Top 7 Things Every Online Seller Should Do to Prepare for Q4 2018

Looking for the latest e-commerce advice on marketing, selling and fulfilling during the critical Q4 peak season? You’ve been planning and preparing for peak season for months now, and with Q4 just days away, it’s time to start putting your best practices into action. To help you stay on track, we’ve pulled together the top seven takeaway tips you need to prepare for the Q4 2018 holiday selling season.

1. Start With Your Data

More than ever, seasonal success will depend on how well you leverage your data to compete with analytics.

Focus on reexamining your historical sales data and last year’s performance to determine how much stock you’ll need to meet demand throughout the end-of-year peak. The more you can learn from previous seasons, the better equipped you’ll be to avoid overselling or understocking.

Start by reviewing reports from your current inventory platform or, if this will be your first time selling online during the holiday rush, discuss the latest trends with partners and leaders in your space. Pay special attention to any SKUs that show enough potential to justify additional inventory, and consider factors that might warrant expanding your supply chain capabilities.

2. Strengthen Your Amazon Advertising

This is the time of year to give your Amazon Advertising a major review. Review current performance, look for new keywords and consider instituting a negative keyword strategy. The marketplace giant will continue to be the first stop for more than half of consumers, not to mention Amazon’s 100 million Prime members, throughout the season.

Analyse keywords, consider negative keyword strategies, optimise titles and be ready to adjust bidding as needed.

3. Plan Promotions ASAP

The earlier you can encourage Christmas purchases, the better equipped you’ll be to deliver on expectations for fast, free shipping. Deals and offers designed to encourage pre-peak orders will allow you to take advantage of periods when transportation is more readily available and relatively affordable.

After becoming accustomed to seeing festive-themed sales occurring earlier every year, you can bet on consumers responding positively. The earlier you’re ready to start rolling out promotions, the better prepared you’ll be to compete throughout the season.

4. Be Mobile-Ready

Remember when consumers used mobile devices to research a product before buying it in a store or on a laptop? Those days are long gone. In 2017, shoppers made more purchases from their smartphones than ever before — including the first-ever $2 billion mobile shopping day on Cyber Monday.

Take a good, hard look at your advertising campaigns to ensure they reflect the needs of smartphone users. Better yet, spend some time optimising your product listings to get them mobile-ready.

5. Plan Ahead for Delivery Delays

As the peak season approaches, you could encounter that online orders will be delayed. With the rapid pace of e-commerce expansion outpacing year-over-year growth in carrier capacity, there’s no easy way for even the most advanced delivery companies to keep pace with demand during the peak season rush.

No matter how you choose to fulfil orders, our advice is the same: Talk to your carriers and providers while there’s still ample time to plan ahead. Find out how they’ll address delivery delays, and what steps they’re currently taking to get ready for the upcoming surge in packages. Then build a contingency plan to handle potential setbacks or increases in costs.

6. Look at Returns as Opportunities

Returns have long been the nemesis of many brands and retailers. But if you want to ensure a successful holiday season, you’re going to have to get ready to embrace them.

Ready or not, many of the very deliveries you put on the holiday fast track are going to boomerang back to you. And how you handle them will set the tone for the remainder of the year: Some 95% of consumers say they’ll continue to buy from a seller after having a positive return experience.

Many sellers outsource this process to an experienced third-party logistics provider so they can quickly process returns for resale, while others opt to expand internal teams with seasonal hires. Whichever route you choose, make sure your customer service team is adequately trained and fully equipped to exceed consumers’ expectations. Better yet, use those returns as opportunities to connect with consumers and grow sales.

7. Maintain Operational Excellence

Our final takeaway for Q4 2018 may be the most basic, but it’s also arguably the most important. In the midst of all your planning and preparations, don’t lose sight of the fundamentals that make for outstanding buyers’ journeys. Prepare the right amount of stock, take pains to prevent shipping snafus, keep pricing competitive and be ready to field inquiries from purchase-ready shoppers.

Eager for even more peak season preparation tips? If you’re not already receiving our monthly updates, subscribe to the ChannelAdvisor newsletter so we can keep you apprised of the latest trends throughout Q4 2018.

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