Q3 can sometimes feel like the wait at the airport gate after you’ve made it past security.
But instead of waiting to take off on the long-haul flight that is Q4, you could use this time to reflect on your success so far and prepare for a profitable holiday season.
Big-box marketplaces and brands use this time to run test sales that give them valuable Black Friday data, prep their holiday inventory, uplevel their marketing, and optimize their listings.
Whether you use Q3 as a time to experiment and innovate, or to simply ensure you’re as prepared as possible for Q4, there are many ways to use this “quiet” time to increase your future results.
Make the Most of Q3 E-commerce ROI
- What Trends Should You Watch Out for in Q3?
- 5 Practical Steps You Can Take in Q3 to Prep for a Strong Q4
What Trends Should You Watch for in Q3?
From getting prepped for Prime Day to the impact of early holiday shopping, e-commerce trends are always evolving. July to September is the perfect time to get creative and think more holistically about the long-term vision for your business.
Here are some of the key trends to keep on your radar in Q3.
AI Product Recommendations
While there seem to be limitless use cases for generative AI in e-commerce, product recommendation seems to be the most on-trend.
Brands like Instacart, Shopify, and Klarna are using ChatGPT-based technology to offer customers tailored product recommendations. Instacart’s AI extension responds to food-related inquiries by serving up food and recipe information and helping customers easily order the right ingredients.
Shopify’s plugin lets users input budget, product, and brand preferences, then offers customized product suggestions. Secondhand marketplace Mercari and German retailer Zalando have also launched similar tools. Even Coca-Cola and other beverage companies have jumped on the AI bandwagon.
Beyond nudging shoppers to explore similar products, merchants can also use AI to draft product descriptions, provide customer service via always-on chatbots, analyze hundreds or even thousands of product reviews, and more.
Start experimenting now so that you’ll be ahead of the pack as generative AI technology becomes more affordable and accessible.
On the topic of generative AI, this is just one of many technologies that can offer much deeper (and sometimes, creepier) degrees of personalization.
Startups like Maverick are working with personalized, AI-generated videos that can speak to thousands of individual customers for as little as $100 per month. Imagine a video popping up as you’re about to close the checkout window prompting you, by name, to stick around and buy those sneakers you were on the fence about.
AI and machine learning software like Session AI can also predict a customer’s behavior within their first five clicks on an e-commerce website, generating a score for how likely they are to make a purchase during that session.
Brands can then serve that customer personalized content to make them more likely to follow through with a purchase.
Unpredictable Buyer Behavior
Continued economic uncertainty, supply chain volatility, and shifting values have made consumer behavior a bit of a wildcard.
While advanced analytics can help us predict all sorts of granular customer decisions, we still don’t have a great macro-level understanding of when we can expect consumers to spend or save in a (mostly) post-pandemic world.
For instance, some consumers have gotten into the habit of doing their holiday shopping earlier and earlier. Many retailers have restructured their big sales days accordingly. Other shoppers have delayed their holiday shopping, proving that nabbing those mid-December sales can still be important.
One thing is clear: shoppers are increasingly concerned with cost-cutting and less worried about stockouts, so savvy retailers will focus more on pricing than timing. The “new normal” is all about convincing the customer they’re getting the best deal out there, regardless of whether they’re shopping on Black Friday or in the middle of September.
Mobile Commerce, Social Commerce, and In-App Checkout
In a recent Retail Dive survey, 81% of retailers said they were planning to expand the number of digital channels they sell on. And social commerce is on track to make up a bigger and bigger percentage of total e-commerce sales every year.
While Instagram’s in-app checkout has been around since 2019, Facebook and Instagram have more recently begun phasing out shops that linked to an external website for checkout, thereby forcing businesses to use Meta’s checkout systems.
Big brands like PacSun and Revolve are also testing TikTok’s new in-app checkout feature, which enables shoppers to check out from within the TikTok app instead of sending them to a separate browser window.
Sellers who can reduce friction by adopting in-app checkout can take early advantage of this emerging trend. With mobile commerce sales predicted to account for 44% of all digital sales in 2025, a frictionless mobile experience will be a necessity no matter what.
With the cart abandonment rate for mobile still hovering around 85%, be sure to optimize your mobile channels ahead of Q4.
Q3 E-commerce ROI: 5 Practical Steps You Can Take for a Strong Q4
Once you’ve assessed your current performance and taken stock of the major trends, it’s time to set new goals and strategies to make the most of Q4.
Here are some ways to prepare.
1. Focus on Customer Retention
Customer acquisition is getting impossibly expensive. Develop a smart retention strategy as part of your Q3 promotions, to help bring your customers back for Q4. Here are a few retention strategies to try:
- Invest in Email: Consumers say email is their preferred way to hear from their favorite brands, so get your name into their inbox and keep it there. Whether you have news to share, a big summer sale coming up, or a feedback survey, well-crafted email copy, and eye-catching product images will keep your customers engaged.
- Try Smart Reordering Solutions: If your products make sense for regular replenishment, consider partnering with a checkout or subscription solution like Repeat. Or look to the “Closet” feature in Lululemon’s App, which saves all past orders and suggests new products for inspiration. Position your products as a collection, and keep your customer excited to fill in the gaps.
- Incentivize Referrals and Reviews: Instead of overspending on new customer acquisition, reward customer recommendations with tailored offers and giveaways. Start prepping subscription offers ahead of the holidays, so customers can gift their friends and family with a year of your products.
2. Improve Your Personalization
If you’re not already on top of it, Q3 is the time to start upgrading your personalization tech stack. To optimize your personalization strategy in Q3:
- Personalize Your Landing Pages and Emails: If you sell through your own websites, consider using tools like Bloomreach or Dynamic Yield that give each user a unique landing page experience. Or focus on building up your marketing segmentation to speak directly to different types of shoppers.
- Try AI-driven Product Recommendations: If you have the budget, try out AI-based product recommendation technology on your online store. You can even hire a developer to build you a bot with ChatGPT’s API or keep an eye out for startups capitalizing on this technology at a more accessible price point.
- Run a Survey: Not everything has to be about upgrading your tech stack. In Q3, try reaching out to your customers directly to ask them what kinds of promotions they’d like to see.
3. Optimize Your Inventory
Unpredictable customer behavior, ongoing supply chain drama, and ever-fluctuating Amazon fees and inventory restrictions can make accurate demand planning feel impossible. To fine-tune your fulfillment in Q3:
- Invest in an Inventory Planning Tool: Tools like Flieber and Syrup can help predict your inventory needs across multiple channels and inventory locations so you can drop the spreadsheets, eliminate the guesswork, and avoid an inventory glut at year-end.
- Improve Your Amazon Score to Win More Storage Space: Q3 is a great time to up your IPI score by running sales, offloading unsold inventory, and correcting listings issues.
- Build a Backup Fulfillment Plan: Review your sourcing and supplier strategies and look for areas where you need improvement. Put backup shippers in place to fulfill orders in case your regular fulfillment partner or FBA gets into a jam. With the holidays coming, you’ll need to be extra prepared.
4. Promote Early and Price Competitively
While customers may be conflicted about when to start their holiday shopping, they are willing to change their schedules in pursuit of the best deal. Big-name retailers know this and are getting a start on their holiday promotions earlier. To level up during Q3, you’ll need to do the same.
To get ahead of holiday sales in Q3:
- Start Early: Offer sales and promotions as early as you can, ahead of key holidays. Don’t wait until too close to Black Friday to get ahead of your holiday marketing and start dropping your prices.
- Utilize the Halo Effect: Capitalize on the halo effect of Amazon Prime Day, jump on seasonal trends like back-to-school shopping, take stock of other important dates you could utilize, or create your own sale holiday, new products, or subscription boxes.
- Check Your Pricing Strategy: Try out dynamic pricing software or look for other ways to beat your competitors in an environment where shoppers will go wherever they find the best deal.
5. Lean Into Mobile and Social Commerce
While social commerce still doesn’t have the hold on US shoppers that it does in countries like China, interest is growing.
Social media platforms are making it easier than ever for growing e-commerce businesses to sell direct-to-consumer via their apps. Optimize your own site and app for mobile users, so your customers can conduct their one-click shopping from Cancún or the airport security line.
To succeed with social and mobile commerce in Q3:
- Meet Your Customers Where They Are: Some technologies use geodata to help you understand where your customers are, giving you valuable data you can use to serve them targeted campaigns. But if your shoppers are on Instagram and TikTok, all you need to do is simply set up your in-app store. Wherever they are, make it easy for shoppers to find you.
- Ask More of Your Influencers: Influencer marketing is one of the most powerful tools you can use to drive mobile and in-app social purchases. But customers are getting smarter and more discerning about who they listen to. In Q3, enlist experts who can prove your product works.
- Remove Every Kink from Your Mobile Site and App: Your mobile site should be optimized for use with one thumb or finger. If you’re still making customers create an account before they checkout, add a Guest Checkout feature immediately. For optimal ROI in Q4, do your due diligence now to make sure every part of the mobile shopping experience is as seamless as possible.
Think Ahead with SellersFi
In the modern game of e-commerce, nothing follows a predictable pattern. The name of the game is to plan for resilience, in Q3 and beyond.
Use this time to chart a profitable path ahead, including the strategies you need to act on now for greater success in the future.
If you need a financial strategy to help bring your vision to life, SellersFi is here. Explore some of the many ways to use e-commerce funding to expand your business, or reach out today to speak with one of our experts.