We are coasting into the last days of summer, the Prime Day rush has subsided, but it’s time to plan ahead. As you start to see hints of fall, you are almost assuredly anticipating the holiday shopping season to come. The fourth quarter of the year begins October 1 and goes through the end of 2019. Meaning, Q4 encompasses Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the barrage of sales before Christmas (and don’t forget year-end deals). As an Amazon seller, preparing for holiday shopping season should be at the top of your to-do list right now. Especially if you want to edge out the competition and perform well.
If historical trends are any indication, Q4 2019 will be huge for Amazon. Are you ready?
How to prepare for Q4 on Amazon
Check and optimize your listings
Holiday shopping season is hectic enough for sellers as it is. Get ahead of the rush by ensuring your listings are in the best condition possible. Do all of your products have great images that meet Amazon guidelines? Are your titles in the clear? Do you have keywords uploaded to drive traffic to your products? Are product descriptions and features accurate? Not only will this increase conversion in Q4, but optimized listings will hopefully mitigate and lower returns from dissatisfied customers come January.
Respond to reviews
Engage with customers by responding to concerns or answering product questions. Monitor reivews and rankings so you can adjust product descriptions and details to be as accurate as possible and avoid negative feedback. By deep-diving and fixing any issues now, you can avoid a negative waterfall effect on sales, or worse, suspension.
Get your promotions ready
If you are a vendor wanting to be included in Amazon’s sitewide promotions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you need to be prepared to schedule these very early. Last year, the deadline was September 28, 2018. Amazon has not announced this year’s dates, but it will sneak up quickly.
Products with great visibility or a lot of inventory can also be offered up as Lightning Deals or Best Deal promotions during Q4. Good sales on a single product can increase traffic and drive sales on the whole brand. To that effect, be sure any brand stores you have are in great shape to convert customers who might arrive there.
Plan your advertising
Q4 is not the time to run tests or create new ads. You should know what works and what your plan is for Q4 by testing now.
“Get your ads set up and tested in Q3 and start getting that momentum on your ads. Amazon’s systems work off of data and results, without this they won’t run to their fullest. Q4 is the time when you should be optimizing ads; adjusting bids, identifying new keywords, reviewing performing and underperforming keywords,” says eCommerce Nurse founder, Carina McLeod.
Forecast your inventory
You cannot make sales and capitalize on Q4 traffic if you run out of inventory. You also may not have time to replenish, due to busy fulfillment centers and long lead times. On the contrary, you don’t want to be sitting on too much stock in January—which can happen if stock arrives in too tight of a window to sell. Plan ahead now. Remember, holiday sales run right up to Christmas Eve, as some locales offer same-day delivery. Do you have enough stock planned to cover this amount of time?
Accurate forecasting can allow you to plan and prevent problems. Ideally, your stock should arrive to Amazon in October. When forecasting, look at previous demand, your marketing initiatives, and sales trends and uplift. Using a tool such as RestockPro can be useful if you have a hard time with forecasting or are a newer seller to Q4 on Amazon.
Lead time can be an issue for sellers during the holiday sales period if they are not careful. Fulfillment centers are at max capacity in all locales. Plan for it to take twice as long to receive shipments during Q4 than other times of the year. This helps avoid issues Amazon might have clearing stock and allows you to anticipate it taking more time rather than stressing.
Are you FBA? Do you know about storage fee increases?
FBA is a great way to attract customers who enjoy Amazon’s two-day shipping benefits. Are you signed up?
For sellers who already work with Amazon FBA, it’s crucial to take into account Amazon’s storage fees. During Q4, these fees increase dramatically. Sellers will want to be sure they are not storing large amounts of inventory to avoid these excess fees. Smaller, more frequent shipments can help cut down on fees and issues. Instead, sellers might use extra money to drive incremental sales with marketing, through Amazon Advertising or promotions during peak sales periods.
Even with accurate forecasting, you should still have a backup plan for if you run out of stock. For example, if you are FBA and run out of stock with delayed ability to replenish, consider switching over to Fulfilled by Manufacturer (FBM). This may help you avoid missed sales. Seller Fulfilled Prime is another option. If possible, apply now so you don't have to wait when the time comes. Have a plan for if you run out of stock on key items. You can hopefully redirect your focus (marketing, ads, etc) to another, equivalent product.
Know your pricing strategy for the entire season
Q4 pricing strategy should have a timeline to ensure you are not sitting on large amounts of stock in January. Plan your price drops tied to the percentage of inventory you need to clear. For instance, if you are sitting at 75% of your original inventory after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you need to take action. While tighter margins aren’t ideal, it could benefit you in the long run to avoid long-term storage fees or costly removal.
Also plan how you will approach Buy Box wars. These are inevitable during Q4 when sellers go all out to win sales. Decide how aggressive you want to be, whether that means lowering prices to win the Buy Box or maintaining a certain price while opportunists sell through items leaving you a path to the Buy Box.
Prepare to be flexible
Q4 is an extremely busy time with a lot of moving pieces for your business and for Amazon as a whole. More than any other time of the year, Q4 is the time to be flexible, monitor well, and be reactive. Have a plan, but also expect the unexpected. Take action and respond to any issues quickly and decisively.
Of course, eCommerce Nurse is here to provide expert guidance on all of the above for sellers and vendors looking for individualized attention. Please contact us with questions or concerns for your business. We can help.