It’s safe to say that the 2021 holiday shopping season is shaping up to be unlike any we’ve seen before. The phrase “supply chain” has gone from being limited to boardrooms and classrooms to something at the front of every shopper’s mind.
Still reeling from the long term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and suppliers are bracing for a holiday shopping season even more chaotic and stressful than last year’s. And stockouts in major categories are anticipated to be one of the biggest issues for 2021’s holiday ecommerce for both consumers and brands
Pattern conducted an analysis over the past 90 days to determine which Amazon categories are currently experiencing inventory stockouts and which are most likely to experience stockouts this holiday season. Considering this year’s substantial challenges, we share what we’ve learned for brands and consumers alike so they can prepare for what to successfully sell and purchase this 2021 holiday ecommerce season on Amazon. The big lesson? Brands cannot delay prepping for the holiday season.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding this year’s holiday shopping season, the National Retail Federation expects this to be the biggest holiday shopping season ever. Their 2021 forecast anticipates an 8.5% to 10% increase in holiday shopping sales compared to last year. No small feat, considering last year’s significant 8.2% increase from 2019’s shopping season.
The report also predicts even larger growth in ecommerce shopping this holiday season. They expect that online and other non-store sales will increase by 11% to 15% compared to 2020, which would account for between $218 and $226 billion in online sales.
Long story short: online demand is going to be at an all-time high this holiday season, which means it’s more important than ever for brands and businesses to get their inventory in before the holidays.
Which is why we felt it would be important to dive into our data and get a feel for which types of items are currently most (or least) on track to run out of stock this holiday season.
Here’s a quick look at the major categories on Amazon, and which ones are the most (and least) on track to run out of stock:
Let’s dig a little deeper.
We’ll start with the safe items. As you can see in the chart above, the following categories are those least likely to experience inventory shortages during the 2021 holidays:
Both the book category and the CDs and Vinyl category are, far and away, experiencing the least amount of stockout. So if you have a bookworm or a record collector on your shopping list, you can breathe easy. And if you supply these products, you may not need to panic call your warehouses.
Beauty and personal care is the next lowest item on the list, but it’s important to note that some items in this category are actually experiencing pretty high levels of stockout. For example, nail polish is currently 14% out of stock, and extensions & wigs are 11% out of stock. Items that are much safer in this category are moisturizers (3% out of stock), face masks (4%), and bath and bathing accessories (4%).
Automotive items are well-stocked, but again, some automotive items like protective gear, seat covers, and accessories are on track to experience some stockouts.
It may come as a surprise to some, but tech manufacturers have done a fairly good job of keeping their items in stock and available to consumers this year despite the many supply chain challenges and chip shortages. Items that appear to be safest in this category include: networking products, cord management items, desktops, laptops, and monitors. Cameras and surveillance equipment, however, may be much harder to find.
Here are the categories most likely to experience widespread stockouts this holiday shopping season:
Within these categories are several subcategories especially at risk. We’ve broken some of them down below.
This year, clothing is the category experiencing the highest levels of stockout as we enter the holiday shopping season. Here’s a deeper look at which types of clothing are going to be the hardest (or easiest) to get your hands on this year:
As you can see, shoppers are going to be struggling to find all types of clothing this holiday season.
Activewear is currently the subcategory most on track to run out, with over a quarter of the inventory currently out of stock. Girls clothing is the next most out of stock, with costumes & accessories not far behind (which is to be expected on the heels of Halloween).
Multiple types of clothing are already seeing more than 20% of their inventory out of stock, including: lingerie, sleep and lounge, tops, tees, blouses, and men’s clothing.
Even the subcategories at the bottom of the list, like sweaters and baby clothing, are on track to see dangerously low levels of inventory by the end of the shopping season. So if you’re in the clothing industry, it’s going to be more important than ever to stay ahead of demand as much as possible in the weeks and months ahead.
It looks like the cooking and baking trend that started in the early days of the pandemic hasn’t slowed down at all. Cooktops, ovens, ranges, and range hoods are on track to be especially difficult to get your hands on as the 2021 holidays approach.
Ice makers, refrigerators, and freezers are also experiencing low inventory levels expected to stretch into the holidays. So shoppers looking to upgrade their kitchen ahead of holiday gatherings or as a holiday present should be encouraged to make those big purchases as soon as possible.
Once again, it’s clothing that’s at real risk of a holiday shortage, as 21% of outdoor clothing is currently out of stock. Water bottles, a popular go-to gift for any friend or family member, are in danger of running out of stock already. As, it seems, are many other smaller types of sports and outdoor accessories.
Fan-related items like team gear, jerseys, t-shirts, etc. are also experiencing high levels of low inventory.
The middle of winter may not feel like peak patio or lawn and garden shopping time for many parts of the country, but the category is on track to experience some stockout all the same.
Outdoor decor, doormats, plant containers, and flags might all be tough to get your hands on this holiday shopping season. Even more summer-associated items like garden hoses and patio furniture are running low levels on inventory, which may be following seasonality of demand.
Last year was huge for home and kitchen item sales. With the pandemic keeping millions of people inside their houses for much of the year, this category was the #2 most likely to experience stockout in our 2020 analysis.
It may have dropped to #5 this year, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have problems finding certain home and kitchen items this holiday shopping season.
Travel and to-go food containers actually top this list this year, with bedding not far behind. Bath, home decor, and furniture may all experience shortages this holiday shopping season as well.
Small appliances, bakeware, and cookware, meanwhile, are all far less on track to run out of inventory. This suggests that after having refreshed their kitchen during the first year of the pandemic, many Americans are now moving on to the bedroom and the bathroom this year.
Baby products have been seeing a higher spike in stockouts once again this year. Blankets and swaddling are low in inventory as well as storage and organization, baby bedding, nursery items, bathing, and furniture.
Whether you’ve got a new baby at home, are expecting one before the holidays, or have new parents on the shopping list, you shouldn’t wait to make these holiday purchases this year.
Unsurprisingly, masks, respirators, and PPE top the list of tools and home improvement supplies experiencing the lowest inventory levels.
String lights are already running low on inventory, so if you’re postponing putting up your Christmas lights, you might want to rethink that idea.
Other items in this category that are at risk of running out of inventory this year include building materials, safety and security equipment (which we also saw running low in our electronics category as well), and cords, adapters, and multi-outlets.
Don’t procrastinate shopping for the musicians on your list this year. Popular instruments like guitars, drums, and general band and orchestra instruments are all starting to run low on inventory already.
Other popular at-home music options like ukuleles, home studio equipment, and keyboards, are also in danger of running low this year as many people chose to spend that extra at-home pandemic time making music and have depleted Amazon’s inventory.
Now that we dove deep in the top 8 categories most likely to experience stockout, we wanted to examine the subcategories across other categories we looked at to see which ones are the most on track to run out of inventory this holiday shopping season.
Here are the 10 subcategories most at risk of stockout from the rest of the categories in our analysis:
Our data reinforces the idea that the holiday shopping season 2021 might see higher levels of stockout than any year before.
Better understanding inventory levels and consumer demand is more important than ever. Running out of inventory on a popular item early in the shopping season can quickly and easily sour your relationship with retail partners, leaving them eager to find someone more equipped to manage their inventory. It can also leave your Amazon listing available for another seller to grab the buy box.
Plus, stockouts can leave the end consumer feeling frustrated with your brand both this year and even in the future. Either way, staying ahead of your inventory is a crucial part of preparing your brand for the 2021 holiday shopping season. Pattern’s proprietary software can help brands forecast demand, avoid stockouts and missed sales, and advertise effectively across all inventory levels.
To learn how Pattern can help you leverage your data so your business can succeed this holiday season and beyond, schedule a demo today.
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Entering the ecommerce landscape is a huge undertaking for any brand—it usually requires a large investment in resources and expertise to really be successful. Any brand can quickly get in over their heads trying to navigate the nuances of SEO, fulfillment and logistics, distribution control, listing optimization, and meeting the numerous other requirements and administrative tasks to show up well on marketplaces.
Unfortunately, because it’s so easy for third party, gray market, and unauthorized sellers to obtain and sell products online, many brands find themselves pressured to execute an ecommerce plan without the right resources to succeed on marketplaces and their other channels.
So, for brands looking to enter the ecommerce space or improve their current and future performance, it makes sense to partner with an ecommerce consultant.
Pattern’s global presence and proven success with hundreds of brands has allowed us to develop highly effective ecommerce consulting services. We can guide your brand to navigate issues both large and small in marketplaces worldwide. To maximize your ecommerce efforts, you’ll need to understand what an ecommerce consultant does and how to select one who drives the right value for your brand and products.
An ecommerce consultant is a specialist in the ecommerce space who can give you personalized guidance on how to market your products and grow their presence on digital marketplaces.
An ecommerce consultant should be able to analyze your brand, audience, category, opportunity, and current roadblocks and help you understand how to utilize your resources (or what resources are missing) to be most effective in capturing your opportunities in the ecommerce space.
Not sure how to evaluate a consultant? Here are 4 key attributes to look for as you make your choice.
At Pattern, we prioritize brand obsession for a reason—we know that a brand-centered mindset makes a crucial difference in the outcomes and results our partners achieve. So in our experience, when you begin your search for an ecommerce consultant, it’s important to look for a partner who is specialized in ecommerce, invested in the product, and passionate about helping brands build and improve their strategies. Typically, this means finding someone that consults exclusively for ecommerce marketplaces, rather than choosing a consultant who offers many different services.
It’s also important to avoid choosing a consulting partner who can’t deliver the right experience for your brand. The best indication of whether your potential consultant can do that is to review their history, data, and results with other brands. Ask if they’ve helped others in your selling category, if they’ve solved specific issues your brand is facing, and why they feel you are a good fit. The key is to leave the conversation feeling confident that you understand your consultants’ capabilities and whether or not they match up with your needs.
It’s best to pick a consultant who knows how to guide a brand onto and through multiple marketplaces worldwide. You’ll want to take a look at your long-term strategy and think about the regions and platforms you’re currently on and where you might want to take your brand in the future. If your consultant is truly great at what they do, they’ll be able to help you perform well enough with your current product roadmap that it’ll be a no-brainer to expand your presence at the right time.
The most effective partnership with an ecommerce consultant will be able to give you both recommendations and point you to solutions for making those changes in your planning, processes, and execution. Your time and money is valuable, so you want to make sure that you’re spending it as efficiently as possible as you follow your consultant’s advice. So, before you commit to an ecommerce consultant, ask about the resources and concrete solutions they typically recommend to the brands they work with.
Finding an ecommerce consultant that checks the boxes can be a difficult task. At Pattern, our entire focus and drive centers around giving brands the tools and resources they need to succeed on domestic and international ecommerce marketplaces.
With over 100 global ecommerce consultants across 10 global offices, we have the right tools to partner with brands across the world to achieve better ecommerce success. We give specialized advice, then make sure our partners have all the adequate SEO, social media, CRM, Amazon multi-channel fulfillment services, and ecommerce outsourcing services they need.
Interested in ecommerce consulting services? Set up a call here to learn what Pattern can do for your brand on global marketplaces.
If you’re interested in expanding your brand internationally, you’re probably familiar with Tmall. Tmall is Asia-Pacific’s (APAC) largest marketplace, and indisputably the biggest ecommerce powerhouse in the world. It represents a huge opportunity for many brands, but entering the space is also a big challenge to take on.
At Pattern, we recommend brands looking to enter international markets should first focus on dialing in their domestic presence. Once you’re satisfied that your brand is well-represented and optimized locally, you’re ready to think about tackling new regions, like APAC, and launching on marketplaces like Tmall. Our top advice for entering Tmall is to understand and strategize around its three most important metrics: service, delivery, and content.
Service, delivery, and content ratings are the three elements that make up Tmall’s Detailed Seller Rating (DSR) score. Each component is scored on a scale of 1-5 that is displayed publicly on your brand’s Tmall flagship store page. This is meant to help consumers decide whether or not to purchase your products.
DSR scores are important because they’re highly influential in driving conversions—customers see DSRs as a way to quickly understand if a brand is trustworthy and worth buying from. They also matter quite a bit to Tmall itself—they monitor these scores and will take action to close flagship stores with low scores.
Let’s go over each element of the DSR score and some steps you’ll need to take to achieve high ratings.
Service is a huge ecommerce component in APAC marketplaces. In most other regions, product listings are static, and consumers use content and reviews to make a decision about what to purchase. On Tmall, consumers want to interact with your brand and test its validity before buying—each transaction takes at least one human interaction to convert.
So, to get a great service rating, you’ll need to have a large, established customer service team dedicated to Tmall sales that can offer real, human touchpoints and very fast response times. To get an idea of the speed your agents should be capable of producing, in our Tmall benchmarking exercise, 92.5% of brands’ customer service agents replied to queries via live chat within 30 seconds, 5% replied within one minute and the remaining 2.5% of brands took longer than a minute. So, look for a Trade Partner (TP) that has enough resources to compete with those numbers, support your sales, and maintain a good DSR score.
Another thing you’ll really want to focus on is a high-quality delivery experience for consumers. As in other regions around the world, Tmall consumers have high expectations for their delivery experience. In our Chinese consumer polling report that targeted consumers buying from Tmall Global, we found that 6% expected same-day delivery, 15% expected next-day delivery, and 46% expected 2-5 day delivery.They want to receive their products fast and they want the products to be undamaged and pristine upon arrival.
So, to achieve a high score for your delivery capabilities, we highly recommend partnering with a TP or ecommerce accelerator like Pattern (which serves as a TP) who has the ability to facilitate your distribution. Make sure your TP has the right infrastructure in place to support high-quality logistics experiences for all of your consumers—they should have an established, well-oiled delivery process in place and the capability to fluidly add you to their current fulfillment system.
As in every digital marketplace, content is a huge component of the decision-making process for consumers on Tmall—they can’t touch your product with their hands or see it in person before buying, so it’s important they’re empowered to make a good decision on whether or not to purchase based on the videos, images, and copy.
The goal is to make all of the content and relevant information on your flagship site easily-accessible—consumers should be able to visit your page and make a decision about whether or not to buy without navigating to a new site/page and taking their conversions with them. Images with text and extensive product details are a great way to do this, as well as making sure your service team can speak to all aspects of your product with any consumers (via text or chat).
As the world’s foremost brand partner for ecommerce acceleration, Pattern truly understands the significance of international expansion. With regional offices around the world, Pattern knows how to successfully launch and grow brands on Tmall and other marketplaces, with the data, insights, and marketplace intelligence to build the metrics that matter.
It’s important to have a fantastic brand presence, a knowledgeable guide, and a clear go-forward strategy for your best chance at success. With our in-country resources, expert teams, and extensive experience in growing brands around the globe, Pattern can help you get there.
Set up a call to get your international expansion strategy in motion.