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Getting a Head Start on Holiday Sales

A plan to help you prepare your goods in time to greet holiday shoppers.

When the summer wanes and the air carries a scent of the turning of the season, along comes the annual chorus of “let’s get ready for the holidays!” These days, holiday marketing seems to begin even before the summer heat has subsided. Take this as your motivation to get a head start on holiday sales, following on the actions of other sellers and merchandisers around you.

The truth is you’re best served if you have your seasonal plan in hand, and in action, at least two or three months in advance of any holiday. And, while the wintertime holidays are the most prolific in consumer consciousness, practically every calendar holiday can bring a renewed sales potential, provided you’re ready. Here’s how to revise, refine and refresh your holiday marketing approach.

Get your inventory ready

If you’re planning to have the goods that buyers will want during the holiday season, be sure you’ll have plenty on hand and ready to ship. If you specialize in certain items each year, use the previous years’ sales data to properly plan your inventory levels.

Take a cue from last year’s sell-through rates and use that to plan for this year’s stock on hand

While you can never guess precisely how much inventory you’ll need, take a cue from last year’s sell-through rates and use that to plan for this year’s stock on hand. Also, determine ahead of time how long a reorder of inventory from your sources of supply will take, and at what date on the pre-holiday calendar you could expect to reorder and have inventory in time to satisfy customer purchases for the season. If you don’t plan to reorder inventory for the current holiday, selling only the inventory you plan to have on hand, be sure to sell early and actively to avoid leftover stock that might be difficult to unload after the holiday.

Get your pricing strategy in position

With your inventory levels determined, brush up on your market research to determine the price points you’ll use for your holiday goods. Some sellers prefer to hit the season with low prices right away, hoping to quickly move stock by the allure of a better-than-the-competitors pricing. Other sellers prefer to offer similar pricing as their competitors but present some sort of differentiating offer, e.g., discounts on multiple purchases, free shipping, premium customer service, etc. Then, as the holiday date draws nearer, these sellers have a plan in place to drop prices to ensure they can sell their remaining inventory before it becomes post-holiday leftovers.

Whichever approach you prefer—and you can use both in tandem—get your pricing strategy in place and well publicized in your online listings, on your Web store front page, and in your mailers and promotional flyers.

Herald your expertise

In regard to premium customer service, if you specialize in particular sorts of items, be sure to promote this prominently. During holiday shopping periods, buyers are often seeking particular goods and seasoned advice from those sellers truly in the know. This is a sort of “soft skill” to market but can be a differentiator between sellers. If you have expertise and are trusted in your field, recognize there’s definite value in that—and that’s definitely valuable to you and your business sell-through results.

Polish your processes

Now is the time to review your end-to-end sales process, noting areas that might have been cumbersome and costly to you in the past. When holiday shoppers show up, they’re often in a hurry, dictated by their need for goods in alignment with the holiday calendar date. Be sure to remove the inefficiencies and redundancies in your process when listing items for sale, processing a transaction, or readying a package for shipment. Time saved is money saved, and customers served in a timely and effective fashion are likely to return for another purchase.

Be sure you have the proper boxes, envelopes, tape and labels on hand and ready for immediate use

Get your ship shop in order

Often, a seller’s holiday profit potential is undercut by their lack of preparedness during the shipping phase of a sale. When you’re assessing and readying your inventory of goods, that’s also the best time to assess and address your packing and shipping needs.

Be sure you have the proper boxes, envelopes, tape and labels on hand and ready for immediate use. Also take a look at the area where you’ll package items for shipment and be sure it’s clean, well lit, and has plenty of space for the safe and secure packaging of items. Lastly, be sure to consider your shipment schedule and assure it aligns with getting the goods to your customers in plenty of time. During holiday sales periods, you may need to arrange for carriers to pick up packages ready for shipment, or you’ll need to plan additional trips to a carrier’s shipping facility. Either way, make a plan ahead of time to ensure your shipping process flows smoothly, too.

All hands on deck

If you expect a significant increase in sales activity during the holidays, take steps to bring on seasonal help. Bring on folks who can take charge of a certain aspect of your sales flow, for example, creating graphics, writing copy, listing items, shipping goods or managing customer communications. Be sure to clearly explain the processes your helpers should use and keep a pulse on their activity day by day, but don’t micro-manage or you might as well do the work yourself.

Have regular meetings or huddles to discuss any issues and to plan for the upcoming day. Be particularly attentive to any feedback about your products or processes from your helpers. Since they likely don’t do this work all year long, as do you, they’ll have candid input about what works well and what could benefit from improvement. This is valuable information to consider as you go forward with your business.

As you can see, there’s plenty to prepare for a healthy and profitable holiday sales season. Get a plan, get a head start and get ready for a next level in success. Here come the holidays—will you be ready?

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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