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When your sales are really off, where do you look for reasons?

 12:24 am on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

It seems like two or three times a year, I have a period where sales are really off from prior years. I'm having one right now, where for the past two weeks my sales are 30% of what they were a year ago.

I can't seem to find a reason, other than the Panda update. Still, with the advertising I've been doing since my site was hit by Panda, my sales have been close to or sometimes even exceeded last year.

I know this happens to just about everyone. Where do you look for reasons for sales slowdown's?



 1:48 am on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Honestly, I think often there is no discernible reason. As merchants, we don't often have all the information necessary to draw any reasonable conclusion about why business has dropped. When this happens to me, I check all the usual, but I let it go. I force myself to. And I go and add some new products or put up some new information pages. The best response to this kind of thing is to act in a positive way for your business. No point in making yourself crazy to no purpose.


 2:07 am on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I tend to look a bit wider than the Internet alone for reasons why there are no sales. In the last few weeks the turmoil in the EU regarding bank finance has had a chilling effect across the globe... and the US is also turning in bad numbers. If your biz is NOT seasonal (ie. Christmas) then it is likely there's been a drop.


 4:04 am on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I look to old customers. Make a list of people who have not bought in a long time and survey them. Either via surveymonkey or pick up the phone. Ask the tough questions. Listen to the sometimes painful feedback.


 7:16 am on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I always start with the obvious, check my SEO/PPC first.

Did my traffic dip?
If my traffic slid then it's check the SERPs
If the traffic didn't slide, then is it the same keywords bringing traffic?

If none of this changed and it all looks fine, it's probably not SEO issues, then I start checking the competition, did they lower prices, introduce new products?

Also check to see if you have suddenly gotten some bad reviews, all it takes is one crazy customer that gets some traction in the search engine or on Yelp or somewhere to damage your reputation just enough to make a temporary glitch in sales.

There are also weather factors to consider, such as places where you get lots of sales suddenly having inclement weather such that causes major power outages, etc.

If you see nothing obvious, like the others said, poll the customers!


 2:32 pm on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

First rule of troubleshooting - look for the obvious - but I'd start with more basic stuff than SEO/PPC. Look for issues with the site - test the purchase process and look for 404s, missing images, etc.

Next look at your analytics. Are your keywords still relevant - look for increases in bounce rates on particular keywords over time. High bounce rates indicate either a real issue with the landing page(s) and/or the user isn't finding what they're looking for. This could be because the keyword value has shifted and no longer brings in the type of visitor you originally targeted.

Bare in mind the conditions in the market space and seasonal influences. Some times a world event can cause a uncharacteristic dip or boom.


 10:37 pm on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the replies. I've tested the site and shopping cart, and everything works fine. I've had orders, just not as many as last year. For January so far I"m 30% of last year and declining.

I had a great sale on my most popular items in December, and did very well with sales. It could be that customers who were going to buy did so in December to take advantage of the special pricing.

I'll have to look at stats for keywords, as Google changes so quickly these days that I may not be ranking in organic results or Google Shopping as well this week as I did in December.


 10:45 pm on Jan 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I had a great sale on my most popular items in December, and did very well with sales. It could be that customers who were going to buy did so in December to take advantage of the special pricing.

There you go, I think you just answered your own question.

I've noticed that the month after I run a really good sale that my sales dropped off as well and most likely for the reasons you've already cited.


 11:36 pm on Jan 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't think years repeat themselves. I use to think the same thing... I would look at the same periods and expect the same results. But I just don't think it always works that way. I think humans have a sort of 'herd' mentality, but it's subtle. For whatever reason, there are times when people seemingly tend to act the same and do the same things. I don't know if there's always a way to explain it.


 11:47 pm on Jan 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

One needs more than a last year/this year comparison to determine "trends"... five years is better than one, but ten years is much better!


 9:50 pm on Jan 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

dickbaker I see the decline in the way our search terms are displayed now. Even 1st place can now be 5-8 place in the results. Bad economy new year bills. There are just so many different things that could be thrown in this mix it is realy something a forum has a hard time to nail. Customer return, demand for products, life of product needs to be answered for you to come up with a possible answer.


 7:06 am on Jan 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

Everything said so far is true. What's really strange, though, is that last year the months were close to the same months in the prior year. And those prior year months tracked closely to the same months in 2010.

Now, for January, I'm at about 25-30% of January last year and January 2010. That's a huge drop.


 3:59 am on Jan 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well, things have not gotten better. I've been running this site since 2004, and there's been a very predictable pattern for seasonal traffic.

From the time I added an online store, January has always been a good month. This month is 25% to 30% of 2011, 2010, 2009 or 2008. This is more like July or August, which worries me about what the typical slow months will bring.

I've upped my Adwords spending, but people aren't even clicking the ads. Keywords for organic traffic seem to be about the same, although I haven't examined them in depth.

This one is a mystery.


 12:43 am on Jan 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

How about an email campaign to past customers? Sounds like it's just a weird collective mood they're in right now. I wouldn't necessarily assume that things will get worse in future months. It might be the reverse.


 3:46 am on Jan 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

I watched my 26 year old daughter Christmas shopping oniine earlier this year.

She found the product/s she wanted to purchase, the went to Amazon to search for the best price.

She ordered a half a dozen of the products using Amazon, five of these were delivered by Xmas, one did not make it because the product was out off stock.

She was disappointed, but for the most part was OK with her Xmas buying experience.

This age group presents and new challenge.


 3:08 pm on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

My prices are usually as competitive as what you'd find on Amazon.

This is just killing me. Right now for February I have just two sales from the 1st through yesterday. February isn't the greatest month, but last year I had 11 sales by the 5th, in 2010 I had 16, and in 2009 I had 12.

This is killing me, and I don't know what's wrong. The site works. I'm even finding some of my listings showing in Google again after being trashed by Panda.

I don't know where to look anymore.


 8:36 pm on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

I assume you've had some outside people try the site for you to see if it works OK.

Like I said, the only thing I can think of is to counter the slow period by being more aggressive, with an email campaign, sale, or something like that.


 1:39 am on Feb 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Dick any improvement? Us based site? I think business has slowed across the board.


 9:08 pm on Feb 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's funny, I feel like I've been working my butt off so far this year, with plenty of sales... Then I looked at my totals and I'm actually down from last year a little.


 5:45 am on Feb 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

No improvement, really. February isn't the best month typically, but I'm already at 65% of last year.

I'm monitoring some other sites as reference for a different project, sites that are in my niche, and their sales are down.

I talk to the owners of brick and mortar stores in my niche and they're going gangbusters. There's fear about the November election driving sales, or so they think.

In the end, I have no idea. I can't send emails because, even though I have the email addresses of every customer for the last 4-5 years, the addresses are from orders, not from people voluntarily signing up for emails from me.


 9:59 pm on Feb 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure there isn't a legal way to send a modest newsletter type emailing out without problems. But obviously you'd want to look into it. I get stuff from people I purchased stuff from all the time and I don't think I OK'd it. You'd just want to make sure you keep it really light and not set off anything with your ISP. But I'm sure there's info available on the legalities.


 1:57 pm on Feb 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I had something similar happen to me last April, each month I will selling more and then when I hit April, I sold only about half of what I sold for March.

I started to panic and was asking everyone. They guy that delivers our shipping supplies said his sales were down too, along with other customers. I kept thinking people stopped shopping because of taxes? We will see this year.

Sales went back up and we are doing much better now.
I use icontact for all of my email campaigns. Anyone who creates an account on our webs site is automatically signed up. They have the option to remove their email from the list.

Maybe do a Black Friday 2.0 sale


 9:15 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

If you look at the Internet Retailer site, online sale are going up huge amounts each month.

I tend to take it with a grain of salt.


 6:31 pm on Mar 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

When I was doing affiliate marketing 4-5 years ago, same thing.

Some days huge amounts of "sales" other days, nothing (even though traffic was up).

I and a few other people likened it to some sort of mass-psychological effect....could have been the weather, could have been a recent story in the news, something that would affect millions of people in a way not normally thought of.


 11:34 pm on Apr 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

i hate how we used to get so much traffic from froogle and now we get almost none

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