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6 Ways to Use the Slow Period to Speed Up Your Growth

It’s not just the gray skies, chilly weather, and pre-dinner sunsets that make January and February dreary. It’s also the sudden absence of whirlwind holiday business. An end to the flurry of customer calls and urgent to-dos.

If you’re like many merchants, as the weather cools down, so does your business. Slower than average sales, coupled with the potential for a “returns tsunami” every January, can lead to dull days in the wake of a hectic Cyber 5.

You light a fire and cozy up for the long, dark months — but you’re left with one burning question: How can I maintain my momentum and keep the business growing through the post-holiday slump?

In this article, we’ll share six ways to take advantage of the more relaxed sales pace to set yourself up for a profitable year ahead.

How to Use the “Slow Season” Wisely

  1. Analyze Your Seasonal Data
  2. Study Customer Feedback
  3. Audit Your Tech Stack
  4. Develop and Launch New Products
  5. Build Your Omnichannel Foundations
  6. Supercharge Your Marketing

Why Slow Business Periods Can Be Good for Growth

After a busy Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM), it can be a little disheartening to see your numbers dip. But there’s one key metric that always spikes in January and February: the amount of time on your hands.

In a world where 85% of executive leadership teams don’t even spend one full hour per month discussing strategy, this extra time represents a major opportunity to leap ahead of the competition.

Here’s a quick overview of just some of the ways you can choose to use this time:

  • Make strategic plans: Develop a plan to implement key strategic initiatives over the next year or more. These can include specific goals around sales, technology adoption, or broader initiatives like sustainability or brand image. First, set and review your goals. Then develop a timeline in your project management system, with pre-scheduled meetings on a monthly or quarterly basis.
  • Learn new tools and software: If you’ve recently adopted new technology, now is a great time to start training your employees on it. If you haven’t made the leap, but are considering investing in new tools, this may be a good time to shortlist and test potential solutions via a 14- or 30-day trial. Make sure your team knows the purpose and advantages of each new piece of software, and where to direct any questions.
  • Analyze sales data: Check in with your core key performance indicators (KPIs) and determine where you’re pulling ahead or falling behind. If higher margins are a priority this year, take time to evaluate your pricing structure or identify any key markets you might be missing out on. And don’t forget the inventory side of the equation. Study your stockouts, dead stock volumes, and other key metrics for a healthier sales to inventory ratio.
  • Nurture customers: Catch up on customer emails, respond to product reviews, and reach out to valued brand ambassadors for feedback. Respond to mentions and direct messages (DMs) on social media, and use social listening tools to find out what shoppers are saying about your brand. This is also a great time to send special offers, free gifts, or thank you notes to repeat customers.

The upside of the New Year slowdown is that you’re no longer in constant triage, scrambling to fill orders and manage customer complaints. These quieter months give you and your leadership team an important moment to slow down, reflect, and strategize.

Of course, not every tactic will be right for every business. The important thing is to take this opportunity to step away from the daily grind and get a clear view of your business. Which strategies will bring you the most growth in the near and distant future?

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at how to make the most of your seasonal downtime.

6 Ways to Take Advantage of a Slow Business Period

With the right planning and a strong growth mindset, January and February can be just as powerful for your business as Black Friday. 

Here are some ways to take advantage of the extra time.

1. Analyze Your Seasonal Data

While the Black Friday sales surge won’t necessarily reflect how much you’ll sell year-round, you can learn a lot about your business from the data insights gleaned from a larger customer sample size. Before forming your post-Black Friday game plan, dig deep into your data to determine the best next steps.

Action Steps:

  • Assess your promotions. Study which deals worked best, at what times, and over which channels. Did you have more success with free shipping or a 30% discount? Did more of your customers go for product bundles or single-item deals?
  • Compare your sales channels. Pay close attention to which sales channels performed best to determine where to invest your focus over the coming year. If your marketplace channels are going strong, but your direct-to-consumer (DTC) traffic isn’t quite there yet, adding more Amazon inventory, or investing in a new marketplace like Walmart.com, may be a faster path to growth.
  • Consider your customers. Study your marketing campaigns and click throughs to determine what worked best, and with which audience segments. Dig deep into your Google Analytics and customer data. Learn what types of customers you should be appealing to in the future, and which channels are most effective for reaching them.
  • Understand your inventory. Take stock of, well…your stock. Did you experience many stockouts? Or spend a fortune on carrying costs? Are you still paying to store unsold Black Friday SKUs? Unbalanced inventory can indicate a sales or marketing issue, but it could also mean it may be time to improve your demand planning.

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2. Study Customer Feedback

Hard metrics are helpful, but qualitative data can reveal deeper insights about what really keeps customers coming back. Keep in mind that this time of year is often a slower period for your customers too. Now might be a great time to reach out with a quick customer feedback survey to get important firsthand insights that can help you define your future goals.

Action Steps:

  • Send out surveys. Reach out to your BFCM customers to get their feedback on products, user experience, and customer service. Find out what types of products they might be interested in buying from you in the future, or if any particular styles, sizes, or flavors are missing from your product catalog.
  • Interview your top customers. Reach out to your most valuable customers with a more personalized, segmented email. Invite their direct feedback with questions aimed at specific pain points along the customer journey. The easiest way is to solicit feedback via email or social media but, if possible, a phone or video call could help you get more in-depth insights.
  • Ask for product reviews. You already know you need product reviews to win traffic and trust. But getting more reviews can also give you critical insights into emerging opportunities with new and current customers. Don’t let this one wait. If you haven’t done so already, email or message your holiday shoppers immediately to ask for their reviews.
  • Listen in. Use social listening and monitoring tools to track brand mentions, study competitors, and follow trending content. Pay attention to common customer complaints and do what you can to resolve any issues quickly and efficiently. Reach out directly to individual customers where possible and focus on solving problems, not selling.

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3. Audit Your Tech Stack

The pandemic accelerated retail’s digital transformation. And not just because new technology suddenly became necessary, but because employees finally had the time to actually learn how to use it. 

Now that your employees have the bandwidth to properly learn new tools, the beginning of the year is a perfect time to audit your user experience (UX) and upgrade your e-commerce tech stack.

Action Steps:

  • Check your site speeds. Every extra second a page takes to load sends more of your customers packing. From 1 to 5 seconds, the probability of a potential shopper leaving your page increases by 90%. Whether you switch hosts, optimize your content, or use a content delivery network (CDN), always prioritize speed before building new experiences that could bloat your tech stack.
  • Evaluate your UX. Use heatmaps and other behavior analytics tools to study how users are interacting with your site, including what works for capturing their attention and where they might be getting stuck. Look for ways to make your site more accessible, intuitive, and minimalist to streamline the path to conversion and earn a more loyal customer following along the way.
  • Use customer input. Customer feedback doesn’t just help you evaluate your products. It also helps you uncover any problem areas on your website, mobile app, or anywhere else in the customer journey. Customer feedback can help you make small decisions that could have a big impact on conversions, such as whether you should add a backorder button, offer new payment options, or make your site easier to navigate for shoppers with disabilities.
  • Train your team on new tools. As we move into the New Year, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are providing endless opportunities for tech-savvy sellers. AI can help you field customer complaints, generate product photos, and more — but it can’t do it without human input and supervision. Use this time to make sure your team is well-trained in the effective and ethical use of any new additions to your tech stack, especially if those tools include an element of machine learning.

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4. Develop and Launch New Products

Even if you’re not selling gym leggings or boxes of chocolate, now could be a great time to develop or launch a new product. The extra breathing room provides a great opportunity to research, design, and test new products strategically to boost your odds of a successful launch later in the year.

Action Steps:

  • Research the competition. Run a competitor analysis, studying the competition’s products, marketing strategies, and user experience. Leverage AI tools to analyze your findings and help predict product market fit for your launch.
  • Position your product. Use your Black Friday data to narrow in on what your customers want, plus when, where, and how to sell it.
  • Plan your launch. If you’re not ready to go to market in January or February, start setting your strategy. Develop a launch timeline, set clear goals and KPIs, and start creating your campaigns and landing pages while you have plenty of time to test, review, and optimize.

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5. Build Your Omnichannel Foundations

When sales are down, you have more time to strategize for expansion. You can choose to add new channels, markets, or even revamp your entire sales strategy. To avoid future troubleshooting, take time now to make sure your infrastructure can support the brand experience across a variety of channels.

Action Steps:

  • Optimize your inventory and supply chain. Pinpoint your best forecasting methods, streamline your delivery routes, and diversify your carriers. Find third-party logistics providers (3PLs) with the capacity to support new channels and keep order fulfillment streamlined and efficient as you expand.
  • Take your store overseas. Whether you do it through a marketplace or build a cross-border DTC business, the slow season can be a good time to try a new international market. Research potential territories, compare international 3PLs, and prepare your financial strategy, including how you’ll handle global payments to vendors and suppliers.
  • Grow your multichannel network. Getting started on TikTok, Instagram, or a niche or emerging marketplace before the next holiday rush can give you a leg up over the competition when learning how to navigate these new channels.
  • Build a streamlined strategy. Moving from multichannel to omnichannel is becoming a “requirement for survival” for some, but it may or may not be a realistic move for your brand. Use this time to assess your current growth, goals, and budget. Then, strategize to build a consistent, interconnected brand experience now or in the future.

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6. Supercharge Your Marketing

A slump doesn’t have to be a slump with the right marketing tactics. Run a deep-dive audit of your marketing ROI post-Black Friday to identify what did and didn’t work. Use these insights to extend your post holiday sales and plan your future campaigns to maximize seasonal sales spikes.

Action Steps:

  • Retarget BFCM customers right away. Hit recent customers with personalized recommendations when it counts. Use insights from your sales data to better target your promotions. This could be specific campaigns for when supplies of consumable products run low, or enabling “complete the look” product recommendations to encourage purchases of related items.
  • Extend the holiday spirit. The holiday sales season keeps getting longer. Make the most of this shift by marketing January sales as “Extended Black Friday” or “Black Friday Clearance” promotions to keep the sales going.
  • Experiment with influencers and user-generated content (UGC). With fewer campaigns and competitors flooding the scene, mid- to late-Winter is a great time to test your social media marketing. Start with a nano- or micro-influencer partnership, or design your own viral UGC campaign.

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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

A seasonal slump doesn’t have to mean your profits freeze over. If you use the time well, it can lead to exponential future gains for your business. From looking back to find the opportunities in your sales data to looking forward toward an omnichannel experience, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

But even after a major shopping event, slower sales periods can be a burden on cash flow. SellersFi can help you make the most of your hibernation period, giving you key insights into your sales, inventory, and customer data, plus the financial solutions you need to invest in future growth.

For more ideas on how to scale effectively, explore our growing library of e-commerce resources. Whenever you’re ready, you can register for a risk-free account to unlock your brand’s future success.

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