Seasonality Considerations in Planning

Rod Jacka - Monday, March, 05, 2012

In this article we’re discussing the impact of seasonality in your online marketing strategy. Not all industries enjoy an endless stream of online traffic, so making provision for the spikes and troughs lows applies to online traffic, as well as offline sales.

Whilst an organisation is hard pressed to forecast them absolutely, predicting seasonal variations as distinct from a normal trend is part of strategic planning. A seasonal variation may be anticipated because of social custom (e.g. Christmas) but closing the accuracy gap between the expected variation and actual becomes the challenge.

How can we leverage the positive and minimise the negative aspects of online seasonality?

1.  Plan correctly

As always, planning is paramount. Some questions which might feature in your plan include;

  • What is the incubation period for a sale during the season in question?
  • How far ahead do your clients make their purchase?
  • How far in advance of that date are they doing their research to aid the buying decision?
  • Is a branding campaign – for the particular season – required if people don’t actively search on keywords?
  • Marketing creep is the sometimes vexing practice of advertisers bringing forward sales period of the particular season and examples might include:
  • Christmas decorations on sale in August
  • Chocolate Easter eggs displayed in January
  • TV coverage in mid-summer of the start of Winter football training

The challenge is how far can this be advanced without irritating/ offending your prospects?

Has your creative been varied to reflect the season? Does it need a new call-to-action for the season? (Remember it will need changing again immediately after the season!)

Does a competitor’s offer need to be matched or bettered to keep you in the race?

2.  Budget correctly

Which serves your needs better? Higher – or steady – spending if the season brings with it more sales

What seasonal sales spikes which occur regardless?  There are examples of predictable highs

  • Activity for tax agents at EOFY
  • Back-to-school supplies & shoes in January
  • Fitness clubs & tanning salons at end-Winter
  • Auto service centres, at start of school holidays

And predictable lows

  • Chocolate sales immediately after Easter
  • Slower retail sales prior to EOFY (stock taking)
  • Family holiday locations at the start of the new school year
  • Party hire suppliers immediately after Christmas/ New Year

Just like the winter ski resort marketing their ‘off’ season as a cooling Summer escape, could marketing spend be channelled to.

What is the year-round average sale value? (How much is the average sale off-season?)

How does it compare to the seasonal average sales value? (Does the average customer buy more in season?)

Can the target CPA be increased? (If yes, could provision be made for a higher CPA inside the season)

Which categories yield best returns? Apportion more budget to higher yielding products/ categories

3. Track, Test & Compare

Comparing the outcome of this year’s seasonal sales (versus forecasts) is the foundation of future forecasting accuracy. It is through the comparison of actual with predicted that insights to future seasonal marketing are offered. This is where well configured web analytics is invaluable.

And a final word: don’t forget to factor your site’s mobile device compatibility into your marketing plans. There’s no escaping the rapid rise of mobile!

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