August 30, 2021

How to Start Prepping Inventory for the Holiday Frenzy

By Emery Johnson / Logistics & Fulfillment

For shoppers, “the most wonderful time of the year” lasts from late November to December. But for ecommerce brands, the preparation for the holiday shopping season starts long before that.

To make the most of holiday promotions—and to ensure sufficient stock to keep retailers and customers happy—brands should be preparing now for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entire holiday shopping season. Here’s how:

Identify and implement your promotional strategy

When preparing for the holiday shopping season, your first step should be identifying your promotional strategy. This strategy should include detailed plans on which products you want to promote from your catalog, how you plan to price these products, and when you want to begin the promotion. This information should then be clearly communicated to retailers as soon as possible.

Only after making these decisions can you accurately predict the lift you should expect to see during holiday promotions. Looking at historical data is the best way to predict what your sales will be like. Focus on analyzing data of like products with like price points and like discounts. Brands should then plan on having enough stock to cover the anticipated lift in sales plus or minus 10%.

When crafting your holiday promotional strategy, flexibility is key. You may initially plan on offering 25% off a product but then see that your competitors are offering 30% off when Thanksgiving rolls around. To avoid losing sales to competitors, prepare a game plan to move to a more competitive price if necessary. Communicate this plan to retailers so all sellers are on the same page and you’re not damaging retailer relationships by selling below your established price.

It’s also important to keep in mind that November and December see a natural uptick in ecommerce traffic and sales even without deep discounts or holiday promotions. In addition to the lift from Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions, brands should also prepare for increased incremental sales of full-price products because of increased ecommerce traffic during the holiday shopping season.

Prepare for seasonal promotions with plenty of time to spare

Seasonal brands should begin planning their holiday shopping promotions with about a 12 month lead time. Brands that replenish inventory more often should begin communicating their holiday shopping promotions to retailers between 6-8 months before the shopping season starts. At the 6-month mark, it’s a good idea to hone in on your shipping times so your retailers’ supply chains are prepared. If you feel like you’re already behind, see what steps you can take today to get back on track.

Try to plan to have your shipment receipts to your retailers by the first week of November, making sure you have enough product to cover your holiday timeframe with a month’s worth of lead time to get ahead of any possible delays. Aligning your receipt flow to arrive well before you expect it to sell improves your cash flow and allows for supply chains to be more nimble. That’s why it’s so important to have a correct demand sales forecast—without it, you can’t have a correct receipt flow. These principles apply year-round but are especially important as sales increase during the holidays.

Prepare your own supply chains to both account for ongoing import delays and to ensure there’s enough buffer time for your retailers. Have safety stock on hand so you can replenish for December as needed if Black Friday goes well.

Coordinate marketing efforts to maximize promotions

Preparing and planning marketing assets are another important factor in preparing for the holiday shopping season. Make sure you have your best products featured in your marketing, and coordinate with your vendors to see if you’re going to be featured in any of their marketing efforts.

For brands that sell exclusively on Amazon, it’s worth syncing with Amazon to see if your product can be featured as a Deal of the Day or through other marketing opportunities or advertising spending. Plan this marketing well in advance so you know when the promotions will release and what kind of impact they’ll make on your sales and inventory.

Special considerations for 2021

Brands shouldn’t expect this holiday shopping season to mirror 2020, even if the world still hasn’t quite returned to a pre-pandemic normal.

The 2020 season was an anomaly not only because of increased ecommerce traffic, but also because of a later-than-usual Prime Day. While Prime Day normally occurs in the summer, supply chain issues postponed it until October last year, which triggered the holiday shopping season early and forced brands to be aggressive with pricing from October until the end of the year.

Since Prime Day 2021 happened in the summer, brands should expect a smaller cyber timeframe this year. Still, it’s a good idea to prepare for higher ecommerce demand than was typical pre-COVID, since many shoppers have grown accustomed to the convenience of ecommerce.

Need help preparing for holiday shopping logistics?

When you’re working hard to stay above water with your day-to-day ecommerce operations, it can be overwhelming to plan far enough in advance to take full advantage of holiday shopping promotions. It can also be challenging to access the data you need to accurately predict the kind of lift you’ll see during the holidays and prepare your stock and supply chains accordingly.

Pattern simplifies these processes for brands. Our world-class ecommerce teams and state-of-the-art software help brands make data-backed decisions to accelerate their growth on ecommerce year-round, and these services are available at no additional cost to you. Interested in learning more? Request a demo to see how our experts can guide you through the holiday ecommerce frenzy.

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