As vacationers hit the beach this month and blissfully sweat in the sun, e-retailers and marketers will be sweating bullets. The summertime e-commerce sales slump is here, and it won't go away until late August or early September, when back-to-school season resuscitates the sleepy-eyed retail industry.
Ask any e-retail veteran: summer is bad for business. July remains the lowest for e-commerce activity—at least 30% lower than in December, when e-retail is at a yearlong high.
This lull appears to be global in scope. Based on analytics from several global websites we operate for retail clients worldwide, e-commerce sales eventually perk back up in September. Some verticals generate 85% more revenue in September than in August. As with American and other Western markets, global e-commerce brightens as the rest of the year unfolds. November sees 119% more revenue in some verticals than October, and so on.
It’s no secret why customers spend less per order in the summer months: they’re traveling more, the weather’s great (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), and they’re spending more time outside playing than inside pointing-and-clicking. According to a well-quoted study from 2012, e-commerce average order values in July drop nearly 3% below the annual average. They sink nearly 5% below the average in August. Sales are at their slowest in the last week of July.
Is your company operating localized e-commerce websites in multiple global markets? Are you looking to put a little spring in their step during the summer retail doldrums? We spoke with Francesco Rocchi, a Global Online Strategist with our Global Growth team, to score some summer survival tips.
Obviously, start with summer sales, Francesco recommends. Sales help generate brand interest from consumers in your global markets, which often leads to conversions.
MotionPoint clients that have leveraged summer sales in global markets certainly see results, Francesco says. Sales account for 10% to 25% of website sessions during the year, "but this percentage can be between 30% and 40% higher during the summer," he says. "In some instances, we've seen that over 25% of site revenue can be driven by summer sales."
Localized sales webpages are more effective in generating high-quality website traffic, so promote them heavily. Our data indicates that visitors are far more apt to visit more site pages after seeing a sales-based page. (In fact, the percentage of page views grows two or three times higher when a consumer sees a sales-based page.) Bounce rates are often 60% to 90% lower on these sales pages, Francesco says. Exit rates are 50% lower, too.
Be mindful of whom your company targets in these global markets, however. We’ve found that sales on global sites are more effective for attracting existing customers than wooing brand-new ones. The proportion of new users visiting sales pages is lower than the average—in some cases, up to 30% lower—which illustrates the value of targeting loyal customers with promotions and outreach. This is probably a smarter play than leaning exclusively on new shoppers to generate higher traffic and sales.
"Sales are invaluable to retaining a current customer base," Francesco explains. "Some customers tend to only buy on sales: they either wait for their favorite brands to have discounts, or shop around and only select discounted items, no matter who the vendor might be.
"That means it's important for an e-retailer to balance the exact price discount with the frequency of sales," he continues, "since some customers will only buy when a sale is happening, while others would've made the purchase anyway regardless of a sale. Timing these sales is also key, so your site can be in front of the bargain hunters before the competition is."
Retailers should consider launching not just a sale, but an ambitious sales event in local markets. For two years, Amazon has done this to great effect with its Prime Day sales.
It’s no accident Prime Day occurs in mid-July. As one conversion rate optimization analyst put it, the retailer deliberately “planned a date smack-dab in the middle of the summer—the middle of the proverbial ‘summer slump.’” By heavily promoting Prime Day within their global target markets and offering compelling deals, Amazon has generated windfalls for two years running.
Last year, the company’s Prime Day snagged nearly 20% more on-site sales than 2014’s Black Friday did, which had held the record for the site’s biggest ever. This year’s recent Prime Day was “the biggest day ever for Amazon,” according to a company press release. Customer orders surpassed Prime Day 2015 by more than 60% worldwide and more than 50% in the U.S., the company said.
Rivals such as Walmart have launched their own doldrums-killing sales events, opportunistically timed to the same day as Amazon’s Prime Day. (After all, why should Amazon have all the fun?) The move has paid off for these savvy competitors. For instance, Walmart’s differentiating “five days of free shipping” and discounts proved to be profitable this year.
Does your company have the industry-commanding clout of Amazon or Walmart? Probably not. However, the opportunity is clear: by concocting a unique e-retail sales event, your brand can energize summer sales in global markets. This is a particularly interesting opportunity, should your company coincide its sales with regionally-relevant holidays, or even special holidays celebrated within specific cities.
We’ve advised numerous companies on how to engage consumers in the Middle East and North Africa during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (Read our two-part series here.) Online spending increases in these markets during the celebration, presenting companies with unique opportunities to resonantly and authentically connect with local consumers through outreach and discounts.
We've also seen clients take advantage of traditionally regional sales, such as the French fashion industry's "Soldes" sales event. This six-week-long nationwide sales event occurs each summer and winter. MotionPoint clients that used Soldes as a timely zeitgeist "trigger event" to launch their own online summer sales saw big gains.
For instance, one company saw its localized site's revenue grow by more than 300% on the first day of its summer Soldes e-sale. This single-day increase generated millions in additional revenue.
Also consider the strategic value of a large summer sales event. Amazon’s Prime Day sale supercharges interest and signups for its Prime service, which provides shipping perks, a Netflix-like streaming movie service, and more. Luring customers to sign-up for Prime pays off for Amazon: annually, Prime customers spend more than double on-site than what non-Prime customers spend.
Does your company have a loyalty or rewards program for faithful global customers? Consider tying its value to your summer sales event, to drive interest and incremental revenue.
We mentioned that e-retail summer sales events in global markets often resonate better among loyal customers than new ones. We suggest doubling down on this knowledge and smartly connecting with happy customers through familiar channels to evangelize your summer deals.
Promotional best practices such as social media marketing, Pay Per Click advertising and e-newsletters should all be leveraged for your global markets. Make sure to localize this content-after all, exchanging ideas and information in a common language is the most resonant way to build consumer trust.
(For example, when we replaced a client’s English-language “share this on Facebook” content with translations in one market’s locally-preferred language, Facebook referral traffic site grew by 1,400%!)
Marketing via social networks sparks lean-in and inbound traffic. Smartly leverage localized social-media content to drive interest to your summer sales events. In-language PPC campaigns can also spark interest in ways that organic traffic simply can't.
Finally, we’ve found that localized e-newsletters or email campaigns are especially effective. According to one study, 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message. Young people aged 18 to 24 are particularly receptive to email marketing, the study said—about 65% have made purchases sparked by email outreach. Consumers aged 45 to 54 are also heavily influenced; 71% have made email-inspired purchases.
We've found that e-mail outreach is especially resonant in global markets. In 2015, one MotionPoint client saw nearly 45% of its single-day holiday revenue hail from a localized e-mail campaign.
Chris Hutchins helps produce MotionPoint's marketing and sales materials.
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