It's Christmas time, and there's no need to be afraid
At Christmas time, we let in light and banish shade
And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
At Christmas time
-Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid (Geldof/Ure)
For Amazon sellers everywhere, the Christmas holiday season is truly a world of plenty.
How big were they in 2018?
According to our friends at Adobe Analytics, Black Friday consumer spending topped out at a whopping $6.2 billion, a rise of 23.6% from last year. But if you think that was big, check out what happened on Cyber Monday.
Amazon reports that Cyber Monday 2018 was “the single biggest shopping day in the company’s history with more products ordered worldwide than any other day.” Consumer spending rose 19.3% over last year, to the tune of $7.9 billion (per Adobe Analytics).
Amazon additionally noted that, “the Turkey 5, those five popular shopping days starting with Thanksgiving and continuing through Cyber Monday, broke records as customers in the U.S. purchased millions more products over the five day period vs. the same period last year.”
Wow! Hopefully, you were ready for the beginning of the holiday shopping season and were able to benefit from the surge of Amazon shoppers.
But, as we all know, it’s not over yet.
This is a crucial time for Amazon sellers.
As our CEO & Founder Chris Rawling noted in our latest webinar-a lot of companies make half their yearly revenue during just these two months. Staying on top of your business right now is essential to your yearly success.
What some of us often forget is that there are important steps that need to be taken now to ensure that your business is ready for Q1 2019 - which is sneaking up on you fast.
We’re going to share with you some vital information here that will allow you to make the most of the rest of Q4 2018, and help you prepare for what’s coming in Q1 2019.
We’ll first share our thoughts on the importance of the Christmas season for sellers, then go over the important upcoming dates that Amazon sellers need to know, and finish with 10 Top Tips for Amazon Seller's Christmas (Holiday) Season - and why you should be preparing for Q1 2019 now.
I hear sleigh bells jingling - it must be time for a sleigh ride together with you…..
Why The Entire Christmas Season Is Important
The way the media squawks about it, you’d be forgiven if you thought that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the only two shopping days for the Christmas Holiday Season.
However, the numbers show that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday made up only 9% of the 2017 holiday selling season.
Sales stayed strong after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Less than two weeks after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, sales were 10% higher than they were on Black Friday.
Sales continued to grow moving towards Christmas, December 25th.
The largest sales spike was on Monday, December 12th, nearly two weeks before the Christmas holiday. Its sales were 16% higher than Cyber Monday.
90% of Amazon FBA Holiday Earnings Occur After Black Friday/Cyber Monday
What does this mean for you?
Smart Amazon sellers need to focus on the entire Christmas Holiday Season, not just Black Friday/Cyber Monday (the Turkey 5).
It also means that, if for some reason you missed out on the early sales bonanza, you still can take advantage of the weeks to come.
Need more proof? Well, ShopperTrak has made their annual Holiday Traffic Prediction. Here are the expected Top 10 busiest holiday shopping days for 2018:
Friday, November 23 – Black Friday
Saturday, December 22 – Super Saturday
Saturday, December 15
Sunday, December 23
Saturday, November 24
Saturday, December 8
Friday, December 21
Wednesday, December 26
Saturday, December 1
Saturday, December 29
Now, you can see that numbers 2-10 on the list are still in front of us (Cyber Monday is not included as this list covers all retailers, not just online) - so there are plenty of big sales days still to be won.
Another key thing to remember is that during the Christmas Holiday Season, seller unit/session percentages increase.
Why does this matter?
As we all know, seller unit/session percentages are a key Amazon conversion rate metric.
The percentage represents the number of units your product sold during a specific period of time, divided by the number of views your product listings had throughout that same time period.
In other words, it is taking fewer views of a listing to convert a sale during the holiday period.
Jungle Scout’s research shows that “shoppers are 2-3 times more likely to make a purchase during the holiday season than they are before the holiday season.”
‘Tis the season to be clicking on a listing - and buying! Now, let’s take a look at the other key days to remember as we wind down Q4.
Dates To Remember
The holiday shopping season spikes in November and December.
Here are the key dates during, and after these months that you should keep top of mind:
* Thanksgiving: November 22, 2018
* Black Friday: November 23, 2017
* Small Business Saturday: November 24, 2018
* Cyber Monday: November 26, 2018
* Hanukkah: December 2 – 10 , 2018
* Christmas: December 25, 2018
* Boxing Day: December 26, 2018
* Kwanzaa: December 26, 2018 – January 1, 2019
* New Year’s Eve: December 31, 2017
* Returns, Credits, and Gift Cards: The entire month of January
* Chinese New Year: February 5 – 19, 2019
* Amazon’s Long-Term Storage Fee Day: February 15, 2019
If you don’t have yourself set up with an Amazon Seller’s Calendar yet, check out our helpful post The Amazon FBA Seller's Calendar: Your Secret to Year-Round Sales Domination for all the dates you need to know year-round in the US, Europe, and China.
Now that we know the why and the when’s of Christmas Holiday shopping season, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
10 Tips for Amazon Seller's Christmas Holiday Season (and for Q1 2019)
Here’s where we’re going to drop some knowledge on you in the form of 10 to do’s that will help you get the best out of the extra holiday sales traffic, and get ready for next year to boot.
We think you’ll find something of value to your Amazon eCommerce business as you unwrap each of these 10 presents. Just clean up the wrapping paper when you’re finished, please.
Tip #1 - Optimize Your Listings
Your listings are the lifeblood that brings you traffic and sales.
They are the most important part of your business. At this most important time of the year, make sure the most important part of your business is shiny like a gold ball on a Christmas tree.
We all know the drill- make sure your titles, descriptions, and photos are as perfect as can be.
Go over your keywords to make sure that they are optimized for search in your category.
Here are a few special tips for optimizing listings at the holidays:
1. Consider updating your product page with holiday-themed images and keywords to show that your product is a great gift idea
2. Our friends at Practical eCommerce recommend using the Listings Quality and Suppressed Listings Report in Seller Central to check your listings for errors and omissions.
3. Try to get more good reviews by following up with customers, and doing what you can to get negative reviews removed.
4. Add A+ Content (if your listing is eligible). Detailed item descriptions, larger images, videos, charts, and more really showcase your brand and creates the impression of value to potential buyers.
Having a strong listing now will also help you continue to generate organics sales traffic into Q1 2019, so go ahead and optimize.
Tip #2 - Metrics Clean-Up
Go over your numbers with a fine-toothed comb and try to fix any negative metrics.
By keeping your metrics in line, you keep your account away from any potential suspensions, and maintain eligibility - and opportunity - to win the Buy Box.
Having the Buy Box at this time of year is even more of a gold mine than usual. Learn more about all the metrics you need to have in prime condition in our handy post, How to Win the Amazon Buy Box (in Q4).
When looking at your metrics, be sure to identify any SKU’s that are not performing, or are responsible for large numbers of negative reviews or returns.
You can then consider not selling those items at this time of the year, or finding ways to fix the issues that are holding the SKU’s back.
It’s also a good time to look at your Advertising metrics, and see what kind of ads are performing best, then focusing your efforts in those areas over the holidays.
Tip #3 - Pricing Strategies
While pricing is also part of optimizing your listing, it’s worth mentioning on its own here due to the importance of choosing the right prices this time of year.
Most Amazon shoppers are looking to buy gifts, and this is a great opportunity to get rid of unpopular products at a reduced rate.
Dropping prices after December 12 will help push all that old inventory out the door so you’re not stuck holding it after Christmas.
For your better listings, keep an eye on your competition, and keep your prices competitive in your category. Consider offering coupons or promotions to attract more traffic.
Beware of price-gouging. Amazon has strict rules that are enforced during the holiday shopping season. If you are pricing products too high, you can lose the Buy Box or even have your account suspended. Be sure to follow the Terms of Service carefully when pricing. 10-15% above listed prices may be asking for trouble.
Be sure to look ahead into Q1 of 2019 and devise your listing pricing strategy. This way, when January 2019 rolls around, you’ll know exactly what to do with question. Consider automating these changes using Amazon’s tools or a third-party solution to make your life easy.
We asked Chris Dunne, from RepricerExpress, for his advice. Here is what he had to add:
“By looking on CamelCamelCamel you’ll see if an item’s price tends to go up during the last quarter — if it does, you can quickly adjust its Min and Max upwards and allow an Amazon repricer such as RepricerExpress to help you win the Buy Box at a higher margin.”
Tip #4 - Product Promotions
By now, you should have all your product launches prepared and promotions ready to go. Make sure you follow the recommended timelines that can be found in our post, Amazon Seller's Guide to Product Promotion : The 10 Best Strategies to Promote Your Listing & Drive Sales.
If not, you still have a very limited time to take part in JudoLaunch’s product Launch promotion, but you need to start your launch by December 12 at the latest to have any Christmas boost to sales.
Here’s some helpful tips for holiday product promotions:
1. Offer your promotions and deals early. The earlier you get those deals out there, the more you’ll be able to take advantage of the increased sales traffic.
2. Continue your promotions all the way up to Christmas, where it makes sense to do so.
3. Use Amazon Deal Sites to hunt down the holiday coupon-cutter customers and bring them to your listings.
4. Offer Lightning Deals to spark up any listings that aren’t moving the way that you’d like.
5. A hot tip from Jungle Scout:
Turn on Bid+ during the holidays. Bid+ is a feature in Amazon PPC manual campaigns that bids 150% of your normal bid if it would put your product onto the first page of search results.
While 150% may seem like a lot to spend per click, remember that unit/session percentages are 200-300% higher during this time, so you actually end up saving money.
Tip #5 - Add to Cart Importance
If you didn’t already have enough motivation to work on your listings, metrics, and promotions with all the crazy sales figures out there, there’s something new under the hood of the Amazon algorithm to consider when upgrading your seller game.
A recent change in Amazon's algorithm has given Add to Cart a higher a priority inside the than it used to.
The more people that add your product to their cart, the more beneficial it is for your ranking, and in turn, your organic sales.
Remember when we mentioned earlier that during the Christmas Holiday Season, seller unit/session percentages increase?
Well, this also means that it is more likely that people will be adding your products to their cart - and now you get compound benefits from that in ranking and organic sales traffic.
Also, if you haven’t launched yet but are planning on it, try to launch as early as possible so that people who are browsing now to find your product can Add to Cart to buy it later - or now. increasing both your sales and ranking - and that increased ranking will lead to increased sales.
Tip #6 - Inventory Management
We’ve been discussing the virtual side of your Amazon store, now we go to the physical products.
Proper inventory management is essential for seller success during the holidays, and into Q1 2019.
While the time has passed to make sure you have plenty of stock for the holidays, make sure that what you have is properly organized, priced, and in the right locations (warehouses) for quick shipping or to avoid fees, depending on your product.
Keep careful track of your units available and units shipped so you don’t suddenly get surprised by being out of stock on an item.
Carefully evaluate your current inventory.
Determine if poor selling items should be liquidated with low holiday pricing, or just pulled altogether for the duration of the season. Be wary of items that are often returned or poorly reviewed affecting your Seller Performance Rating.
Also, the Inventory Performance Index metric measures how effectively you manage your inventory levels through FBA.
Maintain a score above 350, and you’ll have unlimited FBA storage space during the holiday shopping season. The value of this cannot be understated.
As we roll into December, be sure to have enough stock to get you through Q1 2019, and get those orders in for it now if you have not done so already. You’ll want to get those orders in early because of what’s happening in our next tip.
Tip #7 - Chinese New Year Awareness
The Chinese New Year’s celebration happens on variable dates depending on the lunar cycle at the end of January and/or beginning of February.
In 2019, Chinese New Year is February 5 – 19. How could this seriously impact your business?
Traditionally, there are at least 7 days off around the holiday. This means it’s a good bet that your manufacturer or supplier is going to be closed for a while - and you won’t be able to place any orders, or get them shipped out in time.
Other Southeast Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan, also observe Chinese New Year.
Ask your manufacturer(s), suppliers, and shippers what their plans are for the Chinese New Year holidays so that you have no surprises.
Get your orders in early - and even now, if possible. If you run out of stock during Q1, it can be catastrophic for your business.
It could take up to 3 months to replenish your stock, crush your rankings, upset your customers, and even lead to account suspension. Nobody wants that to happen.
We asked Gary Huang from 80/20 Sourcing about Chinese New Year’s effect on Amazon sellers.
Gary has done a webinar with us, and his company is named after the ''Pareto principle''- how to identify the 20% of your efforts that lead to 80 % of your sales.
As Gary confirmed, “The most important thing you can do right now is to actually prepare/start preparing for Chinese New Year! Because you do not want your orders to miss the Chinese New Year deadline in February.
My #1 suggestion is actually to have your orders in no later than Thanksgiving, end of November- at the latest.The worst case scenario is, if you miss these dates your orders will not ship to after Chinese New Year.
Your factories will be closed for the entire month of February so you will get you orders in March or even April in some cases. That is a whole first quarter missed!”
Celebrate the Chinese New Year with the peace of mind of knowing your orders went in early, and you have ample inventory to get through Q1 2019. That’s a thought worth setting off a few fireworks over.
Tip #8 - Product Returns
Inevitably, during a season of higher than average shopping, you’ll end up with a few product returns.
Some may be unwanted gifts, some may have been damaged in transit, some may be exchanged for size. Hopefully, you took care of any poorly reviewed or low-quality inventory earlier.
Amazon has a 60-day return policy effective in November and December, so expect potential returns into January and February 2019.
There are no exemptions to the policy. As an FBA seller, you must abide, Dude, you must abide.
Have ample stock on-hand for exchanges.
Be sure to make prior arrangements with suppliers to determine how much inventory they will take back, if any, and be completely clear on their policies which will undoubtedly differ from Amazon’s.
Have staffing (if needed) and systems in place for return shipments and reselling of used (non-new, non-returnable) items. Above all, be sure to provide great customer service worthy of positive reviews.
We asked Justin Jacobs, CEO of Refunds Manager, for his thoughts on product returns.
“Q4 represents the start of the high return season. With higher volume comes a greater room for error on Amazon's part. Most sellers have outstanding money owed to them by Amazon that they're not aware of. In Q4, you should protect your profits as much as possible by safeguarding your seller account against issues with returns and other common errors. Learn to track your inventory for discrepancies or use a third party service to save both time and money handling FBA reimbursements.”
Tip #9 - Tax Preparation
“I love tax time”, said no one ever. As unpleasant as it may be, there’s no better time to get all your tax documents and ducks in row for your 2018 Taxes than at the end of Q4.
Get all your business books in order, preferably with the help of some quality accounting software, and ready to go to the accountant in Q1 2019.
If you don’t have an accountant, it’s a great time to get one. A qualified accountant is one of the best investments you can make, and will save you time, money, and stress every year.
Also, a good accountant will be able to keep track of any new tariffs that your government may have imposed on goods from China, and how they impact your bottom line.
If you find yourself having to pay a high tax bill this year because you made a ton of money in Q4 2018, remember that it’s a good problem to have!
Tip #10 - Research New Products for 2019
While your competitors are counting the Christmas cash and drinking eggnog, you can get a jump on them by researching next year’s products.
Preparing for early 2019 launches now is the smartest thing you can do to make your Amazon business sustainable all year long.
While you might not be able to get new products in stock right away, you can get samples, analyze trends, and do the legwork to see what the next big thing is in your category or for your brand. Then you can get your orders in for Q1 or Q2 2019 and set your launches accordingly.
We asked Manny Coats, host of AMPM Podcast, for his thoughts on what to look for.
Manny says, “Use historical data to find high-opportunity products. While new products may come and go each year, the large overarching trends typically stay the same. Specifically, price, supply and demand, and seasonal product trends can be largely predictable if you know where to look. See what’s worked well and from there, you can make more informed business decisions.”
You’ll be making a lot of cash in Q4, so reinvest some of it now into researching the products that will carry you through a successful 2019.
We hope these Top Tips for Amazon Seller's Christmas (Holiday) Season - and What You Should Be Preparing for Q1 2019 Now help you have a happy - and profitable - Q4 and beyond.
Use the tips and info we’ve shared to boost your sales over this holiday season. Remember to have fun, be kind, and enjoy the spirit of the holidays, no matter which ones you celebrate. As you buy and sell gifts, keep this in mind:
"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."
- Peg Bracken, author
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes to All !