It’s that time of the year again.
The celebrations, the time-offs, the relentless spending in pursuit of a good time.
But then, soon enough, the much dreaded low sale quarter of January-February-March will be here too.
With people heading back to work and becoming intensely conscious of new year resolutions around eating less, spending less and becoming more accountable in general, eCommerce takes a hit.
Unless you start strategizing right away - and come up with solutions that can help you ride the tide of disappointment of plummeting sales.
In this piece, we’ve gathered the lessons we’ve learnt from working with a number of clients: 10 marketing strategies that’ll help you hit the right notes for selling well in January 2023.
1. Get creative with your discounts
Since people already end up spending thousands of dollars during the peak holiday season, most want to quieten down around the January-March quarter.
At this time, most brands announce attractive offers to take their old inventory out and get their new inventory moving.
But not all kinds of offers have an impact because almost everyone is trying out the same trick.
Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:
Complementary category sale
Depending on what your business goals are, creating a sale around specific categories can be helpful.
If you run discounts in certain categories during the holiday season, see if you can run discounts in certain complementary categories during January.
For example, if you sell chocolates and related products, offering discounts on the most decadent of them during the peak festive season could be meaningful.
But in January, you could bring out discounts for your low-fat drinking chocolate series or zero sugar variants (keeping in line with the general anxiety of people wanting to lose weight.)
One year of customer loyalty discount
January is a great time to re-initiate contact with old customers who may have purchased from you a while ago or purchased a few times but then fell quiet.
This is a time of the year when you can announce special offers and discounts for those who have completed a year of coming on board.
You can also announce special discounts for those who have, let’s say, bought from you more than three times over the last year.
Bundled discounts on new products
Even if it’s from a familiar brand, buyers take some time to get adjusted to the idea of buying an entirely new product.
Added to this, the apprehension of people who have never bought from you also exists.
Since January often turns into a lean month, one way to push out new products is by creating attractive, relevant bundles around them.
Throw in a bestseller or a highly well-reviewed product into each, and it’s likely buyers will trust more than they would’ve otherwise.
Time-bound calendar day discounts
Although January is known for the New Year the world around, there are other calendar days that you can leverage if you’re looking to heighten sales.
If you’re still to expand across markets away from home ground, notice what’s local to where you operate.
For example, if you’re in the US, announcing a Groundhog Day all-day discount might just make sense.
If your business reach has spread out across various regions over different continents, choosing more generic calendar days might be a better idea.
For example, 1st of January is also Global Family Day and you could consider if offering a relevant discount on that day would make a difference.
To make the most of time-bound calendar day discounts, here are a few quick considerations:
Create an announcement for discount day not more than 5 days in advance.
This will ensure people don’t get excited about it and still manage to put buying on the backburner.
Align your email communication and web banners to reflect the due date.
As long as reminders aren’t super pushy, buyers won’t have a problem interacting with them.
Incorporate a dynamic ticker on the home page for discount day.
This will ensure buyers will notice how much time is left for them to be able to avail the price advantage.
Create a dedicated landing page for your time-bound discount day.
This will make it possible for you to target the right kind of traffic while you make the page CTA driven.
It will also help you to gather the data for post-analysis.
Actionable tip: Throw your own brand anniversary day (if there’s one during the month - something like the day you first went cross-border would also do; also technically a calendar day) into the mix and declare a special sitewide discount.
2. Segment your loyalty program for varied customers
Instead of having a linear program that rewards customers in the most predictable ways, segment your loyalty programs for your full range of buyers:
Rewards can mainly be in the form of points for what’s been purchased.
In fact, offer them an incentive to buy for the first time - it could be a free gift (preferably one of your products that complements the main purchase and one that’s also not too expensive), or an attractive first-time discount.
If you become successful in bringing back a buyer a second time, ensure you have some ready rewards.
A slashed price could work well if you’re able to offer the product at a better rate than, let’s say, a close competitor.
You could create more reason for them to come back if you declare a discount for their next purchase.
Frequent repeat buyers
These people are higher up the loyalty chain because it’s clear that they’ve put their trust in you.
So when you’re trying to sell to them during a lean month, you have to go beyond the transactional.
Ask them to write a review for their last purchase and in turn offer them an exclusive discount on their next purchase.
These are the folks who score on AOV as well as LTV and are often responsible for bringing new customers (typically friends and family) into your fold.
Surprise them with a free trial around a personalized recommendation.
Alternatively, you can declare a conditional offer like “20% off on your next two purchases if you refer three people you know who’d love the brand before January xxth”.
In an ideal scenario, you would also have to create something well thought-out to wheel back dormant customers.
However, in the leaner months, sometimes the most you can do is re-establish contact with them and get thorough feedback on what was right and what wasn’t in their last purchase experience(s).
3. Align your brand messaging with new year resolutions
Every eCommerce business knows that January is all about customers waking up to the reality of a brand new year.
The air is rife with new year resolutions at this time and it’s up to you to max out on how you want to align your brand and products with these.
Aligning with new year resolutions can mean multiple things including bringing your brand offerings to the top of the mind.
Here are a few considerations to watch out for though:
Anything that sounds like a quick fix doesn’t work (anymore)
Over the years, so many alternatives have emerged in every category and industry, that shoppers have become increasingly more watchful.
They can now tell if you’re simply trying to push out a product or a range faster.
So right after the new year, it’s not enough to say “lose weight today” or “get the best skin that you ever have”.
Align with customer goals and resolutions by coming one step forward - offer suggestions on how-to-use, how they can track improvement etc.
A brand story that gets continuity right, sticks more
If you do decide to create a selling strategy around new year resolutions, ensure you work out your brand story keeping the future in mind.
This can be an opportunity for you to establish why your brand and products can continue to be the right choice around the year.
For example, if you’re selling a weight loss product, the part of the brand story you can begin to highlight is how your products can easily blend into a busy lifestyle - but remember to tell them how!
Even if it’s not only January-specific, Dove’s storytelling is a great case in point.
The brand has hinged around “real beauty” for a long time, becoming sticky for its egalitarian narrative.
Calling out your own resolutions as a brand is a great idea
This can be a way for you to mirror how your target audience may be experiencing life at the beginning of a new year.
A way for your eCommerce brand to sound less patronizing and more embracing at a time like this is to sound like you’ve got high stakes too.
For example, if you have a financial product, it may be relevant to call out how your goal in 2023 is to give back x times to the community you’ve been building.
4. Bolster your impulse buying techniques
40% of the spending that goes into all of eCommerce represents impulse buying. If that’s not inspiring, then think about this:
84% of ALL shoppers have made impulse purchases.
Impulse buying is a reigning reality that you can leverage during the January-March eCommerce slump come 2023.
But the main point is to understand the different parts of it:
A buyer’s emotional state drives the impulse behind every specific impulse buying decision.
Contributing emotions can range from anxiety to joy and anger to delight.
Personal beliefs also have a part to play in driving impulsive buying.
Let’s say a buyer believes purchases from a certain skincare brand will alleviate their skin issues.
This can then become ground for them to buy more impulsively from this brand compared to its competitors.
Peer and social pressure are related phenomena that are linked to why buyers would give in to impulse buying.
This works in similar ways like social proof does.
So, it’s evident that impulse buying needs certain foundational motivators.
And when it comes to shopping in January, these may need a little more push to be manifested.
Here are some ways you can strengthen the way you use impulse buying in your post holiday marketing strategy.
Push out a list of low-priced products
This can be a great strategy when you’re trying to sell a slightly more expensive item.
The less expensive add-ons can offer the sense of added value while actually not costing a whole lot.
Under such circumstances, buyers often end up buying multiple low-priced items.
Announce a steep off-season sale
There’s a reason why buyers are moved when they see discounts and slashed price markers.
In comparison to the original price, if the sale price is really attractive, chances of impulse buying increase.
A good idea to do in January is to sell products people will enjoy more in summer - but at really attractive prices.
Declare a “Last time ever” sale
Urgency, when used effectively can drive people to the edge of making buying decisions at the snap.
That’s why if you’re looking to phase out a good product or even pause production for a while, announce a sale around it and make sure you highlight its benefits aligned with what your TA is looking for.
5. Amplify your site optimization efforts
Post the peak festive season, the world of eCommerce sees a different kind of rush:
The rush of returns and exchanges.
So alongside this, if you have to keep your sales from wilting, you’ll need to ensure your eCommerce site is highly optimized.
Think of your website as the physical store a lot of traditional brands would advertise.
Here are a few not-to-miss site optimization efforts that’ll hold you good in January.
Take a mobile-first approach
This will ensure shoppers engaging with your site through varied mobile devices, have a responsive experience.
This is top priority if you want to make the most of your site’s graphic elements (the way they scale etc.) as well as how easy it is to engage with the textual content.
Actionable tip: Give your mobile chatbot top priority for this time because this is when the volume of returns and exchanges goes up.
People are looking for ready support on a device of their choice and you’ll have to be ready!
Ensure self-help resources are easily available
Have your always-visible live chat be linked to relevant resources/pages across your website.
Highlight the FAQ section in the footer as well as across your product pages.
Here’s a look at how Sunday, the lawn care brand, makes self-help for customers self-evident on their website.
Incorporate a visible & self explanatory search bar
Positioning it on the top right for an optimized desktop experience and a middle centering for mobile, is a good idea.
While most businesses keep the main search field empty or feature the icon of a magnifying, to make it even more easily spottable, feature a question like:
"What are you looking for today?"
Improve search accuracy and relevance
Bring in AI supported tools to offer search results that buyers would more closely resonate with.
Actionable tip: Integrate smart search (where typing isn’t even required and voice can do the work) into your optimization mix to ensure customers have to spend the least amount of time and effort to look for products of preference.
Highlight “sale” as a separate category
If your idea is to sell more during a traditionally lean period like January, you’ll have to make it very easy for people to access slashed prices.
Creating one consolidated page across all categories and then putting it as a separate category in your primary menu can work well.
Enhance personalization in as many ways as possible
Offer more personalized search by picking up geo-location, recommendations through past behavior and more personalized category pages.
Here’s a look at how skincare brand Burt’s Bees gamifies personalization around their lip balm range.
Loved what you just read? You'll also love this: Make your mobile payment page “conversion-friendly” (13 UX hacks)
6. Help buying decisions with rich content
The most loved eCommerce businesses ensure they feature content that’s helpful to existing customers as well as those who are negotiating with the buying decision.
To amp up your January holiday eCommerce sales, you’ll have to ask the following questions about the kind of content you feature across communication channels:
- Does it help customers become more aware?
- Does it help them build confidence without them having to spend too much time?
- Does it help establish a connection with your brand and its USP?
- Does it add to user experience, memorability and later recall?
If you’re looking to leverage your existing content or create new content to drive sales post peak holiday season, here are a few ways you can explore:
Focus on the benefits
Essentially, talk about all the ways the product works to resolve a problem, create an experience, make life better…
Actionable tip: Feature a post-holiday, back-to-work quiz to engage customers and find out how they’re thinking.
Based on the results, make benefit-driven recommendations available to them.
Offer in-depth information
Whether it’s on your product pages, over instant messages or email, offer information that helps customers understand how your products are made, why they are effective and how they can bring positive changes when used over a period of time.
Use visually engaging forms of content (like video)
Easy to consume, easy to process forms are more likely to convey information faster, leading to faster purchases.
Create more nuanced content for those in your loyalty program
Be it how-to-guides or specific subject matter ebooks, nurture existing loyal customers in a way that they feel pulled to buy more from you.
Actionable tip: Create content that loyal customers would love to share with their friends and family.
For example, create communication around a special offer where friends and family of your loyalty program members can buy from you at a slashed price and you give away part of the proceeds for a charitable cause.
7. Make a new launch to draw attention
New launches are often the surest ways to get back the attention of your target audience.
And because January is a lean month where many businesses simply choose to lie low, it can be your time to leverage sales through a new launch.
However before you pin January down for a new product launch, here are a few points to consider:
To be able to do this, validate the launch idea
Begin the validation process at least 4 to 6 months before through customer surveys, quizzes etc.
Perform a through competitor analyses.
Come up with a dedicated landing page and make it live to accept pre-orders etc.
Validate the idea against your existing range of products
For example, if you predominantly feature haircare products, would it make sense for you to break away into a different category like skincare?
Or would it make more sense to stick to the same category but target a very specific problem to solve (like hairfall)?
Ensure no competitor has attempted to create a product within the gap you’ve identified
If they have, it means you’ll have to work harder at positioning your product through a clear, differentiated USP.
Explore which channels would serve best for launch communication
While you may have to tap into all the channels to bring out the announcement, some channels may be more conducive for ongoing communication.
We think you'll love: 10 product launch email examples that drove massive sales (+ templates)
8. Leverage gift cards and promote easy redemption
No one ever said they didn’t like gifts.
So as an eCommerce brand, it’s in your favor if you’re able to introduce gift cards into your January selling strategy.
eGift cards are the most obvious way to go about it because it’s the only option where you’ll be able to avoid production costs altogether.
And they will anyway make the most sense if you are a DTC brand.
Thinking of leveraging gift cards? Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Feature gift card options both near your add-to-cart and checkout buttons
This will ensure buyers are able to give them a thought without distraction.
Display a number of gift card options with varied pricing
This will ensure various segments of your target audience feel pulled to invest in one (or more).
Use high-intent pages on your website to promote the arrival of these gift cards
Alongside email communication and messages across instant messengers can also be helpful.
The next step is to make it super easy to use gift cards on your site. Businesses that enable the use of gift cards on all featured products naturally do better.
This is because the burden of choosing applicable products to purchase doesn’t fall on the gift card recipient.
To make gift card redemption even easier, create how-to emails that explain all the nitty gritties including terms and conditions (if any).
Actionable tip: Automate sending out e-gift cards to people who’ve shopped for an insane value (the threshold is your call) over the holidays.
This can inspire them to make some more unforeseen new year purchases.
9. Analyze holiday sales data to optimize upselling and cross-selling
One way to keep the winning streak in sales in January is to build your upsell and cross-sell strategy right.
This depends heavily on the data you’re able to cull from the peak of the holiday season - which customer segments bought what, why, when and if at all they came back to buy more.
Analyzing peak holiday data will give you cues into your upsell and cross-sell strategy for January. Here are a few ideas that could work anyway:
Introduce “make your own bundle”
This is a win-win because you do all the work around making product recommendations but allow customers to create their own bundles.
This can attract those who desperately need certain products as well as those who can buy a few products for the gamified freedom of it.
Find ways to enhance the last purchase
Let’s say a customer bought a lotion from you during the peak holiday season.
See if you can suggest related products like an exfoliating stone and a day serum this time around.
Those who are already out of the product they’d earlier bought may also additionally add the same to the bag.
Creating relevance between what was bought before and what you’re recommending now is always a good idea.
10. Create sales landing pages based on behavior and preferences
An effective, targeted landing page is sometimes the only nudge that pushes potential customers towards a purchase.
Creating sales landing pages based on past behavior and preferences could be your way to go for the post-holiday season.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind if you do decide on this step:
Have the landing page focus on an incentive
It could be a discount, it could be a free gift at the end of a referral or it could be a time-bound offer.
Make your homepage pop-ups service your sales oriented landing pages
This will keep the engagement more immediate and aimed at the purpose of giving more potential customers a good reason to add-to-cart.
Have your pop-ups and related landing pages showcase a clear and aligned CTA
This can help speed decision-making and consequent action.
Wondering how to work that magic on your landing pages? Read Boost eComm landing page conversions: 12 scientific strategies