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What to do when you have an underperforming product: next steps

It’s a seller’s nightmare. You’ve invested time and money into sourcing, buying, and promoting a product – and it isn’t delivering results.

Underperforming products happen to even the most experienced and established online sellers. How you handle this situation is what sets you apart.

This week, we’re looking at what to do when you have an underperforming product and how optimization, fast shipping programs, and other tactics can stop a product from underperforming in the first place.

How to identify an underperforming product

It can be hard to admit that you have a poorly performing product, especially if you thought this particular product was going to be a winner. But with your store’s reputation and profits on the line, quickly identifying a losing product is crucial for your success. Specifically, you should keep an eye out for:

1) Low sales

If a product isn’t selling, it’s not performing. Low sales figures are the first indicator of a badly performing product. It means that no one is currently interested in buying your product, for whatever reason, which affects your cash flow and is a drain on your warehousing costs.

2) Low profits

But, just because a product is selling, doesn’t mean it’s performing. If an item’s high sales figures are driven by high marketing costs or low product prices, which negates your profit, the item is underperforming.

3) Negative customer reviews

Even if an item is selling well and generating a profit, it still falls into the underperforming category if it’s generating negative feedback. It’s not good for your reputation, search ranking, or your customer lifetime value figures.

What to do when you have an underperforming product

Once you’ve identified an underperforming product, you need to address the difficult question: Is your product underperforming – or are you? It’s easy for an online seller to assume that an underperforming product is down to product design or customer demand, but what if it’s not? Before relegating a product to the de-listing bin, first, ensure that your seller performance includes:

Listing optimization

The lack of sales surrounding your listing might simply be down to visibility. The internet is awash with online sellers – making it challenging to get your product seen. If you’re not at the top of the search results on Google or your online marketplaces, you need to optimize your listing.

Include relevant keywords in the product title, description, additional details, and image details, add professional images to your listings, and follow some well-known eCommerce psychological tricks to draw consumers in.

Marketplace ads

Another way to boost your visibility in the search results is by using online marketplace ads, such as Walmart Performance Ads. Your product is pushed up the search results and featured across the website and mobile store with a “sponsored product” banner.

This increases conversions thanks to the trust associated with big-name online marketplaces, and the tendency of shoppers to click the first result that pops up.

Marketplace promotions

Sometimes you need to create an initial buzz about the product before it takes off on its own. This can be difficult when no one is buying your product, which is why marketplace promotions help.

Tools such as Walmart Promotions increase the visibility of any discount with a prominent badge and a highlighted comparison price. These draw shoppers in and help to create the first sales that your product needs. You can then ask these customers to leave feedback on the product to start creating that new product buzz that everyone’s talking about.

Customer feedback

While we’re on the topic of feedback, 95% of consumers are influenced by reviews, making them essential to the success of your product’s performance. Increase the number of positive reviews your product listing has by:

  • Offering free delivery – it encourages nine out of ten shoppers to buy, and it’s a sweetener that people love to talk about in reviews and to family and friends;
  • Providing tracking details quickly – it’s a small gesture that creates a positive customer experience;
  • Seeking feedback through email marketing campaigns and social media; and
  • Solving any customer issues quickly and satisfactorily – a disastrous purchase can be turned into a positive experience with a little care and attention.

Fast shipping

With fast shipping being one of the biggest factors for cart abandonment, it could be one of the biggest factors of your product’s underperformance. Offering a combination of shipping options, including fast shipping programs such as eBay Guaranteed Delivery, and prices provides customers with a choice, brand-backed piece of mind, and an easy way to find your listing (thanks to the fast shipping tag and filtered search result placement). Fast shipping programs also come with additional benefits such as increased search result placement and consideration for the buy box.

Low costs

It’s also worth mentioning that any item with low-profits could be transformed by decreasing your costs. See if you can reduce your eCommerce business’ spend by:

  • Reducing your fulfillment costs. Compare your warehousing, staffing, and security costs with that of an outsourced fulfillment provider to see which is cheaper;  
  • Using unbranded packaging – it’s cheaper and will speed up your fulfillment;
  • Comparing the costs of shipping country-wide yourself against the volume shipping rates and geographical advantages offered by outsourced fulfillment providers.

You can also use these tactics to offer your customers free shipping, absorbing the cost of delivery through your fulfillment savings.

Seek feedback

If your product still isn’t performing, ask your customers why. You can reach out on social media, contact regular customers directly, or carry out some market research. You might have overlooked something straightforward like a typing error in your description, a cultural inaccuracy, or an unclear photograph.

An underperforming product isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t the end of the world. Rather than sending it straight into the sale pile, take time to see if your product’s underperformance is actually a reflection of your performance and one that can be turned around with optimization, marketplace advertisements, customer reviews, fast shipping programs, and reduced fulfillment costs.

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