The eCommerce landscape is evolving iteratively, and nowhere is this more evident than during seasonal sales, which spells increased sales and order volume for sellers. In a Consumer Sentiment Index report released by Axis My India, it was revealed that 23% of consumers anticipate increased spends on shopping activities during the upcoming festive season.
From the global lens, the festive block runs from November to December while domestically, the rush starts earlier. The start dates may differ, but the preparation time is constant- with eCommerce merchants having to plan the pipeline ahead in order to prosper from the right and lucrative opportunities.
In this post, we’re going to unearth the best practices to capitalize on the opportunity of seasonality, to ensure you can bring your sales A-game on!
What is eCommerce Seasonality?
eCommerce seasonality are the volatile shifts in demand for certain products across the year which shapes customer purchases. These fluctuations can impact stock levels and inventory, which is why planning ahead of seasonality helps eCommerce businesses to thrive without inviting added expenditure. Factors such as holidays, seasons, events and weather can influence seasonal sales. For example, winter gear sells more in October versus July, while frozen desserts see higher sales when the temperature soars in summer.
eCommerce seasonality impacts everything- from sourcing materials and manufacturing costs to stock replenishment and fulfillment which is why it is vital for brands to prepare for it. Understanding seasonality can help them to make market corrections, adjust pricing points and marketing strategy and encourage purchases by giving the appropriate listings high visibility. By analyzing trends, online retailers can identify peak sales periods and forecast the inventory needed to grow sales.
Interestingly,hybrid shopping is leading the way this festive season, with 54% of consumers reporting that they’ll be using both online and offline channels while 44% will shop online-only. This shift is highly indicative of the demand brewing up, and the sales channels with maximum potential for sellers.
To get a clearer understanding of the impact of seasonal sales, the first place to start would be the types of shoppers to expect. eCommerce sellers are looking at
- Unplanned shoppers: these are shoppers who are most likely to make impulsive purchases.
- Brand lovers: decisive shoppers who buy from select stores or brands.
- Category explorers: people who are brand-agnostic and buy items without preferences
Collectively, these three personas will influence what will and won’t fly off the shelves during the peak and holiday season. With the increasing shift to phygital, unplanned shoppers will surge closer to the festival dates. In fact, in India alone, 58% of shoppers are going shop around Dussehra and Diwali while 36% are estimated to have started already in this month. In the global context, holiday season retail sales is expected to experience a 4.8% YoY gain in 2023 similar to that of the years 2021-22, according to Outbrain’s findings.
The early holiday shopping will be kicking off in October with eCommerce sales projected to grow 11.9%, outpacing brick-and-mortar gains which will fall back to pre pandemic levels of 2.8% YoY
Here are the eCommerce seasonal trends to watch out for:
Sales and discounts will drive sales
Everyone likes knowing they're getting a good deal which is the #1 reason toy and consumer electronics registered record breaking eCommerce sales in 2022. This year, with a substantial shift to mobile shopping, e-stores and online channels, more sales will come in. Think about it- mobile shopping accounted for 43% of Cyber Monday sales, with a conversion rate of 3.4%! Therefore, retailers will need to apply discounting strategies in in-app advertisements that encourage the consumer to take out their wallet.
Early bird offers will attract more footfall, especially from unplanned and category shoppers. The former is more price conscious than the latter and are therefore more likely to start their shopping ahead of the sales season to bag the best deals before they’re gone. The key is balancing deep discounts with the bottomline and learning to offer customers value in other ways. For example, with combo bundles, friction-free checkout or flexible returns.
Brick-and-mortar retail will return to normal
With eCommerce sales expected to go up by 11.9% vs brick-and-mortar gains falling back to 2.8% YoY, it’s clear who is taking the lead here.
Having said that, consumers aren’t completely abandoning physical stores and the personal touch is still sought out which explains why phygital retail stores are stabilizing even with digital touchpoints expanding. The ROBO model of researching online and buying offline is inviting a large number of users to shop online and complete the purchase offline. And brands are encouraging this with flexible payment and pickup options that cater to a wider audience profile of both conventional and new-age shoppers. It will be imperative to leverage product locators according to a customer’s address so that storefronts nearest to them carry the item of interest and encourage repeat visits in future.
An extended holiday season
A longer holiday season is kicking off which will stretch the shopping season and overlap with the Cyber-5. Key shopping dates coming up in 2023 include
- Navratri and Dussehra sales: 15-26 October 2023
- Amazon Prime Day: Varies, likely Mid-October in 2023
- Halloween: October 31st 2023
- Diwali: Nov 1-14th 2023
- Black Friday: November 23, 2023
- Small Business Saturday: November 24, 2023
eCommerce platforms cannot argue with the results that a lengthened shopping season brings. For instance, Cyber-Five accounted for ~15.6% of retail eCommerce sales in 2022 with Cyber Monday alone raking in $11.3B. In 2023, Cyber Monday sales are predicted to bring in a revenue of $13.7B, making it an international event for eCommerce sellers and marketers to capitalize on.
Aren’t you glad you got a 25-day head start from reading this? You are welcome!
Social commerce emerges as a growth booster
Ecommerce platforms are leveraging social media to promote product discovery and improve brand recall. This makes sense because younger consumers are 50% more likely to conduct shopping research over social media rather than through search engines. Live streaming through video social commerce is gaining traction, particularly in fast growing dominating economies such as China and the U.S which saw ~19% of consumers shopping via livestream. . Leverage customer data to increase personalization Whether via first-party data or third-party data partnerships, brands need to put what they know about customers to use to provide more relevant, personalized messaging. Loyalty programs can provide brands a rich source of what consumers are searching for and buying.
Digital payments drive festive season transactions
According to Paytm’s Festive Wallet Outlook 2023, 75% of Indian consumers are picking digital payment options on top eCommerce platforms with a staggering 42% going through UPI and a tie of 24-25% between COD and netbanking.
The festive months will see ~60% more off-the-grid merchants and small business owners accepting UPI payment driven by scannable QR codes.
Substantial Surge in Sectoral Gross Merchandise Value
The online Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) is expected to increase by 23% YoY. The driving forces behind this are high-value categories such as consumer electronics and the 79% rise of low-value categories such as fashion and accessories. Interestingly a connection exists between GMV and discounts- 61% of consumers brought mobile handsets and laptops during the festive season thanks to the deals and discounts on the table!
How to make the most out of the holiday retail sales
Create personalized CX
The more personalized the customer experience, the more powerful the message that gets delivered. And we have several examples of brands that took this seriously and knocked the personalization out of the park.
Case in point is Coca Cola’s extensive and immersive Diwali campaign in October 2022. The “Milke Hi Manegi” tagline was exemplified with custom effects that allowed participants to send hyperlocal personal invites to friends and families. What’s more, the company roped in Glance for a lock screen that played the brand’s jingle in the background, reiterating the point of the campaign while making the festive spirit come to life.
The leaf out of this particular book is that personalized content works wonders because it is rooted in sentimentality. Even payment platforms can be used to drive personalization by placing ads in-app strategically that contain details of unmissable deals tailored to the user’s specific interests and prior transactions. Customer experiences that make a user feel heard and seen can entice them to spend and spread word.
According to McKinsey, 78% of users are more likely to return if their experience is personalized.
So, what should you do?
Never pass up an opportunity to deliver personalized experiences. A lost sale today can mean a converted deal tomorrow. Use customer data to root out probable causes of why the buyer wasn’t sold on your merchandise the first time around. You can then use the data collected (emails, phone numbers, busy times with most and least engagement etc.) and engage with them through mail reminders and WhatsApp to deliver great deals digitally.
Pivot Mobile-first Shopping
Global mobile eCommerce sales account for 60% of retail sales. In India alone, 78% of consumers plan purchases through smartphones even if it leads them to an offline touchpoint. In fact, hybrid rests a lot of its weight on the fact that no one goes anywhere without a mobile from where they can do instant price lookups and reviews.
eCommerce sellers and brands can use appographic testing to craft a Mobile-first e-Commerce strategy. It offers audience insights such as peak usage times, prior consumer behavior, most-searched products and purchase success factors to tailor digital campaigns and marketing endeavors. is therefore critical that an e-store website should be optimized for mobile browsing to create user-friendly, frictionless journeys.
If you knew that the average user spends nearly 2 hours and 27 minutes on social media, then it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that global social commerce sales is projected to reach $1.298B in 2023 and further grow into a $3T opportunity by 2026! Social commerce is earned content, meaning that customers on social channels influence future buyers to transact with brands. Understanding the audience coming through social media platforms is essential to your pitch, and eCommerce seasonality is as good a time as any to regularly communicate with your customers.
Measures to make products discoverable via visual content-heavy channels like Instagram and Pinterest can help retailers stay visible and on top. The idea of social commerce is to provide a linked experience full of interactivity that feels personal and relatable. For example, you can live stream new product launches and giveaways after reaching a certain number of followers, and have people comment on them during the event to further the engagement. The idea behind personalization is to absorb the user into the sales vortex in such a manner that it doesn’t feel forced or unnatural. The emergence of socially integrated visual searches is helping more customers make their way over to brands. Here’s how it would work
- The user clicks a picture of an outfit or downloads it.
- The user searches for clothing on a search engine like Google or Bing which will provide lists matching the description.
- The user heads over to the site with the closest match to verify and complete the purchase.
- Once they’re in, the brand can use informative and engaging content in bytes served through videos, reels, posts and stories to drive up conversion.
Another use case for AI-visual searches is in advertising recommendations. The user does a try-on live and uploads the picture onto the website. The algorithm applies recognition techniques to push relevant merchandise to the top that are either 1) similar to what they previously bought or 2) capturing their interests.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Automation is working its way to every aspect of eCommerce. While marketing automation drives personalization, advertising and content creation, the more challenging cases automation takes care of are inventory forecasting and demand planning.
In seasonality, it helps to know and rank products by the least to most performing in order to rotate the inventory accordingly. Through the eCommerce seller dashboard, sellers can run predictive reports such as inventory planning, inventory aging and SKU performance to ensure their stock levels suffice by multiple parameters- event, location, region, customer profile and behavior before the actual occurrence. To put it in simpler words, AI converts heaps of data into important insights upon which a decision can be taken.
In Conclusion: What's in Store, For Sure?
Life’s a beach, so with another seasonal wave hitting stores soon, it’s time to ride the surf.
Beach references aside, tackling the busiest times of the year starts with asking yourself the following questions;
- Is your inventory at the ready?
- How will you market your merchandise on social media?
- What data can you leverage to develop a better understanding of your consumer and get your head in the game ahead of the competition?
Brands can create a buzz to maximize the profitability of seasonal sales by deepening engagement. It would serve sellers well to explore different and interactive content formats that unify mobile, voice, video and social commerce to leave no single channel out!
Why are seasonal sales great for eCommerce?
Seasonal sales attract customers who expect a sizable discount on saved or wish listed items, which make them far more likely to execute the purchase. Seasonality
- Establishes an emotional connection with customers
Holidays run high on emotions, and many consumers follow themes -either in what they wear, where they vacation and what they eat or drink. As a result, seasonal sales campaigns that stir up memories and play up on a particular emotion have a higher success rate than bland pitches that lack the creativity in both content and its promotion.
- Creates Brand Awareness
Seasonal sales are a great way for lesser known brands to throw their hat in the ring. For such brands, social and mobile commerce are channels they should be friends with. Through the power of discoverable shoppable posts, they can directly engage with customers without added set up costs (in the short run of things at least). The more they are front facing, the higher the trust score which eventually expands the customer base. Over time, such emerging names can become more visible and present and widen their budget to collaborate with
3. Step-up With Loyalty Rewards Program
Seasonal sales can create loyalists out of satisfied customers and offering entry into a rewards program clues the members on lightning deals and early bird discounts that only they can use. Over purchases, customers can also spread word of the program’s benefits to prospective buyers, driving more of them to your elite list!
4. What are the causes of sales seasonality?
Seasonality is brought on by several factors and are tied to a
- A surge of interest towards the beginning or end of a calendar year. For example, seasons tickets to games, real estate booms and dips and reservations to destination holidays.
- Weather fluctuations influencing product /services: a bathing suit is more in demand between May to July than in wintry December!
- Holiday spending sprees: themed holidays spike demand for holiday-specific items spanning food and beverages, clothing and athletic equipment..
3. When is the Big Billion Day in 2023 and which sales follows it?
The Flipkart Big Billion Days 2023 Sale runs from October 3-10 and is followed closely after by the Diwali sale which is expected to start from Nov 1 2023.
- What time of the year does Amazon sell the most?
Amazon makes its biggest sales during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Prime day and lunchtime (surprisingly! This is attributed to the free time employees spend shopping through different apps).
- What are the slowest months for seasonal sales?
January and February are considered the slowest months in the aftermath of New Year celebrations. Consumers are more savings-conscious after the holidays as routines resume normalcy. eCommerce sales are shown to have dropped by ~30% versus December sales. Low-value categories such as clothing and accessories tend to drop the most while food and beauty items stabilize and right themselves.