10. July 2017

High temperatures, freezing revenues: Summer low in e-commerce

Summer – that means long days, short pants (and even shorter skirts) and, unfortunately, in many cases also a lull in online retail. It's the season for everybody to be anywhere but home: at a barbecue, in a cocktail bar, at the bathing lake or in a plane heading towards summer holiday. However, there is not much time left to navigate through online shops, read product reviews and compare prices.

Why do sales decline due to high temperatures?

Online retailers have to expect a drop in sales up to 30% compared to Christmas season. This phenomenon can be explained quite easily:

  • People spend much more time on outdoor activities during the summer. As a consequence, there is less time left for potential purchases.
  • Many persons are on annual leave in summer. While on holiday, people usually don't shop online very much.

The more time people spend outside or travelling, the more they are tempted to stroll through nearby stores and buy products spontaneously (so called impulse buying). Thus, the stationary retail suffers much less from the "summer low" than their online competitors. Therefore, the conditions are fairly good for multi-channel retailers to bridge summer time without a large drop in sales by making use of multi-channel campaigns and special offers to boost online sales. By contrast, online pure players have to face the challenge of attracting their clients from the beach directly to their online shop – by means of creative marketing strategies, smart product policy and (of course!) discounts.

Defy the summer recess! But how?

Retailers need to adapt their customer's lifestyle, offer real values and generate singular shopping experiences so that their customers stay loyal brand advocates during the summer. Personalisation, content marketing and mobile first are the catchwords for the season.

1. Customers are mobile - what about retailers?

Being online via smartphone or tablet has become indispensable in today's society. The number of mobile shoppers increases steadily. Online retailers who miss out on that trend and don't have a responsive or mobile shop may find it really hard to win and especially tie customers (not only in summer but throughout the year). Customers are on the move in summer – and mobile shopping becomes even more important. So, it is high time for online shops to match the shopping behavior of their customers and align to the principle "mobile first".

2. Go with the season.

It's no secret that retailers adjust their product range and pricing to the seasons. Not following that trend could mean losing sales to competitors.

These topics are highly demanded during the summer months:

  • Summer fashion (swimwear, summer shoes, dresses, ...)
  • Travel (suitcases, travel gadgets, ...)
  • Outdoor (accessories for hiking, camping, gardening, ...)
  • Wedding (festive fashion, wedding gifts, ...)
  • First day at school (stationery, toys, festive fashion, ...)

To strike as a retailer for these topics, it is not sufficient to just place suitable products prominently in the shop. Customer's buying decisions are strongly influenced by the visual appearance of the shop. Using appropriate colors, images and content, the shop design can be tuned to "summer mode" or even specific themes like "summer in the city" or "a hiking trip in the mountains".

3. Social Media is the top channel in summer.

Share, like, search... In summer, social media use raises by up to 20% - because people want to share their activities, find or rate restaurants and services, add new contacts to their network... Hence, summer is the perfect season for retailers to intensify their presence on social media and start targeted campaigns. They can tell simple "summer stories" about their products, relate to beach life and travel and use the right hash tags. The customer's engagement can be driven by contests or discount campaigns.

4. Personalisation creates trust.

Sales can be boosted by personalized product recommendations and individual content. Summer is not synonymous to beach for each customer, so retailers should provide customized offers for different "summer types". How do customers prefer their summer: Beach holiday or city trip? Rooftop party or barbecue? Bathing lake or theme park? Retailers should find out and show their customers that they have exactly the right products for them. Especially personalized content (e. g. newsletters, videos, style guides, ...) plays a very important role when creating a personal relationship to customers.

5. Delivery options should be checked.

Since customers are on the move during summer, more delivery problems could be caused than in other seasons. By offering delivery to store, multi-channel retailers can provide a simple solution and perhaps raise the willingness to buy online. International delivery may also be attractive for customers, for instance when they spend several weeks abroad.


To get out of the summer low, retailers should not wait and see – but become active, analyse customer behaviour and draw the right conclusions. In the end, not only temperatures will rise during summer – revenues will increase just as well.