There is an old saying at Amazon; “During Holiday the days are like weeks and the hours are like days…” This saying is far closer to the truth than it sounds. If you are an Amazon Vendor, depending on your category and the “giftability” of your product, you may be able to watch your daily sales rate rise at an incredible rate. Purchase Orders may come in from the blue, or you may be called by an Amazon employee asking you to expedite a shipment. Here are ten Pro Tips to help you take advantage of last minute opportunities with Amazon during this accelerated time of year.
1) Watch your metrics daily. Specifically watch Amazon Shipments. Don’t worry as much about the POs you get–worry about the sell-through on Amazon stock. You can see the report in Amazon Retail Analytics (ARA). Keep an eye on sales spikes for individual items. If an item’s trailing demand and inventory is far below expected demand, then you can expect some of those surprise POs.
2) Save your sales metrics data and consolidate it to get in front of Amazon Forecasting. Basic monthly reporting isn’t granular enough during Holiday. Use the item detail report, download it and start accumulating daily data by ASIN that you can roll up into a weekly or daily report. Look for accelerating sales by ASIN and insure you have stock. POs will be coming! Use Excel or Google Sheets Pivot Tables to consolidate and summarize all of that data. Learn about Excel Pivot Table reporting through this free tutorial here: http://fiveminutelessons.com/learn-microsoft-excel/how-create-pivot-table-excel.
3) Don’t be tempted to sell off inventory…save some for Amazon! Search relevancy ranking management is one of the most important things you can work on with your Brand on Amazon. If you go out of stock, all of your hard work and marketing can be undone during Holiday in a matter of days. Allocate inventory to Amazon against their forecast plus a reasonable pad. Don’t be tempted to sell out–January Amazon sales, while less than Holiday sales, can be amazingly good.
4) Watch your out of stock metric and dive into the details button. This metric is on the Vendor Scorecard. It measures the percentage of time that someone has come to an Amazon Detail Page and can purchase a product from Amazon by pushing the Buy Now button. Other companies use the term “shelf performance” if they have real shelves. Click into the Details Button on the Vendor Scorecard to see the items that are out of stock. If they were out of stock, you need to quickly determine if it was you, or Amazon that caused this. Look at your PO fill rate first. If your sales are ramping quickly or you are a highly seasonal product (think sleds or snowball makers) look to the Amazon forecast and…
5) Don’t be afraid to write a Vendor Initiated Purchase Order (VIPO). See Amazon running out of stock? Not seeing the POs? Know that your product is at the top of the list for views? Just got your product in stock? Use Contact Us and send Amazon a heads up that they should write a PO using the VIPO topic.
6) Check your catalog for items mistakenly set to Obsolete. Obsolete products don’t get ordered. Go to ARA Basic, go to your Vendor Catalog, and set the manual filtering to show you obsolete products. Obsolete products are NOT shown in your catalog by default. File a ticket for any products that are not obsolete and request that they be reset to Planned Replenishment through Contact Us.
7) Look for merchandising slot fall outs and take their space. Amazon has a limited inventory of merchandising deal slots during Holiday. These are sold at premium prices and they become more valuable around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These slots are often sold to larger brands, and sometimes…rarely, these Brands back out of the deal. Perhaps they are offered a better deal, perhaps the marketing well runs dry, who knows, we just know that your Amazon Vendor Manager should know that Your Brand is ready to fill a slot in one of the coveted time slots. Email your Vendor Manager and be clear that you want to be kept in the Stand By list for a slot. Watch your email at least four times a day, and night (!) for message that you have a Vendor Agreement to sign!
8) Solicit reviews and monitor your top products for bad reviews! With all this product selling through you should be thinking about reviews. How do you ask someone to review your product? How do you do it in a way that complies with Amazon’s terms and is FTC compliant? Reviews are one of the most important aspects of your success on Amazon. You should scan your top products for bad reviews on a weekly basis during Holiday. Respond to them with your account as the manufacturer if they are legitimate and you can help. File Contact Us tickets to have reviews removed if they violate Amazon’s customer review submission guidelines
9) Take advantage of free single-module A+ pages. The construction of enhanced or “A+” detail pages have changed quite a bit over the years. What hasn’t changed is their positive effect on conversion. During the holidays when traffic is at its peak, you want your conversion to be as high as possible. Until 12/31/14, single module A+ pages are free. You can always add more modules to the pages later if you want to spend a little money, but free is a pretty good deal.
10) Ship as quickly and accurately as possible. Amazon POs are “fill or kill”–meaning no backordering–until sometime in late December. Also, the ship/delivery windows have been squeezed. This can be a recipe for out of stocks if you’re used to longer lead times. Now is the time to ramp things up, to push your warehouse to maximum efficiency, and get products out faster than you’re used to. The alternative is to go out of stock and you don’t make money when you’re out of stock.
11) Bonus Pro Tip – Be Flexible and keep your sense of humor. Amazon works at Internet speed to constantly optimize…well just about everything. That also means that its OK for them to do things less than optimally to start. Be forgiving and be flexible as your products are re-routed, promoted, bumped from a merchandising slotted time, or sold out prematurely. Prep YOUR team to be thoughtfully reactive to meet Amazon’s needs. And as always, if it doesn’t make business sense for you, don’t hesitate to say “no!”
To quote another Amazonism…”Lower the safety bar…here we go!” Have a great business Holiday season!