It’s a huge time of year for anyone selling online — are you prepared?
The difference between FBA businesses who either crush-it, or get crushed under the weight of holiday demand tends to lie in the planning and monitoring they’ve put into it.
While the last couple of months of the year are commonly known as “the most wonderful time of the year”, for online sellers who market well, this may also be known as “the most hectic time of the year.” Shoppers are out in force and everyone wants guaranteed delivery for Christmas.
How can you ensure you’re ready for the stampede? We’ve got a few tips…
Take Note of Trends
This is really something which should be started as early as August or September. Are there any emerging trends in popular categories which could become hot items for Christmas gifts?
There’s a bit of a mixture of science and intuition that goes into picking the right trends. For example, there’s the story of 2 Arizona brothers who “gambled” on the now hot “Hatchimals” toy when they noticed its popularity spreading in early October. After a tip from his daughter who wanted the toy for Christmas, one of the brothers checked out Google and saw it seemed to be a burgeoning trend. They bought up the toy and it’s now paying off in terms of sales.
The lesson is to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Are your kids, friends or relatives talking about certain products? Besides doing this, there are more scientific methods you could use to do some research.
The Selling Family provide a good example. They use a spreadsheet to track toys released by major retailers, how well they rank in Amazon and what the prices are doing. They begin early in quarter four so that they have some good data to help them make any stock purchasing decisions.
You could also track Amazon’s lists such as Best Sellers, Hot New Releases, Movers and Shakers and Most Wished For. Anything that is climbing persistently or consistently ranks well, but is low on competition may be worth investigating further.
If you’d like to ease your workload in terms of tracking trends and watching for promising new products, you could try using a tool such as Jungle Scout to instantly access data across a range of fields. Their product database helps Amazon sellers to very quickly filter and find profitable products.
Of course as far as hitting the holiday season, the earlier the better once you take sourcing a supplier and the time it takes to get an order of product from them into account. It might be a bit late for this year, but it doesn’t hurt to get started early for next year. Start anticipating quarter 4 by at least the middle of the year.
Keeping your products in-stock and being able to meet increased demand is super-important for so many reasons (which is why we created Forecastly to help with this in the first place). One of the issues with the holiday season is that forecasting becomes difficult, especially if you don’t have much in the way of previous data to go by.
One tip which can help with this is to try to hold enough inventory that would usually get you through to the end of February. This way, if you experience an unexpectedly large surge in sales, you’re more likely to still be in stock prior to Christmas.
Of course, you need to keep in mind the lead time on your restocking orders. If your supplier needs a few weeks notice, then you might want to build a larger buffer into the stock you have available for the holiday season. If you don’t want to pay storage fees to have all of that stock in an FBA warehouse, you can at least hold some back and have it on hand if supplies start to get low. Keep in mind that during the holiday period FBA warehouses are at their busiest, so it may take longer for them to receive and have your stock available for sale. It can take as long as 7 business days for your products to be received over this period, so get in early.
(Note for anyone going into an FBA business in time for the 2017 holiday season: this year Amazon restricted FBA inventory from new-to-FBA sellers in order to meet holiday demand. Those who hadn’t had their first shipment received by October 10th were encouraged to wait until after December 19th).
Plan Out Your Marketing
At this busy time of year, you will end up regretting it if you haven’t pre-prepared a plan for marketing your FBA products. There is just far too much going on, including in your own social/personal life to leave things to chance or “wing it” at the time.
We recently wrote an article about 3 ways to boost hourly sales — those methods are just as relevant to be included as part of your holiday planning. These strategies are:
- Run promotions. Use tools that Amazon has available such as Vendor Powered Coupons and submit your deal to the many sites set up to promote them.
- Paid advertising. Use Amazon PPC ads and possibly paid social media or Google Adwords.
- Ensure you “win” the buy box for your product. You do this by offering the best price as a Prime seller, having good seller ratings and high performance in terms of satisfactory order metrics.
Other methods you should consider include running email campaigns to your list and promoting sales on your social media accounts. Make a plan early for how to make the best use of each channel you have and if possible, write your emails and schedule out your posts ahead of time so that you’re not having to give them extra thought over the holidays.
Play the Prime Card
As an FBA seller, you’ve got a huge advantage over other third party Amazon sellers — the glories of Prime shipping. Remember what we said earlier about everyone wanting guaranteed delivery for Christmas? You’ve got the advantage of free 2 day shipping on offer and an obligation from Amazon to fulfill it.
Most other third party sellers will have to cut-off “guaranteed delivery for Christmas” a few days earlier than you will, so why not take advantage of it by promoting “last minute deals, in time for Christmas?”
It Ain’t Over Yet…
Don’t think you should just lay off and rest on Christmas Eve — there is much more opportunity out there to be met. Come Christmas Day, how many people are receiving Amazon gift cards in their stockings? Why not prepare a “New Year sale” especially targeting all those people?
Plan this ahead of time, even if you feel you’ve missed the boat on Christmas sales and you can still have a good result from the holiday season. (And if you plan enough ahead, you can still relax and have a beer on Christmas Eve 😉 ).
How can you plan? You might take any of the tactics mentioned above and set them up to start automatically either late on Christmas Day (some people will start trying to find something the day they receive their gift card), or early on the 26th of December. Amazon does run promotions such as Year End Deals and 12 Days of Deals where they feature the best deals, so it’s an opportunity to be included.
The FBA sellers who do the best during the holiday season are those who have planned ahead and developed good strategies to make the most of the season.
Start as early as possible, but all is not lost if you’re already late. Take this opportunity to plan ahead for the next holiday or sale season if you can — it doesn’t hurt to be organized in advance.
Keep a watchful eye on trends which can indicate profitable new products, forecast and plan ahead for product demand and prepare marketing campaigns early. A “hack” I read the other day suggested starting months ahead by including possible search terms such as “Black Friday 2017 deals on (your product)” in your content. This way, hopefully your content falls near the top of results when people start searching that term.
Whatever you do, make a plan. This way you can “crush it” during the holiday season rather than feel crushed in the rush.