The holidays are fast approaching and brands and retailers of all sizes are busy with last-minute preparations. To help sellers plan for the season ahead, we decided to highlight some advice from our Managed Services experts in a Q&A blog series.
The ChannelAdvisor Managed Services team works with clients every day to provide strategy and execution in their e-commerce efforts — maximizing their presence on marketplaces and optimizing their digital marketing campaigns.
With marketplaces on top of everyone’s mind this season, we spoke to our client strategy team about some of their advice to help brands and retailers prepare for the upcoming shopping season.
Q: It’s August, what are the three most urgent things sellers should be doing right now before the holidays?
Laura Jackson, Senior Client Strategy Manager: To prepare for the rapidly approaching holiday season, sellers should focus on their strategies in three major areas: marketing, selling and fulfilling.
For marketing, now is the time to finalize holiday budgets and set up final advertising campaign structures so they can be implemented prior to the start of the holiday season. The more time allowed for optimizations to be made to the campaigns on the seller side and for the campaigns to build history and relevance on the marketplace, the better!
As far as selling, make sure that your items are not only available for purchase on marketplaces but the listing content is fully optimized too. Reviewing titles, descriptions, bullet points, images and appropriate item specifics now will ensure success during the busy holiday season.
In the area of fulfillment, remember that increased volume of orders can pose many challenges for sellers during the holiday season and strategize accordingly. Finish out the season successfully by ensuring appropriate stock levels on popular items and have a plan in place to to ship orders in a timely fashion.
Q: When it comes to product listings, sellers always hear about the importance of “optimizing” product content. What does that mean in real terms?
Brad Haynes, Team Lead, Client Strategy: You have to remember that your content is how a buyer will understand the product you’re selling and if it truly meets their needs. If you go into a physical store, you can look at the item, hold it, see all angles of it, look at the mechanics of it, ask an associate questions. You need to consider that when creating your product listings. Are your titles strong enough to catch someone’s attention when scrolling through multiple listings? Do you have multiple images (at least four) to show the buyer all angles and different views of the product?
Think about your product line as well. If you’re an apparel seller, and you were shopping for your own products, would you have all you needed to know to make your decision such as fit, size guides, fabric content, care instructions, colors, sizing, etc.? If you’re a consumer electronics seller, do you show all the compatible makes and models of other items that work with the products you’re selling?
Q: What should sellers be doing now to ensure their inventory doesn’t go out of stock?
Kristin Sester, Team Lead, Client Strategy: Be proactive and review your inventory forecasting plan early — looking at Q4 last year, year-to-date trends this year and projected growth goals for Q4 2022. Consider: What were last year’s top sellers during the holidays? What are this year’s new featured styles or product lines that should be prioritized? Make sure to have enough stock available for your most popular and prioritized products to satisfy early shoppers, the Cyber Five and last-minute shoppers.
Be sure to have a backup plan and ability to offer product alternatives. Review your current inventory buffer settings and implement or adjust/increase accordingly to help prepare for increased orders and balance products across multiple channels. Take note of key Q4 inventory replenishment dates if using marketplace fulfillment services such as Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and plan to replenish items early in preparation for the holiday buying season.
Q: Any timely tips on making sure your delivery capabilities are in place and your packages reach consumers in time for the holidays?
Brad Haynes, Team Lead, Client Strategy: Understand your last ship dates and plan accordingly. You need to have your replenishment strategy in place by the middle of October, and it should consider how long it would take to restock certain items, focus on top-selling products, determine items for FBA and so forth. Start evaluating metrics from past holiday seasons and see if there were any issues around lead times, products being oversold, shipping carrier delivery timelines and adjust accordingly.
If you found you were late shipping items last year, consider adjusting your lead time to ship to match the more accurate timeline. Be on the lookout for last ship dates from your shipping carriers so you can factor that into your last ship date to deliver to your consumers.
If you had to cancel items for being out of stock, consider raising/adding a buffer to ensure you always keep quantity on hand. Understand your current stock at FBA. Are those top selling items? If not, consider replacing those with your anticipated top sellers for Q4. Determine your appropriate stock levels for FBA and start replenishing items now so you can get them shipping into FBA and available for purchase in time for Q4.
Q: Can sellers do anything to prepare for marketplace suspensions during the holiday season?
Kristin Sester, Team Lead, Client Strategy: A marketplace account suspension during the holiday season can be one of the biggest obstacles and detriments to a seller. Preparation should start now by reviewing and resolving any early warning signs and being cognizant of any marketplace performance notifications. Marketplace health monitoring should carry on with a proactive approach and top-notch customer service throughout Q4 and Q1 when holiday return and refund activities ensue.
To prepare, meet with key members of internal or external teams that will take ownership should there be any increased trends of fulfillment/shipping delays, order cancellation rates and customer complaints or negative reviews. Ensure that all members are aware of the marketplace guidelines and specific performance criteria/thresholds in their relevant area for each channel in which you list. Identify trustworthy teammate(s) who will proactively monitor your channel health, metrics and feedback at least three times per week from mid-October through the end of December and report any concerns to the appropriate owners for quick action.
Q: How can sellers drive more traffic to their marketplace listings?
Nick Castillo, Team Lead, Client Strategy: You want to ensure that your content is optimized for search results on each marketplace. Focus first on titles, descriptions and bullets/features. Maximize the use of characters allowed, making sure that your content is legible and you’re not “keyword stuffing” with terms that are out of context. One size doesn’t fit all; you may need to customize the content to each marketplace for optimal results. Make sure your descriptions are formatted correctly and don’t include HTML formatting if it’s not allowed. Simpler is better.
Next you’ll want to provide as many additional product attributes as possible beyond the minimal requirements. Not only are these additional product details used for search indexing but also filtering that shoppers use when browsing the catalog. This will help potential customers refine their search results and maximize click-through to your listings.
Finally, if available you can use keyword/search term fields to include additional words you couldn’t fit into your content. You can sometimes gear these toward related items or competitive items if allowed. If you’re using paid advertising that provides search term data this would also be a great place to include long-tail search terms that you find perform well.
If you’re interested in learning more about how our Managed Services team can help you prepare for this holiday season, contact us today.
Check out part two of this Q&A with the Experts series where we dive into digital marketing best practices.