While coronavirus has impacted nearly every aspect of the global economy over the past few weeks, e-commerce brands have been hit especially hard. Retailers with major ties to China have struggled to deal with significant interruptions to the supply chain as well as travel limitations between countries.
The good news for e-commerce brands is that the spread of coronavirus in China has been slowing down, allowing factories to reopen. The bad news is that coronavirus is still a major concern worldwide and it is difficult to predict how its spread throughout the world will affect business.
Because of the continued concern for the world population’s health, it’s imperative that e-commerce brands take careful steps to navigate this global issue, minimizing risks and maximizing opportunities. Here’s how you can revitalize your brand, despite any recent effects of this recent disease.
Increased Customer Communication
With the frequent shipping delays, inventory shortages, and unknown an unknown timeline for the end of the coronavirus, some businesses have been worried about dealing with upset customers. But even the best brands can’t control for unexpected events like global disease. Customers will understand this as long as you keep them in the loop.
It’s true that upset customers can wreak havoc on your brand. Fifty-two percent of customers tell others to avoid a brand after a bad experience, and 47 percent of customers have switched to a different brand due to bad customer service. It’s essential to take care of your customer, so when circumstances are out of your control, the best thing to is update customers as the situation evolves.
You’ll earn the trust and loyalty of many people simply by being honest and showing you care. Share your estimated timeline for progress with customers and be clear that you will continue to update that timeline as you receive more information. When your operations are back to normal, you’ll have an even more solid customer base than before.
The Online Advantage
Rising anxiety about coronavirus is causing many customers to stay at home. This means e-commerce brands have a major advantage over brick-and-mortar. This is an excellent moment for online retailers to reach out to customers who need products, but don’t want to expose themselves to germs in public spaces.
In fact, e-commerce has helped the economy during disease outbreaks in the past. During the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003, Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce company, took off. Cell phone and Internet companies also thrived at the time. Due to the lack of reliable information about the disease provided by broadcast news, many people turned to their phones and computers to learn how to protect themselves.
The SARS epidemic was tragic, causing numerous deaths throughout Asia. While millions of people were confined to their homes, however, the e-commerce sector worked to allow life to go on by offering services online.
E-commerce has the chance to help the world economy during the current coronavirus outbreak in the same way that it helped during the SARS epidemic. It’s important to capitalize on this moment in order to keep your business alive as well as help those people who need your products.
Allowing Remote Business
The spread of a global disease is one of the many reasons to be grateful we have 21st century technology to work with. While there are plenty of aspects of business that must be conducted in person, administrative work, client meetings, and company-wide communication is possible to be conducted remotely.
Especially if you are located in a region with a growing number of coronavirus cases, the more people who stay home, the easier it will be to contain the disease. The worst thing for your company would be for an outbreak to spread through the ranks of your entire company, completely immobilizing business.
For those positions that require in-person work, be sure to emphasize the importance of employees watching for symptoms of sickness and staying home if they suspect they may not be fully healthy.
Diversify Fulfillment Centers
Many e-commerce retailers have seen benefits of having fulfillment centers in a variety of geographic regions. It leads to faster shipping times and the ability to hold greater inventory, avoiding products being on back-order.
Diversifying your location for this centers is best practice in business at all times, not just during a global disease. But the rise of coronavirus has shown that if you are following this diversified location model already, the disease’s impact on your company will not be quite as harsh.
Although multiple regions in China were hit by the coronavirus, some experienced more severe outbreaks than others. If you have fulfillment centers and warehouses in multiple locations, you increase your chances of being able to keep some of your company’s operations running during an outbreak.
You’ll also benefit from using multiple fulfillment centers during a disease epidemic because you’ll be able to hold greater amounts of inventory in order to make up for a potential slowing of production in factories. Many businesses are currently seeing products run out without the ability to replace them due to the interruptions to the supply chain caused by the coronavirus. If you can inventory shortages, you’ll be able to win over the customers from other businesses that were not able to meet customer demands. Strong inventory management during a time like this is one of the biggest things that will set you apart as a brand.
As the calendar year comes to a close and holiday sales start to slow down, sellers should be ramping up for 2018, whether that’s ordering more inventory or sourcing a new product for your brand.
So when’s the best time to order for early 2018 selling? Immediately. If you haven’t already, getting those orders in as soon as possible is critical to having enough inventory to last you through early spring.
Why the rush? Three words: Chinese. New. Year.
The Chinese New Year is serious business, workers get at least 7 days off and factories close for up to a month. Yep, you heard that right, most factories will be closed for an entire month, beginning as early as two weeks before the New Year (which lands on February 16th this year) and lasting through the remainder of February.
Want to order samples for a potential new 2018 product offering? Now’s the time to order those too. Waiting until after the New Year means samples won’t arrive until mid to late March.
If you choose to move forward with the product, you’re looking at sometime in June before you’re FBA ready with stock available. That’s months of unproductive capital and less time to get the product ranking and selling before next year’s Q4.
Before Chinese New Year
Every factory does not follow the same closing schedule, but a good rule of thumb is to order inventory (for new or existing products) at least 45 days before Chinese New Year, although closer to 60 would be a safer bet. If you have a product that takes longer to manufacture, the earlier you place your order, the better. Because many factories will close before the holiday, waiting until a week before the 16th to order will leave you empty-handed.
You don’t just want to factor in the time it will take to manufacture your goods either. You should also consider how long it will take to be shipped, and know that cargo companies also close down for a period around Chinese New Year.
Although many Chinese cargo and shipping companies do not close until 3-4 days before the holiday, you’ll want to make sure your merchandise is ready to ship at least a couple weeks before this in case any issues arise. You do not want your goods to be stuck at port over the long holiday, most likely leaving you without the inventory you need and with a nice holding fee from the cargo company.
If you do get your order in and shipped before Chinese New Year, make sure to also run a thorough quality check over the items. As the rush to get orders completed before the holiday presses down on manufacturers, quality control may be more difficult to manage on their end. While it’s always smart to quality check, this time of year is especially important and could save you loads of customer service headaches later.
After Chinese New Year
The schedule for factories returning to work after the holiday varies as well. Most manufacturers will be back to handling administrative tasks within 5-10 days after Chinese New Year. That means they will answer your email, but they may not be back in the full swing of production.
Once production starts up again, work is likely to be slow and loads of orders will be backlogged. Don’t expect a timely turnaround or consistent communication, as being gone for that long causes delays and backups. Some manufacturers raise prices after Chinese New Year as well, so don’t be surprised if your costs increase when they return to work.
Not only will manufacturers be backlogged around this time (late February-early March), Amazon likely will as well. Loads of orders will flood into fulfillment centers after the holiday, causing backlog and delays.
Source and Order Now
If you’re looking to order fresh inventory for existing products, contact your manufacturer immediately to place your order. And, keep in mind you may want to order more than usual to maintain stock during the Chinese New Year.
Looking for a brand new product to source with your Q4 earnings? Want to kick 2018 off right? Check out our game-changing product finder, Product Discovery, and find your next great product in mere minutes.
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With more people shopping on phones and tablets, your listing needs to be optimized for mobile. Then, once you’ve made your listing shopper friend, carefully planning your inventory and perfectly timing a product promotion are crucial if you want to ride the wave of holiday sales. Join Cameron and Casey as they dive into planning for Q4.
Want to be on the show? Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590
You need to have your ducks in a row for Q4 because this is the biggest shopping season of your career.
And we’re back with part two of our Q4 episode to talk about the role of enhanced brand content in optimizing your listing, how to make sure your products look great on mobile, how to predict your inventory needs and how to time a product launch to ride the holiday sales wave. Let’s get started.
Now let’s talk about enhanced brand content, EBC.
Yeah, at the end of the day, you guys, anything that you can do to improve conversion rate, to improve – drive sales at the end of the day, you should be doing, right? And so enhanced brand content, these are things you should already be doing, but you know, our hope is that you’re really concerned about these Q4 sales and that you’re going to, I don’t know, get your house in order, whatever the saying is, in order to maximize sales for Q4. And the best way to do that is to have enhanced brand content because some of your competitors are not going to. And that’s a leg up. Or they are going to, and that’s a leg up they will have over you. So please have enhanced brand content.
If you aren’t brand registered yet, it’s too late right now for this holiday season, for Q4, but – unless you’re already in the process of going through the trademarks and everything. But this might be a good step for you to take if you don’t, if you aren’t brand registered and if you don’t have enhanced brand content. So basically you might be better off focusing on other things if you aren’t already brand registered this holiday season.
And this might be a good thing to focus on for the next year or to start the next year. Overall, basically what I like to think of is if you have your listing photos and everything else as optimized as possible this is kind of the next viable step or option to dive into.
And honestly it doesn’t take that long to file for a trademark.
And just some other side benefits of brand registry, why you’d want to be in there, this is outside of Q4 unless you are in brand registry, is just the Early Reviewer Program, getting those initial five reviews, really I don’t think people value reviews enough, and this is a good way to grab some of those reviews.
Reviews, the reviews are like the currency of Amazon.
Yeah, that’s how I feel. Anyways, you get your own Amazon stores. We’re still looking for the data on how important those are. Headline search ads, those are very, very powerful, at least right now, so get brand registry so you can have access to all these things. Also, enhanced brand content, we put out a blog post recently about this, but it’s also on mobile. And I think Amazon said last year 70% of shoppers used, made a purchase or ran a search on the mobile app. And so that means that more and more people are going to be seeing your enhanced brand content, and so put that out there.
Mobile is, in general, just another really good thing to focus on in Q4. I mean another stat – Casey, you touched on one stat – but the mobile app actually grew by about 56% last holiday season.
And so it’s going to grow again, I mean not 100%, I don’t know that 100%, but I’m predicting that it’s going to grow this holiday season. One other thing that I would also consider if you are, again, going through all this and enhancing your listing and photos and everything, is to go – if you don’t, or if you haven’t yet, go look up your product or products on a mobile device just to see how they look and how they feel because then if you haven’t yet you can take a look at that and see okay, if there’s this large of a percentage of people ordering on mobile I need to make sure that my stuff is optimized on mobile. And if you haven’t seen it yourself yet, then you probably should.
Yeah, at the end of the day you need to understand how your customers are perceiving your product.
Cameron Yoder: Exactly.
We have just a few additional things, honestly what I think is the most important or the biggest actionable takeaway coming up.
Did you ever wish you could go back in time and get into the Amazon market earlier? What if you had been one of the original sellers? Well, here’s your opportunity. Amazon is starting to ramp up in other countries. If you’re looking to get in early and launch your products in Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain or all of the above, we’ve got exciting news. Viral Launch is now offering international launches. Set up a promotion for Amazon Canada, UK Germany, Italy, France or Spain with the launch experts you know and trust. Stay tuned for additional countries like Japan and Mexico.
First off, just know your turnaround times. You have very limited time to place a purchase order for – if your stuff needs to be in for Christmas. So definitely make sure that you are well aware of your turnaround time, which has got to be coming right up to the end of it. Make sure that you are aware of the trends with market intelligence, basically what we’re doing for a particular market. Let’s take candy canes as an example. This is a classic example for us. If you go search candy canes and then you run market intelligence and move over to the market trends tab, we will show you exactly when sales start to increase across the market for this particular product. So if you run market intelligence through candy canes you can see in 2015 and in 2016 when the sales started to increase, and it’s pretty awesome because you can see here’s when sales started to increase, here’s to what degree they increased, you know, what were the orders per day, how long did that increase sustain?
What were prices like?
Casey Gauss: What were prices like, how did prices change throughout that? And this is different than looking at Keepa or CamelCamelCamel that has all this historical data because we are showing you across the market, whereas let’s say one particular candy cane seller, if you’re just looking at their BSR history maybe they ran a promotion. Maybe they were running outside sales, and that’s why the spike happened in October instead of November when everybody else’s increased. It’s not very indicative of the market if you’re just looking at one ASIN. You need to look at the market as a whole. But this is a really, really cool feature of market intelligence when it comes to seasonal products. The same is true for Halloween. This will probably be out before Halloween. So if you run through market intelligence through candy canes, you can see in 2015 and in 2016 when the sales started to increase, and it’s pretty awesome because you can see here’s when sales started to increase, here’s to what degree they increased, you know, what were the orders per day, how long did that increase sustain?
What were prices like?
What were prices like, how did prices change throughout that? And again, across the market versus seeing one guy who raised his price like an insane amount and his sales didn’t reflect that increase or didn’t help support, didn’t show that people were actually buying it at that price point. So anyways, what you need to do, go look. If sales increased on October 15th you need to have your inventory checked into FBA at least 10 days before that so that you can prepare.
I mean this is one of the biggest questions that sellers have around this time of the year is okay, what can I expect in terms of inventory? How much inventory am I going to need in preparation for Q4? And this is one of the best answers in predictive software that is going to let you know how much or around how much you need to order and have in place and also when you need to have it in place. Once you’ve got your holiday inventory figured out you need to start strategically positioning yourself to ride the wave of holiday sales.
We saw people have insane amount of success when it came to Prime Day. Riding the wave is really, essentially as sales increase you need to make sure that you’re on top of that wave of new traffic or sales increase so that you can ride it. And here’s the example, right, so let’s say right now barely anybody is buying candy canes. So let’s just say those guys are doing five sales a day on average. People in top 10, selling five units a day on average. But during peak time these guys are selling 300 units a day, let’s just say. So to get ranking in the top 10 for candy canes, right now all I need to do is give away five units a day, and I’ll be in the top 10, and that’s really cheap. But if you time everything just right and you run a promotion so you are ranking in the top 10 right when that sales wave happens, right, then you will get to take part in that wave of sales increase. So when sales moved to 15 a day, well, I’m at the top of page 1, so I’m getting a bunch more sales. And then, you know, by December or whenever the peak is, I’m seeing an insane amount of sales because I was ranking at the start of it, and I just continued to maintain that rank because people continued to buy my products.
And so what we see other people try to do is let’s say with the candy canes again, by November 15th everyone is selling 50 units a day or 100 units a day. Let’s say 50. So in order for me to get ranking the top of page 1, well, now you have to run a promotion giving away 50 units a day in order to try to hit page 1. But the problem is these guys also have a great sales history, which we recently talked about. Basically the analogy is riding the wave, right? So if you run a promotion before things start, you get on top of that wave and you ride it up as sea level increases, or whatever. But if you don’t run that promotion now you are under this wave of 50 sales a day that you now have to paddle all the way up to, now catch your breath, now try to ride that wave up.
So what we saw with Prime Day is people that were – they ran promotions across their entire account, and they saw 400, this one particular person, saw $400,000 in that 24 hour period because with their 10 products or so they ran a promotion so that they were raking at the top of page 1 for each product right before those Prime Day sales kicked in. And so as Prime Day sales kicked in, they rode that wave, and they absolutely killed it. And so we really, really hope that you guys do that. Whatever your method of ranking is, whether it be Viral Launch, whether it be some other competitor, whatever your method is, make sure that you are ranking at the top of page 1 right when that wave of sales increase begins to happen because you definitely don’t want to be paddling from underneath, and you definitely don’t want to be fighting these competitors’ better sales history.
It’s just going to be, in the long run, kind of summarizing what Casey said, it is just going to be much easier to jump on when sales are lower but at the very beginning of when they start to pick up so that you’re visible, you’re on page 1, so again, you can ride that wave like a California surfer.
And the research that you did to understand when those trends start to pick up is going to inform you of, okay, let’s say it’s October 15th that sales start to increase. Well, walk back seven days. Walk back five days. That’s the day your promotion needs to start so that at the end of that promotion you’re ranking page 1, and as sales start to increase you ride along with it.
Another good action step for this podcast is to encourage you guys to really just lay out the dates that you need to follow things through by because there are a lot of dates involved with Q4. Again, we went through the deadlines, but even more than that it’s days to make sure that you’ve run your promotions by, that you’re on page 1 by, that you’re ranking by, while taking into account the fact that you have to or should be following all these deadlines for like Black Friday or Christmas. So I would say just go lay out, whether it’s a physical calendar or a digital one, and make a strategy for Q4.
And you have to do this for each product, right?
Because each product is going to have a different pickup date in terms of sales.
Right, right, right, right. There was a product whose big point of Q4 was actually after the Christmas season. So that person is going to have to plan their launches and their inventory a little differently than someone whose peak is right at that November-December point. So again, like Casey said, just go through each ASIN, each product, and create a plan individually.
Yep, and you know, same is true, ride the wave for Black Friday, Cyber Monday. The last thing we want you to do is to come to us for, you know, these candy canes on October 15th and say hey, more people are starting to buy these candy canes. Can I run a promotion to help get ranking? Or, you know, the last thing I want to see is that happen in December because –
– to ride that wave like you’re going to have to be spending thousands and thousands, if not five figures, to catch up.
That’s a lot of candy canes there.
Well, that’s all for this episode. Thanks for joining us on Follow the Data, and good luck as you prep for Q4. For more reliable information about how to succeed during all four seasons, subscribe to the podcast and check out the Viral Launch blog at Viral-Launch.com.
And don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you like the podcast. We really appreciate your feedback. We like to know how to be better, so we would love your honest feedback. And if you like what we’re doing, leaving a review helps other people find us as well.
Exactly. And if you’re wondering about how exactly Viral Launch helps Amazon sellers, make sure to check out one of our more recent blog posts, a Viral Launch review by marketplace director Lindsay Todd. She’s great. She shares three awesome stories about a few of our clients that utilize Viral Launch software to take their businesses to the next level. We’ve also got a new course up on our YouTube channel about how to set up a product launch. You can have a coach walk you through the whole process at your convenience and with the option to play back all of the information.
Want to be featured on the show? Leave a voicemail and tell us your thoughts on today’s episode, or ask us any of your Amazon questions. Our number is 317-721-6590. Join us for Episode 3 where we dispel the diversification myth. Until then, remember, the data is out there.
Viral Launch CEO, Casey Gauss, and Amazon Seller Coach Cameron Yoder bring data-driven insights to the Seller community in their weekly discussions.
On the show you’ll get the latest Amazon selling strategies and best practices based on the company’s experience launching over 22,000 products and working with over 5,500 brands. Casey and Cam will bring you up to speed on the latest Amazon news, share stories of success and failure, explore the difficulties of entrepreneurship, and discuss the way Amazon is changing retail.
At the center of the show is the Viral Launch commitment to offering reliable information to today’s entrepreneurs.
Ready or not, Amazon Q4 is right around the corner! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and with the right FBA preparation, you can dominate this holiday season.
To stand out from the crowd and beat the competition, you must do everything well. We hosted a webinar and put together a complete Q4 guide that will walk you through how to maximize Amazon’s incredible sales potential.
Amazon Q4 Webinar Replay
Casey Gauss, our CEO, and Cameron Yoder, an Amazon Seller Coach, set out to discuss all things Amazon Q4. Watch the webinar replay below to learn:
Important Amazon dates and deadlines
How to increase clicks and conversions during Q4
How to prepare for mobile shoppers this holiday season
How to predict this holiday’s sales based upon last year’s trends
How and when to get on page 1 for maximum visibility and sales
Download Your Complete Q4 Guide
This ebook will walk you through every aspect of Q4 preparation. From inventory planning to optimizing your listing for mobile, to making sure your product is showing up in search, we’ve got you covered!
Want to win a free prize and enhance your Amazon listing at the same time? Enter to win a Q4 Amazon Prep Kit and put your product on the path to success just in time for the holidays! Every participant receives a launch discount coupon, and the top 3 winners get major prize packages worth over $3000 combined.
After a stressful weekend convinced that Amazon had killed the promotion with one simple update, we have some great news!
We have found a TOS friendly approach to running promotions while completely protecting your inventory and have already updated our seller Launchpad with the fix!
For those of you who don’t know, Amazon removed the ability to create money/dollar off promotions. Meaning, before when a customer applied a coupon, X number of dollars were deducted from the cart’s total. However, Amazon (according to their website the change occurred on November 7th, though noticed by most sellers on Friday the 11th) has removed the ability to create money/dollar off promotions, limiting promotions to percent off only.
So what is the big deal? The big deal is that there is no way to restrict the quantity of units a customer can apply that promotion to. Even if you set the buyer benefit to 1 unit, even if you use single-use claim codes, it’s not possible. For example, let’s say you create a promotion at 80% off for your widget that typically sells at $20.00. A customer could set the order quantity to 100 units, apply the coupon, and would be able to walk away with 100 units of inventory for $400 versus the MSRP of $2000. As arbitrage becomes more popular, so does the practice of grabbing discounted products and reselling them. It could become dangerous very quickly. Even if you run a 40-50% off promotion, you still run the risk of arbitrageurs wiping out your inventory to sell on top of your listing. At that point running promotions are ludicrous.
So what is the fix? Despite what you may have read in many of the Facebook groups, there is no way to setup a promotion that will allow you to restrict a customer from being able to grab 999 units of your inventory with one promotional code. Also despite what you may read in the Facebook groups, setting your product’s settings in the “More Details” tab in the inventory management section of Seller Central to a “Max Aggregate Ship Quantity” also does not help this (frankly from our tests, I don’t think this setting serves any purpose).
For some products/categories, there is a setting in the Offers tab that allows you to set your Maximum Order Capacity to a specified number. When set to 1 for example, this allows you to limit customers to only purchasing one unit at a time. The customer does not have the ability to add more than one unit to cart whether they have a promotional code or are paying full price.
The problem here is that the majority of categories do not have this setting available in the user interface within Seller Central. So are those sellers without the setting available out of luck….? Fortunately not!
Our brilliant developer Steve was able to discover that through Amazon’s MWS APIs, we are able to update the Max Order Quantity field programmatically for products of every category. This means that for any product we can limit customers to purchasing a specific quantity for any one order! No trickery, no black hat magic. Just a simple API call and all is well.
So, we have spent the day updating our seller’s Launchpad to provide the functionality for sellers to grant us access to their MWS account. Once we have access, you can then set your Max Order Quantity in your product’s settings within Viral Launch. As you start a promotion, set the Max Order Quantity to 1, and once the promotion is ended you can remove the limitation! It is as easy as that! By setting your Max Order Quantity to 1, Amazon restricts customers from adding more units to cart than the value specified, which in this case is 1. The downside to this approach is that if an organic customer attempts to place an order for two units, they would not be able to. Fortunately when using the Viral Launchpad, you can easily adjust this setting once you have completed your promotion by going in and adjusting the settings back to unlimited.
Checkout the video in this link or watch the video down below on how to set everything up within Viral Launch to run product promotions with confidence.
I apologize for the short post; we were rushing to get everything updated and together. I’ll be sending out a longer post tomorrow with my thoughts on the change. I simply wanted to calm everyone’s nerves and let our community know that we have a solution!
Tomorrow I’ll be discussing why we believe Amazon made this change and why the information that I have leads me to believe that this is only temporary.
Let me know what you think or if you have any questions in the comments below!