Check Your List Twice: Your Ecommerce Holiday Checklist [2023]

A person working on a checklist for the holidays

With the holidays around the corner, having a solid checklist to confirm your teams are prepped and ahead of schedule is key. There are many items to remember as we approach Q4, but ensuring your DTC and marketplace brand strategy is on target will make or break your Q4 results.

And as the jolly man says, always check your list twice.

Catalog Management & Merchandising

This season, consumers are looking for meaningful savings. According to Meta, 82% of consumers care about discount offers when making a purchase decision, so having your content and promotions strategy in place is essential to capture those shoppers looking for a deal this holiday season.

Have your content strategy in place

As soon as you finalize your Q4 budgets and revenue goals, you should immediately understand the products that need content updates and schedule accordingly. On Amazon, the content approval process is tending to be a bit more strict and taking longer than usual to see that backend content live from the front end – this applies to both Vendor Central and Seller Central. So to summarize this one, if you are making Brand Store page updates and A+ Content updates in November, you are much too late.

Walk the store

In a traditional brick and mortar store, merchandising physically walks the store. Brands should be doing the same with their ecommerce sites and Brand Stores, just virtually. During planning and through quality monitoring, brands should be mapping out assets and deliverables. Your content strategy should be prioritizing the following:

  • Keyword updates for SEO
  • Product/copy updates
  • Image and video (PDP) updates
  • Storefront themes
  • Promotional pages

If you are a brand that has a smaller SKU list, we recommend having this checklist for every product type.

Confirm promotional plans

Plan your promotional details, dates, and types early. On Amazon, make sure you have a back up in place.

We are seeing two strategy shifts this year:

  1. Focusing on over stock inventory, even if it’s typically MAP (minimum advertised price). Brands are becoming more aggressive.
  1. Focusing on jump-starting halo products. We’ve previously used holiday to showcase new items, but focusing on halo products for new customers and retargeting them with DSP is working well long term.  

Callout holiday sets

Determine your holiday sets or bundles early. Although the typical Amazon unit per order is 1- but remember, bundles do require a new UPC - you can drive up the AOV (average order value) by calling out these bundles on your Amazon page and banner ads to show customers "what’s new".

Inventory Planning

Finalize Q4 inventory needs

As soon as you have your final Q4 forecast and budget, make sure you have the inventory by SKU to support that plan. Although it may seem silly, we have seen many instances where the influencer team runs a campaign, it goes viral, and then inventory runs out because the inventory team wasn't aligned on the campaign. Avoid that issue by having a plan in place and communicating that plan across-departmentally.

Include a buffer when shipping your forecast

If possible, ship products into FBA for your entire forecast +20% to avoid stock out and inbound restrictions. In the case that it isn’t possible make sure you have drop ship on via FBM or your drop ship code in Vendor Central.

Plan for warehouse considerations

Plan in advance for additional temp staffing. Especially if you’re going to be testing new initiatives like Buy with Prime or TikTok Shop, that’ll drive incremental orders out of your warehouse.  

For 2023 Fall Prime event, FBA inventory should arrive at US fulfillment centers by September 12 and for Black Friday/Cyber, FBA inventory should arrive at US fulfillment centers by October 26.

Advertising & Promotions

This holiday season, the economy looks a little bit different and we're seeing shifts in loyalty shopping. According to Meta, 82% of consumers are open to switching brands or trying new ones to get the best value, so your advertising efforts can go even farther this year. It's essential for brands to be on top of their game for defensive branded campaigns, while also being presented with a significant opportunity to increase spend on conquest campaigns.

DTC advertising efforts

We cannot stress enough - do not launch new campaigns during Cyber week. The platforms will have an abundance of advertisers launching campaigns and there are often multiple bugs popping up. It's much safer to plan ahead to capitalize on your advertising budgets.

Additionally, the shipping cutoff for Christmas is around the second week of December. Use this to your advantage - save budget for the 7-10 days leading up to 12/23 and 12/24, as this is when last-minute gift shoppers will be shopping.

Amazon advertising efforts

Remember that Cyber no longer means "Cyber Monday". It now begins on Thanksgiving and often goes through the following Tuesday, so use this to your advantage. and increase spend to capture those early shoppers as well.

Adjust bids and budgets

Make sure to adjust your bids and budgets prior to holiday to ensure you get your desired placements, and that you're funding your campaigns throughout each day of Cyber week. Keep in mind that you also want to fund campaigns that are performing well! 

After making your bid changes for holiday, you'll want to suspend optimizations so that your changes aren't reversed and continue optimizations post-holiday.

Utilize DSP in advertising efforts

Consider a more aggressive approach to top-of-funnel awareness strategies, such as DSP. With DSP, brands can capture both new and returning customers.

Don't forget about Q5

Q5 is the week between Christmas and New Years - save budget for this week as well! Consumers have done plenty of shopping for their family and friends, and now is their chance to redeem the gift cards they received or may be utilizing this week to get a head start on their resolutions.

Email & SMS Strategy

With increased visibility in consumer shopping habits, 73% of consumers expect brands to understand their unique needs and expectations, according to a study done by Meta. With an email & SMS strategy, brands are able to personalize their communications with customers and encourage their shopping journey.

Personalization is key

Review your sign-up units that collect email & SMS opt-ins to cover any missed opportunities by adding new units, and identify live units for optimization. From there, you can plan your segments - consider VIPs, past purchasers, and engaged subscribers and build out or optimize advanced personalized workflows based on low inventory, price drop back-in-stock alerts, and win-back emails.

Additionally, you want to plan your timing and incentives. Consider when your customers are most likely to convert, frequency of emails, and resends. Incentives could vary from a percentage off, amount off, or a gift with purchase.

Lastly, you want to prep your customer service teams. Prepare your teams by incorporating support language in key purchase-driven flows.

Creative That Converts

Creative content hits nearly each point in the customer purchase journey - be mindful of the season and shoot for holiday creative to entice purchases and callout opportunities for stocking stuffers or last-minute purchases. When creating and shooting content, plan for it to be modular - test different versions and allow for a variety of content to be used across platforms.

Brand Protection

Without an established brand protection foundation, other ecommerce efforts can fall flat. We suggest getting ahead of unauthorized sellers by ensuring the following foundations are in place.

  • Confirm policy standards: Determine who can sell your products and where they are selling your products. 
  • Send promotional start & end window reminders: If you have promotional language in your policy, send all your approved sellers a promotional start & end reminder to best monitor pricing and MAP policy. 
  • Monitor bad actors: The holiday season is a great time to observe what happens with approved & potential sellers to determine value of partnership. 
  • Track lost buy box for use cases: If you are looking into brand protection resources, tracking lost buy box is a good opportunity to make your case for additional resources. 

Though eCommerce teams have developed and become more specialized over the last several years, these teams still tend to wear many hats - from running ads to ensuring the warehouse teams are aligned on holiday initiatives. With Blue Wheel's omni-channel capabilities, our team has the ability to be an extension of your own.

Reach out to our team if you’re interested in learning more about how Blue Wheel can assist you during the holidays and beyond.

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