- Lena R. Liberman
- On October 26, 2017
Financial-advisor powerhouse Deloitte is forecasting a 4 to 4.5 percent increase in 2017 holiday sales compared with 2016, with an 18 to 21 percent increase in 2017 e-commerce sales compared with 2016. For Amazon sellers, this is very good news but news that requires significant planning and effort. To help get you on track for a prosperous holiday season, I’ve put together the most important Amazon 2017 dates and deadlines in a calendar and planner for the rest of Q4. You’ll notice that it has the usual holidays as well as Amazon deadlines and a few additions you might find useful if you’re looking to create some sales and promotions.
Your Action Plan
In addition to the calendar above, I’ve also built you a planner of now-to-then flow so that you can manage your time, your efforts, and your sanity during the busiest of seasons. At this point, you should have set up everything with your suppliers and gotten all of the manufacturing and packaging and importing elements in motion. So what now and next?
Today Through Monday, November 6
You’ve got just under two weeks to make sure that your Black Friday and Cyber Monday inventory is not only delivered to Amazon fulfillment centers but checked in properly. Don’t just assume that it got there and that everything arrived safe, sound, and as expected. You need to use this time to be hypervigilant about transportation, processing, inventory levels, etc. Even if you’ve never had a single problem in the past, Q4 is different because all elements of the supply chain are being taxed in terms of speed and volume. This is when mistakes get made and corners get cut and you need to make sure that it’s not your inventory that is affected.
If an issue does arise, address it quickly and see it through to a satisfactory solution. Losing product and filing claims sucks. Losing product and filing claims during Q4 sucks AND it can kill a business. Don’t let that happen to you. Stay on that supply-and-sales chain from the assembly line to inspection to fulfillment. Remember that inventory is not “real” or available until Amazon says so (that is, the product shows live in listings and reports and customers are buying it and receiving it). Make it your mission every day between now and November 7 (and through all of Q4 really) to do everything you can to ensure that your inventory is on time, accounted for, defect-free, and in stock. It’s the only way that you can feel certain that you’re ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Power Move: Maximize DST Ending Sunday, November 5
Daylight Savings Time ends as Saturday night creeps into Sunday morning. It’s the fall-back part of “spring forward, fall back,” which means an extra hour that mathy folks made up to work out the kinks between the Gregorian Calendar and the solar system. Most people use this extra hour for sleep. Don’t be most people this year; be the seller who wakes up an hour earlier and uses that hour for working on Amazon holiday advertising, in particular, Sponsored Products ad campaigns.
Remember that these campaigns are all about collecting data over time and making decisions based on that data as it accrues. So if you want to win SPA placement during the most-competitive sales period of the year, you need to have at least a few weeks of data, which means that you should be fully invested in SPA optimization by early November. If you’re already using Ignite for Sponsored Products ad management, this is the perfect time to power up your SPA game by digging deep into your recommendations and keywords. If you’re not already using Ignite, now is the time to get your free 30-day trial and kick some Q4 butt. Either way, grab your free copy of our Ignite eBook, Mastering Amazon PPC.
Tuesday, November 7: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Inventory Due at Amazon Fulfillment Centers
Technically, the doing part of your making this happen and meeting this deadline should be done. On this Tuesday, double check that your Black Friday/Cyber Monday inventory has arrived and is checked in and showing in listings and reports as expected. You want no surprises here. If everything looks good, congratulations! Treat yourself for reaching a big milestone. If things look off, double down on rectifying issues ASAP. Time is absolutely of the essence and your product may still be available for Black Friday or Cyber Monday if it arrives shortly after the November 7 deadline. It’s not guaranteed, but do your best to make it happen by using this day to right any wrongs.
Wednesday, November 8 Through Wednesday, November 22
Turkey isn’t the only bird that should be on your mind during these two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and then Black Friday/Cyber Monday. It’s hawk-time and you need to have an eagle-eye focus on your listings and your reports. Here’s how you can use this time to soar:
- Work diligently within your Amazon Inventory Dashboard so you can get a real handle on restocking low inventory and eliminating any potential lost sales due to being out of stock. If you haven’t already gotten familiar with the new Inventory Performance Index tools, now’s a great time. I wrote a short primer on the subject, which you can find here.
- Keep up with your FBA Returns so that you can address any issues (defects, shipping concerns, customers who may be abusing policies, etc.) before they really affect hardcore holiday shopping time. The last thing that you need between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a ton of returns eating away at sales you thought you had in the bag and driving buyers to leave bad reviews just in time for holiday shoppers to see.
- Optimize your listings. There is never a bad time to do this, but now is the most important time to do it. Need tips and ideas from the experts? Try watching and reading How to Build an Amazon Product Listing That Converts (Facebook Live Recap) and Stand Out and Sell More This Q4 (Webinar Recap).
- Check in with your Sponsored Products campaigns every few days and tighten up those recommendations and adjust those bids. Add any new ASINs and keywords and campaigns that might be of benefit.
- Get creative with ways in which you can stretch the upcoming Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales bonanza and help others at the same time. Think through non-traditional opportunities. Some examples: If you’re a small business (or you cater to small businesses or you sell products made by small businesses), celebrate Small Business Saturday (November 25) with a promo or sale or coupon. If you’re philanthropically inclined, celebrate Giving Tuesday (November 28) by partnering with a local charity to share publicity and proceeds (where applicable and allowed, of course).
And hey, whatever your politics, don’t forget to make time on November 10-11 to thank a veteran or to otherwise show your appreciation for his or her service.
Thursday, November 23 (Thanksgiving)
Give thanks, enjoy family and friends and food, help a person who may be less fortunate than you are, and check in with your customers. Yes it’s a holiday and many people will be on family duty, but plenty of people will still be shopping and you can be both a smart business-person and a hero if you answer any questions that come in on this day.
Friday, November 24 Through Monday, November 27
It’s on! The Black Friday/Cyber Monday long-weekend super-sales window has opened! What should you be doing over this extended lucrative weekend? A lot, including:
- Responding ASAP to customer-service issues, feedback, reviews, and Q&A
- Monitoring your inventory and replenishing as needed
- Looking for trends such as hot sellers you might not have expected (and may need to restock with a quickness) or slow movers you might want to liquidate via promos
- Keeping an eye on the Buy Box and your competitors’ listings
- Tweaking Sponsored Products ad campaigns to win more bids during this crucial few days
Tuesday, November 28 Through Thursday, November 30
It’s hound-dog time. Right now, you should be all over your suppliers, shippers, and Amazon to make sure that your Christmas-related shipments are being moved and processed correctly and on time. If they aren’t, be firm but friendly and lean on the appropriate parties to come through and honor their promises.
Friday, December 1: Christmas Inventory Due at Amazon Fulfillment Centers
Today, get deep into those FBA Inventory Reports and make sure that your Christmas inventory is checked in and all good. We’re talking accounted for and as expected; appropriate quantities and packaging, free of defects or damage, locked and loaded and showing in your listings. If your inventory doesn’t look right, do not tell yourself that “it will show up or sort itself out in a few days.” You can’t afford to take that chance to follow up with responsible parties, get statuses and commitments, start claims and order more if you need to in order to make sales possible. Don’t give up now. Shipments arriving a few days after the December 1 deadline still have a chance of being available for Christmas. That’s why perseverance here is of the essence.
Saturday, December 2 Through Saturday, December 16
Now is everything when it comes to Q4. Some advice to help you capitalize:
- Given that it’s crunch time with regard to inventory, sales, promos, advertising, pricing adjustments, last-minute details, etc., consider hiring extra help or asking friends or family to give you a hand if they can.
- Expect the unexpected and be nimble:
- If you have a toy that is tanking and crazy high inventory levels, be bold with pricing cuts and sales. Words of wisdom: For every sale or promo you create, test it immediately. It’s very easy to end up giving away products and earnings if you don’t restrict promos properly.
- If you’ve got a hot seller and you’re running low, move heaven and earth to get more in stock ASAP, even if that means that you do the fulfillment because that extra stock is in your buddy’s garage.
- Be upfront and don’t over-promise. If you have hard cut-offs for shipping to certain places when it comes to holiday delivery, state them clearly in your product listings.
- Be extra available for customer service issues and Q&A. If you respond quickly, helpfully, and courteously, you’ll be repaid by shoppers and in Amazon rankings.
- Use this time for marketing and advertising and don’t be afraid to spend more. Run Sponsored Products ad campaigns on your most-competitive ASINs and create Lightning Deals and other promos and sales to move high-margin merchandise or to clear out slow movers. Again, don’t be afraid to spend money to make money or to take a slightly lower margin in order to move heavy volume.
- Shake your sales tree. All shoppers love sales and you don’t need an occasion to create one or to celebrate. Get clever and creative. Announce sales on your website and drive that traffic to your Amazon products or your broader newly-featured Amazon Storefront. Don’t get bogged down in just Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas. Acknowledge Hanukkah and Advent and Winter Solstice and Kwanzaa with holiday messaging and sales that will cheer shoppers and tap into every possible bit of revenue before the end of the year.
Sunday, December 17: 2018 Inventory Shipping Begins
Today you can start shipping 2018 inventory to Amazon warehouses. However, just because you can doesn’t mean that you have to or even should. Assess sales and trends (holiday and non-holiday), consider seasonality, look at what you already have sitting in fulfillment centers (and on what you are paying storage fees, monthly and long-term), and work with your suppliers and shippers. Remember that earlier is not always better and getting through Q4 is what matters most right now.
Monday, December 18 Through Saturday, December 23
There’s not a whole lot you can do in terms of getting more inventory at this point so you need to work with what you have. On the other hand, there are plenty of other things on which you should be focused, including:
- Fulfillment for which you are responsible
- Customer service and Q&A
- Who’s winning the Buy Box (and if it’s not you, what you can do to change that)
- Adjusting pricing if necessary
- Optimizing/updating product listings
- Winning Sponsored Products ad placement
Sunday, December 24 (Christmas Eve) and Monday, December 25 (Christmas Day)
First and foremost, I know it’s a big holiday and it feels as if your work should be done, but that is not the case. Of course, make time for your own holidays but know that you have got to be on hand for customer service and Q&A and you’ve got to respond quickly. Why does this matter? Because come Christmas morning when that electronic toy you sold doesn’t work out of the box for 75% of the kids who received it, you need to be on hand to inform families that the toy is not broken, it just needs to be charged for two hours before it will operate. If you aren’t, you’re going to catch hell in terms of reviews and returns and rankings.
Tuesday, December 26 Through the End of 2017
Sell, sell, sell, especially older inventory, inventory in danger of being assessed long-term storage fees come February 15, inventory for which you know a new model is coming, and just because you want to make as much money as possible in the 2017 tax year and start 2018 as fresh and clean as possible. And when you’ve done all of the above, all that you can do for Q4 2017, seller-brate your achievements.