Are you prepared for the e-commerce fourth quarter? It may not feel like we’re in Q4 crunch time, but early September is actually the end of “prep” time for e-commerce businesses for the holiday season. By now, you should have created holiday projections, made content for a promotional calendar, and started ordering your products.
But if you’re feeling a little behind, don’t worry. These last minute Q4 tips will help you get back on track to have the most profitable fourth quarter your business has ever seen—without undue chaos or stress.
1. Clarify shipping dates.
First thing’s first, talk to your manufacturer. If your products aren’t on order, get them on order ASAP. Then, clarify dates of production, shipment, and arrival. Your manufacturer should be able to give you a realistic timeline for the production and shipment of your goods, so you’ll know exactly when your product will make it to the warehouse. This conversation can also help you negotiate shipping rates.
Pro-tip: Assume that your manufacturer’s timeline will be 10-14 days late. If they say your products will be in by October 1, assume October 15. This helps give you more control over the timeline so you’re not stuck without inventory or locked out of warehouses.
2. Get warehouse space.
You will likely hold more inventory for the holiday season, and your competitors will likely have more as well. Competition for warehouse space for inventory can drive prices sky-high, which can kill your margins or leave you without a place to put your goods.
Work with your warehousing company to make sure you have enough space for your holiday products. You may be able to negotiate these prices by shopping around, but most Q4 inventory rates are high.
If you’ll be using Amazon FBA this Q4, you’ll usually need to have your products delivered to Amazon by the second week of October (if not earlier). Amazon will also announce specific dates for Black Friday and Christmas inventory cutoffs, so keep an eye out for those dates.
Pro-tip: Don’t waste your warehouse space. Warehousing is incredibly expensive during the holiday season, so you only want to house products that you plan to promote and push. If you’re holding on to stale inventory, now is the time to put it on sale, sell it back to the producer, or store it in a lower priced warehouse.
3. Check your competition.
Your competition is getting ready for Q4 just like you are, which means they’re starting to give hints to their inventory and marketing strategies. You want to take note of recent changes in how your competition is ramping up:
- What social avenues are they using to reach your audience?
- How are they growing their following?
- What are their deals and discounts?
- Are they adding any new products?
- Have they removed products from their offerings?
Take note of what your competition is doing, but don’t instantly change your offerings to match theirs. Instead, think about why they’re making certain strategic moves—and how you can “beat” them with your own strategy. For example, if they’re pushing Facebook marketing, you see an opening with the Instagram audience.
4. Build your audience.
Q4 success is highly dependent upon your pre-season marketing strategies. In a sea of competitors, you will only stand out if you have an established brand. You don’t want to start marketing in the middle of the season, trying to play catch-up against the brands that have been talking to your customers for months.
The best way to build your holiday audience is by demonstrating your brand’s lifestyle. You can show off your holiday deals and discounts, but your audience first needs to understand where your brand fits in with their life.
Focus on building a new audience while cultivating your current clients to see the greatest traffic when sale time comes around.
Not sure how to build your audience? Contact Seller’s Choice now to create a strong marketing strategy for the season.
5. Boost your customer service.
Customer service will make or break you during the holiday season. You’re going to be swamped with questions, sales, and returns at a much higher volume than the rest of the year.
So you need to have a strong support team ready to handle these queries. But you don’t want to just “handle” them, you want to handle them in the most effective and engaging way. Staying aligned with your brand tone in customer service interactions is the best way to engage with and convert your customers.
Remember that good customer service is the number one predictor for receiving critical positive reviews.
For small businesses, you might want to hire a contract customer service rep just for Q4. (You can later decide to keep them on if you want.) They can answer inquiries on Amazon, your website, social media, and email. The faster that your business responds to inquiries, the higher your conversion rates and reviews will be.
6. Prepare for the winter freeze.
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, website freezes aren’t uncommon. Even Amazon experienced significant technical difficulties during Prime Day 2018.
You need to prepare your website for potential glitches or freezes, especially if you’re hosting a large or time-constrained sale (like a flash sale). You’ll also want to make sure your site is secure, as spam and hacking tend to be more common during high-traffic times.
You should hire a tech rep to help keep track of your e-commerce website during the holidays. They can install layers of security, and they can help ensure that your content is optimized so pages load quickly. You should have an ”emergency” agreement, so your techie is on call 24/7 in case something happens with your website.
For Amazon sellers, you’ll also want to be aware that Amazon might have glitches during major sales as well. This means you’ll want your website to be fully prepared with the same deals and discounts on your products, so you can catch the “leftover” customers when redirected from Amazon.
7. Optimize for holiday SEO.
Q4 is a good time to make sure your pages are fully optimized. SEO changes during the holiday season as well, so you’ll want to update your keywords and images to better reflect the season.
The earlier that you update your SEO for the holidays, the more traction you’ll get. This traction appeals to search algorithms, so you’ll start to optimize higher in search results.Basically, you want to squeeze out as much SEO juice before the buying period begins, so you’re already at the top and not trying to catch up.
Are you ready for the Q4 rush? How has your business prepared?
If you’re feeling “behind” in your prep, don’t fret. Seller’s Choice is here to get you back on track so you can see major Q4 success.
Contact us now to start strategizing your holiday season.