Crucial Pricing and Promotions Strategies for the Holiday Season

This blog post is part of our 2017 Holiday Planning series. Be sure to check back often or, better yet, subscribe to the blog to stay updated with this year’s latest holiday trends, tips, best practices, reports and more!

This Cyber Five proved to be yet another record-breaking shopping event, with Cyber Monday the biggest online shopping day in history according to Adobe. The volume of sales combined with the ongoing tug-of-war with offline retail for consumer dollars means that sellers must be as savvy and agile as ever with their pricing strategies online.

Yes, having a dynamic pricing and promotions strategy for Cyber Five is a no-brainer, but sellers should look at the entire holiday shopping season as an opportunity when defining and implementing that strategy.

Why?

Because with millions of products available to consumers, as well as ease of access to those products rapidly increasing over the last few years (especially through mobile), shrinking lead times, same-day or even 1-hour shipping in major cities means that consumers no longer feel pressure to complete their holiday shopping early in the season to take advantage of deals.  With more and more places to purchase online as well as more streamlined shipping capabilities by sellers and carriers, consumers can take their time and do their holiday shopping throughout the entire season rather than limit it to Cyber 5 through mid-December.

In years past, customers could wait for Black Friday through Cyber Monday to take advantage of online deals, but we’ve continued to see a trend of the holiday sales starting earlier in November and ending close to Christmas.

What does all of this mean for online sellers?

It is crucial to your success as a seller to remain price-competitive, maintain appropriate inventory levels and automate your pricing strategies throughout all of November and December, rather than focusing mainly on Cyber Five and the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Unless you as a seller are restricted to Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) for all brands, you should strongly consider an aggressive promotions-based and repricing strategy for November and December. Since more brands are now competing with retailers by selling direct to consumers through marketplaces, retailers must combat this by using all of the tools at their disposal. During the peak holiday shopping season, it is imperative to gain as much exposure online as possible through promotions, sale pricing, and advertising programs.

We’ve noticed that our most successful sellers over Cyber Five aggressively priced, participated in marketplace deals, ran their own promotions to maximize their exposure across all marketplaces, or used a combination of all of the above. Those sellers have so far shown the strongest results compared to their competitors.

Let’s dive into some of those proven strategies that you can use for the remainder of the peak selling season:

Offer tiered discounts to keep buyers spending more money at your site rather than spreading their budget out across multiple sites or marketplaces. The more the consumer purchases, the bigger the discount they receive. Consider using “add to cart alerts” for your website. For example, when a buyer is going through checkout, alert them that they only need to add x dollars to their cart to hit the next tier of, say, 30% off, or they need to add $50 to receive 50% off their order, etc. Jet.com offers a similar incentive — the more you shop on the site the more money you will save.

Consider flash sales as part of your pricing strategy.  Consumers are smart and tech savvy.  They use sites like camelcamelcamel.com and slickdeals.net to track prices of products they wish to purchase. These sites can be set up to alert consumers when prices fall on particular sites and marketplaces. The consumers using these sites are often ready to pull the trigger when you lower prices to a certain threshold, so try running a sale on select SKUs across your catalog on marketplaces to push some of these buyers over the edge. Measure the success, rinse and repeat.  

Target buyers who show active interest in your products. In particular, eBay allows you to view how many watchers are on your particular listings, so one strategy is to consider how many watchers your products have (the higher the better) and then decide if you want to run a sale on popular product or utilize a best offer feature. During November and December, you’re more likely to get conversions on your listings with many watchers by using one of these tactics.

Strike while the iron is hot, or, in this case, while millions of consumers are shopping online. During these high traffic days of the holiday season, consider increasing your eBay promoted listing ad rate. A couple of percentage points you’re willing to give up in spend could mean a much larger increase in gross merchandise value (GMV) since you’re increasing your exposure during peak season. We’ve seen success with this over Cyber Five, with one seller almost doubling their average ad rate for their category — the result was a much larger percentage of sales than normal coming from their Promoted Listing campaigns. The success of that campaign has convinced them to continue running those higher ad rates for the remainder of the season.

Things to always consider when building your pricing and promotions strategy include:

  • Monitor and maintain an acceptable profit margin to run your online business. Being aggressive with repricing and promotions can result in higher GMV, but the opportunity cost is lower margins.
  • Understand supply and demand, a consumer’s willingness to pay, and elasticity of demand when it comes to using a repricer. Constantly weigh that against your inventory levels, competitor prices, current popularity of the products you’re selling, and historical demand for those products.
  • Use a price parity tool to make sure you are always in compliance across marketplaces and your website. Maintaining parity is crucial to prevent having your listings delisted or potentially being suspended from a marketplace.
  • Be careful to not drive prices down with a repricer. Chances are, your competitors are using repricers on marketplaces as well. If you’re using a rules-based repricer, setting it to reprice below the lowest seller is probably the worst strategy to have. Before you know it, you and all of your competitors will be selling at your minimum floor price and everyone loses on margin. Create repricing rules that encourage higher but still attractive prices for consumers. Consider an algorithmic repricer to help you sell at the highest possible price while still keeping your products competitive.
  • Don’t just set it and forget it. Review your pricing and promotions regularly to ensure you’re maximizing your margins while still maintaining an acceptable level of sales volume.

Use these strategies for pricing and promotions to boost your sales and profits for the remainder of December. Continue to monitor and measure your success — there are still many more days left of holiday shopping and many more consumer dollars to compete for!

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