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It can be nerve-wracking starting a business that promises to thrive during one season but risks falling short the next. We hope the high season is enough to carry the rest of the year, but it’s a risk we have to take. 30% of businesses fail in the first two years, and 50% by year five. When you’re a seasonal business, the odds aren’t in your favour. 

But sometimes the risk pays off. Running a successful seasonal business is certainly possible, whether it’s winter apparel, holiday equipment, Christmas trees – you name it! It just takes a little extra thought, some patience, and innovative thinking. 

Maximising on your busy periods

The first step to a successful seasonal eCommerce business is being able to maximise on the busiest periods. Making these as lucrative as possible means you’ll have the cash to account for the low periods. You should:

  • Start your marketing early – Give people plenty of time to get on board so when your product is in season, they know exactly where to turn. One winter apparel company did this using data. They collected information about their customer’s location, the weather in their locations, and when most people in these areas made purchases. Then they used this data to market their products to customers automatically at the right time, right before they would start thinking about purchasing winter products in their area. Don’t be afraid of data’ its insight are invaluable to a seasonal business.
  • Offer promotions that keep you competitive – You need to win people’s business by separating yourself from your competitors. Promotions help you convert leads into sales. But they also help you maximise sales in the slumps by offering incentives for people to purchase goods early for a better price. For example, you could offer free shipping.
  • People love holidays; make the most of them – You can really play up the holiday factor with your marketing, promotions, and website. For example, a florist’s busiest periods are likely to be Valentines Day, International Women’s Day, Christmas, and Mother’s Day. It’s great to have specialised marketing plans and web designs tailored to the busy periods to attract the maximum volume of customers.
  • Get all hands on deck and go full steam ahead – Make sure you have the right number of staff to cope with the high volume of sales during the busy period.

Dealing with the slumps

The slumps are nothing to worry about. You’re expecting them which means you can prepare for them. You can:

  • Manage your staff appropriately – It’s a good idea to keep full-time workers to a minimum; just enough to cover the basic needs of the business. Then focus on casual and part-time workers who can pick up the slack during busy periods, but don’t need hours during low-periods.
  • Diversify your market – This isn’t always possible, but for some, diversifying helps you keep business moving through slumps. For example, if you start out as a winter apparel clothing store, why not start selling summer apparel too? Or, if you’re a ski shop with busy winter periods, you could diversify into other similar sports that aren’t winter-dependent, like skateboarding and rollerblading for example. 
  • Go global – This strategy works particularly well for weather and season dependent products because while it’s summer here, it’s winter somewhere else. It’s also a great way to maximise holiday sales all year round as you can cater to a wider variety of holidays from a variety of cultures which occur throughout the year. As an eCommerce business, reaching a global audience is easier than ever with the right tools including Shopit’s multi site and multi currency features
  • Make good use of the downtime – Just because sales aren’t through the roof doesn’t mean you can’t make money for your business. During the slow periods, invest your time in your business, coming up with new ideas, products, and better ways of management which will drive more profitable ventures. 
  • Accurate forecasting – Sometimes when people are expecting huge bursts of sales, they over-purchase and waste money on stock. Use data to calculate the correct amount of stock needed for the high and low periods to streamline your expenses. 

Summary

Running a seasonal business can be profitable all year round when you’re prepared and have a great strategy in place. But make sure you don’t let your eCommerce platform hold you back. Having a great strategy in place won’t work unless you have a platform with the infrastructure to help you accommodate and manage huge spikes in sales and traffic.

Too many eCommerce websites are prone to downtime during busy periods as their technology can’t keep up. Shopit operates on Google’s Cloud services with auto-scaling designed to handle surges by allocating resources in milliseconds. Does your platform? Start your free trial today or visit our website to see what other brilliant features Shopit offers.