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Episode 59 - Seasonal Products in your Shopify Store

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Hey Scott Austin here.

As an e-commerce consultant, I get to work with a large number of Shopify stores with a large variety of businesses. As such, I get to see how each business is unique and build solutions that support their uniqueness. And I also get to see the commonalities across stores. As I see common themes, I share best practices across stores. And that's what I want to do in this episode - share some best practices that I have developed with my clients for what I call seasonal products.

So what's a seasonal product? Well, here's the definition provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development:
Seasonal products are "Products that are either not available on the market during certain seasons or periods of the year or are available throughout the year but with regular fluctuations in their quantities and prices that are linked to the season or time of the year."

My definition is a bit broader. I say that seasonal products are those products that have a seasonal purchasing rhythm to them due to:
1. the seasonal nature of the availability of ingredients or resources for the product,
2. the seasonal nature of the demand for the product due to the seasons or holiday schedule or
3. The cyclical nature of the need to the customer beyond normal consumables.

Now I find it easier to understand the definition of something through examples. So let me give you some examples of potential seasonal products:
1. A store that only sells pumpkin pie in the fall because that is when fresh pumpkin is available to them.
2. A store that only sells mittens in the fall and winter as that is when they have demand for mittens.
3. Gift products that are designed for specific holidays like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.
4. Gift products that are designed for annual events like birthdays or anniversaries. So this could be a birthday card or cake. Or it could be any product that is sold as a birthday present.
5. Products that are marketed around a large recurring sporting event like the Superbowl, March Madness or the World Cup. So an example is an electronics store that each year promotes the best TVs for watching the big game. Or a food store that makes a SuperBowl nachos platter.

In other words, for me, seasonal products are those products with an annual sales cycle driven by a combination of supply, demand and consumer habits.

That all said, most Shopify are going to have some seasonal products. Obviously, a gift store is selling mostly seasonal products. While other stores may have a small percentage of their products be seasonal. Most consumer focused businesses are going to have some seasonal products. Also many B2B business are going to have at least some seasonal products. It is rare, though possible, for a store to have no seasonal products.

So now let's move onto my best practices for seasonal products.

1. Have a marketing calendar. Planned promotion of seasonal products is going to help people find you and your products. I covered how to create a marketing calendar in detail back in Episode 37, which I'll link to in the show notes. Make sure that your marketing calendar includes the events that your seasonal products fall into.
2. Landing Pages. Each event in your marketing calendar should include a landing page. One of the things that I always tell my clients is that you should never send customers to your homepage from an ad or post. Now you could send them to a collection page or a product page. But when you do that, its an unnatural break in the conversation you started having with them in your ad or post. That's where a landing page comes in. The landing page should be designed to continue the conversation that you started in the ad or post. For example, let's say you created a St. Patrick's Day ad that said, 'How to celebrate St Patrick's in Green.' and had a picture of people all dressed in green, wearing silly shamrock sunglasses and holding green beer. Well the landing page content should continue that. In fact, you may use the same image in the ad and on the landing page to provide even more continuity. And the landing page should provide a variety of different content for people in different phases of the shopping experience. So its not just a collection page with a set of green products. Here's the starting content set that I think of for a seasonal landing page:
a. A way for the shopper in a rush to quickly pick a product. For example, a Valentine's Day landing page could start with the 3 most popular valentines products on the site.
b. A way for the shopper to dive deeper into the product catalog for the event. That could include a Shop All link. Or some shop by price or shop by persona options.
c. A way for the shopper to learn more about the brand. This landing page could be the first time that the person is on the site. So they may first want to learn more about the brand before diving into the products. If you have good about content on your site, you'll be able to leverage that here.
Now, that's just the starting point for a landing page. You can and should add more content as appropriate for your store.
Buyer's guides are an important, yet often overlooked, part of merchandising that go great on landing pages. With Buyer's Guides, you are helping your customers with their shopping experience. Most stores will build their buyer's guides using collections. Here are some examples of potential Back to School buyer's guides:
a. Essentials for the Middle Schooler
b. How to kit out your first dorm room
c. Budget laptops
d. Blue and khaki school uniforms
e. Clothing that will last the whole school year
f. Shop school bags by price
g. And the list could go on and on.
Another commonly added type of content to landing pages is information on any promotions or sales that you are doing and dates for shipping deadlines.
Another best practice for landing pages is to keep them live in your store throughout the year and reuse the same one year after year. This is mainly for SEO purposes. By keeping the page up and reusing it, the page will get indexed in Google and earn SEO juice. So each year, you don't have to start from scratch.
3. Keep the product page live. So let's say you sell a valentines gift box and it's only available for purchase in January and the first half of February. Well that product should stay up and be live in your store for the full year. Set it up so that it always show up in a Valentine's specific collection but only shows up in more generic collections when it is available. I usually do this by having dynamic collections and setting an availability rule on the more generic collections. During the 10 and half months of the year that the product is not available, ensure that it shows as not available so that people can't purchase it. But allow them sign-up for email notifications for when the product is back in stock. I do this using Klaviyo's back in stock flow and Javascript snippet for your Shopify store. This way, an email automatically goes out to everyone that is interested when the product is available again. And automated emails make life easier.
4. On the product page, let the customer know the rules about the product. Rules like when the product ships, what deadlines apply to ensure shipping in time, etc. Remember that scarcity and limited availability can be powerful conversion levers.
5. Make event specific products. Let's say you sell jewelry and you have a heart necklace that can be used as a gift for multiple events and holidays, like Valentines, Birthday, Mother's Day, Anniversary and Holiday. You can make a different product in your Shopify store for each event. That way, you'll be able to target the content (photos and copy) towards the event. The content for Valentine's Day can then be different from that for Mother's Day which should improve conversion. One downside to this strategy is if you are managing inventory and using Shopify for inventory management. That's because Shopify's inventory management doesn't manage the same sku when it is in multiple products.
6. Make gift products more gifty. Most seasonal products are given as gifts. So you can make them more appealing by making them more of gift. A couple of ways to do that is to allow customers to add gift cards and/or gift wrapping to their purchase. Remember, many gifts are sent straight to the recipient, not the purchaser. One indicator I use in a store to see how many purchases are gifts is to see how many orders have a different address for shipping and billing. Now, different addresses doesn't mean the purchase is absolutely a gift. Just like a single address doesn't mean it’s not a gift. But it is an indicator. Now there are a number of different ways to enable gift cards and gift wrapping including:
a. Having gift cards and gift wrapping on the site but not promoting them during the gift shopping experience. I do not recommend this approach as we do a much better job.
b. Having a card and/or wrapping as a bundled in part of the gift product. For example, all Mother's Day gifts could come with a Happy Mother's Day card.
c. Including a card and/or wrapping as a variant option. This would allow you to charge an additional fee above the normal product price for those products and services.
d. Taking the shopper to a gift options page after they add the product to the cart. For many of the stores that I build, I create what I call a linear shopping experience. Let's say someone adds a Father's Day gift to their cart. Instead of taking them to the cart after they click the Add to Cart button, I take them to a collection page. This can be done with some simple JavaScript code that most Shopify experts can do. The collection page shows the card, wrapping, gift boxes, etc. that are available for the product and event.
e. Promote the card and/or wrapping options as cross-sells in the cart. I usually do this with Liquid code and Javascript. Though I'm sure there are plenty of apps that do it too.
7. #5 was to make event specific products. And #6 is to make gift products more gifty. Well #7 is a combination of the two. Let's say you sell watches. You could identify a set of watches that make good gifts. You could promote them in your Birthday collection, and your Anniversary collection, etc. It’s the same watch. But you could add an option to add a gift card and wrapping. And then have a different variant of that option for each event. So the option could say, 'Add a card and gift wrapping?' And the variants could be:
a. No
b. Birthday
c. Anniversary
d. Father's Day
e. Etc.
That way, you'll know what event type they purchased it for which is valuable information that we can use.
8. Use that valuable information. I've talked before about how I'm a fan of Klaviyo and automated email flows. Well, if you have Klaviyo or another email app with trigger based flows, you'll be able to get more out of your seasonal product purchases. That's because you should set up a flow for each seasonal event for anyone who purchased a seasonal product last year. You see, there may be some situations where you don't want to send an email to your whole list about a seasonal event. For example, you may not want to use 'Merry Christmas' in an email to your whole list. But if someone bought a Christmas present from you last year, then your messaging can be more targeted than Happy Holidays. Or even if you are sending an email to your whole list, you can give customers who purchased last better treatment, with early access or more emails. My favorite part of this is what we can do with customers we know bought a gift for an event that can happen on any day, like for a birthday or an anniversary. Now if they purchased a card or gift wrapping and told us what the event was, we can send them a very specific email 11 or so months after their purchase. That message could be something like, last year you bought a birthday present from us. We hope that gift was well received. Is it time to get a present for this year? Please check out some of our trending birthday presents. Very targeted emails like this will help increase your repeat purchasers.
9. And lastly, Create content. For most of my clients, this is the hardest thing on the list for them to do. Content means copy, photos and video. And I recommend that you use all 3 of them. I've gone into detail on each one in past episodes. Here's how to think about in the context of seasonal products. What we are doing here is merchandising. We are providing our customers with the service of our expert advice in helping them select the best gifts and seasonal products. Now many Shopify stores essentially are only a list of products and variants. But the great ones are telling a story and guiding the customer through the decision making process. Imagine walking into a jewelry store and telling the staff that you wanted to buy something for your niece's birthday. Next imagine the store staff pointing to one side of the store and saying women's jewelry is over there. Of course that would never happen in a brick and mortar jewelry store. But that happens all of the time in ecommerce. The brick and mortar staff is going to ask questions so that they can make relevant recommendations. Those questions could be 'How old is your niece?', 'Do you have a price range in mind?', and 'Do you know what kind of jewelry your niece likes?' So one of the things we're trying to do here is have more of conversation with our customer and guide them through the process a bit. Now we can't have a real, two-way conversation with every visitor to our store. But good content can take its place. For our niece's birthday example, we could build a buyer's guide for birthday jewelry and one for valentines jewelry and a different one for anniversary jewelry. We can explain the options, choices, meanings and more about the products. And take the earlier example of the heart necklace. The copy for that necklace for valentines could and should be different from the copy for Mother's Day. And the lifestyle photography should also be authentic to the season or event. Investing in content for these experiences will enhance the shopping experience for the customer and should lead to higher sales.

So that's 9 best practices to apply to your seasonal products. Hopefully I've explained them well enough so that you can see that what we are a doing is creating a holistic shopping experience for that event for people we are marketing to this year. And we're trying to capture as much information about the event and purchase as possible. So we can re-market to those customers next year.

And let me be clear, these are best practices. They are ideas to stimulate your thinking. This is not a recipe to be followed exactly. Each Shopify store is unique. As the store owner, you should using these ideas, adding your existing best practices and determine what seems like the best solution for your customers and your business. Then you should put that into motion for the next seasonal event or two and see how customers and sales respond. If the response is positive and the trend lines are going up, then keep applying your solution to your seasonal events. As always, start simple and evolve over time. eCommerce is a marathon and constant evolution is how stores win in the marathon.

Thanks for listening.

JadePuma is a certified Shopify Expert. If you need any help with your Shopify store, we can help.