This is a guest post from SkuVault client Cynthia Lizana, COO at ZenToes and 15+ year eCommerce veteran.
Q4 is quickly approaching. As the lazy summer days end and the kids return to school, you may be letting out a sigh of relief, or maybe you’re panicking because you just realized that next month is the start of the fourth quarter and you don’t have a plan in place.
What? Fourth quarter starts next month? Yep, it’s here folks, but no need to panic if you haven’t started planning. I’ve put a plan together for you. Since there’s no time to waste, let’s get started.
Make Q4 Sales Projections
Projecting sales is crucial to a successful fourth quarter. If you have several years of online sales under your belt, this is pretty simple, especially if you are selling within the same categories you were previous years.
Pull your last three years of sales records. Separate your January through September sales total and compare it to your Q4 sales total. What percentage did sales increase?
Then look at your inventory reports to determine what products you ran out of and when. How many more could you have sold had you not run out of stock? These numbers will give you a multiplier to use to project 2019 4th quarter sales.
If you’re new to eCommerce, projecting Q4 sales is more difficult, but with analysis you can come up with a reasonable projection by analyzing your current inventory and sales. What products are trending up in sales and rank? What products are likely to be ordered as gifts?
–> EXPERT TIP: Keep in mind that sales don’t stop on December 23rd. January and February tend to be good sales months as people use their gift cards they received for Christmas. So it’s a good thing to over project so you still have inventory at the start of the new year.
Place Inventory Orders
Once you have your projections in hand, it’s time to prepare your orders for your suppliers.
If you normally make “just in time restock orders,” you’ll need to put that thought process aside for the rest of the year. Suppliers also do projections and many sell out of their best sellers before November even starts.
And that’s US suppliers. So if you’re ordering from overseas, this is probably your last opportunity to get product to the US before Black Friday.
Create Advertisements and Promotions
Start planning your advertising and promotions now. If you’re selling on Amazon, start educating yourself on their different types of deals and PPC, if you haven’t already.
See what products are eligible for the different deals and submit them now. Be sure to take the increased sales for offering deals into account when you submit your inventory orders.
If you’re selling on Walmart, head on over to Walmart Advertising and get your PPC campaigns set up. A lot of Walmart sellers are unaware that you can use Sponsored ads, but they do exist! They’re a little different than Amazon Sponsored Products, so now is the time to get familiar with them.
Make a schedule for sending promotional emails during Q4 to your website newsletter subscribers. You’ll want to keep these customers engaged from the week before Black Friday until your last shipping day before Christmas.
–> EXPERT TIP: If you don’t currently have an advertising pro or newsletter writer on your team, I highly recommend the virtual assistants at Freeeup because they’re already vetted and screened. You can have a professional on your team within a day or two without wasting hours searching for one.
Ship Your Products to FBA Before November
If your plan is to use Fulfilled by Amazon, October is your deadline to get the majority of your inventory into Amazon. Once November rolls around, there are no guarantees on check in times.
If you’ve been around awhile, you’ve probably experienced the excruciating let down when your pallet of inventory arrives at Amazon in the middle of November and doesn’t get checked in for a month. Or it gets checked in and then Amazon transfers it, causing it to go into limbo for a month, leaving you three days of peak selling time.
–> EXPERT TIP: Don’t let this happen again this year – make sure all your inventory arrives at Amazon before the end of October.
Order Shipping Supplies
Have you bulked up on shipping supplies? The post office tends to get a lot slower starting in November, so order those Priority Mail boxes and envelopes now. If you’re shipping to FBA or another fulfillment center, make sure you are well stocked with boxes, tape and filler.
Determine if You’ll Need Extra Help & Space
It’s also time to start considering hiring extra help to pack and ship, especially if you’re not using a fulfillment center. How many extra sets of hands will you need? How will you pay them? A call to your trusted CPA may be in order if you’ve never hired employees.
Additionally, figure out if you have enough space to store extra inventory and shipping supplies. If you don’t have the space, consider renting a temporary storage unit or cleaning out your garage.
Prepare Your Shipping Carriers
If you’re shipping orders from your facility, consider talking to your shipping carriers to give them a heads up on your projected daily shipment volume.
Your carrier needs to be prepared to handle your outgoing shipments once they start quadrupling in size. Some post offices, UPS, and Fedex hubs will even send out an empty truck just for you, if necessary.