Are You Ready for Q4?
It's no secret that Q4 - the big holiday shopping season - is the most lucrative for retailers. But for online retailers, the Cyber Five - Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday - are the most crucial days of the year. Are you ready for them? If so, are you making the most of them and optimizing your sales?
Read on for tips from our experts on ways to get prepared for Q4. But act now, while things are relatively calm, instead of waiting to implement these practices during crunch time.
- Are you backing up your inventory by running exports? With all the updates you may make in Q4, it can become easy to make a mistake - and if a mistake is made, the backup will be an easy way to restore data.
- Be aware of each marketplace's holiday blackout dates. Once these are made known, ensure that your listings for new products are pushed out in advance of those blackout periods.
- There are plenty of ways to improve your quantity management. Check out our blog post Cyber Five Frenzy: Quantity Management to learn how optimization, bundling, and daily deals can help.
- Review your quantity buffers. If these aren't in place, add them in to avoid overselling your products. This is especially helpful if you sell products on multiple marketplaces.
- Consider using Amazon Sponsored Products to drive more traffic to your Amazon listings - maintaining your seller status and optimizing your listings can only get you so far in your Amazon placement.
- With eBay's new extended holiday return policy, you give buyers until January 31 to return any item purchased between November 1 and December 31. Previously, eBay stated this would be required in 2014 in order to earn their Top Rated Plus benefits, but they announced that you would receive a bonus 5% discount off final value fees. (You can learn more on eBay's site.) This is a specific example of incentives given to retailers to offer accommodating return policies to their customers - be sure you know of the options for the marketplaces in which you sell.
- Your reputation on each marketplace weighs heavily on your sales potential. Learn more about eBay Top Rated Seller status and Amazon seller performance in the blog post Cyber Five Frenzy: Managing Reputation.
- We all know Amazon and eBay dominate the online marketplace market share, but limiting yourself to the "big guys" can hold you back from potential sales. Check out some emerging marketplaces - there's still time to launch on these marketplaces if you act now!
- If you are selling on Newegg:
- Be aggressive with your holiday discounts! If your product submission isn't interesting enough to attract buyers to Newegg over other sites, Newegg Category Managers will look for other submissions that are more aggressive. Pick your best products for Newegg's audience and discount them (target 50% off your price on Amazon as a rule of thumb).
- Submit your Newegg deals often - daily, in fact. There are many sellers competing for deal spots on Newegg - by submitting aggressively-priced deals daily, it will ensure that the Newegg Category Manager picks your products for the deals.
- Consider launching on the Newegg Business Marketplace. The payment period is 30 days (instead of 15 for Newegg.com), but everything else, including the template, is the same. Check out the Selling on Newegg pages on the SSC for more information, and contact your Newegg Category Manager if you have additional questions. If you don't have access to Newegg Business in ChannelAdvisor, contact ChannelAdvisor Support.
- Have you considered Cross-Border Trade (CBT) to expand your sales globally? This may seem daunting, but marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have programs that allow you to ship your products to international destinations, via a US-based warehouse - making it relatively easy to test the international demand for your products, especially if you are already selling on Amazon and eBay.
- Don't wait until the last minute to submit your products to a marketplace and risk missing out on the most lucrative time of the year for online retailers. Aim for at least a week before Black Friday - or even sooner if you can. Also, pay attention to blackout dates where new products and product changes will not be accepted. For example, in 2014 Sears is requiring retailers to have their items built in Seller Portal by Friday, November 21st, and will not publish new products or content changes until the first week of December. But because it can take some time for items to be visible on the marketplace, the products should be uploaded and created in Seller Portal by November 19th. That's nine days before Black Friday, and that's only one example. Check with your marketplaces for their cutoff dates and blackout periods so that you don't miss out.
- No matter how much time and money you spend advertising your products, shoppers can't make a purchase if the actual listing isn't showing up. Take some time to learn how to uncover your suppressed products.
Orders, Fulfillment, Shipping and Returns
- Do you know your last ship date to guarantee delivery before Christmas? Could you offer discounted expedited shipping to extend last-minute purchases? Make these dates and options known to the customer.
- How smart is your fulfillment? ChannelAdvisor's Order Management and Prioritized Distribution Centers manages your distributed quantity and automatically determines where orders should be routed based on your fulfillment strategy.
- Do you have enough resources in house to actually pick, pack and ship the orders you expect to receive throughout the holiday season? Consider hiring some part-time help.
- Do you have a shipping plan for the holidays? Our blog post Cyber Five Frenzy: Are You Ready for Holiday Shipping offers ten tips to get your holiday shipping department in shape.
- If you use drop shipping, discuss your holiday shipping deadlines with them to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
- Double-check your return policy on each marketplace. During the holiday season, buyers look for no-hassle policies with long time frames.
- If you sell on eBay, you're required to offer Extended Holiday Returns to receive its Top Rated Seller badge: learn more on our Cyber Five Frenzy: eBay/PayPal Returns Policy blog post.
- If you're using automated bid management, once we hit mid-November, change your look-back period to 2-3 days so all of the data is fresh and the system is making better-informed decisions.
- Are you mobile-friendly? If not, a quick way to address this is with responsive design. Learn more: Cyber Five Frenzy: Mobile-Friendly.
- Our Cyber Five Frenzy: Optimizing for Google's Shopping Campaigns blog post provides tips for structuring - and optimizing - your Google's Shopping campaigns, just in time to impact your holiday sales conversions.
- Implementing an XML holiday sitemap can help boost the organic side of your search engine optimization (SEO): Cyber Five Frenzy: XML Holiday Sitemaps.
- Refresh your keywords for the holiday season.
- During the holidays, competition heats up - put your best bids forward by using callout extensions and sitelinks in your ads.
- During the holiday months, your site will see a lot of visitors as customers price shop for the products they want to gift. Make use of Google Remarketing Lists for Search Ads, or RSLAs, to customize your search ads campaigns for customers who previously visited your site, and direct them back to your site to make their final purchase.
- Look beyond Google Shopping when you're considering Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) - there are quite a few CSEs out there that offer opportunities for unique views and potential conversions!
- Socialize your products! #AmazonCart on Twitter and Pinterest Rich Pins can help drive your social media campaigns toward conversions.
- Want to give your PLAs an extra boost over the holiday shopping season? Try Google's Merchant Promotions, which add a "special offer" link to the bottom of your product ads and entices shoppers to buy now.
Let ChannelAdvisor Keep You Updated
- Subscribe to your Message Center alerts! The Message Center within the ChannelAdvisor application is a great one-stop page where you can go to identify a wide array of issues that could impact your business - including inventory upload errors, order import errors, feed issues, and the like.
- Review your SSC Alerts subscriptions and check them from time to time. ChannelAdvisor will not only update you on our own software related issues, but we'll also keep you updated on major news at other marketplaces or channel providers that can potentially impact your business. We do this year-round, not just during the holidays!
Want to know more? Download our eBooks, ChannelAdvisor's E-Commerce Holiday Checklist Series, below: