Use The Marshmallow Principle to Increase Your Seasonal Sales

This article was written by Michelle Weger.

How do you feel about pumpkin spice?

Every year around September, pumpkin spice is everywhere: it’s in your coffee, your candles, your hand cream, your baked goods. For a month or so, you either can’t escape it or are dousing yourself in pumpkin spice everything.

It’s one of those love-it-or-hate-it things. People who love it are passionate about their love for it, and people who don’t won’t hesitate to tell you how sick they are of pumpkin spice.

But if you walked into your favourite coffee shop in February and saw they were offering pumpkin spice lattes, what would you think?

  • Why are they selling pumpkin spice lattes now?
  • Where are they getting pumpkin spice this time of year?
  • Did they order too much pumpkin spice and it’s about to go bad so they’re selling it off now?

Even the most avid pumpkin spice fan would probably be thrown off. February isn’t pumpkin spice month. February is a month for keeping warm in the snow or for romantic flavours like chocolate and strawberries. At best, you might forgive the weirdness and purchase something more seasonally appropriate.

At worst, though? You might question the freshness of their product and leave.

If you run a physical store or business, you wouldn’t dream of displaying your skiing equipment in July or water guns and picnic baskets in November.

So why are you doing that in your e-commerce store?

This is something I see often when we start working with clients to manage their e-commerce businesses.

Even when your customers are separated from you by a screen, their shopping experience still affects the decisions they make.

Much like the Nail Polish Principle, the seasonality of the products your customers see when they first look at your e-commerce store can make or break your customer’s experience. If a customer clicks away from your website because they’re overwhelmed with options, imagine how much worse it is when they’re overwhelmed with options that aren’t even in season.

Your customers don’t want to see ugly Christmas sweaters in July or special edition pumpkin spice scented products any time but in the fall, but what do you do when you have inventory that could be sold at a different time of year?

Use The Marshmallow Principle

When I say “marshmallow,” what do you think of?

Did you imagine whimsical summer nights, fire pits, or pulling perfectly golden-brown gooey fluff off a roasting stick?

Or did you imagine cozy fireplaces, rich hot chocolate, and delightful puffs of sweetness floating at the top of your cup?

Now, what time of year is it?

If you read this in the spring or summer, you probably associated the word “marshmallow” with the first suggestion. But if you’re reading this in the fall or winter, you are more likely to picture the exact same product in a completely different way.

By updating your products or services with seasonally appropriate descriptions, images, and promotions, you can sell more of your inventory year-round without making your customers wonder why you’re trying to sell hot chocolate in the middle of a heatwave.

The language surrounding these products also makes a big difference. In the marshmallow example, think of the wording I used:

  • Gooey versus puffs
  • Whimsical versus cozy
  • Fire pit versus fireplace

Now, think back to our pumpkin spice example. What kind of words could you use to sell pumpkin spice in February?

  • Toasted spices to help keep you warm
  • Spicy, exotic flavours from ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon
  • The perfect addition to a cozy, romantic date

The e-commerce stores we manage on behalf of our clients see a measurable increase in sales when their product descriptions are updated to reflect the time of year. By guiding your customers to the products they need using the language and trends they’ll have at the top of their minds, you can increase your sales in every season.

Are you looking for e-commerce management that can take your store from good to great?

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