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Four ways to prepare your business for e-commerce sales

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Customers love finding bargains online – no surprises there. But in recent years, digital sales events such as Click Frenzy, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have had a real impact on Australian retail turnover.

In 2018, Australians spent $27.5 billion on e-commerce goods. That accounted for 10 per cent of the year’s total retail sales. And the fact that almost 15 per cent of these sales happened in just five weeks across November and into December shows how much e-commerce has changed the way Australians buy end-of-year bargains. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ seasonally adjusted figures, November’s retail sales are now outpacing December’s, reflecting the effect of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the newer sales events based around the US Thanksgiving holiday that are taking the sales heat away from longstanding local traditions like the Boxing Day sales.

For a small business, there’s a lot to learn – and gain – from these new online sales. Here are four pro tips to get involved.

Prepare for online sales

1. Gear up

Make sure you’re always up to date about the newest online sales events.

Take Click Frenzy: this homegrown online sales event has become an Australian e-commerce mainstay. Its gamified subscription platform offers discounts of up to 80 per cent off hundreds of well-known brands – Dyson, Apple, Flight Centre – for a 29-hour period. These offers are so popular that the Click Frenzy website crashed during its inaugural sale in 2012.

In 2018, Click Frenzy was the second biggest online sales event. But the champion of online sales periods in Australia is actually the week of Black Friday (29 November) and Cyber Monday (2 December), the latter of which debuted in 2005 in the US as a final-day online-shopping spinoff of the traditionally bricks-and-mortar Black Friday sales. Since arriving on our shores, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have grown to become the biggest e-commerce sales events in the country.

Customers are increasingly seeking out these sales for big deals, and they’re ready to spend large. So taking part is vital for local businesses targeting local consumers – and especially for local businesses competing for international sales.

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2. Know your offering

Sales events aren’t just about radical discounting. Think of different ways you can offer value to customers during a sale. This could mean anything from discounted shipping to loyalty gifts, digital rewards cards or other incentives to spend a little more.

Get creative! Some companies target existing email marketing lists with ‘secret deals’ for loyal customers, subtly prompting them to share the offer with friends – which drives further lead generation. Your objective should be to attract new, high-quality regulars as well as service existing loyal customers.

In terms of customer communication and fulfilment, it may make sense to narrow down your offerings: five or so different deals prominently displayed on one landing page are probably going to be more effective than multiple deals across multiple pages (which can be hard to digest). Remember, sometimes less is more.

Also ensure offers are consistent with your brand values – for example, heavy discounts may undermine a premium brand. And take the time to check out what your competitors are doing; if possible, try and match or better their offers, and be sure to let consumers know how generous you’re being.

 

3. Promote, promote, promote    

Start promoting two weeks out from the event – minimum. Now is the time to experiment, so consider point-of-sale signs and leaflets, website banners, micro marketing, and pay-per-click or email campaigns.

Social media platforms are cheap and effective avenues for getting the word out. But did you know that only 47 per cent of Australian small businesses have a social media presence? And a mere 26 per cent of them pay for advertising – which is surprising, considering close to 80 per cent of Australians use social media.

Before you start a pre-sale marketing campaign, figure out where your customers are. As you might expect, Facebook is the most popular platform: around 60 per cent of Australians, across a broad age range, log in there.

Take the opportunity to trial different formats of social media marketing, too, like Instagram Stories or even paid communications through Facebook Ads. You might also want to consider new platforms that match your target demographics. Pinterest, for example, is more popular than Instagram among Australians born before 1975 – so it might be worth a try if that sounds like your customer. Then there’s other digital marketing, such as Google Ads. Whatever you choose, make sure you test different messaging ahead of time to see what sticks, and hone your strategy in real time before the big day (or week).

At the end of the day, your purpose for any form of promotion is clear: you want to let shoppers know what you’ve got going on for the sale. And don’t forget to stay in touch after the event so your product remains top-of-mind with new and existing customers.

4. Don’t forget the basics

Before committing to any grand e-commerce strategy, it’s a good idea to ensure you’ve got the basics covered.

Test your website ahead of time so you can be confident going into the sales-holiday period. That might mean contacting your hosting company to make sure they can handle a spike in online traffic. Or even something as simple as finding a trusted friend to look over your site. Are all your products and services displayed correctly? Is information up-to-date and accurate?

Paying attention to your website also means making sure that written content includes keywords likely to drive more customers to your site. For tips on how to get started, online toolkits like this one from Google are useful primers. And for broader info on search engine optimisation, read our SEO 101 for tips on growing your online presence.

Out in the real world, make sure you’ve got the staffing and/or automation capacity to deal with additional orders. And, of course, ensure that inventory is in place to fulfil all those extra sales.

*Originally published May 17th 2019. Updated November 14th 2019.

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