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Marketplace Ops: Making Sure You're All Buttoned Up For Q4

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The holiday shopping season is always a crucial time for sellers—and the 2021 holiday season is going to be the biggest and least predictable given changing consumer behavior coming out of the pandemic 😷.

Are you ready for the high traffic volume of Q4? 🎁 In this summit, our experts discussed everything you need to be prepared—including how to integrate your strategy across marketplaces 🛒, build seamless operations ⚙️, reach new customers 👩, reactivate past customers, and uplevel your creative, paid search, and email strategies 🎯 to reach customers during the oversaturated season.

Watch the replay right here or read the transcript below:

Making sure youre all buttoned up for q4_play

Transcript

Kerry Mallett: 

All right, welcome back everyone. To our last session of the first day of our conquering Q4 summit. We are really excited to have a fantastic panel with us for the last session today. Hello, Mark. And so for our panelists, so you can turn your cameras on. We are really excited to be able to jump in and get started. Hello Rudy

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

Hello, howdy

Kerry Mallett: 

Awesome, All right. So we will go right ahead and get started. And again, as a recap of the summit today, we are rounding out with all things, Marketplace operations, with some of our fantastic partners in the operation space. And we started off today with talking all things, retail media, and how to integrate all of your systems. Then doing a deep dive into Walmart, and then talking through how to use your analytics to apply it to Amazon advertising. And again, running out with fulfillment and operations. So we will jump right in and get started. So first one to walk through some logistics. And so the first is that the session recording and slides will be sent out tomorrow. And so you can be sure to share those with your colleagues. Also, if you log off, you can use that same link to log back on again. And you can download the resources and hit out. So we have some great resources in there from us and some of our partners. Also, you can submit any and all questions we have for our panelists so that we can answer them at the end of the session. Also I will introduce myself. My name is Kerry Mallett, I'm the webinar coordinator at Tinuiti and I'll be hosting the webinar today. Give me one moment All right. With nearly 3 billion and digital media under management over 950 employees, Tinuiti is the largest independent performance marketing firm across what we call the Trioply, Google, Facebook, and Amazon. We also offer many other service lines such as retail media advertising, streaming advertising, email marketing services, paid social media and paid search. Our capabilities stretch beyond the Trioply covering all critical touch points and screens. At Tinuiti we understand that success requires those strategy and channel specialization. That approach wins us awards and recognition across the industry, such as the American Business TV awards and the Shorty awards, and allows us to grow some amazing clients like those that you see here. So I am going to turn it over to our panelists, introduce themselves. However, I do understand we're having some tech issues. So if our audience, can hold on one sec. We do want to make sure our other two panelists can come on. So hey, Casey, we can see you and thank you everyone for holding tight here. All right, we seem, for our audience It seems as though we may be having some audio challenges, Mark and Rudy, you both can hear me fine, right?

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

Yes.

Mark Russo:
Yes.

Kerry Mallett:

Okay. Let's see for our audience, can you put in the chat to make sure that you all can hear us okay? Okay. Had to restart, okay. Sounds as though we're having some sound issues. And so I will put in the general chat. Okay, so let's see. On and off, click. I realized I was giving directions via audio, which is what's not working right now, so I have no input for audience. Okay, looks as though still no audio, for some. Okay, we have all right. I can't, all right, let's see. Casey and Paul, can you turn your cameras on trying to see if that still can't hear, okay.

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

You know, earlier, Kerry if you want to

Kerry Mallett:

Is that any better? Mark and Rudy you both are my, can you hear me?

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

I can hear you I don't know if it helps the audience, but earlier when I chimed in I just went to audio and

Kerry Mallett:

Audio's working now. All right, sorry to our audience we are, okay, Paul, and for other two panelists, we are going to forge ahead just for timing's sake. And so I will work on the back end to get Paul and Casey up to speed so that we can get them via audio. And so let's just go ahead with introductions and I will try to get their systems working. So sorry for our audience, for the technical issues, unfortunately. Okay, so Casey we can only see ya.

Casey Armstrong: 

I can, hear you now.

Kerry Mallett:

I'm not able to,

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

Casey, hey what's up?

Casey Armstrong: 

Hey Rudy, hey Mark.

Casey Armstrong: 

Hey Kerry

Kerry Mallett:

Hey Casey. Now, it seems as though my own audio may not be working. Okay, well, Mark, I'm going to hand it over to you to lead our intro.

Mark Russo: 

Sounds good. Hey everyone, I'm Mark Russo. I'm a senior specialist here on Tinuiti's retail operations team. My team and I manage, really anything and everything for our clients' marketplaces. And specifically for this session, of course, that includes Amazon seller and vendor central. Next up was Paul, but I believe Rudy now.

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:Oh, thanks Mark, thanks for the introduction. My name is Rudy. I work with Skubana, I'm an account manager. I've been with them for the last year. Skubana helps everyone with their back office operations. Basically, if you want to have a pick and play option for your fulfillment, everything from the e-commerce front end to the fulfillment option down to the last person, putting that label on the box, that's what's Skubana can help with. So I've been in e-com now five years and so just excited to help all these e-comm sellers navigate the terrain of what is e-comm 2021. Casey.

Casey Armstrong:

Yeah. Thank you. I'm Casey Armstrong. I'm the CMO over here at ShipBob we're a global fulfillment network. We now have, I lose track because we're opening up new facilities seemingly every day, but I think we're up to 26 fulfillment centers right now, bringing you that fast and affordable shipping. We've got 20 locations in the U.S. or 21, and we are also in Canada, Europe, and now Australia as well. Happy to be here.

Mark Russo: 

Kerry I can go into high-level before diving into the questions and the meat of the presentation, does that work for you? Kerry might be having audio issues. So we'll do that before diving into questions. I just want to remind everyone how we formatted today's session, I know Kerry covered it a bit but, first we're going to be covering what you should be doing in preparation for Q4. That will be our first section and our first set of questions. Then we're going to move into best practices during Q4 and what you should be looking out for and keeping in mind. and then finally, we'll finish with your action items coming out of Q4. So you can take advantage of the influx of data and all those new customer touch points that you have. So I'll start by, quickly, just taking ourselves back through, or back to Q4 2020. I'm sure you all remember, or maybe you suppressed those memories, but last year there was a shift in fulfillment and the buy box. So because of Amazon's delivery delay, especially around the holidays, FPM offers were actually beating out FBA and vendor retail offers for the buy box. And you're going to hear this as a theme, and we're going to stress the importance of FPM and direct fulfillment throughout this session in order to manage potential delivery delays from Amazon again this year. Last year we also saw the ASIN-level restock limits in Q4. Currently in the U.S. we're only seeing those account level restock limits on the seller side, but be mindful of the possibility of Amazon reintroducing, the ASIN level limits. And I've seen them myself introduced in some of my client accounts outside of the U.S. so far. So just keep that in mind. And then finally, just one more note from me. On average storage fees for sellers triple in Q4 every year. So make sure you're taking that into account with your inventory planning. So let's dive in, based on these learnings from last year that I just spoke about what should sellers and vendors now be doing to prepare for Q4 2021? Casey, what does the ShipBob team recommend here?

Casey Armstrong: 

Yeah, last year was obviously a wild year and it's pretty fascinating that from your vantage point, Mark, that you're starting to see this happen outside of the U.S. where Amazon's setting their limits, because it's obviously one of the most important channels out there for sellers, but they have their own brands and millions of other brands to worry about. So they need to think things at a different scale. And so something that we focused on at ShipBob is really working with a lot of regional carriers and so that we're not hitting these limits. And so we were actually fortunate we were able to navigate last peak season and we didn't have to get hit with any limits on the max number of orders that we could fulfill out of any location. And if we started to get close, we started injecting orders into our other nodes and driving things cross border. And by that, I mean, cross border meaning, across state lines, and so that was a huge thing, And that we're going to continue to focus on. And so having regional carriers throughout the entire U.S. And so that's one thing that I think for people to start thinking of and getting ahead of, if you're fulfilling yourself is just thinking through how are you going to navigate that, because you are going to get hit with limits, come peak season. And another item you call out, as well is, thinking through what is the impact of the business, if Amazon does triple or quadruple the storage rates during peak season, you know, how does that impact your business? We, keep things flat throughout the entire year. I think it's pretty surprising that Amazon increases it during the most important part of the year, but again, they've got the demand and they need to make sure that they can house that much inventory as well.

Mark Russo:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, one thing I wanted to point out here and emphasize, like I had mentioned earlier is the importance of FBM and direct fulfillment capability. Not only in Q4, but year round. So as you get into fulfilling yourself, just make sure you're aware, of course, those compliance requirements when fulfilling through direct fulfillment or FBM. So the late shipment rate, order defect rate, cancellation rate, just to name a few, there's certain thresholds there that you need to be mindful of. Rudy, I know Skubana has recommendations here as well.

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

Yeah, and that's actually, I wanted to comment, Casey, it's funny you say it facetiously like, oh, that's surprising that they've put those limits in those time, it's Amazon. But that being said, one of the things that I always like to encourage to a lot of my clients, what we try to encourage our clients at Skubana, is, you know, having that foresight and like what we learned after 2020 is that everything's unprecedented, everything that we learned prior to literally what was going on, we came to a standstill just like Mark said earlier. So that being said, what I'm seeing an influx in our clients that have demand planning options, like people that are working with their teams that are like looking into utilization of like tools in Skubana such as our auto PO because you never want to be in a situation where you're overstocking or you know, don't have enough stock. The point is you can have all of your backend automation outlined, which I'll go into further detail later, but also having all of your stock in the right levels beforehand, because the news is coming out, that it's just not going to let up till Q1 2022 shipping wise. So while that can be unexpected moving forward, at least you can have like some contingency plans in place. I always encourage my sellers, try and be malleable, and please keep your head to the ground and like, just ask questions because if you're not prepping, you're going to be like stuck with egg on your face, so.

Mark Russo:

Thanks Rudy. Yeah, next question. Still sticking with our theme of during or before Q4, what we can prep for now. We're seeing a lot of brand affinity for sustainable and eco-friendly products, but shipping itself is very carbon intensive. So how can you position fulfillment to support a sustainable product mission, Casey?

Casey Armstrong: 

Yeah so, that's been a huge focus area for us over at ShipBob and something that we actually announced in Q1 of this year was a partnership with Pachama, which has allowed our entire fulfillment network to be carbon neutral. And so I know a lot of brands are focusing on how can they have the, last mile or the post-purchase carbon neutral. You know, again, utilizing a tool like Pachama or others, but what we really wanted to do as well as make sure that everything that we were doing was carbon neutral as well. And so that these brands could, honestly go to market with a full supply chain, that's carbon neutral, at least from the fulfillment standpoint. And then again, similarly with Pachama we've got a very easy integration with them where brands can get that, up and running, you know, within hours as well. So it's nice and easy. And I know that's something that a lot of consumers are demanding as well.

Mark Russo:

Great, I know Skubana has some recommendations also on the carbon side.

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

Now I can't, stress enough as well, exactly what Casey said, like you're gonna, I'm going to sound like a broken record probably throughout the entirety of this panel. Preparation, having contingency plans and finding out what options are available. Skubana has various amounts of options in plugging into different 3PLs. And so one of the nice things about that, for instance, like an example of a good case study, last object, one of our clients wanted a better, like, you know, shipping solution to avoid, you know, higher fees out in the Asia, you know, a specific area. So we hooked them up with flow ship because they also wanted, you know, eco-friendly, you know, something a little bit more environmentally sound because look, we're moving into the future. We all want our planet to be green and happy. So everyone wants that. So if you just do your research and find out who and what you know, options are available, I know for firsthand experience, if that option is presentable and there's an option that maybe suits your businesses needs, hits those green marks and really like is a good price point. You know, I tell them, reach out to us at Skubana, you know, just like with all of our partners here, we want to make sure you as sellers have those options available so that, you know, at the end of the day, our customers got it, And then also, you know, we did it by saving the earth too.

Mark Russo:

Paul, are you able to hear us?

Paul Rice: 

I can yes, I'm not sure what happened, but I can hear you.

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

Howdy Paul?

Mark Russo:

Excellent. So we're, still in the portion of things where we're going through, what we should be doing in preparation for Q4. I do want to give you an opportunity to, of course, introduce yourselves as we've all done earlier in the presentation.

Paul Rice: 

Yeah, and sorry about that, everyone. I'm not sure what the problem was there. So my name is Paul Rice. I'm the head of marketing here at eComEngine. I've been in the ecom industry for a long time now. I feel like I'm the old one on the panel here, looking at all you young guys, but I'm happy to be here and very encouraged to share all that I can.

Mark Russo:

Perfect, thank you. So we're gonna go to our next question now, and perfect timing for Paul to jump on and join. 'Cause I know you have some comments here. Something we should all be doing year round is optimizing our listings, we all know that, but what should we be mindful of with listing optimization as we go into Q4? Paul, I'll start with you.

Paul Rice: 

Well, yeah before going into Q4, there is the key. I think everyone needs to keep in mind that changing listings or AB testing or anything during Q4 is not a good idea. That should be kind of selling on marketplaces one-on-one but a lot of people do it. And the last thing you want to happen is make a change and have the marketplace restrict your listing, or do something crazy. So, optimize your listings beforehand right now you know, you've got, you know, a few more weeks, maybe a month left to do that, to do any kind of testing that you want to do, get that all ironed out before Q4 and then really using review analytics is a big one that we talk about often. So a lot of people look at review analytics throughout the year, a lot of people ignore them. Now's the time, if you don't look at them throughout the year to download all of your analytics and find out what people are saying in your reviews so that you can make changes to your listings. Very often, a lot of negative reviews are just simple things that expectations weren't met for the buyer, because there was something about the listing that was off or wasn't perfectly explained. And that's a huge opportunity for you to fix those issues in your listing. So you don't have those negative reviews in Q4 and Q1 of next year. And lastly, I think that considering different product imagery is good. You know, a lot of times sellers, they have a successful product and it's working well, but they don't think to change the product photography. Or if you're on Amazon and you have the A+ content, but there's no reason you couldn't try some type of gift for product photography so that a potential buyer can see the experience of someone opening a gift and that entices them more to have that same experience. So I think it's a good idea to try that, that's a new one that I don't see happen, but I'd love to know if anyone's done that before. And what kind of results people have from that.

Mark Russo: 

Paul You touched on testing and the timing of that testing. Rudy, I know it's an emphasis for you and your clients with Skubana.

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

Yeah, something that I've picked up over the last five years, just like, you know, working in e-com, you know, though, I am an account manager, this is my 10th year in tech support, leading support teams across different e-comm platforms. So what I've learned in also, you know, in tandem with exactly what Paul was saying, you know, don't do your testing towards the end of Q3, Q4, make sure you have it ahead of time. But one thing I always try and encourage as well is that, you know, if you're building, your tech stack and you want to build your brand, you know, at the end of the day, you just want to focus on your customers. So to ensure that the last thing that you have to worry about is your tech stack. You know, maybe testing falling out, maybe work with an internal partner, or maybe have an internal resource that could be your technical integrations person, or maybe someone that's going to know your platform back in, back out, because we all know that SAS operations and anything in the cloud is just going to ever change, especially in this new landscape. So again, sound like a broken record, but always prepare.

Mark Russo: 

Thanks Rudy. So now we're not going to transition from speaking about what we should be doing in preparation for Q4, which is almost, you know, a year round event. And now we're going to go into what we should be doing during Q4, keep in mind and place emphasis on. So we'll start with, how does the increase in order volume impact product reviews during the holiday season and I'll pass it to you, Paul.

Paul Rice: 

Well, I think it's a little obvious, but of course, if you get more orders, you will get more reviews, or you should at least. And that means you really need to be paying attention to your incoming reviews because let's say if you get a rash of negative reviews, all of a sudden that could kill your sales, it could drop your ranking organically within that marketplace, so you need to fix issues fast very often. So please pay attention to everything that's incoming, especially negative reviews. Make sure you have your automated alerts set up for reviews so that you can again, stay on top of any bad issues that might pop up. And again, it could be just a small change you need to make in your listing to clarify something. And that is a quick and easy fix. Also make sure you have a smart review strategy in place. Normally we see our customers requesting reviews anywhere from 7 to 14 days after shipment, but in the holiday season, you probably don't want to do that because the person that's receiving the gift hasn't even used it, or potentially hasn't opened it yet. So you might want to maximize the window that you can and ask for that review instead after the holidays. And I might talk about this later, but the most or the one week with the most reviews on Amazon is definitely the first week of the year. We've seen that year over year. It is more than prime day, it's more than black Friday. It's more than any other holiday or any other big event. So the reviews that come in peak on the first week of the year, so have that review strategy in place. So you can maximize during that week.

Mark Russo: 

Thanks Paul, I know and you touched on automation there. I want to give Rudy and Casey a chance to talk about that a bit more in depth, how important is it for, you know, vendors and sellers to be mindful of their automation during the holiday specifically? Rudy, we'll start with you.

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

First and foremost, automation is period, should be the one thing your company and your tech stack should be like investing in. I always like to share this and geek out Joseph Francis, the principal director for Accenture, the individual who, you know, merged Compaq and HP in my mind, a supply chain God. Will say you should be automizing because if you don't automate your tech stack in any way, have automation set up to route your order flows so that, hey, if you got three different 3PLs, or seven different 3PLs, they're going to the right place at the right time using the right services, all those things that Skubana can do in order bot automation, things that I try to stress, you know, again, having that person in the back office of your team, that's day in, day out, you know, making sure your inventory counts, your cost structures are set up. All that stuff is automated so that when the auto POS and the order bot automation is done, you can, it's like that old commercial, you can set it and forget it. But make sure you have somebody that's watching the oven because if not, then the whole house catches on fire, so.

Mark Russo: 

Casey, I noticed ShipBob emphasize this as well.

Casey Armstrong: 

Yeah, I mean, I'm biased of course, but there's so many things for a brand owner and a company to focus on and to be able to automate actually getting the products out the door and to be able to handle the fluctuations at peak and the curve balls that it throws such as carrier limits and issues with speed. And then especially with the holiday season dipping winter, you know, there was a lot of impact, especially in the Northeast last year. And so that's where from automation, to even distributing inventory, so that's automated as well. And how can you maybe route orders to, get around some extraneous potential issues such as leather, is extremely important. And I know this as somebody who's, you know, run their own e-commerce store before, where you're trying to balance a lot of things, and you're going up against a lot of your competition, especially from like a marketing standpoint and a differentiation standpoint. So how can we continue, to deliver on that fast and affordable shipping because you know, these people need it in time and making sure that you can get your product to them before the holidays.

Mark Russo: 

Yeah, especially during that holiday season, you know, there are a lot of challenges with fulfillment, shipping parcel, custom packaging, two day expectations, a lot of supply chain disruption, right? So what are your recommendations for how to, best navigate fulfillment challenge? Its a very loaded question, Casey we'll start with you.

Casey Armstrong: 

I think, it's, talk to your fulfillment provider now and understand where are their cutoffs because the cutoffs keep changing. I was talking to some merchants earlier, some sellers earlier today, and they kind of jokingly said, you know, Black Friday, Cyber Monday used to be two days and now it's like several weeks. And so, you know, the, demand picks up and it keeps coming forward more and more. And so I think it starts with, how does your fulfillment provider even receive the goods? Because different 3PLs, or different fulfillment providers will say, for us to actually receive and ship out your inventory to get there by, let's say Christmas, we need to receive your items by December 1st or November 15th or November 1st. Like figure out what, are those timeframes? And then same thing with the carriers, because the carriers will have different, cutoff points where they'll say, for us to guarantee that your package gets there by Christmas, here are the dates and, you know, UPS or FedEx and others, depending on the way that you're actually shipping, will have different cutoff dates as well. And so similar to how you should understand all your cogs and understand that as a business, you should really understand the dates, and when you can actually, from shipping inventory to your fulfillment provider to actually getting them, and then in using that in your marketing as well. You know, when, should you run your promotions and when should you maybe pull up on the, spend?

Mark Russo: 

Thank you, yeah. I  do want to ask Paul at your recommendations. I know a loaded question, but best ways to navigate the fulfillment challenges that we've seen in the past, and we should prepare for in 2021?

Paul Rice: 

Yeah, well, for Amazon sellers, I feel like, you know, paying attention to your IPI score is always important. It's very easy to ignore throughout the year because it's green and you know, you think it's, fine, no big issue, but always try to move it higher. The threshold has changed a few times since 2018 and currently it's at 450. And, you know, I doubt that Amazon will actually change it in the middle of Q4, but these are very uncertain times. And as we saw last year, anything could happen, you know, just, you have to be prepared for anything. So if it does change, you won't get much warning, but it's important to keep it above the threshold and try to maximize it all the time, because you don't want to be subject to storage limits that could just kill you. And that's not a good way to start Q1. So during Q4, you're, almost preparing for Q1 and making sure that Q1 is going to be okay. We also have a great IPI checklist, at ecomengine.com that you can download to walk you through all the different things you need to do to make sure that you're keeping your IPI as high as possible. Also for sellers, the change that occurred in April that moved you from ASIN level restocking limits to storage type restocking limits, could have a big impact on seasonal items because those seasonal items don't have a lot of sales in Q2, Q3, and that gets factored into restock limits. The best tip here is really just to prepare by sending in small shipments as often as possible throughout Q4 up until you know, the shipping cutoff point. Like we've said before in other webinars, treat Amazon like a river, a continuous stream of products moving in is the best situation there. And again, I mentioned uncertain times. There's so much that could happen. You know, if you look back, we never knew all the things that would have happened in 2020. Removing risk by diversifying your order fulfillment is crucial. You know, you've got to be ready to fulfill from multiple places in case something insane happens. So you also need to be throughout Q4, keeping an eye on inventory and all those places make sure you're staying abreast of where you have things and how things are moving out of each place. These other guys are more, you know, shipping experts than me, but I think they'll all get behind that fact and you need to be ready to pivot quickly. If something goes down for some unforeseen reason, you have to be able to move inventory or make sure that the other channels that you have to fulfill are working as best as possible.

Mark Russo: 

Thanks, Paul. Rudy, I know Casey and Paul have given us a lot of recommendations and really covered most of the, but want, give the opportunity as well, best practices.

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

Oh yeah, no, thanks a lot. So Paul, I think said it best and I really, wanted to piggyback on that. So I know like in my experience, you know, having worked at other places like ShipStation and any like platform, one of the things that, you know, when you're working to optimize the best solutions and options at Skubana for instance, one of the things we like to utilize is like examining where those little margins of errors that like our sellers really are like getting attacked. For instance, Amazon, one of the things that had always popped out for the last five years that I've always noticed is the fact that Amazon lo and behold, going back to Casey surprising comment, because guess what, Amazon is Amazon. We all know this, right. Everything is in PST, not EST or UTC. So obviously if something comes in, like at a certain time, 11:00 AM, 11:00 PM come, looks like it's the next day. Those little margins of errors, if it's one or two orders like that doesn't hurt a seller, but you got tens of thousands of orders. Well then you're out tens of thousands of dollars. So what do we do? Places like Skubana we go ahead and add new order bot logic for Amazon sellers so that when those orders come in, they're in order bot actions and filters will run right on the PST, those little margins of errors, that things that you can look for, things that when you're planning ahead of time, like Paul and Casey said, like stuff that you can like look ahead of time to see when you compare your selling channel data, your sales velocity, okay, where do I need this to be? Where do I need this other 3PL to be laid out if I want to save on costs because do I want to put my 3PL all the way in Washington? And all of my selling reviews are coming from Florida. That seems a little bit like a waste of time. So just doing your research, finding out, good ways to, optimize and save on a couple of dollars to make sure that your customer gets the product. Things like that are things that we look for as well in Skubana and I think, all of us here are on the same page, to ensure that like, sellers can prep for the rest of the year.

Mark Russo: 

Yeah, navigating the fulfillment options. I just wanted to know and follow up on really something Paul had mentioned earlier, the IPI score. I know notices went out from Amazon to sellers via email about the threshold being at 500 now for storage limit, storage volume limits going into Q4. And that cutoff is going to be October 1st. So something very top of mind and even changing as of earlier today, those notices going out. So, you know, be mindful of it, of course, and definitely pick up that checklist that Paul had mentioned for improving that IPI score and want to keep in mind. I also just wanted to note here, best practices, keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Specifically, keep an eye on their listings and their, inventory levels. A lot of competitors just like, you know, all sellers and vendors on this call probably went through issues last year. We'd go out of stock on certain products and these might be top sellers and our competitors going out of stock on these top sellers really gives us an opportunity to take advantage with our pushes from a marketing expense side or, you know, various levers that we can pull. So always keep in mind, you know, what your competitors are doing, make sure that's, you know, monitoring program in place. Finally, Yeah, We're going to transition now. So going from what we should be focusing on during that Q4 and the peak holiday season into post-holiday season. So Q1 finishing up right out of the Q4 holiday season, what we should, you know, be keeping in mind. So our first question here, what are the most important KPIs to track? When it comes to inventory management, what benchmarks should we be looking at, Paul?

Paul Rice: 

Well, one KPI that we love is SKU profitability. We feel like that's a big one. We have a great report in our restock pro software called SKU profitability report. And it's amazing how many items are sold at a loss, especially on Amazon, we see it all the time. And sometimes as a shopper you even wonder, how can they possibly sell something this cheap? It often is at a loss and a lot of sellers don't even know it's at a loss. So if you know profitability at the SKU level, it's only going to help you make better decisions the next year, whether you're reordering, restocking, et cetera, deciding how to change a product, anything you do, it's just better information and you can make better decisions. And, also this is not really a KPI, but I think it's really important to do a retrospective every year of what happened in Q4 from a restock perspective or out of stock challenges. You know, where did a channel fail? Where did you maximize potential? But maybe there was more potential that was unmet, you know, some opportunity costs because you didn't have enough in stock somewhere, but taking a good look at that. Again, not a real KPI, but there could be some KPIs that come out of that for sure. Percentages of, out of stock and restock, et cetera.

Mark Russo: 

Casey, I know there's a, lot of benchmarks and KPIs we can be looking at. What else do you recommend?

Casey Armstrong: 

Naturally return rate and looking at that SKU level and figuring out how you're going to get ahead of that. And then similar to what Paul mentioned from the inventory standpoint, how does that impact your inventory? 'Cause that's just especially with the competition and channels like Facebook and Amazon and others just becoming more and more competitive. You need to bake that in. And when you're figuring out, you know, what is your ROI on a lot of the spend because we see return rates really skyrocket in the first couple weeks of January. And so I would take a look at that and in similar to what Paul mentioned as well, you're doing a retrospective, is look at your data from last year and bake some of that into your calculations for ROI. We can actually pay for our customer and then try to figure out what the historical return rate is as well.

Mark Russo: 

Rudy, any other KPIs or benchmarks you'd like to emphasize?

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III:

No similar to Paul and his team. We also have a SKU profitability report, which, I think ultimately any seller should utilize some form of the SKU profitably report, just like Casey said, make sure you're like, reviewing what past data just, I think as we've all learned from, you know, to preach to the choir, 2020 going into 2022. I think the new lesson is to just learn to be a little bit more malleable as well. So like, you know, utilizing any tools you can to forecast your inventory planning ahead of time. You know, again, just try not to stick to pen and paper. Try to find some way to get your data in any of the platforms, like hard coded so that, you know, when you start moving along, if you have to make those changes, circling back to the testing, like early on, like Paul said, like prepping for holidays of 2022. You can start doing that in January of 2022 and not wait until Q4 of 2022.

Mark Russo: 

Thanks Rudy. We're going to move on to our last question. Our last topic area, what's the number one thing brands can do to boost post holiday retention? Casey, let's start with you.

Casey Armstrong: 

To boost post holiday retention. Maybe I'll hand it off to Paul and Rudy on this. You know, again, our focus is really on, the fulfillment side and all right, I guess I should, maybe I'll just jump in to answer. So there is, just thinking of what is so many, companies focus on what is the purchase experience up to when they actually hit the checkout button and then they ignore that post-purchase experience. And again, that's where we come in because we want to bring that Amazon level of fast and affordable shipping to SMB. Small and medium sized, direct to consumer businesses around the world. And so people continue to optimize for how could people land on my website, get through the buying experience as quick as possible. Maybe even buy natively in something like Instagram. But then they don't think through, well, what does that experience after the fact? And I think the focusing on the end to end customer experience and having that surprise and delight, that's how you're going to really be able to focus on that long-term retention and hopefully reduce your return rate and then keep those customers long-term as well.

Mark Russo: 

Right, so things like custom packaging and the inserts for the packaging of course, would be helpful.

Casey Armstrong: 

That as well, but actually like promising on your or delivering on your promise, like get those items to them quickly. And there are ways around that, you know, ways to do that again, whether utilize something like Amazon or using something like ShipBob where even though there was the pandemic last year, and I think a lot of the consumers gave the brands a little leeway at the beginning. We saw it firsthand, you know, we, ship millions of items a month, like our customer's customers demanded that fast shipping, even though we're in the middle of a pandemic. And even though their supply chain issues, you know, throughout the entire supply chain right now. Buyers want their items fast and they will complain if they don't. And so, you know, finding ways to deliver on that promise.

Mark Russo: 

Thanks, Casey. Rudy, what's the number one thing brands can do to boost post-holiday retention?

Rudy Smith-Villaruel III: 

To piggyback off of what Casey was saying. You know, at the end of the day, your customer is the most important thing. And having worked in some form of customer service, even back to when I was selling credit cards at best buy in 2008, right after the fall of, you know, circuit city point is, is that your customers, if you want them to come back, you need to make sure you have that good customer experience. You can have the greatest tech stack. You can have the greatest automation, we could be prepping. We could be ready during, but at the end of the day, like, you know, if you're not utilizing some form of like a great CX tool so that, you know, if everything's locked in the tech stack, then your team can focus on like the CX side, that customer interaction, you know, being able to pick up a phone, have a good conversation with your team and the client. to make sure that they can leave those good reviews that, you know Paul had mentioned. I care a lot and at my heart is a support person. So I always tell people, make sure you invest just as much bandwidth into your support structure and the way to talk to your customer, because if you don't and your customer has a bad experience, you're just going to get slammed and destroyed with customer reviews, so don't forget about them.

Mark Russo: 

Thank you, Rudy and Paul, again, I'll emphasize the question. Number one thing brands can do to boost post holiday retention?

Paul Rice: 

Well, I touched on earlier about requesting reviews in early Q1 in that first week. And it's not just about getting the review for that sale. It's also about getting your brand in front of the customer. Again, you know, brand recognition is huge. We all know that we're all, in this game. Also for Amazon sellers using all of the brand registry features that are available to, help you build a brand following. It seems like there are new ones coming out every quarter. Start using those to engage with sellers. That's, you know, Amazon post, Amazon lab, manager customer engagement tool, et cetera. They're all still, to me, they're all relatively new. And I feel like if people are using those and brands are using those, you're still an early adopter and that could pay off big time. That's it for me.

Mark Russo:

Thanks, Paul. And thank you, Rudy. Thank you, Casey. That wraps up our post Q4, post holiday discussion. I'll hand it over to Kerry. Who has resolved some audio issues.

Kerry Mallett:  

Well, thank you very much to our panel and it turns out I did some digging as I was also troubleshooting on the backend during the discussion, it was a system wide failure and crash. And so, thankfully it wasn't just us maybe thankfully. So thank you for our panelists for their graciousness and getting them on and thank you for audience members too, for hanging in with us. And what turns out was a, yeah, system wide snafu that somehow happened at 3:00 PM Eastern this afternoon. So thank you all for such a great discussion and loved hearing all of your all's expertise. And so we're now going to jump into our last poll of day one of our summit. And so we would love to hear it. We had so many fulfillment and operations experts on our panel discussion and so for our audience, if you want to upload them and get ready and be able to navigate all of these challenges with shipping and fulfillment, during Q4 now is the time to do so. So, both Tinuiti for the end-to-end channel management eComEngine, for those seller tools. Skubana for that e-commerce inventory or ShipBob for fulfillment solutions. We would love to be able to continue the conversation with respective teams after this. Also, if you have voted in our poll, but have not yet registered for Tinuiti live, I'll be at dropping the link in our chat now so that you can do so. And I'll also intro Tinuiti live, right after we wrap our poll. And so, I am going to close our poll for the session and then also want to, introduce our audience to attend to Tinuiti live, excuse me. So Tinuiti live commerce is a half-day complimentary online event. Designed to help marketers conquer the new world of connected retail commerce by turning out the bigger picture and all of the dots. So, you know, there are a lot of them. So we're really excited to be not only hosting Tinuiti live conference next month, but it is a very natural next program and opportunity and event to go to after our conquering Q4 summit. So I do want to thank everyone for tuning in today. We hope to see you all back tomorrow because we'll be back at 10:00 PM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern, to dive into day two of Conquering Q4. Well where we'll be going into all things paid and earned media. So how to build audiences, especially in our privacy landscape. How to have a great shopping feed and getting into shoppable media. All things designing creative, email and SMS strategy, and then finally with paid. So thank you all again for being with us and thank you for our panelists too, for having a great discussion today, and for Mark for being a wonderful moderator.

Mark Russo:

Thank you Kerry, thanks everyone.

Kerry Mallett: 

Thank you everyone. And thank you again for bearing with us and we look forward to seeing all back here tomorrow.

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