End of Season Sale Prep Part 1: The eCommerce Guide
End of Season Sale. The very phrase sparks simultaneous fear and joy in the hearts of retailers worldwide. On one hand, you finally get to markdown those styles burning a hole in your categories. On the other hand, you have a site to prepare, competitors to stalk, ads to run and newness to keep selling at full price.
Here in Part 1 of our End of Season Sale preparation guide, we start with what may be your biggest channel for selling throughout the holiday season; your eCommerce website.
Let’s begin with the good news! If you feel like you’re already in the trenches of sale season amid Click Frenzy, Archive Sales, and Cyber Week preparation - there’s a light at the end of the retail calendar year. This very light is drawing shoppers in, wallets open.
According to KPMG head of retail Lisa Bora, due to the Christmas shopping rush trending to begin earlier each year, this sale season is predicted to bring in $33 billion worth of spending here in Australia. KPMG forecasted that shoppers are set to spend as much, if not more than last year. This rate is unlikely to slow until 2023, when the spending hangover kicks in.
Yes, despite the budget impacts of soaring inflation and fast hikes in interest rates - now is the time for your end of season sale to really dig its heels in.
The beauty of this kind of sale is that your savvy customers, especially your discount shopper segment, are expecting it. They’re chomping at the bit.
However, there’s a difference between anticipating the end of year markdowns, and being confused by or bored of flash sales and unexplained promos too close together. Let the hype build, and strike while the sale shoppers' wallets are open. You’ve got margins to protect.
Ready for some expert-driven tips to get those racks cleared? Let’s jump in.
Tip 1. Prepare to be there
Now’s not the time to hide in the warehouse (tempting, though). With consumers starting their shopping earlier, and retail sales going for longer periods, you’ll need to be able to deal with more orders. More orders mean more customers will try to reach you online, over the phone and in-store.
Salesforce’s recent Future of Customer Engagement and Loyalty report confirms that nothing increases ROI like a customer-first mentality. This is mostly by way of loyalty programs, but during sale season you can direct your focus on the customer experience where customer care and communication are concerned.
... nothing increases ROI like a customer-first mentality.
Customers will have questions during your sale, and they will want them to be answered on the spot. Accommodate these needs by:
Having a visible phone number on your website
Having your customer support team’s office hours displayed
Preparing short phone scripts for difficult or negative scenarios
Having prompts and ready-to-go answers in your online chat function for easy answers
Ensuring your team is manning the appropriate social channels
Updating and clearly linking to your FAQs, Delivery and Returns pages so there’s no confusion when it comes to your policies
Don’t forget, everyone on the support team should be able to clearly identify inventory numbers and product details (such as fit and fabric) to help avoid customer impatience or disappointment.
Tip 2. Prepare to be everywhere
As we mentioned in our BFCM Prep, the sooner you set up your sale ads, the better.
Mike Belasco, CEO of Go In Flow says, when changing up your strategy, the biggest indicator of advertising success will always be budget.
“Where you can, get aggressive with your bids. Split out your top performers into separate ad campaigns, and give them as much budget as you possibly can to take advantage of those holiday sales. Evaluate your historical lost impression share to identify just how much you need to up the ante.”
Logan Edgelow, Director of Growth Strategy at Kulin adds, “Since we know that the cost of traffic is going to spike, prospective customers must enter the funnel during early November. This can be done through campaigns optimized for events further up the funnel, like add-to carts, traffic, email signups or quiz submissions, even video views and engagement.”
Edgelow suggests that with purchase intent being at an all-time high, it presents a unique opportunity to capitalize on cheaper alternate awareness channels ahead of time. Leveraging more affordable placements like TikTok or Instagram Reels to retarget during your sale period is the key to combating the inevitable CPM spike.
And what’s best practice according to the Googleverse? It’s all about optimizing your product feed, including:
providing correct product identifiers (GTINs).
including high-resolution product images
enhancing your product titles to help Google show your products to the right shoppers, and
maintaining your feed health by setting up the required feed attributes
Tip 3. Prepare your website
One of the most important parts of this whole process is ensuring your front-end website, inventory platform and stock integration systems are performing seamlessly. You want to create brand evangelists with a sale UX they’ll come back to.
Some fashion retailers leverage a separate, temporary site to host their big online sales. Not only does this well and truly keep aged stock and new season separate for their different customers, but it also enables the site to perform and absorb the volume of traffic on its own, without disrupting the performance of the main site.
Run a site speed test so you know how well your site is working. Deloitte reported that a study improving your load time by 0.1s can boost conversion rates by 8%. Try Google’s Test My Site which offers recommended changes as well as the potential impact of improving your speed.
Optimise your site for mobile, especially if your analytics are telling you the volume of shoppers who check out on their smartphones. We show you how here.
Before you hit ‘go’ on that EDM, make sure you have adjusted your network server to expect high volumes of traffic and to minimise the chance of crashing.
Things to double-check
Does every item have a barcode/SKU number and images to be uploaded online?
If you have an international website (or two, or three), did your main site export all SKUs, stock levels, and images correctly to be perfectly mirrored?
Have you updated the product descriptions to declare any discoloration or specific fit details?
Have your products ended up in the right categories? Sale ‘Leather’ lures a very different shopper than Sale ‘under $50’
Are your UTM parameters in place to track traffic?
Has web prep got you thinking about the sale inventory itself? Stay tuned for Part 2, where Style Arcade’s merchandising and planning experts will take you through how to nail sale inventory, markdowns and warehouse processing.
Tip 4. Settle on your delivery strategy
An excellent shopping experience involves clear communication on when and how the shopper will receive their goods. Especially around gift-giving and party season, when shoppers NEED to know if they’ll receive their items in time for Christmas. Make sure to display and send CRM messages regarding shipping closures and cut-off dates to avoid disappointment.
Transparency is everything when it comes to shipping. The checkout page is where you can communicate any number of things to help your customers feel seen, heard, and secure. This includes shipping costs, shipping speeds, removing any nasty surprises by pre-calculating the taxes and duties, and letting them know their details are secure.
If you are running your store on a hosted platform like Shopify, Squarespace, BigCommerce or Big Cartel then they will already have your security in place, but if you have your site hosted with a developer or agency then make sure they have all the relevant SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption.
The power of a logo will work wonders when it comes to satisfying a customer at the checkout. Add your security logos to your footer or near your payment section, and use trusted brand logos like DHL, AusPost, Visa, Afterpay and Paypal.
In fact, PayPal suggests that allowing people to pay by PayPal can increase your conversion rate by up to 3%. Yes, it may be slightly more expensive than a card to process but it’s easy to install, and hey, people trust it.
While the logos may not suit your site aesthetic, they will without a doubt improve your store conversion rate.
The best advice is to not muddy the waters of your end of season sale with ill-prepared scheduling, reactive markdowns, and contradictory messaging that might dilute your sale’s impact.
Now that your digital landscape is up to scratch, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty; merchandising. Sign up to receive Style Arcade's in-depth guide to inventory management, markdown, warehousing, and keeping your team aligned.
About the Author
Anna is a writer and journalist, with seven years experience in copywriting, digital marketing and eCommerce. Anna has worked with leading Australian fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands over the past seven years, including sass & bide, Sportscraft, and Peppermayo. She now runs her own freelance business, Papercut Copy, and will never not feel weird about writing her bio in the third person.