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Feast or Famine Sales?

Why no consistency?



3:20 pm on May 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Our traffic has stayed the same all week long but the only days that was busy calls and sales wise we're Monday and Tuesday.

Our online daily adwords budget didn't fluctuate much all week... Why is there no consistency? The phones are either ringing off the hook or are dead! Anyone else have this problem?


5:18 pm on May 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have similar thing with my business. Usually Monday and Tuesday are very busy, than it gets quiet. I guess many people surf the web during weekend, than they call on Monday or Tuesday when our office is open and make purchases. People don't want to buy during weekend, because they know it won't be processed untill Monday. I guess Thursday and Friday they are thinking about weekend and they know that orders placed by the end of the week will most likely arrive next week. So there is no point to shop online by the end of the week. At least this is what I think. I guess it depends also on type of your business and products you sell. Also sometimes you have one very busy week and than next one is dead. I used to think it was something with ads, but it is not. It's just the way it works. No consistency on weekly basis. As long as monthly sales are consistant I don't have reason to be worried.


9:36 pm on May 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

It's been really weird lately... Traffic numbers the same, inquiries the same... Slow on orders overall, but then one day will get all kinds of orders. Then back to slow for days.


3:13 am on May 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've found it to be true that if you want the phone to ring, go to the bathroom. If you want to be busy, schedule a vacation.


2:41 pm on May 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

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dpd1, I'm seeing pretty much the same thing.


3:05 pm on May 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I been in retail (B&Ms and web) for close to 20 years.
There's always ebbs and flows in floor traffic, phone traffic, web traffic, sales traffic, etc..

Just like a watched pot never boils, sitting/standing still waiting on something will just stress you out. But the surest method to stir up sales activity has always been to tackle another project...vacumn, rearrange displays, edit some web pages, etc...


8:58 am on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Taxes, Holidays, kids back to school, Easter Breaks + credit card delays for payment plus 1 month. That's just for starters.


12:50 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I worked for a large regional retailer for 25 years. It has always been this way. There is no way to predict patterns of sales on a day to day basis. We're really learned this with the web. It will drive you nuts.

It's even true of traffic flow. Roads will average x cars at y times, but on some days, for no reason, there will be 3X cars at y time, and then, one day, there will be X/2 on the road at y time.

There are firms that will take your sales data and link it to the weather, for example, where you are suppose to see how the weather impacts your customers' buying habits. The idea here is you can "forecast" sales like the weather. Ha. (Good weather, good sales. Bad weather, bad sales. Please send me a check for $1,500.)

This is why it vital to use trend data that comes from over a long period of time over a large sample. And, then, don't worry about day-to-day traffic, one way or another. Or even week-to-week.

Typically, a new enterprise will finally get one of those weird big-flow periods and instead of seeing it as unusual, they'll decide that, ah!, the world has finally seen my biz for the outstanding value that it is. Then, of course, sales will drop to normal and, then, a low-flow period will hit--for no reason anyone can see--and that will throw them into crisis, when in reality the long trend is good.

Savvy ad agencies & consultants (and even some webmasters) know to make some kind of change right away (green to blue, or blue to green, is always safe) when a biz in this kind of "crisis" comes in the door with checkbook in hand, because the sales flow will likely correct itself naturally but they want to get some kind of credit for the change, which is tough to do if they have done nothing.

"Wow, thank you. I didn't know blue was so powerful!"

"Yes, we professionals have found how these little things can make a big impact."


3:41 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

dpd1 and Tonearm hit the nail on the head. The daily fluctuations we've recognized over the past 5 months are unique to anything we've seen in the past 8 years of ecommerce. We're seeing:

- Daily traffic extremely steady and predictable.
- Daily revenue wildly erratic and unpredictable.
- Monthly revenue extremely steady and predictable.

For the past 7 years, the revenue per visitor on each individual day would fluctuate less than 5%. Based on the number of visits, we could estimate with extreme accuracy how much revenue we would make on a given day... like clockwork, the actual sales would be between 98% and 102% of our estimate each and every day.

This has changed. Here's our revenue per visitor data from last week:

Monday - 65% of historical estimate.
Tuesday - 75% of estimate
Wednesday - 145% of estimate.
Thursday - 70% of estimate
Friday - 150% of estimate
Saturday - 96% of estimate
Sunday - 115% of estimate

Total for week - 102% of estimate
Total for month - 101% of estimate

Our data for the past several months show similar fluctuations. 7 years of earlier data show steady streams of days with 95% to 105% of estimate with perhaps 10 or 15 outlier days each year (rather than the current 15+ outlier days we're seeing each month.)

This pattern started around October 2008, right around the time the US financial crisis began.

Our largest store sells widgets that workers must buy in order to do their job. Since October, our average order size has decreased, but order frequency has increased proportionally... they have to buy around 12 a year, but instead of buying 6 at a time, they are buying 4 at a time.

As for the reason for daily fluctuations: we're clueless (and we don't really care.) As Weeks mentioned above "use trend data that comes from over a long period of time over a large sample. And, then, don't worry about day-to-day"


3:47 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Brilliant post. I wrote a similar program based on my historic sales data and stopped looking at it months ago.


4:16 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I've got no insight to add, except to say that I am experiencing the same thing. Month over Month, revenue is consistent, but day to day has been ridiculously variable. Traffic is consistent. Conversions are in fits and starts. Like nothing I've seen before.

It's like the gods are playing with me. I go 2 days at half normal volume and start to worry a little about it, just in time to be deluged with so many orders that I don't have time to think at all.

If anyone knows what gives, I am interested in your theories!


5:32 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Here's a theory. People are responding to the ebb and flow of fear signals produced by the media.


6:07 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

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School or Work Vacations change expenditure patterns
Illness - shopping online instead of B&M
Tax refunds
Stock Dividends received
Elections local/national
Local factory/employer closes
Newspaper/Magazine articles generate interest in a product/hobby/fad
Credit Card bills arrives - spending reined in
People tire of bad news - start spending
People worry about bad news - stop spending
Loans paid off - discretionary spending up


6:29 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

longen, quizprep has been in business for 8 years and started seeing the current trend 5 months ago. I've had a near identical experience.


6:57 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Got to say i am in the same boat and been trading since 2001 online. I run 3 e-commerce sites and have a share in 12 others. All are doing the above, but 1 has completely gone down the tubes sale wise. The traffic is steady 3000 unique a day, been going for 17 months but the sales have dropped right off.

All the stats adding up, nothing unusual. Compo in various areas is much the same, no price decreases etc etc.

I had an idea Google Shopping was to blame, tried a few things, that idea went into the bin, PPC is still good.

In short, maybe Mrs.Piggy flu is attacking the CC's!


7:23 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

My main ecom site has been around since late 1996, and I haven't seen anything like this wild ride - and there have been pay-days and refund checks, illnesses and occasions all that time.

Miss Piggy flu...hmmm, hadn't considered that one...

Tonearm, I had a similar thought - may be something to do with media. But I watch the news too - and can't correlate what I see there with when I see the trends.

Now I am leaning more toward the weather, the phase of the moon, color of Brian Williams' shirt, price of tea in China, who knows what.


8:07 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't have an e-commerce site, but I do make quite a bit of money from affiliate links, and sales can very widely from day to day--even on days with similar traffic. That's even more true now than it was in the past.


8:13 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've continued to dig... the long and the short is that this is not an isolated issue.

I'm a statistician... I actually teach statistics at the local university. I've been in ecommerce for 8 years. Trust me, this is a statistically significant event without a simple explanation.

I own, have a share, or consult directly with several ecommerce shops. Some are stable, some are growing, and some are losing traction... they all have one thing in common: increased daily revenue variation that began in October 2008.

I'm seeing record revenue days followed by record revenue lows 2 or 3 days later... all of this with no logical rhyme or reason, and across dozens of unrelated web properties. The most frustrating piece is that if the reason(s) for the new found variation could be uncovered, it could likely be harnessed...


and rachel123: if Brian Willams would wear pink (as we've requested in countless letters), our sales (and yours) would triple.


9:03 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I've found it to be true that if you want the phone to ring, go to the bathroom.

That's why I use cordless phones, I can take a call anywhere all day long.

BTW, if you think people are shopping on the weekends and calling on MON/TUES you might increase sales if you try staying open on the weekends during your peak traffic hours, or perhaps forward on the weekend to your cell and see what happens.


9:16 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

So things staying consistent day after day would be normal? Ebb and flow is just the nature of things, we don't live in a static environment.


9:31 pm on May 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I'll posit a theory, as I am also on the rollercoaster-o-random sales figures...
You are trying to predict the actions of humans! I've never met a psychiatrist I consider sane (probably haven't met one who considers me sane, but that's another story); this is because you can't possibly account for all of the stimuli which act upon a person and perceive their thought process.
Sure, it is an interesting exercise to try to fathom what could have made Monday's sales monstrous and Tuesday's sales tank. Interesting...but useless nonetheless...unless you have significantly changed your site. Meaning, if you didn't do anything different to your site, checkout process, available payment methods or any of the other major site components yet things are fluctuating drastically, sometimes but not all the time, then the issue probably isn't:
1) Your doing
2) Something you can (easily or with great effect) change
3) Worth worrying about because of 1 & 2

That being said, please provide me with the contact information for this Mr. Brian Williams so I may begin requesting wardrobe changes. We're sure pink is the most effective shirt color for sales increases? Should all weathermen wear pink? Or just Mr. Williams? Please advise.


1:00 am on May 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

The media thing is the only idea I can think of too. Whether it's right or not, I have no idea. But I'm convinced that the media plays a huge role in the economy to begin with, so maybe I'm not the right person to ask. In my mind, it's all about morale. People are given the vibe night after night that the world is going to end... They don't spend money. All the stimulus in the world isn't going to change that. You either have to wait until people get tired of being afraid, or somebody tells them; it's OK, don't be afraid. Either way, most people won't start spending money until they're reassured. Look at the auto industry... In the US there's unprecedented deals going on for autos right now... Ridiculous price cuts, insane cash back amounts... Offers to let you keep your car for months without paying if you lose your job... Things that have never happened in the history of the auto industry. And people still don't buy. At some-point it just gets silly. But when you have the gloom and doom anchor man coming on every night and telling you that you should basically just slit your wrists, because the world is so screwed up... People can't think rationally. I refuse to watch the news and I tell people I know... 'Hey, want to feel better bout your life... Don't watch the news'. You'll be amazed how much better your attitude gets. I watched for just 10 minutes the other night, and I was already convinced there was no hope.


12:04 pm on May 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

People in the US are afraid and of course that is going to affect us merchants. That's been the case in the past five months, when the economy started to hork up a furball. Since then people have been yanked around. Stock market up, stock market down, anger over the bailouts, rage without a focus, relief/fear over the new prez, media just whips things up, etc., etc. But there's only so much fear a person can handle, so folks go back to their old habits, then the fear comes back, etc. I count myself lucky I am still in business at all, no evil eye, what with all the huge businesses tanking and running to the govt with their hands out, and I try not to think about the whiplashing of ups and downs, because I expect we will see more of them as time goes on. What can we do about it? Same thing merchants always have done--hang in there and keep a positive attitude. Retail has always been a risky biz.


1:53 pm on May 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

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quizprep, since you have a hand in so many ecommerce sites, can you tell us if the up and down trends are synchronous across all of them?


6:16 pm on May 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I've been at this since late 1997, and have gotten online orders every single day for over a decade.

Up until about 3 years ago, I could tell you (within a couple of units) what sales would be that day, based on the day of the week, if it were a holiday, time of the year, what was going on in the world (summer olympics), etc.

That has now gone out the window...what should be slow days are great days - what should be great days are slow days...holidays are completely hit or miss.

..and I really do not know what changed, as this happened before the economy went sour.

I finally accepted that there is no longer a 'pattern', and I no longer worry about having a 'pattern' for daily orders.

How are things averaging out into weeks or months?

[edited by: rise2it at 6:25 pm (utc) on May 6, 2009]


12:05 am on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

What I find troubling is why are people buying from my site?

What am I doing right? Which will kind of answer what I am doing wrong.

I have lot of analytic data, wish there was a system which could allow for correlation between various data.


3:15 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

[quote]I have lot of analytic data, wish there was a system which could allow for correlation between various data.[/qoute]

There is, people! ;)

My wife was a "Statistical Analyst" for a big company with the initials G and E. I never understood her job until I started crunching analytics for my web sites.:)


11:34 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Here's a theory. People are responding to the ebb and flow of fear signals produced by the media.

Sounds reasonable. Might also be a correlation between the stock market close (or the volatility during the day) and sales.

For affiliate stuff, if the avg payout is $200/day, I'm seeing anywhere from $50 to $450 per day in retail stuff. Revenue from tax filing packages caused some of that up till tax day. That is much more volatility than I've normally seen.

Personals are the one thing that is steady day over day and steadily increasing overall. People want to hook up no matter what. :)


11:45 pm on May 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

[ ToneArm: Here's a theory. People are responding to the ebb and flow of fear signals produced by the media. ]

I agree with ToneArm. The media can make you stop and think for several days/weeks.


1:32 pm on May 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Just joined in order to give you my experience.

I own a B2B ecommerce site selling worldwide based in Europe. We have the same experience. What we did see was an interesting wave effect across countries starting October 2008. Our US sales were destroyed first, followed by the UK in January, then Germany, then other European countries, etc. The pattern was clear as day.

We're now riding this wave and we see countries picking up again, others not yet. This is causing monthly sales to be erratic. February the UK came back like nothing had ever happened, Germany is still down, the US wavering. Strange...

Traffic has grown steadily in the meantime. Since the long-term pattern is good, I'm not worried about predicting sales on a daily basis.

Didn't someone once say the only constant in life is change?

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