Seasonality: Is it factored into your digital strategy?

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining” (John F. Kennedy, 1962)

The quote could mean a few things, on the one hand, some may say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, meaning unless the sun is shining through your roof, there is no need to worry. On the other, some may say “fix the problem before it gets out of hand”; I prefer to work with the latter.

Seasonality affects many businesses, as consumers look for different products dependent on the time of year. Businesses know their ‘in season’ periods; take for instance the Google Trends graph of UK retailer Boots below:

Boots Graph

Like many retailers, Boots sees a significant trend in seasonal interest in the final quarter of each year, peaking in December as the Christmas season and gift buying becomes a major traffic driver. This is a trend seen year after year, one which most in the retail industry experience and plan for by hiring temporary staff in stores to accommodate the extra demand.

So how does this relate online… and to JFK?

If we look into some search terms of different industries, we can see seasonality at work:

Perfume Graph

Perfumes and aftershaves gain peak interest around Christmas, when gift buying is at its highest point. In June 2014, the keyword ‘Perfume’ generated 27,100 searches; December saw 110,000, translated as a 306% increase in search volume!

Other terms have similar results:

Repair graph

Heating repair has more interest in the colder months, while sunglasses get repaired more during the summer.

Holiday Graph

Meanwhile, winter and summer holidays peak during their respective seasons, which is not surprising.

In each case, a specific pattern emerges. This gives us, as marketers, a window of opportunity to really push and maximise sales during the busy periods. That does not mean we don’t aim to do the same during quieter periods though; the quiet periods are “when the sun is shining”.

Convert more traffic!

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is important at any time of the year and should be an ongoing process to improve a website’s ability to convert visitors into customers. However, trying to fix conversion rates with major changes during busy periods could potentially be disastrous in terms of revenue. Quieter periods where traffic is lower provides a good testing ground for website changes and data analysis based on any changes made.

Tests could be small in scale, such as subtly changing a colour on a call to action, for instance. Larger tests could include testing a different version of a landing page. Tracked correctly through A/B or multivariate testing, these tests can provide insight into how customers interact and how their path to conversion is improved or hindered.

Improving conversion rates during quieter periods may minimise risk and helps to increase conversions during busier periods which, in turn, leads to an increase in revenue. Take for instance this hypothetical example:

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3
Visits 10,000 10,000 10,000
Conversion Rate 1.5% 1.7% 2.0%
Average Order Value £200 £200 £200
Conversions 150 170 200
Revenue £30,000 £34,000 £40,000

Between scenarios one and two, a 0.2% conversion increase would see a 13% increase in revenue, while a 33% increase in revenue would occur between one and three, all by taking the already existing traffic and guiding it through to conversion.

Optimising before busy periods means less drastic changes need to be made at a time when it is likely conversion rates are naturally higher; you don’t want to make such a change only for it to backfire by yielding a significant conversion rate drop. Save big tests or changes for quieter periods when the opportunity is there to do so and make smaller, incremental improvements when demand surges.

So, the question is… “Is it time to repair the roof?”

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