Ugh. The summer sales slump. Everyone expects it. Everyone dreads it. But few marketers know how to power through it. Instead, they hunker down, wait through it, and wake up for the back-to-school blast and holiday uptick.
I think there’s a better way. Yes, the summer sales slump is one of the brutal realities of the ecommerce world. No, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Not everyone is on vacation. And surely, for those who are on vacation, they don’t all leave at once in a mass exodus. People are still prone to buy, eager to shop, and ready to convert. It’s up to you to figure out how to get at them, summer or no summer.
Thankfully, you don’t have to work too hard to figure it out. These guaranteed methods of blowing through the summer sales slump are the proven tactics that I’ve seen work for other businesses.
I think you can make them work for you this summer.
1. Set a goal.
Let’s start with the basics: Set a sales goal for the summer.
Mindset is everything in this game. You won’t be winning any sales unless you plan on it. The idea that there must be a summer sales slump has so polluted our thinking, we don’t even try to avoid it.
Let this summer be different. Get goal-focused. Instead of digging in and waiting it out, put the numbers on the bulletin board and start trucking away.
Your summer can become the biggest sales period of the year. But in order to make that happen, you’ll need to readjust your expectations, prepare for the best, and work hard.
2. Launch your own epic sale.
On July 16, 2015, the ecommerce giant Amazon launched something big: Prime Day.
Prime Day was Amazon’s own personal Black Friday. They planned a date smack-dab in the middle of the summer — the middle of the proverbial “summer slump.”
And what happened? In 24 hours, Amazon’s sales ousted their Black Friday sales records from previous years. Sure, there was some social media gripe (#primedayfail comes to mind). But the real story doesn’t come some disaffected Twitter ranters. It comes from the data — cold, hard numbers.
And what numbers! Sales flew up 93%. They bested their Black Friday sales by 18% and saw a 266% lift from 2014 same-day sales records. Items were flying off the electronic shelves at a rate of 398 per second. Amazon Fire TV Sticks in particular were popping off sales like a string of firecrackers on the Fourth of July.
Why do I share this success story?
Because it happened on July 16. All Amazon did was engineer their way out of the slump. Their strategy was simple. Launch a sale. Boom. Done.
Goodbye, summer sales slump. Hello, major uptick.
My suggestion is just as simple: Launch your own epic sale. You have marketing channels. You have the time. Go. Do it.
3. Ride someone else’s sale.
Okay, I can hear your protests. You’re not Amazon.
Fine. But notice what Walmart did. As maligned as they are as a brand, Walmart “beat Amazon” at its own game, according to some records.
Walmart timed their sale to coincide with Amazon. If the web’s biggest seller is going to launch a big sale, why don’t other sellers do the same? After all, that’s how Black Friday snowballed into the massive shopping spree that it is today.
Walmart was smart. They let Amazon do all the marketing work, and benefited from the publicity.
Good surfers know how to ride a wave. Good marketers know how to ride a wave, too. Find the summer’s biggest events, yours or not, and ride them for all they’re worth.
4. Sell exactly what the summer customer wants.
This method is about as basic as it gets, but it’s worth mentioning for one simple reason: It works.
What do customers want during the summer months? Find out, and sell it.
Here are some of the summer-oriented sales methods that work:
- Summer clothing — This is an obvious and easy push if you’re into apparel or accessories.
- Things that help people feel cool — Whether it’s blue-tinted glass cups or huge outdoor umbrellas, you can combat summer heat with some cool products.
- Kid stuff — Children have chunks of summer free time, and parents are panicky about how to keep them occupied. Ideal products are toys and games that will get kids outside.
- Water anything — Hydration is a constant summer theme. Playing in water, drinking in water, storing water, it’s all fair game.
- Events — Summer is the season for cook-outs and block parties. With a bit of creativity and planning you can boost sales with an event-oriented approach, even if it happens exclusively online. Target and other retailers have launched summer online events like Big Honkin’ Summer as a summery event to drive up sales.
5. Increase the urgency level with your sales team.
I have a theory, currently unproven, that the so-called summer sales slump isn’t the fault of customers. It’s the fault of sales teams.
If you want to boost sales, it’s going to be up to the sales team. But the sales team is often the group who is slumping.
During the summer months, try these techniques to motivate the sales team:
- Push a particular marketing angle. Instead of pushing “more sales,” try to push a particular kind of sales. Upsells, cross-sells, product sales, or summer sales should be a focus.
- Launch a contest. See who can close the most deals during summer months. Give the team a benchmark goal, and remind them about it every day. At the end of the summer, hold a special sales team event to reward the winner and celebrate the summer.
- Offer bonuses. Depending on the nature of your sales model, you may wish to hand out extra bonuses for your high performing sales pros.
6. Take a summer risk.
The summer can be your chance to try new things, change up the game, and take some new tactics for a spin.Summer is the season for creativity, for avant-garde approaches, and for breaking stuffy old models.
Here are some ideas that you can embark on:
- Identify a new target market.
- Launch a new product line.
- Give items away for free.
- Start a new outreach campaign.
- Create a hashtag and solicit user-generated content.
- Hold a new contest.
The flexibility and laid-back nature of summer work means you have the time to attempt (and recover from) big risks.
7. Eye the end of the summer.
As sluggish as summer sometimes is, keep your eye on the end of the summer. Just as the summer season is starting up, parents, children, and others are eyeing the end of the summer season.
The back-to-school mentality begins to creep in as early as June. Vacations are winding down. People are preparing to buckle down to non-summer routines.
If you can anticipate this shift, you can be a step ahead of it. Many of your customers and clients are preparing for the next big thing — back to work, back to school, back to routine.
These psychographic shifts have profound marketing implications. All it takes is a proactive approach to adjust your marketing language and product promotion.
8. Spy on the competition.If you’ve never done it, use the summer to spy on your competition.
Spying on the competition will always give you ideas. Here are some features of your competition that you should keep your eyes on:
- Find out who your competitors are.
- Compare prices.
- Evaluate their keywords.
- Consider their social media strategy and selected channels.
- See what products they are promoting.
- Study their shipping options, prices, and times.
- Analyze their product images.
- Look at their mobile sites.
- Evaluate their value proposition.
- Identify their conversion funnel.
- Study their CTAs.
You might even discover a summer sales strategy to borrow.
9. Find what products are hot.
Certain products are popular during summer. The problem is, it’s hard to predict these trends. Some items swell in summer popularity in complete contradiction to what you might expect.
To find out what products are especially prone to sell, visit the big retailers and search their best seller lists.
Type in “best seller” in the search bar, and click “best sellers in All Departments” option.
I wouldn’t have guessed that Fujifilm Instamax Mini Instant Film would be a hot item.
Go to Walmart.com/trending and see what customers are buying. You can also adjust the search filters to sort by best sellers.
10. Plan around the vacation times.
Summer is vacation time. Most people — 59% according to some surveys — will take a summer vacation.
To plan your sales, your event, your push, or your risky move, plan around these features:
- 46% of summer vacationers select July for travel.
- 36% plan their summer vacation for August.
- The second week of July is the most popular week of the year for summer travel.
- 55% of vacationers plan to travel with their family.
The better you can understand the travel plans and away times of your target audience, the better you’ll be able to plan your own marketing approach.
11. Prospect like mad.
According to some sales researchers, “many prospects are willing to make decisions before they go on holiday.” While they’re making last-minute travel arrangements and booking hotels, they also want to tie off all those office loose ends.
This anticipation is the perfect opportunity. Push for commitments. Out of all the times of the year, the summer could be the best for prospecting.
12. Do the one marketing thing that you’ve always needed to do, but haven’t done yet.
Think of summer as a serendipitous opportunity to commit to the one thing that’s been on your marketing to-do list.
Many marketers I know have been planning to do something, read something, start something, or try something, but they haven’t gotten around to it.
Here are some of the popular hope-to-do-it-someday activities.
- Start a blog.
- Start split testing.
- Conduct conversion rate optimization.
- Optimize your checkout process.
- Grow your personal brand.
- Switch to a new CMS.
- Learn a new marketing skill or read some business books.
Now that it’s the summer, make the time to make it happen.
13. Get ready for the holidays.
While you’re racking up summer sales and hitting your summer goals, don’t neglect a final key activity: holiday preparation.
What’s coming after the summer? The holiday season. It’s never too early to get ready. By the time summer rolls around, your strategy should be firmly in place. Plan early, prepare well, and get ready to nail it during the holidays.
Here’s what you can be doing:
- Plan holiday contests.
- Create holiday content.
- Grow your email list.
- Rehearse marketing campaigns.
- Run A/A tests.
- Optimize your mobile presence, especially mobile checkout.
The summer could be the best thing that ever happened to your business. You can grow. You can change. You can blow through that historic summer slump.
If you want, you can make the summer slump your hottest time of year.
Tell me how you plan to boost sales this summer.