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Amazon Holiday Prep Series: Your Q4 Preparation Timeline

A significant part of meeting your holiday sales performance goals is understanding key dates, from inventory deadlines to peak shopping dates. Here is everything you need to know. By IT September 19, 2019
Amazon Holiday Prep Series: Your Q4 Preparation Timeline

The Amazon holiday prep series will run throughout Q4, as well as the weeks leading up to and following the peak selling season. It will focus on relevant e-commerce holiday news, as well as actionable strategies you can implement to achieve your sales goals and carry momentum into the new year.

Last year, the deadline for sending inventory for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to Amazon was Nov. 5 and the deadline for Christmas inventory was Dec. 5. Although Amazon has not yet announced the 2019 deadlines, it is of utmost importance that you know your supplier and carrier lead times so you can factor those into your Q4 preparation and be ready as soon as Amazon announces key dates. 

Doing so will make sure your inventory is received and sorted in Amazon fulfillment centers prior to peak gift-giving time. Below we have compiled a week-by-week timeline for you to reference as a guideline as you prepare your store for the surge in search volume and sales that take place in Q4, particularly during the Christmas shopping peak from Dec.17-22. 

10-12 Weeks Before: Perform a Catalog Analysis and Make a Shipping Plan

  • During this time, do your research. Know your top-selling products, observe and understand any new, prevalent product trends, and prepare your inventory. Determine which products you will promote this holiday season by looking at historical and real-time sales data as well as which products customers are searching for and with what keywords. Lastly, familiarize yourself with your ad performance data
  • Make sure you have enough stock available for your most popular products. Doing so will not only improve the customer experience, but will also increase the likelihood that your products are included in Amazon merchandising opportunities, such as event landing pages or email promotions.
  • Create a shipping plan so you know what items (and how many units of each) you will be sending to Amazon fulfillment centers. Ideally, you will want to make sure your Black Friday inventory is sent to Amazon in early November.
  • Enroll for a Lightning Deal or 7-Day Deal by Amazon’s application deadline, which is historically sometime in mid-September.

7-9 Weeks Before: Finalize Your Inventory Position

  • Amazon suggests that you streamline your shipping process with Supply Chain Connect, an FBA shipping program for sellers who work with suppliers that ship inventory directly to Amazon fulfillment centers. The program provides your suppliers with a central portal where they can process your FBA shipments with increased levels of accuracy and sends them notifications when your shipments are ready to be processed. 
  • Ship your inventory to Amazon. The default option will assign units of a specific ASIN to multiple fulfillment centers. You can also sign up for Amazon’s Inventory Placement Service and send all your inventory to a single fulfillment center. When the product arrives there, it will get split up and sent out to multiple warehouses.
  • Keep a steady pulse on the products in your catalog that generate demand during the lead-up to the holiday season to ensure your inventory remains in sync with actual demand.
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4-6 Weeks Before: Optimize Your Pricing Strategy and Product Detail Pages

  • Review your pricing on a SKU-specific level, making adjustments wherever necessary. Look at your pre-defined floor prices and consider lowering them to be more aggressive for peak season. 
  • With your seasonal items that should be in high demand and sold at higher prices for a limited time, calculate the estimated days of coverage you have for these products. If the answer falls after the third week of December, be more aggressive with pricing compared to how many units you are selling.
  • Perform search engine and content listing optimization to make sure your products rank on Amazon’s results pages and show up for relevant consumer search queries.
  • Leverage keyword optimization to ensure the customer understands exactly what is being sold. Incorporate any seasonal copy related to the holidays that will catch shoppers’ attention and instill urgency. 
  • If your products are seasonal, be sure to include high-resolution images of the items during the specific time of year they are in demand. You can even include an image that displays a gift-wrapped item to help shoppers visualize what they are buying and increase the product’s appeal.

Final 3 Weeks: Boost Your Brand Presence and Exposure

  • Make sure you have a strategic advertising plan in place prior to the holidays. Evaluate your advertising mix and begin testing now to improve your organic rankings going into the busy season. 
  • Let your business objectives dictate your Amazon Advertising strategy for the holiday season. If, for example, driving sales is your priority, focus on the keywords that generate clicks and convert to sales. Track your ACoS and set an ACoS target that helps you achieve your sales targets.
  • Enroll your brand in Amazon’s Brand Registry if you have not done so already.
  • If you are Brand Registered, consider using Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Amazon Stores in unison to maximize your in-market impact. 
  • Once Amazon releases it for the 2019 holiday season, reference the company’s social media toolkit that is complete with best practices for social media during Q4. Amazon recommends kickstarting your holiday social push on Nov. 1. You can categorize and coordinate your posts according to specific sales days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or selling periods targeted to last-minute deals, such as Dec.14-22. 

Final Thoughts

Preparing for the Q4 holiday season on Amazon requires in-depth preparation and year-round monitoring of your inventory levels, account health, and overall performance. By setting strategies into place now to prepare for Q4, you will be more equipped to satisfy consumer demand and expectations and take effective measures to experience success during the holiday season. 

By familiarizing yourself with Amazon’s best practices for seasonal selling as well as using dynamic technology to optimize price changes, advertising campaigns, product detail pages, and brand presence, you will be able to poise your business for success in Q4 and into the new year.

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