When Taylor Swift posted a picture of herself wearing a bracelet sold only by a bespoke jeweler they sold out for the first time! It doesn't always have to be Taylor Swift, it could happen by word of mouth; from one friend to another. Causing a surge in your sales overnight! This may seem like a dream come true for most online businesses, having tried popular marketing strategies and used customer feedback to improve. But, if your sales took a turn upward, would you be able to keep up?
We all saw the empty supermarket shelves in the beginning weeks of lockdown which resulted in shops limiting how much customers could buy. These stock-buffer strategies can also be helpful when selling online. With the noticeable increase in online shopping in recent months, sales surges are a real occurrence for many small businesses learning how to sell well online.
A sudden spike in sales can make or break any business, either catapulting them to success or forcing them to shut-up shop. Putting a plan in place for managing a sales surge is key, so here are a few steps to take so you and your business can ride the wave of success and survive!
1. Plan ahead with your suppliers
Running out of stock is the number one risk of a sales surge. It's all well and good having 1,000 orders appear overnight but if you only have enough product for 50 you're going to be in trouble! Talk with your suppliers and understand their limitations, how quickly can they rush an order to you? Ask them if they can ship to you any quicker using a Next Day service if need be.
Check around for back up suppliers. It's good practice to know what your alternatives are for sourcing products, so keep a list handy of other suppliers you can use if your main supplier can't keep up with the pace.
Remember your product packaging and have a plan in place to increase packaging production or orders in the event of a sudden spike in sales. If your small business prides itself on sustainable packaging, these materials can often be slightly harder to access so make sure you speak to your providers to see if their stock levels can accommodate your needs. Creating a professional and unique packaging experience for your customers can be a fantastic marketing strategy to entice repeat custom, so don't skimp on the details if your sales skyrocket!
2. Stay tuned in to your staff
When sales increase staff may find this period overwhelming. Without a steady incline, a sudden spike in sales can put a real strain on time management and energy. Be sure not to fall into the trap of only focusing on the success and ignoring employee morale.
To prevent your staff from feeling disheartened and over-worked, discuss beforehand what strategies you will be deploying in the event of a sudden influx of sales. Talk to your team and bring them into the planning process. If people have been involved in the early stages of preparing for a sales surge they are more likely to get behind the implementation when it does happen.
Is recruitment an option? Do some research and find out what your options are for employing temporary workers. Are there any agencies that you can reach out to if you need to increase your work force in a hurry? Do you have friends or family that you could strong arm into helping out in a pinch?
Cross train your existing staff; if every employee is trained to help out other departments then you can quickly and easily switch resources to busier departments to meet any growing business need.
3. Make use of outside help
Although some small businesses like to do it all brick and mortar style, a key factor in business growth is starting to sell online. What comes with selling online? Shipping!
Small businesses that see huge surges in sales simply don't have time to handwrite every delivery address, walk to the post office and send each order individually, it would take days! That's where we come in; Interparcel enables small businesses access to the cheapest shipping rates for a huge range of services.
Our Shipping Integrations with the likes of Squarespace, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Etsy to mention a few, have made sending large volumes shipments as fast and easy as if you were sending just one! We can pull all of your orders from multiple platforms into our free and easy to use Shipping Manager letting you process tens, hundreds or even thousands of bookings in the blink of an eye!
When you receive more orders than you ever have before, using a specialty shipping service like Interparcel can help you stay calm and keep customers happy.
4. Stick to your limits
Setting a maximum limit for the number of items someone can buy in one purchase is a good idea to stop a few customers from buying up all of your stock.
Sometimes this can mean that customers are buying popular items that are currently in demand, be it on social media because of influencer marketing strategies or a blog that went viral, so they can sell on for more. This cheeky ploy can be stopped by simply managing stock levels and setting a limit for the number of items on your website.
Website builders like WooCommerce have a new stock control feature that allows you to set a total number of purchases a customer can make in 24 hours. If this is reached then the customer will see a message displayed on every product page informing them that they have reached this maximum and will ask them to try again tomorrow.
They also offer a waitlist extension which customers can add themselves to and will wait for a message about stock returning - this also allows you to project what future demand will be!
5. Keep customers in the loop
The absolute best way to make sure customers stay interested in your product and keep leaving those fantastic 5-star reviews is to keep them informed. If your surge in online sales results in a waitlist you can quickly remedy customer annoyance by making sure they don't miss a trick, sending them regular emails about when they can expect you to restock.
Keeping customers up-to-date on the delivery of their orders is also important. Our comprehensive tracking service provides live updates on your parcels progress, allowing your customer to monitor the shipments journey right through from collection to delivery. This can save you valuable time responding to customers asking for the whereabouts of their eagerly awaited order, you just send them their unique tracking reference we and they can self track their own delivery.
Some small businesses can lose sight of their original brand vision when faced with the dizzy heights of a sales surge. Some even begin cutting corners to meet demand and product appearance starts to slip. Don't forgo your business' core values! Keep your staff and customers happy and feeling motivated by listening to them.
At Interparcel we have worked to maintain our fantastic customer services via live chat, email, and telephone as we know how important it is that our customers can always reach us! Knowing how to manage a sales surge is key; so plan ahead and put some of these safety nets in place to ensure you make the most from your rise to eCommerce fame!