“Organizations that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and more than 25 percent in gross margin. Customer data must be seen as strategic.” (McKinsey & Company)
By now, most online retailers have drawn up their marketing plan to maximize sales for the upcoming holiday season. Perhaps your business is one of them. You have your strategy in place and you’re feeling confident as you anticipate what is likely your biggest sales quarter of the year.
And 2017 is certainly shaping up to be another banner year for online sales. According to eMarketer, “U.S. retail ecommerce sales jumped 17.8% during the 2016 holiday season. For the 2017 holiday season, eMarketer expects ecommerce to climb 15.8%.”
But have you thought about how you will capitalize on lessons learned from the 2017 holiday season to boost your performance in 2018? Sales numbers aren’t the only valuable assets you should be tracking. Customer buying habits, the success of your marketing strategies and other quantitative and qualitative data should be collected and analyzed, too.
Creating your holiday season scorecard
When the tinsel settles, you’ll evaluate how you did compared to last year. You’ll see how close you came to sales projections. With 2017 put to bed, what other vital information will you take into 2018 and the next holiday season? Better to get your insights down now while they’re still fresh in your mind and can benefit you in the new year.
In this article we’ll explore how to get started with your holiday scorecard.
1. What were your best sales days?
When you look back at your numbers, what days in the months of October, November and December were your sales highest? What days were lowest? Analysts are projecting that Black Friday will become more lucrative than Cyber Monday for eCommerce retailers, and that the entire holiday shopping season will start earlier this year. Did this turn out to be true for your business? Did you employ the right deals to take advantage of the bumps? How will this year’s best (and worst) sales days affect your sales and marketing efforts next year?
2. Did you earn a piece of mobile sales?
Practical eCommerce predicts that during the 2017 holiday shopping season,“25 percent of U.S. eCommerce sales will come from mobile.” How did you do with this expanding consumer base? Were you able to engage new and existing mobile customers? Or does your mobile shopping experience need tweaking? Connecting with new and existing customers on mobile offers opportunities to increase revenue and customer loyalty. Were you optimized for mobile viewing? Did you get consumers to opt in to receive mobile alerts about your holiday deals and discounts? Did your email open rates on mobile exceed those on other platforms and did those open rates convert into sales? Did you offer eCoupons? According to the mobile promotions platform Persio, eCoupons “convert 10 times more than any other coupon type.” If you offered them to mobile users who opted in to receive alerts or to download your app, did these coupons drive sales as well? These are all questions that can have a definite impact on your 2018 strategy.
3. Did you give your customers a seamless omnichannel shopping experience?
Whether your customer ordered your product from their smart phone or at home on their laptop, did you offer a seamless experience on all your available channels, from mobile to email to your web site and/or brick and mortar retail partner? Integration of all your channels into a unified shopping experience is essential to pleasing your customer and winning their loyalty.
4. What data did you gather about your customers buying habits and how they interact with your various sales channels?
"A growing database is a retail marketers' greatest asset and greatest challenge,” Persio CEO Marc Grabowski told Marketing Dive. If you want to do an effective job predicting purchasing intent for 2018, you need the right customer data. Paying attention to historical purchases is key. This may seem obvious to some, but you’d be surprised how often online retailers ignore purchasing history or fail to leverage it properly. Tracking both real-time customer data and historical purchases will give you a fuller picture of consumer behavior and how customers interact with your brand. Collecting this type of data can be more useful than competitive data alone, and is one of the benefits of having a Direct to Consumer (DTC) sales channel — so pay attention to it.
5. Did you have the right amount of stock on hand? Or did you get burned by storage fees?
How did you do managing your stock levels? Did you predict the items that would be hot sellers? Or did you end up with back orders on products that did better than expected? Did you get too confident and end up with too much left on the shelf at your distributors? Although there’s no foolproof way to game the system, you can at least aim to set par levels of items and have a plan for replenishment if the stock falls below that level.
Sellers who rely on Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, should be aware of how costly it can be to have too much stock with them during the height of the holiday season. According to Digital Commerce 360, in 2016 Amazon more than doubled the price of storage fees for November and December. These kinds of exorbitant fees can cut into your profits fast unless you pass on the expense to your customers or enjoy such good sales overall that you can afford to absorb them.
Did you win the 2017 holiday shopping season?
Winning in the online retail biz during the holiday season is more than just sales numbers. It’s about gathering information that will help you do better next year. Maybe after looking at your 2017 scorecard, you’ll increase the deals you offer to mobile customers. Maybe you’ll learn which customers get a jump on their holiday shopping and next year offer them special discounts in early November. Perhaps you’ll reevaluate your relationship with Amazon and decide the seasonal fee hikes aren’t worth it. After all, there are other distribution partners out there who charge the same storage fees throughout the year (Orderhouse is one, and there are others.) It may be time to seek the services of an eCommerce service provider who can help you identify your pain points from the past holiday season and come up with affordable solutions for 2018. The holidays may come once a year, but you need a solid sales strategy all year long.
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