In many ways, the first quarter is the easiest. You're capitalizing on post-holiday shoppers; you're implementing and perhaps putting some finishing touches on your sales strategy plan for the year. By the time the third quarter comes along, you're already planning for back-to-school and the holidays. In the fourth quarter, you're just trying to keep up with end-of-year sales and work on your strategy for the next year.
Oh, wait. We skipped the second quarter. Actually, most people skip Q2. It's one of those lost periods where merchants embrace a few yearly campaigns for Mother’s Day, Easter, and Father's Day while dreamily--almost scandalously--leaving everything else to work itself out.
Don't be that eCommerce merchant who lets the second quarter pass by while other companies with strategic plans are launching themselves ahead of the pack to capture market share and steal your customers.
Let's walk through a few critical priorities for the second quarter so you can scale and leave the competition in the dust.
Basics That Experienced Merchants Forget
Newbie eCommerce merchants come in two packages. First, there's the ones who never really set goals. They just want to make as much money as possible, and they don't measure the opportunity cost of not planning well. Second are those who measure, analyze, and plan obsessively. Sometimes these are the ones who look great on paper but often miss out on opportunities because they spend so much time obsessing over what their numbers mean.
One of the biggest challenges experienced merchants face is not falling into the "business as usual" mentality. That's what typically happens in Q2--business as usual. But as an experienced merchant, you have a system in place. You know what you're doing, and you're and are going to do more of the same with a few crucial tweaks.
Start by learning from the past. Examine how your second quarters have typically played out. Create objectives that will make this quarter even better. Ask yourself-- how have your plans for the year helped you so far? What needs to be tweaked? What pivots can you make that will make Q2 work better for you than the first?
Then, create a weekly breakdown of how each of your goals for the quarter and the year are going to be implemented. Don't forget to create accountability. Assign someone to each task or it won't be completed. And once you get in the weeds, ask yourself (and your team) if these weekly breakdowns and goals realistic. You might need to prioritize some new goals and objectives to keep your team from getting overloaded.
Implement and Measure New Tech as a Sales Strategy and User Experience
Hopefully, you shopped and implemented new tech in the first quarter. That may mean you have a new SKU inventory management system that you need to measure and tweak. Perhaps you've implemented better demand forecasting, or maybe you completely reassessed your supply chain.
Whatever improvements you brought in, assess whether it's worth carrying them through the rest of the year with you. Keep in mind that this year, hyperconnectivity, wearables, and augmented reality are major influencers online and in the physical retail space. Q2 is a great time to evaluate whether the year's expert sales strategy forecasts are holding firm and how to get your business on board.
Get Your Holiday Sales Calendar in Place
The beginning of the year is spent on analysis and implementation, but you have to put a concerted effort into looking ahead, not just looking behind. Get your holiday sales calendar in order and pull together everything you'll need to get the ball rolling. That might mean getting your copywriters and designers working on ads while getting your bundles planned--not just for sales, but in terms of warehouse efficiency.
Are Comps Improving?
Q2 is the perfect time to carefully examine how your sales compare across channels and platforms. Are there KPIs that need to be re-evaluated? What can you do to optimize low-performing platforms? This will also help inform your ad investment and warehouse optimization strategies. Any sales strategy needs to have an idea of what's working, what isn't, and what you're going to do about it.
Are Your Delivery Times Competitive?
Q2 is the time when you should be planning end-of-year holiday staffing, efficiency, and other challenges. Every holiday season warehouses are inundated with orders and end up sending apology notices to consumers, saying they are overwhelmed and will be delivering orders late. Don't let this be you.
Delivery times are at the top of the list for consumers. In fact, 43 percent of consumers expect free shipping and expect their package to arrive within three days. If you cannot meet this expectation, consider how you frame that to the customer or where you make it up for them. Consumers feeling like they got a huge discount will be more patient on shipping times.
Think about digitally-focused distribution centers to help meet increasing pressure for rapid fulfillment. Look for strategically-placed, robot-staffed, and courier-optimized warehouses. Warehouse construction has grown 29 percent annually over the past five years to serve eCommerce fulfillment better. Now is the time to get everything in order, not when the busy season is already ramping up.
This year, don't let the second quarter slip by unnoticed while you and the team conduct business as usual. This is the perfect time to get your sales strategy aligned by measuring the past, thinking ahead, and choosing when to implement, tweak, and pivot.
Michelle Lievense is a long-time business and marketing consultant who enjoys helping businesses and brands, particularly through her writing as well as crafting and implementing successful business strategies. When she isn't tapping on her keyboard, she's hiking the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her dog, snuggling next to her cat with a favorite book, volunteering, skiing, or scuba diving.