Q4 Preparation Checklist
by David T. Griffith, on October 16, 2018
The fourth quarter has arrived. Are you ready for the year-end holiday rush? Have you prepared for increased inventory turn, higher product page traffic and ultra-competitive advertising and promotions? It can be daunting, but not difficult to manage. And it’s not too late to put everything in order.
Confirm Your Listings Are Ready
Make sure all of your products are listed and inventory is in stock. Do not wait until November to create any new listings, though, as new ASINs require several weeks to gain momentum. When they go live, apply tactics such as product variations and sponsored product ads to drive traffic to these new items and inspire potential sales. Additionally, set up or improve upon A+ content to boost organic search results for your products.
When it comes to inventory, I cannot stress enough – forecast for significantly increased demand. Just as you did for Amazon Prime Day, increase your on-hand inventory to cover November and December. Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend is expected to be the most trafficked and highest grossing sales period of the year on Amazon. That online holiday shopping momentum runs right through December 23, when customers are still placing last-minute orders to ensure delivery before Christmas Day. Look at your sales history year-over-year to determine an educated forecast for each ASIN. The last thing you want is to run out of inventory half way through the shopping season with no ability to replenish it in time.
Schedule Your Promotions Early
Any successful Amazon vendor will tell you – you need to promote. Amazon’s deadline for Black Friday promotions was September 28th this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still lock in a few promos to capture holiday shoppers.
Select products from your catalog with high visibility and significant inventory to offer as Best Deal or Lightning Deal promos. By offering the best price of the year on a few of your most popular products for a limited time, you will certainly build awareness of your catalog and drive conversion. The ensuing halo effect will bring potential customers to your brand store and product pages, so you should see an organic lift in sales. Set a timed strategy so these deals are promoted at key times, such as the week following Cyber Monday or in the final days before Christmas to seize last-minute sales.
Advertise Like Crazy
This is where Amazon Advertising comes in. Formerly known as AAP (Amazon Advertising Platform) and AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) until recently, Amazon’s ad services comprise a strong set of sales-driving tools. Vendors can and should run display ads in an always-on manner, making sure to capture every opportunity around the clock. Begin ramping up ad visibility by mid-November and run strong until the final shopping days have concluded.
On the self-service side of sponsored product and headline search ads, monitor and optimize the keywords and associated ASINs you are featuring. Pause poor performers and increase bids on your most effective keywords. Add new ASINs to your Sponsored Products campaigns and remove obsolete ASINs. Don’t forget to update the keywords list to properly reflect those new products you have added. Consider increasing your daily budgets if you tend to run out early each day, as your goal should be to keep the campaigns live as much as possible throughout each 24-hour period.
Above All Else, Maintain Your Customer Focus
With the deluge of shopping activity on Amazon comes a higher rate of customer questions and feedback. Prepare your customer service team to be attentive to your customers’ needs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Answer all questions with courtesy. When your service team sees potential issues like a series of common questions and misunderstandings about a product description, take steps to fix that listing immediately to fix errors and clarify any ambiguity.
Quickly resolve issues when a customer complains of a bad shipping experience or an item defect. You don’t want an Andon Cord – when Amazon suspends an ASIN for multiple complaints – inhibiting your sales for any length of time during this most important retail period. Be proactive and responsive to your customers’ needs to prevent this.
Lastly, while you are finalizing your Q4 preparations, start thinking about Q1. I’ll cover that in my next post.