ebook version of this page and read it anytime!
When should businesses use pre-orders?
While pre-orders are an effective tool, they should not be used for every single product like a minor product or service as it can lead to a pre-order flop.
With pre-orders, the goal of the brand is to build hype and provide your customers with a sense of anticipation, excitement, and urgency for your product – it should help build momentum and increase demand.
Also, it does take a lot of time and effort to plan, create and execute a strong pre-order strategy.
Therefore, using pre-orders is best for major product/service launches like:
- A new flagship product
- A limited-edition product
- A big promotion or discount on the product
Why pre-orders make sense for your business
Pre-orders can really be advantageous for your e-commerce business, not only on the sales front but also in your operations and your customer loyalty.
Since customers now have more options than ever and e-commerce bringing the entire market to their fingertips, everything is available with a single click.
And because of this, there is a lot of competition among the retailers; if your store is out-of-stock of a product, the shoppers will not hesitate to move to another store.
Here’s where pre-order will give you that edge by allowing you to get more sales, doesn’t matter if the product is ready to ship or not. You are locked in with the customer with pre-orders since the customer has already agreed to order and wait for you to get ready to ship.
Moreover, pre-orders aid you with the flexibility to take the payment either upfront or once the item has been shipped. This will help you shape your strategy to fit your business and cash flow needs.
Forecast demand by meeting it
Pre-orders can help convert uncertainties into valuable insight by providing you with concrete data based on demands.
Since selling products comes with risk and investment, pre-orders can help the business owner understand how much demand exists for the products they offer.
In the final stages of fine-tuning your products before launching them, pre-orders can help determine what the customers actually want and you can tweak the production accordingly.
Due to the pandemic, supply chain issues have been a major problem in the e-commerce market. And pre-order can help you with this since it allows you to effectively and accurately forecast the minimum product quantity required to fulfill your orders and help reduce the risk of managing idle inventory.
Generate excitement and drive growth
Now that shoppers are bombarded by myriads of advertisements, it can be hard for a merchant to break through and grab the attention of potential customers.
And pre-orders can help your break through all the noise by building anticipation and excitement for the product even before it launches.
Successful pre-order marketing campaigns follow many of the same tactics that are used in regular marketing campaigns like creating proper and professional product imagery and copy, promoting on paid and social media, and offering pre-order incentives.
And in addition to creating buzz, offering exclusive access to customers for pre-order via your mailing list or through a member loyalty program will help boost the opportunity for repeat customers to convert and build brand loyalty.
How to build a good pre-order strategy
Pre-order strategies should be well-planned, well-structured, and well-executed for them to be successful. It should be planned in advance from the product itself to the marketing campaign for its pre-launch, during launch, and post-launch, and the inventory and order management that ensures fulfilling pre-orders.
Therefore, to ensure your pre-order strategy is successful, you need to consider these factors:
Dedicate your team to the effort
Just like having a dedicated team for the business, launching a pre-order strategy will also require a team that focuses on the campaign work since it does take a lot of effort, energy, and budget to make it successful.
You need to make sure that everyone on this team- from IT to customer service to marketing- is committed to the campaign to plan and execute everything carefully and garner success.
Build a pre-order plan and timeline based on pre-order lifecycles
It may seem as though the day of the launch or the day before the launch are the important dates to remember when it comes to pre-order campaigns. But it is farther from the truth- the company should focus more on the weeks and months prior to the launch to ensure the overall launch is successful, rather than fussing over the launch day itself.
And to achieve this, it is imperative to build a strong and coordinated pre-order plan with a proper, realistic time that can help your sail smoothly towards the launch date; the plan should focus on generating awareness and hype to secure the pre-orders.
Once there is a spike in pre-orders due to marketing and PR efforts, prospective customers will wait for the official product launch.
This could take weeks or months, depending on your timeline. Therefore, there are factors to consider:
- When to announce the pre-orders
- How to build that buzz and maximize the PR efforts before taking pre-orders
- What PR and marketing tactics to use and ensure the spike in pre-orders
- Being weary of the ‘dead zones’ (where everything seems to be at a standstill) and how to leverage them into your plan
These are factors that can make or break your pre-order plan, so create the timeline with these points in mind.
Create value and scarcity
Customers will not pre-order without a reason, especially if they won’t be receiving the product until its launch and the key way to do this is by giving them added value for ordering in advance.
By giving your customers discounts on their future purchases or sending them a gift with their purchase, you are rewarding them for their support by pre-ordering your product.
Moreover, you can also try bundling your new product with an existing one to increase your overall revenue.
Another way to boost demand and drive urgency is by creating a scarcity of the product that will appeal to the customer’s fear of missing out. Thus, limit the number of products that are available for pre-order in order to have maximum impact.
Build a marketing campaign to drive awareness
If no one knows about your pre-order launching for the product, then it is of no use. And that is why a strong marketing campaign is crucial to the pre-order plan as it will help drive awareness.
Your marketing strategy should include:
- Advertising: It doesn’t have to be expensive. Digital advertising through social media can be a great way to increase awareness of your product before it launches.
- Customer Relationship Management: You need to make the most of your existing database of customers. Ensure to send an email blast to them to inform them about the pre-orders.
- PR: Influencer marketing and press releases can help you reach your customers and generate buzz around your launch. Simply send a press release to relevant parties and focus on getting the exposure required.
- Content Marketing: Work on a content calendar, including sneak peeks, influencer marketing, reviews, and testimonials with call-to-action copies to help build momentum for your product launch and its pre-order campaign.
Prepare yourself for a surge in orders and traffic.
If you have a successful pre-order campaign, then you will have generated an overwhelming number of orders and hype when the launch day gets closer. And no accounting for this huge number, many businesses are not well-prepared to handle the traffic and surge in orders.
The website could crash because of the influx of traffic or your inventory is not enough to keep up with the demand.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, check the bandwidth of your site and implement a launch team to help with orders and customer inquiries. And remember to track your inventory and pre-orders.
Pitfalls to Ecommerce Pre-Orders
Pre-orders are beneficial in many ways as we mentioned above. However, there are certain pitfalls to e-commerce pre-orders.
You will need to follow up the pre-order campaign with a traditional marketing strategy and follow the business strategy to ensure conversions are still steady after the initial hype created by pre-order.
Pre-orders are great but aren’t sustainable in the long run. Other pitfalls include:
Since pre-order strategies are vital, you will have to be organized and well informed.
You should know the supply chain aspects thoroughly like manufacturing costs, overseas shipping, customs, etc.
And to understand the quality, you need to conduct a small production test run before placing an order for a bigger unit.
Also, depending upon your marketplace, you need to be careful. For instance, Amazon merchants will have to dispatch within 30 days of ordering or they risk cancellation.
Therefore, if you are in a supply chain, then check everything in your sales partnerships.
Managing customer expectations
Since customers can get their orders shipped to them within their days or even hours, their expectations are high. Therefore, waiting for extended times for pre-orders is not something they’d be accustomed to.
If your lead time (i.e the time taken to complete the order shipment and delivery) ends up being longer than expected, it is a good idea to communicate that to the customers instead of stringing them along.
Before you start accepting pre-orders, make sure your marketplaces are selling them on a proper schedule. And when you receive your final product shipment from your manufacturer, do a quick and thorough quality check and ship them to your customers.
Steps for Building a Pre-Order Marketing Campaign
Teasers, posts on social media platforms
Your pre-order item could be completely new and customers will not know about it unless you create awareness for it.
When it comes to spreading awareness, social media is one of the most effective channels through which brands can campaign for their upcoming products.
Thus, creating and sharing product teasers and posts can give your customers enough details like features or the look that can add value and they’d be more inclined to pre-order it.
You can also bank on influencer marketing on social media; you can collaborate with them to create excitement and buzz for your products by creating content and sharing it with their audiences as well.
Don’t forget to reach out to your existing customers
Don’t simply reach out to those on your pre-order subscribers’ list just because they were the ones that showed interest by subscribing; reach out to your existing customers as well.
Why? Because they keep coming back to your brand and your brand provides them value. To maintain or even strengthen that relationship, you should share information about pre-orders.
You should present them with the opportunity of early access to buy your product which will build a feeling of exclusivity. Furthermore, existing customers will have more faith in you and therefore are more likely to place that pre-order.
Promote pre-order through paid social media ads
Social media ads have the power to influence the purchase behavior and decisions of customers. You can reach a great number of customers through paid social media ads- don’t forget to include this in your pre-order strategy.
Schedule your ad campaigns in a way that your targetted audience can come across them repeatedly, until the day of the launch. However, create a diverse set of content. Switch up the visuals and the copy or else this approach will lead to exhaustion.
You need to entice them so that they have more and more reasons to click that pre-order button. You can achieve this by including time-sensitive discounts and deals for early buyers as you approach the launch date.
Send out an email to your subscribers
Make the most of your subscribers’ list by introducing your pre-order products to them. These are the customers who’ve signed on for your promotional emails, newsletters, and updates because they like your brand.
And they are more likely to be receptive to your pre-order strategy, so send out that email with details regarding the pre-order.
You can set up a drip-email system that can guide them through the journey of placing a pre-order. For instance, your first email could be simply informing you that a product is soon to be launched. And in the second one, you could narrate the story behind the product to build trust. Follow that up with exclusive deals and discounts.
This will help you create that feeling of fear of missing out.
Catch pre-order subscribers’ attention through web push notifications
Since your subscribers are busy people with their inboxes flooding with promotions, you need to get savvy on how to grab their attention.
One way to achieve this is by using web push notification which, according to NotifyVisitors, reaches 80% of internet users. Web push notifications are delivered via a pop-up on both mobile and desktop, therefore they get instantly noticed.
However, this will only be effective if the web push message is enticing enough. Get creative with it and use rich media like GIFs, generate exciting ad copies, and include a call-to-action button.
You can also create a series of web push notifications, to be sent out periodically just like with the emails.
Send out a message on Facebook Messenger
Another effective strategy to get more pre-orders is by using Facebook Messenger to send a message.
Since more than a billion people use Messenger every month, it is possible that the majority of your potential customers are on that chat app to communicate with their connections.
And its personal and direct approach makes Messenger a great place to grab the attention of people. Furthermore, people use Messenger mostly on their mobile devices which are always on their person or close to them, therefore your message will not be missed out.
Promote your pre-order campaign on SMS/ text
Since their mobile phone is on their person all the time, customers are more receptive to receiving any brand communications via text or SMS. This is the channel that ensures the information reaching them about the brand is noticed.
Therefore, use this tactic in your pre-order marketing campaign; include SMS and leverage its advantages. Similar to other communication channels, you can create a system of SMS marketing communication to send messages periodically, to help build hype around your items, and can get people to pre-order.
Remarketing and retargeting
Remarketing and retargeting are two different things despite many brands thinking there are the same.
Remarketing helps in reaching those shoppers that have already visited your website via other pre-order campaigns. Retargeting efforts reach out to those shoppers that have already shown interest in your product through paid advertising.
When you plan to launch a new product, it is crucial to be aggressive to a certain level to grab the attention of the customers. And remarketing and retargeting can help with that.
Since the internet is cookie-based, it can help retarget those who are visiting your pre-order pages and leaving without taking any action and remarketing the campaign to them through tactics and motivations like deals and discounts. When the retargeting and remarketing strategies are right, they can help create that sense of urgency and make customers act on it.
4 Things to Consider When Planning for Pre-Order Campaigns
Before you plan the entirety of your pre-order campaign, remember to keep these tips in mind:
Outline campaign goals and KPIs
Campaign goals are the foundation of creating any campaign. You need to create a cost-benefit analysis and under how many products you need to sell to justify your pre-order campaign efforts.
You will need to factor in the cost of raw materials, shipping, staff wages, pre-order price, processing fee and packaging costs, and even a projection of marketing costs.
Alongside this, you need to estimate the customer demand in order to identify benchmark KPIs well in advance. Track your social media content and followers and see how you can reach more people through these platforms; monitor user engagement and comments to understand the customers’ reactions to your brand.
Do not forget, on launch day, pre-orders become a KPI. You should compare the first-day pre-order sales to other similar product pre-order launches.
You should also track the influx of customer email addresses that are new. And if you track these metrics, you can understand how the market is receptive to your product. Moreover, you can create pre-order bundles and bonus items based on feedback.
Momentum is key
In order to achieve real success, the wheels of your campaign train should always be turning- keep the momentum going. You have done everything so far to drive the campaign to the market.
And now to keep the engine running, you need to add fuel to your vehicle. You need to be ready at all times and keeping up momentum is key to making your campaign successful or collapse.
Partner with all the marketing channels at your disposal, leverage social media, influencer marketing, press releases, and in-person event to ensure that your campaign efforts are paid off.
And keep its momentum going even after the launch day- in fact, ramp it up.
Create a memorable shopping experience
The key to an exciting pre-order campaign is those memorable touch-points like well-planned strategies to create brand loyalty and encourage communication.
Instead of simply engaging in your typical e-commerce transaction, you can switch it up by creating an interactive movement. Professional product photos, clear product descriptions, clarifying the production timeline, acknowledging the potential risks and their solution, setting proper shipping dates- everything plays into ensuring a positive customer experience.
People, once they know what they are getting into, they’re far more likely to support your campaign.
It is important to keep your customers happy and being honest with them about delays and setbacks will ensure that customers are in the loop. If you aren’t upfront with them, especially after they’ve invested money in the pre-order, it will have a negative impression on your brand overall. So be open and have them support you instead of them worrying about being scammed by you.
Examine your operational workflows
As mentioned in the very beginning, to have a successful pre-order, you need to have a strategy way in advance.
You are selling an item that doesn’t exist yet, so to succeed, you need to make them feel real.
It is not like your regular orders where the product is picked, packed, and shipped. Pre-order requires pondering databases for months, setting up marketing campaigns, and running proper production. You need to have all the concerns checked and have solutions ready.
Remember to stay organized and online by regularly checking databases and backing them up, communicating with the manufacturer at least once a week, and ordering your shipping tools and supplies beforehand.
Prepare your teams as well- talk to your operations teams about creating solid customer experiences, and the marketing team about their campaign efforts and adjust the workflow of the teams.
Tools to run a successful Pre-order Campaign
PreOrder Me is a popular pre-order app that allows you to create and manage pre-order campaigns for your products. It offers a variety of features, including the ability to set a pre-order deadline, collect payments, and track orders.
Pre-Order Today is a pre-order app for Shopify that offers e-commerce businesses on Shopify ways to run a successful pre-order campaign. It also offers the ability to create waitlists for products that are out of stock.
Pre-Order Now is a simple pre-order app that allows business owners to create a pre-order button for your products on Shopify. While it may not have exhaustive features as PreOrder Me or Pre-Order Today, it remains a good option if you are looking for a free and easy-to-use app.
Pre-Order Manager is a pre-order app for e-commerce online stores on Shopify. It specifically caters to online stores with high-volume businesses. It offers a variety of features, including the ability to manage multiple pre-order campaigns, track orders, and export data.
Tools for effective retargeting
AdRoll: AdRoll is a remarketing tool that allows e-commerce businesses to show ads to shoppers who have visited your Shopify store on various websites. It works by creating a list of your website visitors and then showing them ads on other websites that they visit.
ReTargeter: ReTargeter is a remarketing tool that allows online store owners to show ads to prospects who have visited your Shopify store. It works by using cookies to track the behavior of your visitors and then showing them ads on other websites that they visit.
Criteo: Criteo’s dynamic retargeting solution offers e-commece business owners on Shopify to to show ads to shoppers who visited the Shopify store. It works by using artificial intelligence to target your ads to potential customers who are most likely to be interested in your products.
Shopee Pixel is a in-app feature that sellers can leverage. The Shopee pixel is a tracking code that can be added to the Shopee store. It allows sellers to track the behavior of visitors to the Shopee store to retarget them with ads.
Lazada Pixel: Lazada Pixel is an in-app feature available for Lazada sellers. It is a tracking code that sellers can add to their Lazada store. It allows them to track the behavior of visiting shoppers to the Lazada store, to track, analyze and retarget with ads.