The holiday season can either bear gifts or baggage for ecommerce sellers. The sudden surge of orders can knock some businesses off-kilter, tanking seller scores to the point of no return on marketplaces like Amazon.
But those who prepare ahead of time can potentially double their revenue. This year’s holiday season may be the biggest yet: 2018 eclipsed 2017’s holiday shopping day-over-day stats, with Cyber Monday emerging as the biggest U.S. online shopping day ever. Cyber Monday alone generated $7.9 billion in online spending last year.
Ahead of this year’s Q4 shopping season, some sellers have started anticipating challenges like:
- Outpacing competitors in advertising
- Stocking up on the right items without overstocking
- Providing reliable, on-time delivery (especially as 12/25 gets closer)
- Keeping their warehouses organized and functioning at top speed
To help you decide where to start your own preparations, we’ve asked six industry experts the following question: What is the single greatest piece of advice you can give another seller?
Their answers are below.
Optimize Operations Ahead of Time
“It’s important to optimize every step of the sale. For example, if your company is like ours and sells higher-ticket products that won’t be purchased on impulse, you should email customers prior to your targeted sales period to drive repeat purchases. Emails will also help to address common questions and drive action on abandoned carts on your webstore.
Much of what you can do to improve your performance lies in understanding what problems exist in the customer’s experience today. What keeps them from making a purchase? Analyze and solve those problems so that your holiday customers don't run into those same issues.
You’ll also want to pay close attention to your external channels. Update your products descriptions early, pay attention to your Buy Box status and always keep an eye on your competitors’ pricing strategies. Remember that your strategy may vary by marketplace, since they all have unique search engines. That’s where a tool like Zentail's channel override features can come in handy.” - Alex Khanna, California Tools and Equipment
Plan and Research (x3)
“Plan and research, plan and research, plan and research. Take advantage of all the resources at your fingertips: ecommerce checklists, prep guides, marketplace research, product trends, holiday trends and so on. Closely monitor what’s trending content-wise on every niche marketplace you sell on. People are spending exponentially more during the holidays than the rest of the year, so it’s important to study up ahead of time and connect the dots between various themes that you observe.
For us, Q2 is all about implementing new processes and technology. Q3 is all about perfecting those processes, technology and strategies so that the job becomes second nature by the time Q4 rolls around.
If you find yourself having to make adjustments during Q4 (other than buying more products), then you’re too late. You’ve already missed out on an opportunity to earn revenue by not having an optimized system.” - Ben Gerber, J.L. Hufford
Don’t Simply Recycle Last Year’s Strategy
"Every year the ecommerce market is growing and changing. New competitors crop up each day, and you can’t assume that what you did last year will work this year. Many times companies will underestimate the demand for their products during the holiday season, if only because they’re zoned in on their own data and fail to do outside research.
The trick is to find a balance between taking advantage of this massive shopping season and not overstocking to where you’re trying to clear it out after Q4.
Study up on your competition to the point that you know them inside and out. You need to stay on your toes and be willing (and able) to make adjustments on the fly. As the market is always changing, those who don’t adapt will get buried." - Stephen Tingwall, Columbia Sports
Beware of Overselling
“In the past, we underestimated the number of orders we’d receive during the holidays, causing us to run low on inventory and shipping supplies. To make matters worse, our old ecommerce automation system failed to keep our inventory in sync across all of our channels. We oversold on a lot of products, faced order cancelations and quite possibly drove people away from our own site because we couldn’t deliver an excellent customer experience.
We vowed to never make that mistake again. We implemented cycle counts in our warehouses and upgraded to Zentail, which has eliminated the overselling issue. Being that most of our stuff is seasonal, most of our inventory is moved out completely in four to five months. But when Q4 is near, we always double check that we list and delist the right products.” - Martin Mitchell, DNW Outdoors
“Don’t overpromise on delivery windows. Avoid dropshipping, and only sell what you have in stock. It’s absolutely imperative that you maintain correct inventory levels (a former coworker of mine inflated inventory before, which caused issues when we had to backorder products).
You’ll also want to set the correct delivery windows in Amazon, Walmart and any other channel you’re selling on.
You can cut your delivery times down by setting daily pickups by UPS, USPS, etcetera as late in the day as possible. This provides a longer window for same-day shipment, which can help you get ahead of the delivery process by a day.” - David Foote, Vesalius Health
FBA Sellers, Send Your Inventory Early
“We’ve made the mistake of waiting too long before sending inventory to Amazon. This year, we plan on sending consistently more inventory throughout the year while increasing the amount in mid-October.
To fully prepare for the influx of holiday sales, we recommend increasing the normal amount of inventory by at least 50% while closely monitoring lead times. This will ensure that products are available in time, and that your customers have the right expectations.” - Eli Gluckowsky, Glumech
Need help getting holiday ready? Zentail's commerce operations management (COM) platform can give you hand. Contact us about our automation tools for optimizing your listings, keeping track of inventory and removing the redundancy out of multichannel selling, so your operations are in tip-top shape during the holidays.