In our first holiday planning post, we discussed pricing, advertising and promotions, and budgeting. When sellers think about holiday season prep, those are the topics that tend to immediately come to mind.
However, holiday planning neither starts nor ends there. So in reading this second blog instalment on holiday planning, realise that many of the recommended steps within should be considered, and some of them implemented, in tandem with the actions suggested in the earlier blog.
At this point, we want to move our focus from the broad to the specific. Now that you have a broad outline of your holiday advertising and promotions strategies, you’ll want to focus on a few areas, both to support the success of your advertising efforts this year and to gain greater insights into next year.
Understand Your Inventory
You know the sales figures you’d like to hit for 2021, and you’ve got an idea of the advertising and promotions you plan to run. The key component to accomplish all of this? Inventory.
First, you need to ensure you have adequate inventory available for the early festive shoppers, for the intense shopping activity during Cyber Five and for last-minute buyers. Review last year’s sales to identify top sellers and evaluate new styles or product lines that may be popular during the peak season.
Although you don’t want to run out of stock, you don’t want to overshoot your needs either and end up with too much product at the end of the fourth quarter. One of the best methods to ensure you’re stocking at the optimal level for your likely sales is the use of a reliable forecasting tool. ChannelAdvisor’s data-driven Demand Forecaster tool can help e-commerce sellers predict their inventory needed to meet upcoming sales volume, without over or understocking.
Additionally, you must evaluate whether you have the resources to fulfil orders internally or if you’d like to ship product for fulfilment through external services. If you sell on Amazon and are considering Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), determine what product may be best suited for the FBA program. ChannelAdvisor’s Inventory Management features can help you review your options. Finally, if you are managing fulfilment through a hybrid of a distribution centre and dropshipping method, ensure the item’s handling time is adjusted based on its warehouse location.
Monitor Marketplace Metrics
The biggest detriment and challenge to festive success that a seller can face is the deactivation or suspension of their marketplace account. Should the marketplace not reinstate your account quickly, you could suffer huge losses.
To reduce the likelihood of such an event occurring, we recommend three actions:
- Assign monitoring to a trusted team member. It is imperative that someone from your team begins checking all marketplace account metrics and feedback at least three times each week from mid-October through the end of December.
- Make a plan now for timely troubleshooting. Know who on your internal or external teams to loop in if you experience any trends in late shipments, order cancellations or poor reviews. Taking immediate action at the first indications of trouble can help you get ahead of future discrepancies and mitigate potential risk for deactivation.
- Prepare for the worst. Should your account become deactivated, you’ll need to submit a documented plan of action with full detail of the issue and a timeline of what happened, a succinct account of how you resolved the problem and a satisfactory explanation of why it will not happen again. Create a template of that plan now so you’ll only need to fill in the pertinent details before submitting a swift response.
Respond to Ratings & Reviews
The opinions of other customers hold significant influence on potential buyers during their shopping journey. Ideally, all ratings and reviews would receive prompt responses. Timely, ongoing communication related to reviews signals that a company is present, actively listening to its consumers and interested in their feedback. However, the reality — especially during the bustle of the peak season — is that you’ll need to prioritise the ratings and reviews in relation to your response time.
Highly negative reviews and those directly asking for a reply require your immediate attention. Bad reviews can deter prospective buyers and impact your seller standing on a marketplace. Work to address any stated problems quickly and appropriately and for any problem you can resolve, see if you can improve the customer’s satisfaction levels. If you find that a review on a marketplace is invalid, you should pursue removing it through the marketplace’s appeal process.
An accumulation of mediocre reviews that drag down your average rating similarly require an expeditious solution, as buyers hesitate to pull the trigger on your product and your search performance lags. You have a number of potential options to implement, depending on the context, but you generally want to encourage positive feedback from your customers wherever possible.
Set and Evaluate Performance Goals
During the weeks leading up to the end of the year, it’s critical to understand if you’re on target to reach your goals or if you need to pivot to a new strategy. Accurate reporting tools and widgets can help you continually evaluate your progress throughout the season. For example, ChannelAdvisor’s Profitability Reporting provides an aggregate view of both product and marketplace profitability through analysis of marketplace commissions, advertising fees, prices buyers pay for shipping prices and costs for fulfilment and more.
Evaluate whether you’re meeting your KPIs based on the amount of revenue generated, your profit margin, increased buy box, conversion rate and other factors. Use the data to make decisions to further capitalise on a strategy that’s working in the short term or to implement changes to help you accomplish your goals for this season. And finally, gather data and reports to review after the end of the quarter to compare recent activity to previous years and to identify specific areas for improvement or celebration.
Lean on Industry Experts for a Helping Hand
Looking for additional help reaching your performance goals this holiday season? The ChannelAdvisor Managed Services team offers personalised consultation, strategies and guidance based on years of experience as well as long-standing relationships with Amazon, eBay, Zalando and other e-commerce leaders.
Whether you’re just getting started with Marketplaces and need a comprehensive selling plan or simply needing a quick campaign tune-up, Consulting Services has a project plan that can help.