How to ace the dog days of summer and boost your business through the slowdown
by Michael P. Hill
The dog days of summer (at least in North America) are here — and with it comes a slowdown in retail sales — including Shopify stores.
However, a smart Shopify theme user knows that a slow season doesn’t mean it’s time to hit the beach and ignore your store — but rather a time to capitalize on extra time to help grow your business.
If you do start to see a dip in sales during the summer months, it’s important to keep in mind it’s likely not related to anything you’ve done — or can even control.
First, keep in mind that summer slowdowns typically aren’t anything personal against you or your products and it’s important to not get emotional over it — but instead find ways to boost sales and improve other areas of your business during the slowdown.
There’s not really a definitive reason for summer retail slowdown — though there are plenty of theories:
In North America, with students out of school, families are more likely to travel, which means they have less spare time — and money — to shop.
Summer months and better weather also mean people are more likely to be spending time outdoors, including later in the evening, which means less time online shopping.
With the exception of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, summer is pretty much devoid of any major gift-giving holidays or observances.
Major retailers, who also typically face slowdowns, sometimes offer heavily promoted online sales — such as Amazon’s "Prime Day" or “Christmas in July” type sales, which can be hard for smaller online stores to compete against.
In reality, while all of these theories have their own merits, it’s likely that a combination of them are responsible for the general slowdown in online shopping.
Of course, if you’re lucky or if your business is well suited for summer (maybe you sell sunglasses, beachwear or barbecue supplies), you may not see much of a dip — if any — in online sales. If so, that’s great.
However, also keep in mind that, in many cases, the prime sales seasons for seasonal goods is actually before the season starts.
There are, however, often "latecomers" who discover they need seasonal goods later in the season — and since many other stores may move out that inventory earlier in the year, you might be able to capitalize by promoting these items.
Give it a go
Of course, a common strategy among retailers in general is to try to boost sales with special offers — and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that:
Consider items that customers are most likely to need during summer months, such as clothing, special health and beauty products, outdoor toys and activities and more. Group these together in feature collections and promote them in your homepage sections, social media posts and ads and email marketing.
Even if you don’t make items that are particularly suited for summer sales, try grouping items together in summer colors or clever themes — such as beach shades, a collection of lamps under the “bright” theme or popular items or cooking gadgets as “hot.”
You could also try making a “limited edition” version of one of your products, creating a sense of urgency by offering a particular color or style that’s only available for a short time (e.g. phone cases in fluorescent tones, seaside-inspired jewelry collection, etc.).
Discounting or free gifts are always a possibility, but keep in mind that if your sales volume is down, this can affect your margins, especially if you have overhead that can’t be reduced during slow months.
Finally, be sure you’re still checking your business email account and Shopify admin regularly. Sometimes, during slower periods, it can be surprisingly easy for an order or customer email to slip through and go unanswered. This is also important for drop shipping or highly automated stores — be sure you’re still checking email so you can resolve any issues that pop up.
Thumb twiddling: A big no-no
All that said, a slowdown during summer (or any time of the year) isn’t the time to just sit back and relax and hope your store “runs itself.”
As a business owner, revenue and marketing trends can be some of the most difficult things to predict and plan around.
However, even during slow months, there’s plenty to do:
Update your Shopify theme. If sales and fulfillment are slow, you’re more likely to have some extra time on your hands — and lower traffic — which can be an ideal time to update your theme and test it thoroughly.
Likewise, test every process within your store, ranging from placing an order to creating an account and logging in to make sure any errors haven’t popped up.
Perform an audit on all Shopify Apps you’re using and remove any that aren’t delivering good return on investment — not only is this a great way to avoid app overload, but it can help boost your store improvement and reduce your monthly subscription fees. You can also consider switching to the Turbo Shopify theme, which has many app-like features built in.
Brainstorm ways to expand your offers to include services and downloadable products. Not only can these add more revenue in the future, but a slow time of the year can be a great time to test out the offerings and work out any fulfillment kinks.
Network with other store owners and brainstorm ideas for summer promotions or future changes or updates to your store.
If you run any advertising, be sure to analyze the data and ensure that any traffic trend changes aren’t affecting your cost. In some cases, it may be worth reducing your budget or pausing your ads altogether during summer months.
Speaking of advertising, you can also start working on creating and sourcing new images and copy for your ads.
Start getting ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Yes, it’s still months away — but it will be here before you know it and this busy season always seems to sneak up on us faster than we think.
Finally, although it’s always important to stay “on top of your game” as a Shopify store owner, the summer can also be a great time to recharge a bit and establish more of a work-life balance.
Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn. While comments and feedback are always appreciated, Michael regrets that, due to the volume of inquires received, personal responses are not possible. For specific assistance or support with Out of the Sandbox themes, visit the help center.