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Summer eCommerce Success, Thriving Through the Tough Months

July 11, 2022
Although most people welcome the summer months, eCommerce operators might view them with some trepidation. If you’ve noticed that eCommerce sales seem to slow down in the summer, you’re not alone. It’s a common phenomenon throughout much of the industry. However, that doesn’t mean you just have to sit and suffer through it. Instead, you can adopt some of the summer-focused strategies—like BOPIS and user-generated content—below to make your eCommerce sales sizzle.

Why is Summer More Challenging for eCommerce?

Depending on the type of inventory and services your eCommerce site offers, summertime may not be the slowest period. Some eCommerce retailers’ weakest sales months coincide with Q1 and the end of the holiday rushes. Seasonal demand for different products should be expected.

However, what may be surprising is that the summer slowdown is the most challenging for most eCommerce sites.

Anecdotally, you might hear that it’s due to a combination of similar factors:

  • Better Weather – People want to be outside enjoying the sun and warm temperatures, leading them away from the various devices they’d use to shop online.
  • Extended School Breaks – Looking after or ferrying around children home from school for the summer takes away even more time that some customers might spend shopping online.
  • Vacations – Saving for vacations reduces the disposable income that people might be ready to spend on eCommerce purchases in other months. Much like the effect of better weather, eCommerce shoppers are also less likely to spend time on the devices they’d use for eCommerce shopping while on vacation.

And these anecdotal explanations seem to be true, as there’s data available backing up these claims.

Better Weather Means Slower eCommerce

A study comparing how nice the weather was in relation to a given day’s eCommerce sales demonstrates this inverse relationship. The researchers discovered “that sunshine, temperature, and rain have a significant impact on daily sales, particularly in the summer, on weekends, and on days with extreme weather.”

The researchers then analyzed and refined sales forecasting models. By incorporating the weather data, they managed to improve accuracy by around 10% on average—but up to over 50% on summer weekends.

Similarly, TradeDoubler—a European marketing company—released data showing that the longer the sun will be out, the lower sales would be and vice versa.

US Census Data—eCommerce Retail Sales as a Percentage of Overall Retail

When looking at the US Census’ published survey data tracking eCommerce’s quarterly performance as a percentage of overall retail sales, a fascinatingly consistent pattern emerges.

Resembling waves traveling uphill, the plotted data reveals:

  • A regular Q1 decline
  • A bottoming out between Q2 and Q3
  • Q4’s sales volume surging back up due to holidays and events like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

Each of these cycles eventually peaks higher than the previous in Q4, demonstrating eCommerce’s year-over-year growth across the entire industry. However, the consistency with which summer experiences the trough’s low point is evident. The only variation to this long-term trend is shown to align with the COVID pandemic, but it seems to resume immediately afterward.

The fortunate aspect of the eCommerce summer slowdown is that it demonstrates reasonable predictability. Expecting it allows you to leverage dedicated strategies for boosting lower sales volume. Or, you can use these slower months to implement new technologies and initiatives that may tax too much bandwidth to adopt during other calendar periods.

BOPIS—Offering “Buy Online, Pickup In-Store”

If your digital storefront has a brick-and-mortar counterpart, you should investigate whether your workflows can accommodate a “buy online, pickup in-store” (BOPIS) checkout option.

Rising in popularity in recent years, BOPIS actually complements summer challenges—if people are going to be out and about more, accommodating their busy schedules with quick ordering and in-store pickup will save them time. Instead of browsing each physical location for the products they need and spending time in the checkout aisle, they can place their order through your eCommerce site and swing through amidst their other stops whenever it’s ready.

Even more compelling for eCommerce operators, BOPIS benefits extend beyond providing customers with greater convenience:

  • Reduced Shipping Costs and Abandoned Carts – Shipping costs have sharply risen in recent years, and it’s not uncommon for online retailers to take a loss between free shipping promotions and keeping final prices competitive. Furthermore, unexpected shipping costs are one of the biggest contributors to abandoned carts. BOPIS shifts the delivery responsibility to the customer and reduces consumables like boxes and tape.
  • Create Cross- and Upselling Opportunities – When customers enter brick-and-mortar locations to pick up their order, they are exposed to your brand and products more. Whether it’s forgotten items, impulse buys, or another motivation, BOPIS always creates additional sales opportunities. Consider strategically positioning product displays—especially for summer-focused items—nearby the pickup location.

Adobe Commerce / Magento readily supports the technology capabilities that BOPIS requires, so the considerations to weigh may relate more to adapting your in-store operations and employee workflows to support this fulfillment option.

Social Commerce to Boost Omnichannel Strategies

Adopting an omnichannel strategy will support consistent customer engagement and purchasing experiences across various platforms or in-person interactions. BOPIS fulfillment is an excellent example of how to augment the brick-and-mortar aspect of this, while social promotion boosts the digital side.

But if you only leverage social media for promotional efforts, you’re not making the most of the omnichannel approach.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok all provide social commerce capabilities, allowing you to not only market to potential customers but recommend products and facilitate sales directly on the platforms. And this eCommerce segment has been growing rapidly with strong projections for the near future—from an estimated $45.74 billion in sales for 2022 to $79.64 billion by 2025.

Customer engagement is particularly challenging with everyone out and about in the summer months. Omnichannel promotion and sales across social media channels will provide one of your best opportunities to stay in front of potential customers and provide quick, frictionless purchasing opportunities for them to immediately engage with.

User-Generated Content for Product Reviews and Social Promotion

Regarding your omnichannel promotion and sales strategy, what content do you leverage to generate engagement?

Images and videos will generally gain the most traction with your audience, especially for B2C or D2C companies. While you can always create your own images and videos, content provided by customers—or “user-generated content” (UGC)—will create more impact and customer confidence. And the summer provides the perfect backdrop for capturing your products in use.

But how do you obtain these images and videos from your satisfied customers?

The first step is integrating a product review tool that allows your customers to submit visual UGC. Doing so also provides the additional benefit of collecting other reviews—even if they’re written—that you can leverage with placement on your product pages, recommendations, and search engine results or third-party review sites.

Some review tools are better suited for collecting and promoting UGC, such as BazaarVoice, so you’ll need to evaluate different platforms and their capabilities. Fortunately, we’ve put together a review tool guide to help you get started with just that.

Incentivize Customers to Submit Reviews

Simply implementing a review tool platform doesn’t mean your customers will suddenly start providing you with rich UGC. You’ll likely still need to incentivize them with rewards of some kind.

Depending on your products and business model, this could be free items or promotional codes tied to how valuable the UGC will be. You may consider a discount for their next month’s subscription if you provide an ongoing service.

Videos should be given the most weight, followed by photos, and extra incentives could be offered if customers also promote their UGC on their own social media.

Optimizing Your eCommerce Site and Strategies through the Summer

eCommerce may experience a summer slowdown, but that means your strategies aimed at customer engagement and creating more sales opportunities should ramp up. Not only will this help you outperform competitors, but adopting these strategies will set up your digital storefront for year-round success.

As an alternative, you can use any reclaimed bandwidth to begin any technology stack implementations or design overhauls that you’ve kept on the backburner until now.

Either way, the eCommerce experts at DotcomWeavers are here to help you. Whether you need development and integration work for your Adobe Commerce / Magento site or want to evaluate and revise omni-channel promotional and sales strategies, we’ll determine the right solution for your needs—and custom build it if need be.

Contact us today to start discussing how to optimize your eCommerce ecosystem.

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