Interview with the Experts: Advice for Holiday Retail Prep

2020 has been a strange year, to say the least, especially in the world of retail. With COVID-19 changing the way that consumers shop, retailers need to be ready to double down on digital and find ways to stand out in a sea of online businesses. But where to start?

We asked CommentSold’s Account Strategy Manager, Ashley Martin, and Lesley Horner, CommentSold’s Account Strategy Lead, to lend some advice for the upcoming season.

If you were to choose a few things that a business owner should be doing right now to prep for the holiday season what would they be?

1. Source inventory now and purchase deeper and wider than you usually do. Double check the arrival dates. Ideally, you want items in hand by early November.

Also, make sure you are ordering enough inventory to meet your Black Friday sales goals. If you want to hit your goal of 20k that weekend, you gotta have the inventory to back it up! Looking for long sleeve items in the Summer is a great way to get sale items to sell during the holiday season, especially if you have the space to store it. Think about what worked last year and bring it back!

2. Lay out a schedule of events for important dates. It’s not just Black Friday that’s coming up. It’s a whole weekend of events– Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, etc. Are you adding an extra live sale? Are you offering a coupon? What about giveaways? Sales? Start thinking about the weekend of events and how you want it to unfold.

3. Think about the discounts and deals and DO THE MATH. Make sure you aren’t giving away the farm. Discounting too deeply or even blanket discounts are not recommended.

4. Retargeting ads are great for Q4/Black Friday weekend!

5. Consider how you are going to attract customers and keep them coming back after Black Friday. Just remember that Black Friday isn’t your only big chance to grab their attention in Q4! We recommend running live events, themed sales, etc. Keep it fresh and interesting! So many are going to be in the online space this quarter. What will make you stand out?

6. Know your last day to ship to guarantee Christmas delivery. Pick a day that your team can commit to, and make it known to customers.

Which retail reports are key to making inventory decisions for holiday purchasing? What information do those reports give?

1. Bestsellers from the year before. Use this report to identify trends and revisit items that sold well last year.

2. Added vs. Waitlist per collection. This will tell you which collections are hot among your customer base. What collections can you sink your teeth into more?

3. The sell-through report. Find the brands/collections that are movin’. Your collections sell-through report will almost act as a “fact-checker” to your added vs. waitlist per collection report.

4. Best sellers filtered by first time purchasers. This report is great for figuring out which items catch people’s attention and get them to make that first time purchase. It’s especially great if you’re running ads during the holiday season!

5. On hand inventory cost/retail. Do you have enough inventory to hit your goals? Get to know your numbers!

With some large retailers making the decision to stay closed on Thanksgiving this year, and others choosing to change their big shopping days altogether, what is one piece of advice you would give small businesses looking to set themselves apart this holiday shopping season?

Is there anything that you can sell that others could find at big box stores? The shopping experience small retailers provide is much smoother, personalized, and friendly than say, going into Walmart at 10 pm on Thanksgiving night.

If shops are able to get their hands on stocking stuffers, candies, air fresheners, Brumate tumblers, wet brushes, you know, items that are pretty “hot” right now, then they can convince their shoppers to grab these on their live sale or website vs going to another big box store. (Plus, Walmart is gross, ya feel?)

Be HEAVY on your restocks! Push credit card pre-authorization on waitlisted items and really strive to make these restocks happen. Act quickly with your vendors. There is nothing worse than missing something that you were intending to give as a gift during the holidays!

Use the heck out of Sezzle! Your in-person shopping experience doesn’t have this option, so this is a major luxury and plus to shopping online! Be vocal about those Sezzle perks. It’s such a great way for customers to spread their Christmas buying and not take the hit to their paycheck all at once.

Also, loyalty and referral programs are such a great way to earn more credit with the places you already love to shop, so make sure to push those rewards and the reasons they should use them. You can even up the win with a limited time frame! For example, you could offer them to refer a friend and earn $20 as credit, or 10% loyalty credit back with every purchase made on your current live sale. It’s up to you! Get creative and have fun with it!

Thanks for your time and lending us your expert knowledge, Ashley and Lesley! We agree now’s the time to get creative. It’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd with the right marketing strategies. Just be certain to lay the foundation for a successful season by getting your inventory prepped, running the numbers, and setting your sales goals.

Do you agree with Ashley and Lesley’s advice? What do you believe will be the key to success this holiday shopping season?


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