Corn on the cob

Image Credit: Amanda Tipton

For online merchants, preparations for Christmas time should start as early as July, as there’s a lot to do if you’re planning to profit from the considerably increased e-retail sales in late autumn and early winter. In the first part of this blog series, we reviewed what could (and should) be done with product range and sales channels, and the second part was all about marketing. This part is the last one in this series, and we’ll try to provide some tips on how to better prepare for the holiday sales in terms of inventory and shipping. It’s a really important area – if your customers are able to order your merchandise but you don’t have it in stock or can’t deliver it on time, you’ll have some serious problems, and all of the hard work of the previous months will be in vain. Time is of the essence here as well – if you start the preparations in December, you shouldn’t expect any positive results. So what exactly can be done to take care of inventory and shipping when preparing for the Christmas sales?

Plan the required inventory

It doesn’t matter if you’re shipping from your own warehouse or straight from the supplier – you still need to think through how many certain items you’re going to need for the holiday season. The experience from previous sales might prove to be a great help in this case, but remember the Pareto principle as well: roughly 80% of your sales will usually come from 20% of your products.

Stock up way in advance

If you’re shipping from your own warehouse, you should order the merchandise from the suppliers as soon as you know exactly what you’re going to need. You’re probably not the only client they have, and the other businesses will be stocking up as well, so to make sure that you’ll receive the products on time, don’t delay this matter for later time. You’re also going to need some additional money to pay for the merchandise and some additional space in your warehouse to store it.

Make sure suppliers have enough stock

If you’re dropshipping, you’re going to need to reserve a certain amount of items from the supplier. The last thing you want is for your customers to order an item and get the message that you’re out of stock – while it might be forgiven otherwise, people expect quick and flawless delivery and nothing less during the holiday season. Most of the manufacturers, especially smaller ones, have some limits on what they can produce during a short time, so if you let them know as early as late summer or early autumn, you should be okay in this case. If it’s a new partner that you’re working with, you should make sure that they will be able to deal with the increased amount of deliveries during the holiday season – although they’ll be interested to do everything well as much as you, asking how they are preparing to deal with the increased sales won’t hurt anyone.

Streamline your shipping process

A rare online merchant nowadays uses only a single sales channel to sell their merchandise. If you’re among those that sell on multiple online stores and marketplaces, it might be a little difficult to effectively take care of all your orders during the Christmas sales. Although it’s certainly possible, you’re going to need a lot of additional time to take care of increased sales, so the better choice here is to use an order management system that would bring all the sales channels you sell on into a single place. For instance, Ordoro lets you mark several orders from different marketplaces as shipped and print out pick and pack lists and the labels for delivery via UPS, FedEx or USPS – all in a couple of clicks. It makes order management and shipping much more simple and less time-consuming – and the saved time can be effectively used for customer service and marketing.

To conclude, we’d like to remind you that the ‘I’ll take care of it later’ attitude will not work when you’re preparing your online business to handle the holiday sales. Some things, such as contacting the suppliers about the merchandise you’re going to need, have to be done as early as late summer, and that needs painstaking planning to be done effectively. Streamlining your shipping process can be done anytime, but the earlier you do that, the earlier you’re starting to save the precious time needed to widen your product range, expand to new sales channels or develop a holiday marketing plan. It’s a complex task really, but only those who start early and do their best can truly rejoice after the Christmas sales are over. Hard work pays off – it’s as true as ever during the winter sales season.