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    Ecommerce Seasonality: What Is It, and How Do You Plan For It?

    September 21, 2023
    8 minute read
    Ecommerce Seasonality: What Is It, and How Do You Plan For It?

    Ecommerce sales volumes are steadily increasing. According to Statisa, ecommerce is predicted to account for nearly a quarter of total global retail sales.

    But yearly and quarterly reports don’t tell the whole story. Seasonal sales fluctuations — known as ecommerce seasonality — can impact brand sales and make or break their profitability for the year. 

    Here’s a breakdown of the basics of retail seasonality, the best and worst months for ecommerce sales, examples of common seasonal impacts, and actionable tips for brands to navigate seasonal fluctuations.

    What Is Ecommerce Seasonality?

    Ecommerce seasonality refers to recurring purchase patterns that occur every year. Holiday shopping is an easy example — in the United States, sales volumes pick up significantly in November with Black Friday and stay strong through post-Christmas sales. In the new year, meanwhile, sales often fall as customers return to work and deal with any debts incurred over the holidays.

    Although brands can’t predict exact revenue volumes, the seasonality of customer behavior can help companies plan for regular sales increases or decreases and prepare accordingly.

    What Are the Best (and Worst) Months for Ecommerce?

    The best months of the year for ecommerce are November, December, and January. November marks the start of the holiday season in the United States and includes high-volume sales days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

    Consumers increase their spending in December, searching for last-minute holiday gifts, and in January, purchasing all the items that are on sale. 

    February and March tend to be slow months for ecommerce sales because many customers are returning to work after the holiday season, and they’re often focused on reducing spending or paying off any holiday credit card debt.

    The Reality of Seasonality: Examples of Seasonal Sales Impact

    Ecommerce seasonality falls into three broad categories: holidays, weather, and recurring events. 

    Holidays Boost Sales

    Common holidays that can help increase ecommerce sales include Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year. Other holidays that can boost purchase volumes include Hanukkah, New Year’s, Diwali, and Ramadan. 

    Businesses may also be able to capitalize on limited-time sales around holidays such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween.

    Weather Affects Your Product Listings 

    For brands that sell clothing or outdoor items, weather plays a crucial role. For example, outdoor clothing and gear stores should stock products such as shorts, sandals, and sun hats during the summer. In the winter, jackets, mitts, and warm underlayers are more likely to sell.

    It’s also worth noting that brands can create customer interest with end-of-season or even off-season sales.

    Recurring Events Create Opportunities

    Non-weather, non-holiday events offer opportunities for ecommerce brands. For example, back-to-school season comes with an uptick in sales volumes for school supplies, clothing, and electronics. In addition, brands can create their own seasonal events with clearance sales for old product stock.

    Seasonal Shifts: How Brands Can Better Navigate Ecommerce Seasonality

    While brands can’t control the impact and outcome of seasonality, they can take steps to better navigate these changes.

    Step 1: Plan Your Strategy

    Understanding the ebb and flow of monthly ecommerce sales along with the impact of holiday sales can help brands manage seasonality — if they plan accordingly. 

    This planning often happens during the slower sales months of February and March. It includes a reevaluation of brand messaging and marketing, along with the mapping out of campaigns for specific holidays or seasons.

    Brands don’t need to plan for every holiday, however. Instead, it’s worth selecting a few high-priority sales events and then creating social and digital campaigns to drive customer engagement.

    Step 2: Know Your Audience

    Seasons and holidays aren’t universal.

    Consider Australia. When the United States experiences summer, Australia has its winter. As a result, seasonal sales campaigns are reversed for these two markets: When you’re selling winter coats in Michigan, you’re marketing shorts and flip-flops in Australia.

    Holidays also differ based on geographic location. For example, in the U.K. and Canada, Boxing Day — December 26 — is a popular day for post-Christmas sales. Creating campaigns that incorporate this holiday can help boost regional sales. 

    Step 3: Build Your Brand

    Just because you’re in the sales slump of February and March doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on your laurels. Instead, it’s an opportunity to build brand recognition through social media and blog posts and set the stage for upcoming sales events. 

    It’s also a good time to dig into retail and consumer trend forecasting to see what’s a priority for buyers and what’s next on the market.

    It’s also worth taking a look back at the previous year’s seasonal sales to see what worked, what didn’t, and where you can improve.

    Solving for Seasonality

    Equipped with the right data, brands are better equipped to navigate seasonal changes. For example, Salsify’s “2023 Consumer Research” reports that 64% of online shoppers encountered out-of-stock items when shopping over the last three months. 

    Seasonality often plays a role in these inventory issues; if brands don’t stock up before holiday rushes or post-season sales, they could find themselves losing customers.

    There’s a reason for the season. Equipped with solid sales and customer insight and ecommerce trend data, companies are better prepared to make the most of recurring seasonal shifts.


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    Written by: Doug Bonderud

    Doug Bonderud (he/him) is an award-winning writer with expertise in ecommerce, customer experience, and the human condition. His ability to create readable, relatable articles is second to none.

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