Inventory Matters now and well into Quarter One
It’s November and Black Friday is approaching—only many box retailers are changing their pre-game holiday shopping tradition. Some are no longer waiting for Black Friday to begin their incentives: Toys-R-Us, for example, is opening on Thanksgiving Day.
“Last year on Cyber Monday, there were more than 16 million units ordered worldwide from Amazon sellers, and units sold by Amazon sellers during holiday deals grew more than 400% year-over-year.” Of course, the online marketplace never closes, which gives online retailers great access to customers, but you’ve got to be ready.
One of the biggest challenges online sellers face is managing their inventory. If an item reaches “out of stock” status, not only does a merchant miss out on holiday sales, but “out of stock” will turn off costumers through the first quarter.
Just skimming The Amazing Seller’s Facebook feed, sellers report that when they run out of inventory, they see activity tank over the long term. That kind of downward trend not only negatively affects your bottom line, it can decrease traffic to your product over time.
The best way to ensure enough inventories through the holidays is by using historical sales data from the past 90-180 days. If you can, calculate sales curves and project outwards with the same model to have an idea of what you can expect. If this is your first holiday sales season then a good rule is to make sure you’re carrying at least 45-60 days of coverage in FBA. You can also run the Recommended FBA Inbound Quantities report from the Amazon Seller Coach.
Amazon has these Holiday tips for sellers, too. If you haven’t used an inventory management system before, it might be a good idea to try one out this year. Even if it feels too late, having a system in place this season will help you better prepare for next season. This year’s data is next year’s inventory.
If you’re a new seller or if you’ve let your inventory run low, use a Holiday promotion to drive traffic to your product.
The best way to convey holiday specials is to utilize the “promotions” feature in Seller Central. From the promotions tab you can create four types of promotions: free shipping, money off, Buy-one-get-one, and external benefit.
Free Shipping allows you to offer free shipping on a portion of your catalog or your entire catalog. Money Off will give you the option to offer a percentage or dollar discount on your entire catalog or a subset of your catalog. Buy One Get One is exactly as it sounds and you can apply it to your entire catalog or a specific portion. External Benefits allows you to offer a post-order benefit on qualifying purchases from your entire catalog or a subset of your catalog. For example, spend $100 and receive 10 loyalty points.
Another solid tactic is to use Amazon’s sponsored product tool. Of course, running a promotion means you have to be on top of inventory. Focus in on one or two top sellers in your portfolio so that you can effectively manage those sales.
FBA and Inventory
In the Golden Rule blog ( hyperlink to blog) I talked about winning the Buy Box and how that can make or break a seller’s “storefront.” You’ve got to have a competitive price, good reviews, and you must manage negative feedback. Customers are more likely to convert from a shopper to a buyer if your product has the Buy Box. One requirement to win the Buy Box is using fulfillment by Amazon or FBA. This signals the buyer that you are a legitimate seller and their item will arrive quickly.
With FBA, your products are eligible for Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping, which tends to be a faster, more dependable shipping option than most independent retailers can provide. Amazon now has more than 10 million Prime customers, and 50% of new Amazon sellers are immediately adopting FBA for at least some of their products.
During the holidays, Amazon sends an email to its Prime customers assuring them of a December 25th arrival. Sellers, who fulfill orders themselves, don’t get this customer care via Amazon.
Also, in terms of making sure your stock is plentiful, you have to remember that… “During November and December, it might take 4-5 days for products to be received in FBA (compared to the usual time of 1-2 days).” This is why it’s so important for sellers to stock well in October and prepare for possible low stock issues. You may need to replenish your stock, just do so earlier than usual—another reason why managing your inventory well pays off.
Here are some tips:
- Review inventory at least every two days
- Try to buy enough inventory to keep you going through February
- Use an inventory management system
- If you don’t have an inventory management system, use “Set Replenishment Alerts” through Amazon
- Stock more via FBA and deal with the added fees, the return is worth it
If you aren’t using an inventory management system yet, it’s not too late to implement software now. Maybe it feels too late, but with tools like the StoreAutomator, you can upload your inventory easily from several channels, and participate on a month-to-month basis. Of course, there are many others, but not all of them offer such low risk entry.
Maybe you’re on top of your holiday inventory but even seasoned sellers know that each quarter four is different. Amazon quarter four sales have grown exponentially each year. It can be impossible to predict best sellers overall and which products in your own lines are your best bet. If you are wondering if you’ve miscalculated, remember your sales data is your best resource for making solid predictions. Inventory management will affect your quarter four success as well as 2017’s quarter one. No matter your bottom line, it’s a learning opportunity—that’s a gift that data keeps on giving.