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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

15 ways e-commerce businesses can thrive in the ‘off-season’

The holiday season may bring an influx of sales to your e-commerce business, but the right strategies can keep your customers coming back even in the off-season.

15 ways e-commerce businesses can thrive in the ‘off-season’
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

With the increasing popularity of online shopping, e-commerce businesses look forward to some of their biggest sales of the year during the holiday season. The holiday sales rush is an important source of revenue for e-commerce businesses—especially with well-publicized opportunities like Cyber Monday—but it’s usually not enough to support them for the entire year.

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Because every day can’t be Cyber Monday, online business owners need strategies to keep sales coming in between major shopping holidays. Below, 15 members of Fast Company Executive Board share advice e-commerce businesses can use to attract customers and bring in revenue during the “off-season.”

1. PERFECT YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Get out of the product business and get into the service business. In other words, don’t sell a stick of deodorant by talking about its “fresh scent”; sell never running out of deodorant again. Sell a subscription for a deodorant that predicts when a customer is about to run out, ships them what they need (along with other fine offers), and rewards them for their loyalty. There’s no season on great service! – Barry Fiske, LiveArea, a Merkle Company

2. AUTOMATE CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT.

The key is constantly engaging customers by creating “wow” experiences. After they’ve purchased on Cyber Monday, ask them to review the purchase. You can also share new products or even celebrate their anniversary of becoming your customer. Creating this level of bespoke service is easy enough when you have just a few customers, but it’s difficult to scale. That’s where automation can help. – Jason VandeBoom, ActiveCampaign

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3. UTILIZE AMBASSADOR PROGRAMS.

Engaging loyal customers and social media influencers via ambassador programs is a great, cost-effective way to generate a steady stream of content and conversation about your products. Tracking which influencers drive traffic that converts is key to understanding which ones are best for longer-term partnerships. – Jessica Thorpe, gen.video

4. EXPLORE SOCIAL COMMERCE.

The pandemic accelerated e-commerce, leading to a whopping 44.5% year-over-year growth in the sector in the second quarter of 2020. We are witnessing a rapid convergence of communication and commerce: A great example is the rise of social commerce on platforms such as TikTok with the younger population. “You see it and you buy it” is a permanent shift in our consumer behavior. Leading brands must explore social commerce for their brand ecosystems. – Steven Moy, Barbarian

5. PINPOINT THE BEST TIMES FOR OUTREACH.

If a company has a strong data strategy in place, it can identify the specific moments throughout the consumer journey in which each consumer is more likely to react to a relevant message. The company can then personalize its outreach efforts to drive sales. – Ivonne Kinser, Avocados From Mexico

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6. CREATE YOUR OWN SPECIAL EVENTS.

Create your own excitement around a new launch, a new brand, or a new offer. Cyber Monday wasn’t really a thing until Amazon exploited it (neither was Mother’s Day until Hallmark started creating cards for it in the 1920s). Create your own events, and then share, advocate, and celebrate the heck out of them. It also helps if you have a great product! – Viveka Von Rosen, Vengreso

7. PERSONALIZE PRODUCT PLACEMENTS BASED ON CUSTOMER BEHAVIOR.

Optimizing online retail can give e-commerce businesses good flexibility even during the off-season. The insights from the data a business gains from the browsing patterns of a customer can be utilized for appropriate product placement to attract that customer to buy. In return, the customer benefits from customized options that save them time and make the buying experience more engaging. – Irfan Khan, CLOUDSUFI

8. CUSTOMIZE MARKETING BASED ON PAST PURCHASES.

Personalize the shopping experience. For example, if you sold 250 pink purses during the holidays, in the following months, email the customers who bought them information about all the accessories they need to match the bag. If you have customers who like small purses, then email marketing to that group should be led with small purses. Make it personal. Make use of SMS messages. Use a subject line tester on all your email campaigns. – Laura Kerbyson, Laura Kerbyson Design Company

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9. SHOWCASE ONLY WHAT’S CURRENTLY IN STOCK.

If you’re showing something on the screen, make sure you have it in stock. If you don’t have it in stock, turn the listing off. It feels counterintuitive, but it’s been an Amazon tactic for years. – Meagan Bowman, STOPWATCH

10. CREATE GIVEAWAYS AND PLUG THEM ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

A great way to attract more customers during the off-season is to create giveaways—a free experience or product will always be exciting to people. You can leverage social media to encourage people to tag their friends and share your giveaway with more people. This way, you’ll give a few lucky people an awesome prize and easily build a buzz online. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

11. HAVE A QUALITY PRODUCT PEOPLE WANT TO KEEP BUYING.

The best thing you can do during the offseason is to simply have an outstanding product. Many e-commerce businesses benefit from holiday giving—it’s a time when products are often purchased, regardless of their quality, to be given away. But once the holiday passes, it’s the great products that keep people talking and coming back. – Kevin Namaky, Gurulocity Brand Management Institute

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12. KEEP YOUR FANS ENGAGED.

Create experiences that serve as destinations for fandom, customer love, and community. Find out what your customers love about your brand, and then create rich experiences that celebrate it all year round. Explore, test, and learn opportunities to better connect with your fans—for example, through “behind-the-scenes” glimpses, limited-time shoppable content, choose-your-own-adventure product discovery play, gamified experiences, and more. – Val Vacante, LiveArea

13. REGULARLY REFRESH YOUR CONTENT AND OFFERINGS.

I don’t believe there needs to be an “off-season”; if your business is successful, there shouldn’t be a dull moment. One way to ensure this is creating new, exciting, fresh content for your customers to consume, whether it be emails that teach or inform, special training that adds value, or new products and services that you haven’t offered before! – Benjamin Nader, 6 Figure Recruiter

14. LEVERAGE TECH TO PREDICT CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS.

Look at your data. Technologies like artificial intelligence and orchestration can help you unlock the value of your customer data to predict their needs and provide a hyper-personalized experience. This will allow you to deliver tailored experiences at moments that are important to your customers, which in turn will foster loyalty and brand advocacy that will drive your business year-round. – Joyce Kim, Genesys

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15. TAP INTO INTERNATIONAL MARKETS.

The off-season can be a great time to look into international expansion. Often, peak season abroad is different from that in the U.S. Launching your product in new countries can be a valuable new revenue stream to explore. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

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