It’s almost here. The manic and panic of the holiday sales season is nearly upon us.
For the tiniest business owners across the country, running their dream businesses on digital storefronts, the hustle begins now to build out product inventory, plan holiday markets and lock in marketing campaigns to compete with Amazon and the millions of dollars that will inevitably be spent on the site.
And speaking of Amazon, we watched as the company somehow manifested its biggest shopping day in the spending doldrums of summer during Amazon Prime Day in 2018. So, what can small business owners who are running their own online stores take away from Amazon Prime Day as we head into Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the next big sales season? Here are four tactical takeaways for the digital entrepreneur this season.
1. Don’t focus on the day. Focus on the hype.
While Amazon set Prime Day for July 16, the buzz and momentum began well before that. To capitalize on the hype, Amazon lured in eager shoppers by promoting special early deals in the days leading up to Prime Day. This strategy brought heavy traffic to the site and led to an early spike in sales from those hungry for a deal. It also gave Amazon the ability to use its website as a billboard for the products going on sale on Prime Day.
Small business owners can use this same hype tactic ahead of, say, Cyber Monday. First, find a few key items you want to allocate to the sale before the big day. Next, use email marketing and social ads to drive ideal shoppers to early deals. Once they land on your site, create a page that allows visitors a sneak peak of the additional products that will be discounted on Cyber Monday. Finally, use lead capture to collect email addresses of both visitors and customers and send a unique email marketing campaign that drives them back to your site for the second round of savings on Cyber Monday.
2. Slow shipping equals slow sales.
To many, the most gratifying element of Amazon Prime is the almost-instantaneous plop of a package on your porch. You don’t have to wait the “five to seven business days” (which can feel like forever when you’re eagerly awaiting a new arrival) or hunt down an alphabet-length tracking code online only to find out that your purchase is still in a warehouse somewhere in Kentucky.
The good news is, shipping technology for small businesses has evolved dramatically in the past year through simplified software like Shippo and ShipStation. Now, busy entrepreneurs can see expedited shipping options through several carriers and have access to steep discounts typically only offered to major retailers. On Weebly, for example, our clients can access real-time expedited shipping rates and print, purchase and manage labels from the app.
If your item is not too heavy, it’s a good idea to run free shipping or flat-rate expedited shipping during the holidays. Shoppers want the instant satisfaction, and while it can be expensive, additional sales may offset the shipping cost. Another option is to build the shipping cost into the price of the item and add the free shipping promotion to let shoppers feel like they are getting a deal.
3. Seize the procrastinators.
Imagine it’s two weeks before Christmas and you still haven’t purchased a single gift. Fast forward to five days before Christmas and you’re really in a crunch. In comes Amazon, offering those anxiety-ridden procrastinators an impulse purchase with a guaranteed delivery date.
This tactic is one that small businesses can use to boost sales in the holiday homestretch. For example, build out product categories based on a guaranteed delivery date, and feature them on your homepage in the days leading up to the holiday deadline. Tap into those laggards with email marketing campaigns that feature the unique gifts that they can’t find on Amazon and that can be on their doorstep before Christmas.
Panic purchasing is real. Turn the stress into a sale!
4. Have an Instant Pot moment.
Believe it or not, one of Amazon’s top-selling items on Prime Day was the Instant Pot. In my opinion, it’s no surprise when you consider the product’s price drop on Prime Day and a product page with thousands of reviews from customers who have steamed, sauteed and slow-cooked their ways to dinner success. The positive reviews boost the brand’s credibility and support claims that this device is not your average slow cooker, but rather a must-have appliance for your kitchen.
You can say your item is great all day long, but when another customer says it in their own words, it’s often validated in the eyes of fellow shoppers and can lead to more sales. Recently, our company tracked two cohorts of online stores on our platform that had similar traffic and sales. After offering the review feature to one cohort, we found 70% of these stores saw increased sales within six months after acquiring one product review, and sales dollars had doubled when compared to the other cohort.
While your product may not deliver delicious pulled pork, you can start to build your own repertoire of positive customer reviews on your online store. One easy tactic is to follow up with customers after a purchase and offer them a coupon code for a future purchase if they leave a review. Use these reviews as social media content with links to products and in your outbound marketing.
The holiday shopping season is approaching, but there’s still time for small business owners to have another record year. While there are many lessons to learn from Amazon’s tactics, you should also tout the things that make your business unique and original from the big-box products of the world. A handwritten note inside the box, a carefully wrapped package, a personal message of what inspired you to launch this business on your website — all of these give shoppers an original online shopping experience that they can only find by supporting your small business.