Most e-commerce companies realize that the fourth quarter is THE time for growth. Everyone is online and everyone is looking to make purchases. Based on trends we’ve seen among our clients we’ve put together some tips to help your prepare.
US consumers now spend over $500B per year online, which accounts for 14.3% of all retail sales. That number is up from $390B (11.6% of retail sales) in 2016.
Based on our data, 40% of these sales will happen in Q4. You can see our customers’ data in Figure 1 below, with Q4 highlighted in green.
That means there is a lot of money to be made in Q4, but there is also a lot of pressure to perform. How do you make sure you maximize your Q4 potential? Here are 8 tips and tricks.
1. Get prepared early.
In order to be prepared for the onslaught of sales, we need to work backward from not only when sales start occurring, but also when people start researching their Q4 purchases.
- When do sales start happening? – We can see in Figure 1 that sales can double from the first week of November even before they 10x over Black Friday / Cyber Monday.
- When do people start researching their purchases? – Looking at Google Trends in Figure 2 for the phrase “Christmas gift,” interest starts picking up in late October.
2. Get orders into manufacturers even earlier.
- By Nov. 1, 2019: Inventory arrives at Fulfillment Center – We can use Amazon as a benchmark here. They require inventory to be in their Fulfillment Centers by the first week of November in order to be prepared for Black Friday / Cyber Monday. This also lines up for sales beginning to pick up in early November.
- By Sept. 20, 2019: Goods leave manufacturer (presuming manufacturer is based in Southeast Asia) – This assumes 30-45 days for goods to be shipped via ocean and get through customs with some safety margin. A point of note here – you want the goods to leave your manufacturer at least a week before Golden Week (October 1 – October 7) when factories are shut down since some may even shut down for the week before.
- By Aug. 20, 2019: Order received by manufacturer – This is dependent on the lead time from your manufacturer. We’ve used a 30 day lead time since many of our customers work with their manufacturer on these terms.
Do you need help paying your manufacturer? We are here to help. We can pay your manufacturer directly for an upcoming order so you don’t have to. Click here for more info.
3. Focus on top selling SKUs.
This may sound obvious but when new clients come to us we often see “out of stock” situations that are caused by ordering the incorrect products.
The key thing to focus on is making sure the main selling products are always in stock.
Figure 3 shows that the top 10% of products by sales make up over 60% of sales volume, while the top 20% make up roughly 80%.
Focus on keeping your top selling 20% of products in stock. The remaining 80% are second class citizens.
4. Multiple touch points with customers.
We saw in Figure 2 that consumers start thinking about purchases in late October. In order to maximize potential sales there should be multiple touch points with both current and new customers for the entirety of Q4 to ensure you are top of mind.
Below are some points of interaction with customers that should be established/updated. This is by no means a complete list, but a starting guide.
- Creating gift guide blog posts
- Updating landing pages to reflect Q4 offers
- Updating ads to reflect Q4 offers
- Updating email pushes to reflect Q4 offers
- Communicating shipping cut-offs for purchases to arrive before Christmas. Think about having a count-down clock on your site.
- Coupon codes distributed to new and current customers
In order to optimize your outreach, you will need to ensure that your advertising schedule and budget are established by October.
5. Prepare for higher marketing costs.
It won’t just be you increasing your customer outreach during Q4. Every e-commerce company will be increasing their customer outreach, especially through ads. This higher demand leads to increased prices for paid user acquisition.
Nanigans put together data showing that Facebook CPM prices can increase by 15% in the Americas and 32% in EMEA for Q4.
Make sure you have the budget in place for the increased costs.
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6. Ensure your site is optimized for mobile.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise but mobile commerce is huge. We mean it–an estimated $220B (44.7% of all e-commerce sales) per year.
Preparing for consumers completing transactions via a mobile device doesn’t just mean ensuring the loading speed is fast and formatting works. Consideration must also be made to payments and customer service. For example, if you have live chat, does it work effectively on mobile?
7. Prepare for extra customer service requests.
With sales at least doubling–and sometimes growing as much as 10x–during much of Q4 (see Figure 1), is your customer service department prepared for the extra workload?
A recent study by Arise found that over a third of consumers (37%) expect a response within one hour, while almost all (80%) expect a response within 24 hours.
8. Prepare DevOps for extra load on site.
With traffic having the opportunity to spike by 10x, is your site prepared? Even if it is, is there a schedule for DevOps to be on hand? This should be considered especially high priority during the Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend. Consider having a 24/7 schedule for DevOps to be on call in case unexpected events occur.
Hopefully this article is stating things that most of you already know and have planned for. If not, we hope it has provided some more clarity for what to expect heading into Q4.
If you need help with financing your extra costs in Q4 (inventory, marketing, etc.), we’d love to help. Sign up here.