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Illustrated person preparing an order for shipment following successful peak season selling strategies led to more orders.
Running a business

Peak season selling strategies: The small business survival guide

Peak season can mean big spikes in sales, which is why it’s vital that small businesses have peak season selling strategies in place to keep sales flowing while preventing overselling and order delays. By connecting sales channels and inventory management to make the most of multichannel selling, you’re taking a crucial step to boost sales during peak season.

Want to learn how to increase sales during peak season? Check out these tips to prepare for one of the busiest times of the year:

  1. Determine the forecast for demand
  2. Prepare yourself and your team
  3. Ensure inventory accuracy across platforms
  4. Plan for production
  5. Keep a dedicated stock level
  6. Start your marketing efforts earlier than you’d think
  7. Use dynamic pricing to stay competitive and increase profits
  8. Reward customer loyalty
  9. Avoid flash sales
  10. Stay flexible
  11. Make sure your POS systems are working

Let’s get ready.

1. Determine the forecast for demand

Chart discussing five important demand forecasting factors including lead time, safety stock, maximum stock levels, reorder point, and trends to aid in your peak season selling strategies.

Trying to determine exactly how much of each product you’ll need before peak season begins might seem like little more than a good guess. But there is a method of inventory forecasting that will help you better understand what kind of demand you’ll be facing.

For proper demand forecasting, you’ll need to know your:

  • Reorder point: This is the stock level at which you need to reorder. Follow this formula: Reorder Point = (Average Daily Usage x Average Lead Time in Days) + Safety Stock 
  • Safety stocks: Your safety stock is the inventory above your normal reorder points. It prevents product shortages or stockouts. This formula will let you determine a good safety stock level: (Max. Daily Usage x Maximum Lead Time) – (Average Daily Usage x Average Lead Time)
  • Maximum stock levels: Your maximum stock levels are the highest amounts of a given product you can store at one time.
  • Lead times: Lead time is the amount of time between you placing an order with your distributor and the order arriving.
  • Trends: Trends are any repeating customer behaviors you’ve noticed. These could be seasonal or they may be less obvious.

When you have these figures, you can use one or more of the following forecasting methods:

  • Quantitative forecasting: Using numerical data, you can create models that will show you what the demand for a product will be based on historical data.
  • Graphical forecasting: Converting the same data used in quantitative forecasting into visual forms like graphs can help you identify trends that might have been more elusive when they were simply figures on a spreadsheet.  
  • Trend forecasting: Using current market conditions, historical growth patterns, and sales, trend forecasting focuses on a single product to determine future demand.
  • Qualitative forecasting: If your business is new, or you haven’t been gathering good data before now, surveys, market research, and even focus groups can help develop a forecasting model based on real behaviors.

Forecasting isn’t a guaranteed method of peak season logistics planning that will always be 100% accurate, but getting ahead of demand will help you balance your inventory appropriately before your busy season begins.

2. Prepare yourself and your team

Getting you and your team ready for peak season is a big job, but it will pay off big time. A well-trained, confident team that understands its functions and how what they do fits into the way your business runs means people will be more invested and ready to make peak season feel like a walk instead of a breathless sprint.

When you’re running an ecommerce business and you’re doing everything yourself, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to create a plan that you can refer back to while you’re getting ready for peak season.

Create a roadmap with all of the information and dates you’ll need to tackle peak season head-on. Here are a few items you’ll want to prioritize for your ecommerce store:

  • Make your site mobile-friendly: A big percentage of online shopping is now done on mobile devices, so getting a mobile version of your store up and running can help you make more sales. Site optimization also lets you highlight your best-selling products and any deals you have.
  • Know when you have to place orders with suppliers: Turnaround times usually get longer as peak season approaches, so if you need to put in an order before peak season, make sure you do it with more than enough lead time. Ordering early means you’ll have time to correct problems and prepare for shipping orders.
  • Consider working with a fulfillment company: If you know that you won’t be able to keep up with shipping orders while you’re taking care of everything else, a fulfillment company can help. They can warehouse your products and ship them quickly. You will have to pay for the service but if it means orders go out quickly and customers stay happy, it might be worth the added expense.
  • Add a buy now, pay later option: Offering customers a chance to buy over time can increase sales. Partnering with a service provider that offers BNPL options means you don’t take on the risk, just the rewards.
  • Take inventory: Performing inventory early and often will help keep counts more accurate. In turn, accurate counts will ensure products are reordered as needed and customers aren’t waiting for back-ordered items to arrive.

If you have a team of salespeople working at your brick-and-mortar shops, training is one of the most effective methods of preparing them for peak season. Here are a few training ideas to get you thinking about what will be the best fit for your team.

  • The seven selling steps: This method of sales helps your team understand where a customer is on their journey and how to get them to the close.
  • Product feature training and mock product demos: If you have new or improved products rolling out, teach your customer service and sales team about these products and new features. When they know the products thoroughly, they can help customers with questions or concerns.
  • Explore the buyer journey: Similar to the seven selling steps, by exploring how your customers are getting to you, as well as what problems your products are solving for them, your sales team can meet them where they are and connect them with the right products.
  • Elevator pitches: In today’s world, you don’t have a lot of time to make an argument for why your product is the best. Work with your sales team on their elevator pitches (fast, 30-second or less pitches) to help them boil things down to the essentials.
  • Have them work with marketing materials: By showing your team the marketing materials you’ll be using to generate sales, you’re setting them up for success when customers have questions or want to know about the best deals available. 

Peak season is also when you’re most likely to need extra help, so make sure you plan ahead and find seasonal team members as early as possible. Using temporary help to complete many repetitive tasks that don’t require a lot of in-depth knowledge of the products will set them up for success and allow your sales and customer support staff to do what they do best.

3. Ensure inventory accuracy across platforms

There are many inventory management techniques that you can put to work to keep your counts accurate and your customers happy. The first step to managing inventory across platforms is to decide on your main small business inventory management system. Once you have that decided, you can work on connecting it to other channels.

If you’re using one of the more popular e-commerce systems for your online store, chances are good that they have APIs or apps connecting your online store to your inventory management system. These integrations can keep everything updated across channels nearly in real time. That’s going to be really important when you have customers buying from your brick-and-mortar location and your online store.

4. Plan for production

Ensuring that your inventory is in good shape means more than just ordering enough. It also means working with your suppliers and manufacturers to keep products flowing from them to you all year round. 

Production planning not only means that you’ll have inventory during the busiest times of the year, but it is also important for keeping your prices as low as possible while consistently getting the highest quality goods. 

Planning your production schedule to accommodate delays is important. Take the numbers you found during the inventory forecasting process and use the data you have about the availability of raw materials to see where pain points might exist. Study the information you have about manufacturing timelines along with the information you have about materials and you should be able to keep a steady flow of products coming.

5. Keep a dedicated stock level 

A dedicated stock level is the amount of product you keep on hand at all times, no matter what season it is. While this number might be relatively low, it’s a good idea to revisit it before peak selling season to ensure you’ve got enough “safety stock” to withstand a surge in demand. 

The reorder point formula is one of the easiest ways to keep products in stock and to know when it’s time to order more. By looking at your historical sales data, including average daily sales, delivery lead times, and your safety stock levels, you can reduce the likelihood of overselling and forcing customers to wait.

6. Start your marketing efforts earlier than you’d think

Marketing your business can be tricky year-round, but it gets even more complicated when you’re trying to plan for your busy season. The best advice we can give you is to start earlier than you’d think. 

Starting early means you’ll enjoy some benefits you wouldn’t get if you started advertising when everyone else does:

  • Getting ahead of your competition. Being the first name that potential customers see can have a huge impact on whether or not they choose to buy from you. Not only does early marketing help create name recognition, but it also shows people that you’re anticipating their future needs. 
  • Gives you more data to gauge demand. With digital marketing, there is a dearth of analytics that you can dive into to see what is performing and what efforts correlate to sales, and at what levels. Having that information before you’re in the middle of peak season can help you determine demand early.
  • Allows you to adjust your marketing efforts to better cater to demand. The data available through digital marketing can also show you what is working and what isn’t. If you start your marketing efforts early, you’ll be able to shift if something isn’t hitting the way you’d like it to.

There’s no set time frame to start marketing early. It depends on a number of factors, including your industry, the time of year, and your location. Local marketing during the holiday season can be especially difficult, but peak season planning should include finding ways of being available to your customers in-person and online is a must.

7. Use dynamic pricing to stay competitive and increase profits

Dynamic pricing during peak selling season is a strategy that will put more money in your bank account. This process involves tracking what prices competitors are selling the same (or similar) products for and adjusting your prices to compete. While that might mean lowering prices sometimes, it also means raising them if others are also increasing what they charge. 

There are a few methods of dynamic pricing that you should consider when you’re setting your sales strategies for peak season:

Price discrimination

This type of dynamic pricing is where your business charges more or less for the same product depending on the channel the customer used to arrive at the product. For example, a pair of your company’s shoes might cost $50 at your brick-and-mortar store but cost $65 in your online store. 

Other forms of price discrimination can be bulk discounts, discounts for seniors, or pricing all of your products at their individual maximum values. 

Price skimming

For this type of dynamic pricing, you’re deliberately inflating the price of a new product. While that might seem counterintuitive, people who like to be early adopters and those who see the value in your product will pay these higher prices. 

Yield management

For products with low demand, you can lower the price to help them move. This strategy helps you sell products that are slower to sell, but it can lead to upticks in sales only when you lower the price.

Today, you can use AI-powered technology to help crawl the internet and adjust your prices based on what others charge. And to ensure your customers see consistent pricing, you can set up systems that will keep your prices the same for a customer if they first click on an ad and then come back to your online store later through a different channel.

8. Reward customer loyalty

Motivating customer loyalty statistics with icons of people, credit cards, and personalized messaging that can be useful as peak season selling strategies.

Everyone likes being rewarded for their loyalty to their favorite brands. Just because it’s peak season doesn’t mean that should change. In fact, peak season is the perfect time to start rewarding your customers because both old and new customers will be shopping with you during this time. If you show them how much you value them, they’ll keep coming back.

Customer loyalty and rewards programs don’t have to be complicated, and they don’t have to be expensive for your company to run.

To get started growing customer loyalty: 

  • Ask for a customer’s email address so you can follow up on their purchases and provide them with exclusive access to discounts or sales.
  • Give first-time customers a discount when they create an account on your web store.
  • Create referral bonuses for customers who tell others about you. These bonuses could be in the form of discounts or early access to new products.

If you don’t know which kind of loyalty program would be the best fit for your customers, ask them. A survey could provide you with a lot of information about your customers that will help you take care of them beyond a rewards program.

9. Avoid flash sales

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with the idea of promotional pricing, flash sales can cause many problems that can impact your business during peak season (and even into the rest of the year).

If you’re running a company with a large customer base with a hot product line, you’re managing orders from a number of different channels at the same time. During normal business, you might not have any issues, but flash sales put a ton of strain on each of those channels. And today’s faster processing and internet speeds mean that orders could be coming in by the second.

But if your sales channels don’t integrate or one channel batches sales and sends them to your inventory management system at certain times or at set order thresholds, you risk overselling. Even with safety stock and proper forecasting, demand might quickly outstrip your supply.

If that happens, what do you do? How do you decide who gets their order first and who has to wait? If you don’t want to figure out how to solve those problems, skip the flash sales.

10. Stay flexible

Planning is what we do to get ahead of uncertainty. But that doesn’t mean that your plans will play out the way you want them to. Even with the best market research, perfect inventory levels, and the latest sales training, you can’t always be prepared for what customers will do. So try to build some flexibility into your plans. 

Here are a few ways to stay flexible during peak season

  • Prepare several versions of marketing materials in case the first ones don’t lead to enough conversions.
  • Be ready to utilize alternate shipping carriers to keep up with surging peak season shipping demands. 
  • Keep your team trained on the features of multiple products in case your forecasted bestseller isn’t the hit you thought it would be. 
  • Give yourself a few moments before making decisions in the middle of chaos. Clearing your head even a little will help you see the bigger picture.

As a business owner, you’ve weathered storms before and come out stronger. You can do it again.

11. Keep your POS systems in working order

Signs your POS might be in trouble with icons for a slow system, a smartphone unable to pay for a purchase, and computer windows that show tracking is difficult with a poor POS system which can hinder peak season selling strategies.

Few things are as frustrating for a member of your sales team as encountering a point-of-sale (POS) system that isn’t working when they’re trying to close a sale. It can jeopardize a sale and put future sales at risk if an unsatisfied customer starts discussing the issue they had with your company.

You might be asking, “do small businesses need a POS?” While we understand why it might not be at the top of your mind (especially with all of the other things you have to deal with as a business owner, it is important to have a point-of-sale system for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Here’s why: a POS is about making things faster and easier for your customers. A nice side benefit is that a good POS helps your company, too!

Modern systems allow people to pay for their purchases in the way that is most convenient for them. On your website, that might mean checking out with PayPal. In your retail store, that could mean paying for their purchase using the credit card they have saved in their phone’s digital wallet.

A good POS also integrates with your inventory management system to keep track of orders and alert you when stock is running low. 

Having a fast, reliable POS means:

  • Happier customers
  • More accurate inventory
  • Fewer problems with overselling 

During peak selling times, accuracy and speed will make all the difference.

Run your business with confidence

Now that you’re armed with some peak season selling strategies, make sure that your e-commerce accounting software for inventory management and accounting is ready, too. While you’re gearing up for peak season, start thinking about how you can overcome the post-holiday sales slump by launching a new product or pushing marketing initiatives.

Peak season selling strategies FAQ

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