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Holiday Tips Part 2 : What Product Selection Sells Best During Holiday Season?

This is Part 2 of our series on Holiday Tips. To start from the beginning, read our first article here.

Christmas is fast approaching, and many retailers are already on the countdown to final product assortment. As a well-organized e-commerce merchant, you’re also looking to jump on the assortment planning bandwagon. However, the challenge for most retailers lies in determining what products to select for their holiday e-commerce assortments.

Essentially, product selection is at the core of holiday selling success or failure. Those who get it wrong often face the following consequences:

  • Deadstock: Items that don’t move are a direct cost to your business.
  • Lost opportunity: By having the wrong item in your holiday product mix, you lose the opportunity to move your company forward.
  • Additional workload: With the wrong product stocked, you have delayed getting the right one and created extra work for yourself and your team.

So how do you ensure your product selection is well-suited for the holiday season? Here are some helpful tips:

Pay Close Attention to Amazon & eBay

Start studying the product selection of Amazon and eBay to get an idea of what product mix does best during the holidays. We’ve found, time and again, that the hot selling products for the big guys will also be the hot selling products for smaller e-commerce stores.

For instance, if you open up Amazon, you’ll see holiday specific sections on the homepage. At this time of writing, here’s what the homepage looks like:

 

Clicking on one of the icons under explore “Explore Holiday” will take you to the relevant webpage for that product or deal category. For instance, if you click on Holiday Toy List and view the top 100 toys, here’s what you get to see:

 

 

 

See What Products Won Last Year’s Holiday Season

Why look at last year’s holiday winners in 2017? Well, there’s a good chance that a major portion of holiday shoppers weren’t able to get their hands on last year’s hot sellers due to budget constraints and they don’t want to miss out this time around. Therefore, including last year’s holiday best sellers in your product selection could bring you a plethora of benefits.

The easiest way to find last year’s winners is by conducting a search on Google. Try the following search strings:

  • Holiday products
  • 2016 holiday products
  • Holiday hot sellers
  • 2016 holiday hot sellers
  • Amazon hot sellers 2016
  • Best sellers holidays 2016
  • Christmas best sellers
  • Christmas best sellers 2016

Each of these strings will present you with an informative list of last year’s hot sellers. For instance, if you search “2016 holiday products,” you see the following:

 

A lot of results reveal what holiday shoppers were splurging the cash on in 2016. For instance, one of the results showcases a list of products that sold well on Amazon.

 

That’s a lot of items from different categories to add for your product selection.

Research Pinterest & Instagram

Pinterest has its own search engine, while Instagram is big on hashtags. You can use these functions to discover and select new products.

On Pinterest, try search strings similar to the ones recommended in the previous section. For instance, if you search “holiday products,” you get to see the pins posted by other retail outlets.

Most of these pins are about holiday items. You can even check the original source (website) to see if there’s a supplier you could get in touch with.

In addition, you can search Pinterest boards for product selection ideas. A board is where people curate ideas on the theme of the board.

For holiday product selection, board contributors will likely post about products that people have or could have a knack for.

It’s worth mentioning that most products displayed on Pinterest are DIY. However, you can still find suppliers for such products on sites like Wish.com. There’s also the option of private label (where you make the product yourself), but sourcing seems more viable if you’re short on time.

On Instagram, you can leverage hashtags. Enter hashtags in the search bar to find and select products. Hashtags like #holidaypresents #holidaygifts and #christmaspresents should give you a wide range of results.

Of course, select items that meet your core customers’ needs so that your product selection generates revenue during holidays as well as post holidays.

Use Google Trends to Vet Products

Doing demand-related research helps you go deep into the viability of items, as well as explore if there’s a demand for items that sold well over the summer.

Google Trends is a tool you could use to see how frequently your potential product selection has been searched for in a specific period of item, ideally from October to December. This will let you know whether people are looking forward to seeing it retail or if it is on its way out.

For instance, if you are considering a trendy fitness accessory for your product selection, you could compare consumer interest in Apple Watch series 3 and Garmin Fenix 5X.

 

Based on this comparison, Apple Watch series 3 is trending much more highly than Garmin Fenix 5x and has had experienced major spikes in the past few weeks, especially around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As a result, this would be the right product selection for your holiday season assortment.

If you have an account with Google Adwords, you can also leverage Google’s Keyword Planner tool to analyze products’ current and predicted demand using keyword research.

Narrow Down Your Options

At this point you might have a few product selection ideas. It’s a best practice to run these ideas through a standard set of guidelines that top retailers use to narrow down their assortment. While these guidelines aren’t strict, they go a long way in minimizing business risk.

See if the products are:

  • Easy to ship
  • Lightweight
  • Small in dimensions
  • Seasonal
  • In a stable or growing market

The general perspective is that the best product selection should have some moving parts, fit in the smallest of boxes, and sell for $200-$1000 with a profit margin of at least 30-40%.

Other than that, check if the product can be sourced easily. The final seal of approval requires the product to be easily available to source. Make a list of the products you’re planning to sell, and check their availability with local vendors.

In addition, check if the items could be dropshipped if you want to avoid storage and shipping hassles. Modalyst, for instance, allows merchants to sell millions of products without the financial risk of buying inventory upfront.

 

 

 

You can choose to source directly from Wish.com with their new Chrome Extension or from their vetted marketplace of independent brands. Their Shopify / BigCommerce app allows for one-click sourcing so within minutes (and no cost!) you can have a fantastic assortment of holiday items up on your store.

Final Thoughts

Evolving consumer preferences combined with the dominance of big players like Alibaba and Amazon have forced merchants to evolve. Smart ones are driving more sales and enhancing customer loyalty with a wider product mix using dropshipping. However, it’s crucial to not just expand your assortment, but expand it intelligently. Use the tips mentioned above to get your holiday product selection spot on and enjoy a season of festivities… and high profits.

 

 

 

Holiday Tips Part 1 : What Should Your Pricing Strategy Be for the Holidays?

This is Part 1 in our new series on ways to prepare your online business for the Holidays.

It’s practically tradition for the holiday season to mean great deals, starting with Black Friday through to the classic after-Christmas and New Year’s clearance sales.

According to Deloitte’s 2017 holiday survey, these sales have become so reliable that 44% of participants said that they wait for holiday sales to make big-ticket purchases, and 42% said that they only purchase sale items when holiday shopping because they know that their desired items will eventually go on sale.

These holiday promotions can often be a win-win for businesses and their customers. They help clear out old inventory and generate spikes in revenue as the year comes to a close. On the other hand, they can also put businesses in a risky “race to the bottom” to beat out their competitors and win over customers, ultimately resulting in low profit margins that small businesses may not be able to afford.

Before choosing a holiday pricing strategy, it’s important to take a 360-degree view of your business and the competitive landscape, in addition to evaluating some strategies that can help to preserve profit margins.

List of strategies include:

  1. Calculate Your Minimum Price
  2. Do Your Own Market Research
  3. Proactively Gauge Demand
  4. Do Competitor Research
  5. Statistics Say Free Shipping Is King
  6. Margin-Preserving Pricing Strategies
  7. Emphasize Value Year Round

Calculate Your Minimum Price

Before considering any promotional strategies, businesses should have a solid grasp on their costs and how they may fluctuate during the season, including:

  • Purchasing and production costs: Does the holiday surge change costs for raw materials or agreements with your suppliers?
  • Staff salary: Will you need to pay overtime hours or hire seasonal staff to keep up with demand?
  • Partner fees: If you’re selling or dropshipping from a marketplace or other partner, are prices fluctuating?
  • Shipping costs: Are backed up orders and a busier marketplace causing a spike in delivery costs?
  • Marketing and advertising: Are you paying extra for promotions, like buying ads and running digital marketing campaigns?
In addition to operational costs, do some research to see if any of your suppliers are offering special deals on bulk purchases, which can help give you some padding on promotions without eating into your bottom line.

Do Your Own Market Research

It’s hard to tell whether you really need to offer a certain discount or promotion to land the sale, or if the customer was going to purchase from you regardless.

One of the best ways to gauge which offers are truly effective is to check your analytics performance. Look at key metrics from last year’s holiday season, like:

  • Which time periods brought the biggest spikes?
  • What were the most popular items sold?
  • What was the average order value?
  • How did your previous holiday pricing strategies perform?
  • Which strategies brought the highest ratio of profit margin? The lowest?
Keep in mind that just because a strategy brought higher sales volume, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it increased your margins.

Proactively Gauge Demand

To see how many customers were actively searching for deals before the holidays, Pendleton had a brilliant idea to encourage shoppers to sign up for early notification of holiday sales. This way, the company could gauge the interest of their shoppers while keeping these more price-conscious shoppers engaged.

                              source : Juno

Do Competitor Research

You’ll also want to tap into what your competitors are doing. You can do this manually by periodically going to your competitors’ websites and recording this information, or you can solicit the help of a specialized tool that will do all the dirty work for you.

If you’re interested in having competitive research handed to you on a silver e-platter, look at a competitor price tracker like Prisync or Import.io that automatically scrapes this information and delivers it through on-demand reporting.

                                  Image credit: Import.io

Statistics Say Free Shipping Is King

There are a handful of classic strategies that e-commerce companies rely on for the holidays, but key 2017 surveys are showing that this is the year of free shipping.

In Deloitte’s holiday survey, 72% of participants said that they plan to take advantage of it, followed by 44% who plan to take advantage of easy returns and 42% for price matching.

                       Image : Deliotte

The same survey also said that the top three reasons participants chose to shop online over in-store were convenience, saving time, and free shipping. To confirm this sentiment, a 2017 holiday survey by BDO showed that 21% of consumers claimed free shipping will have the biggest influence on their holiday shopping decisions.

It’s safe to say that people really love free shipping. And that’s no surprise, since it offers plenty of benefits like increased sales revenue and order value, and overall happier customers.

After crunching the numbers and doing some competitor research, consider this strategy for your own store.

Keep in mind that it can be a great holiday offer, but paying these costs out-of-pocket can also eat into your margins. You’ll also want to ensure that you have the financial flexibility and software infrastructure to handle these requests.

If you’re hesitant to offer free shipping across the board, consider some variations like offering it:

  • With minimum purchase amounts, like orders over $100
  • For certain items only
  • During specific time periods, like three weeks before Christmas only
  • Only on returned items but not the original delivery

One way to make sure you don’t lose money is to include the shipping cost into the price of the item but offer “free shipping.”

Modalyst now offers the ability to automatically add in the shipping costs when adding products to your store so you never have to worry about your margins.

Another option is offering flat-rate shipping. This may encourage larger purchases since customers will pay the same shipping rate regardless. To build loyalty in addition to offering free shipping, work it into a subscription or loyalty program like Amazon did with its Subscribe & Save program.

                                             Image credit: IgnitionDeck

Margin-Preserving Pricing Strategies

Instead of blasting out sales and discounting everything to bring in high volumes of customers at the expense of your profits, consider some alternative strategies that can help preserve your margins.

These can be life-savers for businesses that simply can’t afford the race to the bottom in competition with big-name marketplaces like Amazon.

Step Discounts

Step discounts can help to encourage customers to spend a bigger slice of their holiday budget at your store, instead of spreading out smaller purchases across multiple stores.

For example, depending on your product line and average sale totals, you can offer a 5% discount for purchases over $100, 10% for purchases over $250, and 15% off for purchases over $500.

Flash Sales

Keep in mind that flash sales should be around a specific product. Focusing on a single product helps build a higher urgency to buy while ensuring that customers aren’t expecting a similar store-wide discount in the future.

This could deter customers from making future purchases, as they might feel that your inventory isn’t worth purchasing at full price, if it will inevitably be on sale again soon.

Take for example Watches.com’s flash sale for the Xeriscope Squared automatic watch.

                       Image credit: Just Uno

Incentivize Low-Volume Sellers

It’s the natural ebb and flow of business for some products to naturally sell better than others. Instead of losing that revenue on unsold products, try incentivizing them to get them out the door. This way, you’re still offering customers a special deal without cutting into the revenue of your best-sellers.

You can do this by:

  • Simply slashing prices on these items or having flash sales for them
  • Including two or more of them in a discounted bundle
  • Adding one as a “bonus” for purchasing a higher-priced item, to help justify the price tag
Price Matching

More price-sensitive shoppers often hesitate to make purchases because they’re unsure of the best time to buy. They wonder is this the lowest price, or will this store or a competitor have a sale soon?

To alleviate this uncertainty and reward cost-conscious shoppers for doing their research, consider a price guarantee for your own store as well as matching competitors. Of course, you’ll have to be committed to following through, so be sure that you have the technology or manpower to confirm pricing and adjust when needed.

Emphasize Value Year-Round

While it won’t necessarily help you with pricing for a holiday that’s right around the corner, it’s worth noting that brands can avoid the disastrous race to the bottom by competing on value, not price. This is a long-term strategy, but it pays off for brands that do it right – they don’t find themselves freaking out about holiday sales every November.

To do this, offer your customers a stellar experience the whole year by:

  • Clearly and consistently communicating your value
  • Focusing on solving problems over selling features
  • Building a positive reputation for your brand
  • Offering exceptional customer service
  • Rewarding loyal customers and building a community
  • Creating awesome content to educate and engage

Finding the Sweet Spot

The holiday season can be stressful for many e-commerce entrepreneurs who aren’t quite sure how to keep up with high demand for promotions and how their competitors are meeting them.

However, coming up with a pricing strategy doesn’t have to hurt your bottom line.

With some thorough research and business analysis, coupled with some strategic short-term and long-term planning, your business can rack up holiday revenue while building strong, loyal customers throughout the entire year.

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