fbpx

free guides:

The Menu

273. What to Do When Sales are Down in Your Product-Based Business

273. What to Do When Sales are Down in Your Product-Based Business

Raise your hand if you’re struggling to generate sales in 2024. This has been a common theme among the small product-based business community for a while, but it seems to have only gotten worse so far this year. 

From brick-and-mortar barely scraping by to Etsy not spending entire ad budgets, and eCommerce websites struggling to get traffic to their site… it’s a trend across the majority of small businesses I see, and my biz friends are saying they see it with their students and clients too. 

While the powers that be would have us believe the economy is in fine shape because unemployment is low, inflation has slowed, and the stock market is on the rise… at the end of the day consumers are still pinching pennies and tightening their purse strings.

So what gives?

Prefer to listen to this episode? Click here

Why eCommerce + Retail Sales are Down in 2024

Well, a whole lot of shit that is out of our control. It’s an election year which always does weird things to consumer behavior – and this election season is exceptionally kooky. There are multiple wars happening, student loan payments have resumed, and while inflation has slowed that doesn’t mean prices have gone down, it just means they’re not rising as quickly. 

At the end of the day, no matter how well the economy is doing according to the data, the average person’s dollar just isn’t going as far as it did before. 

Not to mention, credit card debt is at an all-time high, especially coming off the holidays when 89% of people said credit cards were helpful during the holidays. Basically, instead of spending less, they put it on a credit card instead.

And while all of those things might explain what’s happening, there isn’t really anything you can do about it. All of those things are outside your control. 

But you're a business owner and you need to make money. So, instead of worrying about what you can’t control, let’s talk about what you can, and what you can focus on right now to help weather this storm. 

Protect Your Profit

First things first, let’s make sure you’re not leaking profit unexpectedly and take a deep dive into your profit and loss statement. 

Look at all of your expenses, including your shipping costs, and make sure you have a healthy margin on your products. This is especially important if you’re a maker because it’s possible that the price of your materials has been creeping up, but you haven’t increased your prices along the way which means you’re making less profit on every unit you sell. 

If you’re losing a lot of money on shipping, it might be time to increase your free shipping threshold – it should be a few dollars above your average order value. And make sure you don’t have any rogue apps you’re paying for that you forgot about. 

I also want you to look at any contractors you’re paying and make sure that you’re profitable on those arrangements. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean to drop every subject matter expert you’ve hired and try to do all the things in-house or spread yourself too thin. But I want you to be discerning about where your money is going and what other resources you might have to tap into instead. 

For example. One of my Lounge members is currently outsourcing her ads to an agency. The cost of that service is cheaper than any agency I’ve come across, it’s definitely a steal. But, at the end of the day, her ads aren’t profitable after paying them. Plus, she’s a small fish compared to the rest of their clients, so she has to fight to get attention from them. 

This student recently booked Velvet Rope calls, one with me and one with Anna, our resident ads strategist. We both said the same thing – it looks like they’re spreading your ad budget too thin and you should look at consolidating your ad strategy so that each one has more budget to work with. Anna even told her, it might be worth it for her to run them herself, with the support Anna can provide in the Lounge. This way, the money that is currently going to the agency, can be spent on the ads themselves instead.

Again, this is not to say you shouldn’t be investing in an ad agency, or any agency for that matter. Truth is, most of us should be outsourcing or hiring for more than we typically do. But when you’re talking about relatively low budgets for things like ads, every single dollar counts, and if working with that agency isn’t profitable and you’re not able to continue scaling your investment into ads, that’s a sign that you might need to switch things up. 

Identify the Quickest Path to Cash

Next, I want you to identify the quickest path to cash and go all in. What exactly that looks like for you is going to depend on where you’re at right now, but the point is, I want you to start with the path of least resistance. 

For example. I was talking to a Lounge member the other day who has a brick + mortar location and a website. While her ultimate goal is to grow the eCommerce side of the business, my recommendation was that she put all her focus on the physical store location for the next few months. Why? Because her business is facing a lot of financial pressure at the moment, she’s locked into a lease on the physical space, and she needs to make money today. 

As an established local business, it’s going to be a lot easier to reengage with her local community and get the buzz going than it is to be found in the black hole that is the Internet, especially without a budget to pay to play on social media. 

Another Lounge member was trying to decide if she should focus her efforts on wholesale or SEO. Most people think they should work on advanced SEO strategies first because it does take longer to see results, for this particular student I recommended she focus on wholesale first. Why? Because she’ll be able to qualify pretty quickly whether or not wholesale is going to be a viable option for her business. And if it works out and she’s able to connect with the right retailers, that’s cash she can get in her pocket right now., and potential recurring revenue in the future. Once she’s got that running like a well-oiled machine she can shift her focus to SEO knowing that she’s got revenue coming in. 

For you, it might be your online presence that is the quickest path to cash and you just need to optimize your strategy behind that. 

Please know that taking the path of least resistance isn’t always the right answer for your business. If we always did that we might never hit those big scary goals we have for ourselves.  But if you’re in a financial crunch, this is definitely the direction I want you to take because it’s going to be VERY difficult to work toward those big goals if you’re worried about how you’re gonna keep the lights on. 

Get Back to Basics & Optimize

Once you identify where you’re going to put your energy, it’s time to get back to basics and optimize your strategy. 

One of the things we focus heavily on inside the Lounge and I’ve talked about on this podcast many times is to make sure you’re letting your data guide where you focus. I want you to really break down what KPIs you need to need to hit your goals, Lounge Members, use the Yearly Ops Playbook for this, and then focus on them one at a time. 

The biggest mistake I see most business owners make, myself included by the way, is that we’re trying to do too many things at once.

The power of looking at each KPI individually is that they all mean something different and come with different optimization opportunities, which means it’s easier to figure out how to improve them. 

For example, if you see your AOV is slipping, make sure you’ve got a solid cross-sell or bundling strategy in place. If you’re repeat customer rate needs work, look at your email marketing strategy. 

If your email flows aren’t generating as much as they used to, first check to see how many people are moving through them. Most of the time there just aren’t enough people triggering them so they can’t do their job. If you do have people moving through them, maybe it’s time to give them a refresh. 

And if all of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. I know when things slow down in our businesses we want it to be some simple answer, quick fix, or some strategy we didn’t know about that is going to revolutionize our business overnight. But rarely is that the case. 

I tell you, as someone who coaches product-based business owners I wish it was like that too. It would make my job so much easier. 

This came up just the other day with a Lounge member. She noticed her add-to-cart rate was pretty low on her website and was concerned. After diving a little deeper, turns out it’s ad traffic that is pulling her average down. Non-ad traffic is at or above the benchmark. 

Is it a website issue? Nope. It’s a traffic issue. Did we both secretly hope it was a website issue? Yeah, kinda. Because once you fix that, everything else follows suit. But it’s not always that simple.

More often than not, it’s a series of small changes and optimizations that compound together to create the needle-moving results you need. That or a lot of money behind killer paid ads.  

And like I always acknowledge… I realize it’s super easy for me to sit here behind my mic and say these things. But know that I get this is all easier said than done. And I also know what it means to feel burnt out. To feel like you’ve tried all the things. But I encourage you to try them again and realize that you’ll be optimizing your business for as long as you’re a business owner. There truly is no destination…except for maybe selling your business at some point. 

I just want to make sure that before you go chasing shiny objects or getting distracted that you’ve really put your all into doubling down on what is already working in your business. 

Reevaluate Your Marketing & Product Focus

In addition to your KPI optimizations, I also want you to zoom out at look at what you’re leading with in your marketing, from a product and copy perspective. 

Are you focusing on and featuring your best sellers? Are you using the words your customers are using to describe a product like yours? Are you speaking to them in a way that makes sense for where they’re at RIGHT NOW?

This is something you should be re-evaluating on a regular basis because depending on your product, what resonates with your customer today, might not be what will resonates with your customer in 3 months from now. 

With the changing of the seasons, different holidays, different life stages… all of that has an impact on what it is they’re looking for from your product. This is especially true when you’re talking about clothing or anything that is generally purchased as a gift. 

Make sure the way you’re presenting and positioning your products in your copy makes sense at any given time throughout the year. 

Consider Trying Something New

If you’re listening to this and you’re saying to yourself, I’m already doing all of this. I’ve already optimized everything, I’ve already doubled down on what’s been successful, I’ve already dialed in my best sellers, and gone all in on them… but it’s still not working…

First, I‘d challenge you and say are you sure? Sometimes I say the same thing, but I know that shit ain’t true. 

But if it really is. If you’ve tapped out all of your existing channels, customers, and resources, then I would say. Well, maybe it’s time to try something new. 

It can be a fine line here. That’s why I want to be sure that you’ve truly done everything you can to capitalize on what’s already working before you go this route. But in the words of Einstein, The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.


So if what you’ve been doing, really isn’t working anymore, then maybe it’s time to shake things up. 

Does that mean it’s some super top-secret strategy that you’ve never heard before? No, probably not. It might just mean getting your product on a new marketplace, trying collaborations for the first time, hosting your first product launch, starting wholesale, dipping your toes into paid ads, positioning yourself as an expert in the space, and starting your own YouTube channel or going on a podcast tour… or any number of other marketing strategies you can try. 

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what makes sense for your business, where your customers hang out, what you’ll enjoy, etc. But the trick is to pick ONE new thing to start with. Go all in on that one thing for a minimum of 90 days. And be patient. There are no quick fixes for business. Even paid ads, while they can be immensely helpful for visibility and getting in front of audiences you might not have gotten in front of before, they still aren’t a quick fix and will typically take a minimum of 90 days to get super solid with consistent results. 

Save for a Rainy Day

The last thing I want to talk about before we go is saving for a rainy day. Admittedly, my younger self was not good at this. Granted, I was too busy spending my money to stay alive, you know rent, food, etc. but I wish I would have started sooner. 

If haven’t already been intentional about building yourself some cushion in your business, please start sooner rather than later. You should take the concept of profit first and apply that to building an emergency fund for your business. 6 months of expenses is a good first goal to have. When you have that sort of cushion in your business, it makes it a lot easier to get through these slower times and you’ll have a much clearer head because you won’t be so stressed about paying the bills. 

Please check the show notes for links to other episodes where you can dive deeper into everything we talked about today and learn more about how to optimize the business you have and even start trying something new if it’s that time. 

I also invite you to join me in the Lounge membership if you want a super low-cost way to get ongoing support in your business alongside a kick-ass community of other eCommerce business owners to be by your side through whatever it is you’re struggling with right now and beyond. 

Listen to the Episode

LINKS MENTIONED

Survey on Credit Card Debt in the US

The Lounge Membership

EPISODES MENTIONED

226. How to Market Your Business in 2024

51. Getting Your Product on Store Shelves with Katie Hunt

270. Think Like a Buyer: How to Stand Out on Faire + Better Manage Your Inventory

229. How to Become an Inventory (and Finance) Genius with Ciara Stockeland

185. How to Convert First-time Website Visitors

211. How to Get PR Coverage for Your Product-Based Business

226. Virtual Vendor Events for Product-Based Businesses

233. Hosting Virtual Shopping Events

235. Product Pre-Launch Strategy

85. Doing Social Media the Right Way with Katie Wight

57. Influencer Marketing for Product-Based Businesses with Cody Wittick

Email Marketing Episodes

Hey, I'm Jessica

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

Recent Posts

eCommerce Badassery FREE Resource Library

Resource Library

Tools & Resources

Every freebie I’ve ever created… all in ONE place. Grow your traffic, sales & profit! 

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. IF YOU MAKE A PURCHASE WITH ONE OF MY AFFILIATE LINKS I MAY EARN A SMALL COMMISSION AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU!

You May Also Like

The Lounge

eCommerce MARKETING MEMBERSHIP

A monthly membership for eCommerce business owners. Know exactly what to do next in your business based on your data, boost sales with our marketing blueprints, up level your skills in analytics, ads, SEO, email and more. Get direct access to your hosts and a community of other product-based business owners. It’s basically the best damn place on the Internet for eCommerce entrepreneurs. 

haute-stock-styled-stock-photo-subscription-editors-note-final-3-crp.jpg

About Our Audience

  • eCommerce business owners selling a physical product on their own website (Shopify + Klaviyo users)
  • Soloprenuers or less than 25 on their team
  • All revenue ranges, up to multi 7-figures
  • Mostly female

Who We're Looking For

  • Subject matter experts in eCommerce & Physical Product Marketing (ex. Social Media, Public Relations, Website Conversion, Copywriters)
  • Apps or SaaS platforms that can share marketing strategies that work even without their product.

Who We're NOT Looking For

  • Strategies to build ONLY a marketplace business
  • Strategies for building service-based businesses or SaaS Platforms
  • Agency owners who only work with large budget businesses
  • Service providers for coaches or consultants