It’s September now. Summer’s over. It’s going to start getting colder. Good. All the better for you to stay inside and do work. Because it’s crunch time.
With Q4 (a.k.a. the “ecommerce playoffs”) coming up very quickly, it’s time to get a lot of things right. You’re no fool, however, and you’ve probably been preparing well in advance for this year’s holiday shopping season to do exactly that: get a lot of things right.
But accidents (nay, tragedies) can happen and it’s perhaps equally important to ensure that you DON’T get things wrong. Aside from your warehouse burning down, your office losing power for weeks on end, or even just not preparing at all, these are the worst and most common misfortunes that can really sink a retailer’s hopes for Q4 success. More importantly, here’s how to fix them.
1. You forgot to track
Venturing into Q4 without tracking pixels on your marketing campaigns, specifically comparison shopping engines, is a huge blunder. More likely, however, is that you have tracking pixels installed yet you don’t have a solid grasp or habit of data mining and interpreting your analytics.
Specifically in the realm of comparison shopping campaigns, not tracking or failing to look at your analytics, particularly conversions, is a huge mistake because otherwise you’d be spending money without knowing your real moneymakers. Worse yet, without following the data, you may be investing your money into poor-performers that would drain your (probably increased) ad spend.
How to Get it Right:
Installing tracking pixels should be one of the first things you do when you start a marketing campaign. For CSEs, check out how to implement tracking pixels here, but for other marketing channels, even Google Shopping, you can refer to Google Analytics.
Once you have the actual pixels in place, you have to habitually check them and know what to look at. Starting NOW or beginning of October (latest), set up a time every week where you can sit down with your campaign managers and go over product performance reports. However, your campaign managers need to look sales analytics daily and make the appropriate budget allocations based off those reports.
Some key metrics you want to base your budget allocations / click spend on are:
- Product clicks: Is this product / type of product in high demand during Q4?
- Ad spend: How much money is this product draining without converting?
- Conversions per 30-50 days: If no conversions within that timeframe (typically extend it beyond 30 days for Q4), then penny/zero-bid that product or cut it from your feed entirely.
2. Your fulfillment system fails
We’ve seen some of our clients face issues regarding fulfillment because they were surprised by the spike in orders and traffic that’s inherent with the holiday shopping season. A couple things can happen here. First, you can run out of stock. Inventory availability is an issue we run into when managing clients, and this can easily lead to lost sales. Running out of stock can also put your CSE campaigns in jeopardy of stalling.
Another huge mistake during Q4 would be to spend a lot of time on fulfillment. Your fulfillment system should have been proven and executed in Q1, 2, and 3, ensuring that you can just automate the existing, efficient system during Q4. This let’s you free up time to focus on aspects of your business that directly relate to increasing sales.
How to Get it Right:
Fulfillment is one of those fundamental aspects of your business that should have been squared away by now. If you’re a small business with that process still up in the air, I can’t stress enough about how you should have this system squared away by October.
Don’t underestimate your order volume, and ordering more stock than usual is a must. Compensate for order-heavy days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Regarding CSEs, in the event that you do run out of stock for a product, remember to pull that product from your feed so that the shopping engine doesn’t place a suspension on your campaign. This is extremely common with Google Shopping, and steps to prevent this are here.
3. Your shopping feed campaigns go offline
This is the apocalypse for online merchants who have effective comparison shopping campaigns. This could literally equate to tens of thousands of dollars of lost revenue in just a couple of days. There are a couple ways that this could happen:
- Ad spend budget runs out: With the increase in traffic during the holidays, the number of clicks on your products is naturally going to increase. This means more ad spend.
- Data feed inaccuracy: There are many things that can compromise a data feed. For example, you could be including restricted products in your feed, you may be missing a column, or your feed may be misaligned with the info on your site.
- Inventory shortages: Not updating your feed with stock information can quickly stall your campaign.
How to Get it Right:
In short, raise your ad spend budget, particularly for Google PLAs and Amazon Product Ads, during Q4 and consistently update your product feed. You can do the latter by promptly replying to and following up with emails from the CSEs. Whatever the issue, fix it ASAP. Though they are definitely slower to respond during Q4, don’t hesitate to hound the CSEs with issues you may have or even just hop on a call with someone who knows about product feeds.