The seasons are changing, and with them are the needs of your customers. This can leave ecommerce sites with down periods and few sales. While this offers businesses a chance to retool their sites or review future ad strategies, it's not always great for the pocketbook, nor for keeping customers. After all, just because a customer shopped with you this year, doesn't mean they'll necessarily remember to return when the quiet period ends.
We asked fifteen entrepreneurs about how ecommerce business can attract customers with the offseason. Take a look at their answers below and get ready to see some growth in your customer base:
Smart marketing is likely the simplest answer, but still the one that is the most relevant. Marketing during the off-season is all about being smart, by utilizing sales and discounts, and ramping up your customers for the coming sales season by getting them engaged early and often. Remember that it's not always about getting sales during this period, it's often about warming up your market.
– Blair Thomas of First American Merchant
Diversify Sales Channels
Companies with their roots in direct-to-consumer e-commerce can benefit from expanding their sales channels to include wholesale and third-party marketplaces. Although the margins are usually tighter, you'll have the opportunity to leverage the marketing channels of these other retailers and minimize the variability that comes with selling everything exclusively through your own website.
– Ross Beyeler of Growth Spark
The best way to attract new customers in the off season is to market to other countries. An example would be a fur coat business: during the summer months, their business will be slow. Let's say they market their business to countries in South America or Australia, where it's winter in June, July and August. This would attract more customers and grow a business on an international level.
– Volkan Okay Yazici, of Stonexchange
Solve Previously Unknown Problems
What problem do your customers have, but don't know they have? Maybe it's the perfect gift for their exterminator. Or a better way to keep in touch with their college professors. Highlight your services and products with a fresh angle, and folks will have a reason to come back to you during every season, and not just the obvious ones.
– Sam Davidson of Batch
Talk About Smaller Holidays and Events
Focus on other reasons why people buy during those seasons like smaller holidays or personal events in their lives. Provide helpful content about those topics, and include product examples within content to link the product as a solution to the event.
– Murray Newlands of Sighted
Create a Daily Deal Site
If your business is suffering in the offseason, you're definitely not alone — and you probably know who the other businesses are. Create a daily deal site, heavily market it and use it to sell any of your excess inventory. Spend time buying discounted product from other businesses and manufacturers in the offseason to improve the pricing on your daily deals. If daily is too much, then weekly is fine too!
– Andrew Saladino of Kitchen Cabinet Kings
Tap Into User-Generated Content
Make yourself valuable year-round through content, especially user-generated content. User content increases customer engagement and feeds the search engines. Develop a strategy to engage with customers who bought in-season, and get them involved and telling stories that you feature on your site. Build a community for your brand, keep connected and you’ll position yourself for success next season.
– Dan Golden of BFO (Be Found Online)
There's a recent story about a snow ski retailer whose business is very seasonal. The company found a product with wheels that can be installed on snow skis so they can be used in the summer as a training mechanism. Their business has skyrocketed off-season because they found an innovative and valuable way to let their customers use their product off-season.
– Nicole Munoz of Start Ranking Now
Run Limited-Time Sales
One thing I've seen some companies do successfully here is running limited sales where a certain product or products become available on a certain date and are only available for a limited time (or until sold out). The anticipation element is exciting and allows the company to build a buzz and a following of “insiders” who often feel both obliged and inspired to share the deal with close friends.
– Kevin Yamazaki of Sidebench
Use a Long-Term Content Marketing Strategy
With a long-term content marketing strategy, you will not only begin to immediately drive leads and impact business, but the content you write today will speak to people many years down the line. Campaign-based marketing is a “hero to zero” model, where no matter how successful your previous effort was, you basically start from scratch each time and aren't building with the future-customer in mind.
– Brennan White of Cortex
Generate Leads During Offseason
We’re a service-based business, so we tend to try to generate leads as opposed to sales during the off-season. We do this by maintaining a comprehensive and complex set of inbound and outbound marketing strategies to ensure we maintain critical touch points with potential clients. This includes email drip marketing, Facebook custom audience retargeting and Google dynamic display ads.
– Russell Kommer of eSoftware Associates Inc
Educate Customers During Periods of Reduced Competition
During off-seasons, your brand may have less marketing competition, allowing you to capture more share of voice. This can greatly influence future purchasing decisions. Invest in ads and content that aim to educate shoppers about the value your brand and product have to offer. Highlight your key points of differentiation and reinforce the fact that your product is the best choice for consumers.
– Firas Kittaneh of Amerisleep
Offer Samples and Promotions
Tempt people to buy with samples and promotions that add value and interest even when customers aren't thinking about spending. Use things like tax season as a theme for your promotion — or others like small holidays, special occasions, end of school or whatever else you think will appeal to your audience — and then attach special products to that theme.
– Drew Hendricks of Buttercup
Invest in Community
In my time working with eCommerce marketers, I have seen that investing in your community year round can make up for the off-season lull. When you build brand loyalty, customers consistently return for the sake of being a part of the community. Be creative with how you invest in your community, whether it is through gifts, campaigns or customer highlights: Your customers want to know you care.
– Kyle Wong of Pixlee
Aim for Niches
Focus on a specific niche in a way that will make you stand out. During the off-season, customers don't universally dry up, there's just less of them to go around. By niching down, you'll be the go-to store for a subset of your normal customer base. For example, if you sell swimsuits, be the leader in high-end suits for triathletes. Come off-season, you'll have the edge over the competition.
– Kyle Goguen of Pawstruck
Read more about how to grow your customer base here on Tech.Co