The time between Black Friday and Christmas is the selling window that every ecommerce brand anticipates all year.
A surge in shopping means the potential for huge sales, and profit that can carry brands for months.
But along with the higher sales volume comes more potential pitfalls.
The last thing you want is to stumble during the biggest shopping season of the year.
Have no fear. There are things you can do now to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Andrew Waber, Director of Insights at Teikametrics and Tim McDonnell, Mid-Market Team Lead at Deliverr, came up with a checklist of 10 things to do now to get your advertising and fulfillment in shape for holiday sales success.
Amp up your advertising campaigns
With all of those potential customers out there searching for products, you want to capture as many of those sales as you can.
This is the time to amp up your advertising efforts and do everything you can to attract customers and convert.
1. Clean up your messaging and visuals
Before the holiday rush, make sure your listing content is in good shape so customers see a well-thought-out product page backing up your ads.
A study from Salsify a few years ago showed a direct correlation between detail-rich product pages and higher sales.
“Products that are amongst the top sellers – and this is across every category, across every price point – tended to have more images, tended to have longer descriptions, etc.,” Andrew said.
Take advantage of what Amazon and Walmart give you and really fill in that content. Your advertising will be more effective and consumers will be more likely to convert if you do.
“What you don’t want is if you’re just throwing money at advertising, but you’ve only got one image on there and you kind of didn’t put too much thought into your listing,” he said.
At that point, you’re just wasting your money.
2. Reexamine your budget
Overall ecommerce activity has been very high since the pandemic, and trends indicate a bigger holiday shopping season than in recent years.
If you want to capture as many of those increased sales as possible, you’ll need to budget more for advertising than you did in previous holiday seasons.
“If you go with the same budget that maybe you did three, four years ago, you’re likely selling yourself short because you’re not really reflecting all that increase in activity,” Andrew said. “And you don’t want to seed round your competitors.”
If you don’t budget enough for Black Friday through Cyber Monday and run out on Saturday, you’ll have to pare down your ads.
That will put you in a bad position and let your competitors have the advantage.
Andrew said a good baseline is to budget 20% more for advertising during the holiday season than you did for the rest of the year.
3. Mitigate Buy Box issues
Get your plan in place to win the Buy Box now so that you don’t lose your place during the holidays.
“Understand, are you winning the Buy Box now, which obviously is super important,” Andrew said. “But then additionally, what are the steps you could take to mitigate Buy Box issues?”
Do things like go after bad actors, which is a long process and should be started sooner rather than later.
Also, adjust your price to put yourself in the best position to win it.
“If you’re not winning the Buy Box, your ads are not showing up, so be aware,” Andrew said.
Keep your eye on it and make adjustments necessary to win and keep the Buy Box because even a short slip during the holidays can have a big impact.
“What you don’t want is where you lose a day or two of this,” he said. “That could be enough where your advertising wasn’t running and suddenly your holiday sales is in aggregate and have really taken a big hit.”
4. Check your supply
It doesn’t make sense to run a big ad campaign and not have the stock to back it up.
Make sure you’re prepared for the larger purchase volume and start building up your inventory now. Don’t wait for the fall to start.
If you’re not going to have the supply, then rethink your advertising strategy. Because an out-of-stock issue can negatively affect your ranking for longer than you think.
“We know how bad it is on Amazon, where an out of stock even for a matter of hours can impact your organic ranking for months,” Andrew said. “In Walmart, it’s going to be something similar from an algorithmic point of view.”
Look at what you can do from a supply chain perspective and then be realistic with your advertising goals. Fit your plan to what you can feasibly manage.
“You don’t want to put yourself into a bad position from a promotion point of view, from an advertising point of view, where you’re committing dollars to something that could impact you months from now, not just on the sale end,” he said.
5. Seed your audience
Get your audience primed and ready to buy from you this holiday season by targeting them with ads now.
They may not be ready to buy yet, but your product will be top of mind when they are.
“That’s a good tactic because you can kind of get a better idea about what your customers are looking at,” Andrew said. “Are they searching at higher volumes early? Can you then retarget them later essentially in better context based on what they’ve looked at previously?”
The information you can get from running an automatic campaign to seed your audience now can help you to target consumers more effectively later.
“We tested this scientifically,” he said. “Any keyword that is in an automatic campaign that’s performing well for you, it performs better in a manual campaign.”
You may find keywords that you didn’t even consider for your product before, but they have a good conversion rate.
“Those are ones you want to move into manual campaigns and kind of use that feeder system for each product that you sell,” he said.
6. Be aggressive with new products
If you’re launching a new product for the holiday shopping season, don’t be timid with advertising.
You won’t have a sales history that will lift you up in organic ranking, so hit your keywords hard with advertising.
“For newer products, especially if you’re launching them during the holiday season, be very aggressive. Pick your small basket of keywords that are going to drive significant volume in aggregate,” Andrew said.
Start early so you can get some reviews ahead of the holiday season to build up the product. It will also help you understand what the costs are likely to be.
“You don’t want to be too timid cause it’s just going to have this knock-on effect where then in three months, you’re going to wish that you’d been more aggressive because you could have gotten that good volume during the holidays that can sustain you for months and months,” he said.
Firm up your fulfillment plan
Now that you’ve figured out how to capture big sales, you need to make sure you can actually deliver the product.
7. Create a backup fulfillment plan
To avoid supply chain issues, have fulfillment set up with a 3PL, vendors like Deliverr who provide two-day shipping, and FBA.
“If there is any issues with any of these supply chains, you always have another one to fall back on,” Tim said. “So let’s say that your 3PL is not able to fulfill some of those other orders, you could still get it out through Deliverr.”
Same thing if the product can’t be fulfilled as quickly through Deliverr, you can fall back on a 3PL or MCFBA from Amazon.
Have multiple options available to you so you’re never in a bind.
“It’s sort of like everywhere you look, you need to have a redundancy,” he said. “Or the ability to pivot and make sure that you have happy customers and you’re getting that product out ASAP.”
8. Come up with a customer service plan
There will undoubtedly be slower deliveries during the holidays. You should go ahead and come up with a plan on how to keep your customers happy when that happens.
“What are you going to do when you have a lot of people that bought a product and they want to give it as a gift and they’re following up with you?” Tim said.
Deliverr has very high on-time delivery thanks to targeting delivery times based on IP address. So having them on hand is a good idea.
Prepare for carriers to take longer though and think of what you can offer to make up for that.
9. Partner with warehouses in multiple locations
Don’t consolidate your inventory in a few locations. That opens you up to big pitfalls during the holiday season.
“It could be that the communication with a specific warehouse you’re using is broken or maybe that they had some labor things or the person that was managing the communication is temporarily unavailable,” Tim said.
Another issue that we saw last year was carriers like FedEx implementing pickup limits.
“In those instances, they may even be processing and getting your order set up in time, but if it’s coming out of one location and they have a limit, it could be that your order doesn’t make it on the truck,” Tim said.
Those delays can bring customer complaints and ding your ranking.
Make sure you have many different options so that you can pivot among fulfillment locations and providers and deliver your products smoothly.
10. Offer free and fast shipping
You need to make your product more attractive than your competitors and fast and free shipping is a good way to do that.
First, start building up your inventory stateside starting in August so you won’t have logistics problems later.
Then, make sure you have fulfillment partners like Deliverr that let you offer fast and free shipping.
“One of the things we saw last year and something that a lot of our brands and merchants commented to us on is that we actually extended their holiday selling season,” Tim said. “Because we were able to accurately predict and promote and offer free, fast shipping.”
You’ll be able to capture the consumers who wait until the last minute to buy a gift. If you only offer slower shipping your sales will taper off December 15 or even sooner.
“If you’re able to dynamically place product all over the place and promote speed of delivery, maybe you’re going to get someone who places an order on the 18th, 19th, 20th,” he said. “You get several extra selling days during the most important time of year.”
There are so many ways you can make sure your products sell well and meet your Q4 goals, but these 10 are high priority.
Go through this list and check them off and you’ll be prepared for Christmas in July.