If anything has come to characterize 2020 so far, it’s been the sheer unpredictability. Amazon is a great example. In July, Amazon announced second quarter net sales of close to $89 billion; a 41 percent increase from the second quarter of 2019 and close to a third of the total $280.5 billion in net sales seen in 2019. And 2020 isn’t even over yet.
Historically, Prime Day and Cyber Monday—the two biggest Amazon opportunities for sellers—have occurred in the second and fourth quarters respectively. While the latter is still scheduled to take place from November 30th through December 2nd, the former isn’t likely to occur until September at the earliest. What this means for sellers is that you have a chance to exceed Q4 sales in ways you never would have dreamed possible.
What this also means is that you’re likely going to be spending more time preparing for the fourth quarter of 2020 alone than you ever would have thought possible.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that if it can go wrong during Q4, it will. If you think the horror stories you may have heard about Black Friday from brick and mortar retailers are the stuff of nightmares, then you simply haven’t faced Cyber Monday as a vendor. It may have seen over $9 billion in sales last year in the US alone, but bigger sales frequently means bigger headaches.
2020 may have been unpredictable so far. But chances are, it’s going to see significantly more retail sales during the fourth quarter than expected. So how do you maximize your Q4 sales while minimizing the hassle? Here’s five steps to keep in mind.
1. Prepare For Inventory Management Pitfalls Early On
It’s rare that eCommerce vendors are ever going to have too much inventory during the fourth quarter. What doesn’t sell during the holiday rush will ultimately sell at a discount in the matter of months, just the same as a brick and mortar retailer. But in 2020, it’s likely to be more common they’ll have too little.
Total U.S. retail eCommerce sales increased by over 44 percent for the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019, with some forecasters predicting a surge of an additional 18 percent by the end of the fourth Q4. But the push can be as much of a blessing as it can be a curse for vendors. Without a comprehensive inventory management solution in place which can handle a dramatic influx of orders, Q4 customers can easily become former customers—even for Amazon FBA customers. Stay in constant contact with manufacturers and distributors, even if they don’t predict any delays in production or delivery. Today’s seamless interaction could become tomorrow’s bottleneck if you’re not careful.
Note: While Amazon FBA has yet to announce a definitive deadline for both Cyber Monday, Prime Day and holiday fulfillment, we recommend shipping or ordering inventory at least two weeks early due to the pandemic. Which means inventory for Cyber Monday should be ideally sent by mid October instead of early November, and holiday inventory should be sent no later than mid November. Check back with us at Color More Lines for updates on Prime Day as they occur.
2. Plan Your Promotions In Advance
Just how far in advance should you plan your promotions for the fourth quarter? Try running them right now. Not every promotion will gain conversions. A healthy mix of promotional strategies, including coupons, BOGOs and customer loyalty programs, can give you insight into which types of promotions are going to be most effective during the holiday rush.
That doesn’t mean you should simply stick with one tactic, however. Amazon has their own Lightning Deal package for eligible sellers with a minimum three star rating, high volume traffic and an established history in Amazon stores which can certainly drive sales. Keep in mind that there is a standard fee for both Lightning Deals and 7 Day Deals starting at $150 upwards.
You can see if you’re eligible simply by going to the Deals dashboard in your Seller Central account. Click the Create a New Deal tab, and enter the ASIN you want to promote. Amazon will automatically indicate your eligibility and guide you through the rest of the process.
3. Optimize Your Product Listings
There’s never a bad time to optimize your product listings and images on Amazon. But it’s not just a suggestion during Q4. It’s a vital necessity.
Impulse buys can be common during Q4 sales. While traditional brick and mortar retailers have always used this to your advantage, digital vendors can easily optimize promotions and deals to ensure an uptick in impulse buys. But product optimization goes far beyond promotions and marketing. Q4 is the perfect time to highlight your brand’s strength with enhanced content that’s attractive, educational and marks a direct impact on traffic.
The more informed your customers are, the greater the odds they’ll be repeat customers. If you’re not leveraging A+ content for your Amazon listing, you’re missing out on your competitive advantage. Consumers rarely make big buy purchases blindly, and that’s as true of brick and mortar as it is eCommerce. Make certain your listing is up to date, attractive, image rich and clearly lists your product specifications and benefits.
4. Stay On Track With Product Reviews And Feedback
The last thing you want to read before planning your fourth quarter sales campaign are bad reviews. And neither do your customers.
Unfortunately, bad reviews are unavoidable on Amazon. And more often than not, they reflect the customer’s bias, not your service. The good news is that if you’re providing an unforgettable customer experience, you won’t have to worry too much about bad reviews—even if your product failed to live up to a customer’s expectations.
Your most recent feedback will have a direct impact on your eligibility for Amazon promotions, including the coveted Q4 Buy Box. Take the time to address and rectify any customer complaints or concerns. Review your feedback using Amazon’s Feedback Manager, or request a review if you have a fairly new product line that doesn’t have substantial ratings yet. Often you’ll find that customers appreciate proactive service almost as much as the product itself.
5. Monitor Your Reputation
Reviews matter. In fact, close to 95 percent of all online shoppers have indicated reviews will ultimately influence their purchases. And you can be certain that percentage is bound to increase during Q4.
But your reputation isn’t built on reviews alone. Hijacked listings and counterfeit sales abound on Amazon, despite their concerted efforts to crack down on both practices. But they’re not merely a nuisance. They can actually damage your sales. When a hijacker competes against you, it’s common for them to copy your listing practically verbatim. Not enough to violate Amazon policy, but just enough to be virtually undetectable. But what they’re really offering is a knock-off copy; often at a price advantage Amazon shoppers simply can’t say no to.
This isn’t just common with private label brands. Brand name vendors can be affected by hijacked listings as well—most frequently by unauthorized sellers who can take advantage of the Q4 rush to make a quick (and dirty) sale, only to disappear overnight. Is it ethical? No. Is it against Amazon policy? Yes. But there’s only so much they can do to actively monitor hijacked listings.
If you don’t have the time to scan for hijackers and counterfeiters, managing your account with a third party can alleviate a lot of the potential stress you’ll face during Q4. Stress which you don’t necessarily have to take on all by yourself. If you find an unauthorized seller of your goods, contact Amazon immediately. The same goes for unauthorized sellers of your competition as well. It’s not just your reputation that’s at stake. It’s your industry’s reputation.
And it’s Amazon’s, as well.
Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your ecommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.