With the holiday season fast approaching, there’s a lot to think about — from what your Amazon holiday sales strategy looks like, to what products you’ll sell, to how you’ll tailor your listings for the holiday season, to how much inventory to invest in so you don’t go out of stock.
We’ve put together a variety of tips to help you figure out what to do to prepare for Q4, but what about what you shouldn’t do?
We consulted Amazon sellers and other Amazon selling experts to find the 12 most common mistakes sellers make during Q4. To prevent yourself from making your own mistakes this holiday season, read on to learn what NOT to do — and why.
1. Wait to Order Inventory
Some of our customers say they learned the hard way that you need to be on top of inventory weeks (or even months) before Q4 starts. If you plan in advance, you’ll be prepared for delays or any other problems with your products.
For sellers, holiday shopping really starts at the end up the summer, picking up in August and into September. So to score the best deals and make sure you stay in stock during the holidays, order your inventory NOW. We recommend ordering everything for Q4 by mid-September, so get shopping!
Pro-Tip: Fast funding from Payability makes sure you have cash-on-hand to take advantage of Q4 opportunities. See your inventory financing options in minutes.
2. Getting Too Caught Up In Q4 Hype
Elizabeth Whitcomb, Payability customer and owner of Swanny’s on Amazon, advises against joining too many Q4 groups and taking advice from those groups without first considering how unique your business is.
There is a plethora of information out there for sellers on all things holiday selling, including in support groups.
While it can be helpful, it can also be distracting — and you may even find contradicting advice. Rather than dive into too many support group rabbit holes, you should make sure the majority of your time is spent on executing your Q4 strategy so you can maximize sales during the most lucrative time of year.
3. Getting Only a Partial Product Inspection Before You Ship to Amazon
Paulina Masson, founder of Shopkeeper, suggests getting a full product inspection before you ship to Amazon. “If you order a partial inspection, checking only 10% of all units – you will not get a chance to separate all defective units from quality ones,” she says. “You will be accepting a certain rate of defects and knowingly send them to Amazon. After the holidays, you may get a lot of bad reviews at once and it will negatively affect your rankings.”
She continues, “Just get the full inspection. The inspector will separate all defects from quality units and you will maintain strong listings after the busy season.”
4. Charge for Shipping
Because online shoppers expect fast, free shipping these days, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot by charging a shipping fee. Elizabeth of Swanny’s, recommends becoming merchant-fulfilled Prime eligible so you can offer free two-day shipping without the fees associated with FBA. The only downside to this is that you have to fulfill the orders yourself.
5. Launch Too Many “New” Products
It can be tempting to increase your product line during the holidays, but if you’re not careful, you could end up running out of cash flow to keep your current (already selling) products in stock.
One seller recalls, “One of the biggest mistakes I made my first holiday selling season was trying to launch too many new products. In hindsight, I would have been far better off just focusing on the existing products I had, and staying in stock. By spreading myself too thin, we ran out of stock of almost everything mid-way through December.”
6. Run Out of Inventory
This one is a no-brainer. The last thing you want to do during the holiday season is run out of inventory. Amazon sellers by-and-large say the best strategy is to buy as much inventory as your capital and credit will allow. You really don’t want to miss out on sales—and growth—because you couldn’t keep up with holiday season demand.
It’s worth noting: with Payability, you always have cash-on-hand which means you can avoid Amazon’s cash crunch and constantly reinvest in inventory and marketing. See your options now.
Be sure to check out our tips to avoid a holiday stockout.
7. Ignore New Features, Especially Headline Search
Headline Search Ads have been around for quite some time through Amazon Marketing Services. If you are a Brand Registered Seller, you now can now take advantage of Headline Search right from your Seller Central Account.
“If you are preparing for the holiday season, get your Headline Search Ads configured as soon as possible,” suggests Mike Indigaro, who runs business development at Teikametrics. “Why? They must go through an approval process with Amazon that can sometimes take a few days. Headline Search Ads also build brand awareness and allow you to advertise your catalog — not just one ASIN like in Sponsored Product Ads. You can use Headline Search Ads as a funnel to present your brand story and value proposition during the highest traffic period on Amazon.”
8. Run Current Ad Campaigns As-Is
If you currently run ad campaigns, you’ll want to update them for the holiday season—or at the very least test a holiday-themed version.
Keeping them as they are now may not be as effective, since you’ll be competing against a lot of holiday-related advertising from other brands. Don’t forget to add in seasonal keywords that holiday shoppers may be using like “father in law Christmas gift” to draw more eyeballs to your listings and drive more sales.
Another idea from a Payability customer and Amazon seller: Re-calibrate your manual PPC ad campaigns for the top 10 keywords only for your product. This will keep your ACOS to the minimum. Shoppers go directly to Amazon to search for gifts.
9. Ignore Customer Inquiries
As you make more sales, you’re bound to also see a spike in customer inquiries. Even though you’ll be more strapped for time than ever, don’t ignore these inquiries. Be prepared for them—and try to answer every one as promptly to the sale as possible.
Bad reviews and slow response times will hurt your business even if responding to inquiries can seem like a drag.
10. Allow Budgets to Constrain Your Sponsored Products Growth
There is an increase in click activity on Amazon weeks leading up to the Q4 holiday season, and often into the first few weeks of the new year.
Mike from Teikametrics suggests budgeting for Sponsored Product campaigns during the holiday season. He says, “If your campaigns go out of budget, you will lose valuable real estate on Amazon.com to sell your products. Increase your Sponsored Products bids and budgets so that your ads have a better chance of being at the top of search. After all, Sponsored Products provide incremental sales to your organic traffic. The more sales you acquire from Sponsored Products, the higher your sales rank will be to acquire more organic sales.”
11. Forget Product Reviews
Positive product reviews are obviously huge for your business, but overlooking negative ratings can be a costly mistake.
“Respond to these reviews with a sincere offer to make things right for the buyer,” says Louis Mizzell, Feedback Five Product Manager. “Then use this market intelligence to improve your products or keep a close watch on trends to inform your restocking decisions.”
12. Overcharge (or Undercharge) Sales Tax
If you overcharge sales tax, you may end up with customer complaints. If you undercharge, you’ll end up paying sales tax out of your pocket after the holiday dust settles.
Jennifer Dunn, Chief of Content at TaxJar, says Q4 is the perfect time to make sure you are collecting the right amount of sales tax from your customers. “Check your online shopping cart’s sales tax settings to avoid problems down the road!”
What mistakes have you made during the Q4 holiday season? Tell us on Twitter @getpayability.
And for more Q4 Amazon seller tips, check out our holiday guides to selling on Amazon here — we cover everything from Q4 strategy/planning, to avoiding an Amazon stockout, to maximizing your product listings.