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Understanding and selling seasonal products

Kennedell Amoo-Gottfried
June 16, 2022
September 16, 2022
Understanding and selling seasonal products

Demand for some products are evergreen and will just about stay the same throughout the year, while others will have spikes and valleys - T-shirts are a year-round commodity, but winter coats are seasonal. 

In practice, however, seasonality will touch almost every product category, meaning that you will need to know how to navigate seasonal changes to maintain stock, optimize your PPC campaigns and maximize sales. 

Selling a seasonal product effectively means having to adjust campaign structure, bidding strategies, even price and other factors. It is also incredibly important that you have enough stock to accommodate the demand.

When should I kick into seasonal gear?

One of the challenges is knowing when to act. You already know, of course, that there will be a high season, but when does it start? 

Determining when to rev up the engines is a combination of analytics and risk appetite. 

On the one hand, you will need as much historical data as possible, not just on your own sales but as much as you can get your hands on from competitors and the wider market. You need to have the best possible picture from the data of when customer demand will start driving up, when it will peak, and when it will come back down. 

Once you think you have a good enough idea of the demand curve, it’s a matter of how proactive you want to be. If you look back at the data and find that your on-season is pretty consistent, then you can risk being a bit more proactive and kicking things off in anticipation of the demand rise and get some early-mover advantage - after all, if you wait until the peak to get into gear, you will have missed a good chunk of your window of opportunity. 

If you calculate it wrong, though, you’ll see your ROAS suffer as your ad spend is out of proportion to your actual sales. 

If you look back at the data and see that the on-season is not as consistent, however, you might want to take a less proactive approach and rely more on your rolling sales data to try and anticipate the spike. The danger here, of course, is that you let your competitors get ahead if they successfully anticipate it, but at least you get rid of the potential downside of wasting money on a potential false start.

The level of correlation between your product demand and the season should also factor into your strategy. 

  • High correlation/ sharp drop-off: Something like a plastic Christmas tree or a jack-o-lantern, for example. For products like these, which have no or very limited use throughout the rest of the year, one option would be to run ads and bid works only during the on-season, as it will likely be a waste of resources to try and sell them any other time. 
  • Mid correlation/ gradual drop-off: While the jack-o-lantern will only be used at halloween, the family sized packs of miniature chocolate bars may have an audience throughout the year. It may be better, in this case, to have those keywords in your regular campaigns, and then intensify them in the on-season when demand is higher. It could also be worth having an ongoing auto campaign to pick up stray searches. 

Other items that may well spike but have a steady demand might be something like a winter coat, which will obviously go up during winter but also has a geographical correlation that means there will be some level of demand year round. 

Tips and best practices

  • Keywords: Depending on where you are in the seasonal cycle, you will need to use seasonal keywords both in your bids and in your listing at the same time. Having relevant keywords like waterproof or thermal in your listing will promote your organic search rankings and can be used year-round, whereas you will need to bump up your use on the PPC and bidding side during the high season to capitalize on the higher demand. You need to be careful, though, not to allow the seasonal keywords to chip away too much at the potentially higher sales you could still be getting from your general keywords. 
  • Other ads: High season can be a gold rush and you need to put yourself in the best position to stake your claim on it. Be sure to make proper use of all the tools Amazon has on offer, including Sponsored Products and, if you can, Sponsored Brands and Sponsored Display. 
  • Mind of off-season: During the slow times of the year for your product, you can pause your seasonal campaigns and focus on more relevant products and keywords that will drive more traffic. Additionally, the lower season presents a chance for you to offload excess stock with the use of promotions and coupons - doing this will not only monetize left over stock that you were unable to shift during the season, but will also help you stay clear of any penalties to your Inventory Performance Index as a result of long-term storage fees. Speaking of which…
  • Inventory:  Whether you are proactive or reactive, you need to make sure you have adequate stock levels to get you through the season. Going out of stock is back enough during normal times, and much worse when you could be making a lot of money, so make sure you don’t. Stock up on inventory, deliver it to Amazon fulfillment centers in advance, and continually make sure that it is priced competitively so it is not selling too quickly or too slowly. 

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