Even if you are not enrolled in one of my recommended Q4 sourcing groups, I put together some tips to help you make maximum sales/profits with your Amazon business this Xmas:
1. If this is your first Q4 experience, you may have noticed that your sales haven't yet started to soar. That isn't unusual. While most of the corporate world divides the year into quarters starting in October, Amazon sellers consider November to January the "true" Q4. In other words, don't be alarmed if your sales figures are still modest because the real rush has not yet begun.
2. Don't assume your season is done when the holidays are over. Be prepared with sufficient inventory and keep up with your marketing efforts through December and into January to take advantage of shoppers using Amazon cards they got as gifts. January can be a highly profitable month for online retailers selling through Amazon because buyers who have holiday fatigue get a second wind as they shop for themselves. Don't cut the last month of your Amazon Q4 short by assuming January is a slow month.
3. Don't panic over Amazon's Toys and Games guidelines. If you haven't received an email like this one, you might worry at getting an official notice, but Amazon regularly prepares for the holiday season by determining eligibility for selling in toys and games that year. It's natural for sellers to be concerned that they might not meet the guidelines and earn approval to sell during their peak season, but the guidelines only apply to some sellers. Amazon retailers offering merchant-fulfilled toy sales must meet the requirements, but FBA sellers are automatically approved. Only if you're selling toys merchant-fulfilled (shipping straight to buyers) do you need to take note of this year's guidelines.
4. Revisit how you look at sales ranks and price during Q4 when considering inventory purchases. During the slower summer months, I might pass on an item ranked below 200,000 as too slow to be worth my while. During Q4, sales increase exponentially, and an item that barely moves the needle in August could be a hot seller in December when holiday shoppers start spending. If a toy or game that sells two units a month in the middle of summer starts selling twice a day for the holiday season, you need to have the inventory to fulfill demand. Before you source an item, see the sales rank and sales price history from this time last year with the free tool Keepa and/or CamelCamelCamel
5. Don't be eager to drop your prices too early. Holiday spending increases all over, so customers are willing to spend more per item as well as buying more items per transaction. A toy that sells for $15 in July could move well at a $30 price point during Q4's peak days. Whether you change prices manually or use a third-party online repricer, hold off on deep discounts until you have a clearer idea of retail prices. CamelCamelCamel is a good place to start researching prices; check there to learn whether your inventory items' prices increase during the holiday months. If you change prices at all, consider raising them while demand is at its highest.
6. Make inventory choices that set you apart from the crowd. Many Amazon sellers wonder if they should aim for this year's hottest toys and games for resale, but everyone else is reading the same 'hot lists' from the major stores. Stores that tell you which toys will be the most sought after this season already plan to stock plenty of them, leaving other retailers wrestling with overstock by the end of Q4. Instead of following the holiday hot toy recommendations, go 'underground' for perennial favorites (new AND used!) and/or join a Q4 'Be on the lookout' Sourcing Group (view them on this page)
7. Always strive to pay less for your inventory. One example is discounted gift cards. My favorite online discount gift card source is Raise.com. It's not your only option, though, so I encourage you to shop around to find a good fit for you. Buying discount gift cards to major retailers such as Target, Big Lots, Marshall's, Walmart and Walgreen's gives you more to invest in your inventory, which in turn leads to larger profits. For online purchases I also use eBates.com to get cash back. (See more of my cost-cutting ideas here).
8. Stock up on packing supplies and office materials. You aren't discounting anything for the holiday season, and neither do shops that sell packing tape, address labels, shrink-wrap, age range labels, or any other essential supplies for toy and game sellers. Now is the time to get your packaging station organized and well stocked. Other ideas are in my post for eBay sellers.
9. It's inevitable - you'll get returns. Have a system in place for dealing with returns. Know your options for items that get returned due to damage incurred during storage or distribution. Amazon will reimburse sellers for items that get damaged or lost if the company is responsible for the problem, but this process isn't always automatic (Amazon can sometimes drop the ball here). So you'll need to take the lead to ensure Amazon reimburses you. You can get step-by-step help with this trusted e-book OR this great video training. In short: If a return due to distributor damage or loss happens to you, make sure to ask for reimbursement from Amazon regardless of whether the end customer returns the purchase. The responsibility falls on the distributor at that point, and neither you nor your customer should have to pay an additional price. For advice on returns made by customers, see this blog post.
10. Enjoy the holidays. All too often, sellers get so caught up in sourcing, buying, organizing, packaging and shipping that they don't take time for themselves and their families. Q4 is the biggest season for toy and game resellers, but make sure you free your calendar to spend some time with those who matter most to you. Think about the holiday spirit that's motivating your customers to buy such great gifts and share that love with your own friends and family. That matters more than even the biggest Amazon payout. It's probably a good idea to spend a lot less (or zero) time on Facebook.
May these tips and tactics lead you to a more profitable, successful and meaningful Q4 this year. If you have your own thoughts on what can make the holiday season more wonderful for all of us, I welcome your comments. Share with us how you plan to make this Q4 outstanding.
Good luck and keep me posted!