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How to Maintain Your Supply Chain and Marketing Efforts Through the Holiday Season

Last Modified: September 1, 2023

This blog was contributed by 8Fig, a Refersion partner.

Holiday season is fast approaching, and ecommerce brands across platforms are gearing up for the busiest time of year. There’s good reason to put extra efforts into holiday season sales, too. In 2021, total retail sales during the holiday season grew by 14.1% year over year, reaching $886.7 billion, according to the National Retail Federation

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are still big spending days, with almost 180 million American consumers making purchases during the holiday weekend following Thanksgiving, more and more consumers are starting their holiday shopping early. In 2021, 61% of those surveyed reported that they began their holiday shopping in early November. In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that consumers often don’t finish all of their shopping during the infamous Cyber Week. Many shoppers continue to make purchases right up until Christmas.

Ecommerce brands that want to maximize their profits during such a long holiday shopping season must prepare for the long game. If their supply chain and marketing efforts fall short, they’ll lose out on many potential sales. Therefore, keeping your supply chain and marketing endeavors going strong is a vital part of success during Q4.

Here are some tips to maintain your supply chain and marketing efforts through the busy holiday season.

Sustain Your Supply Chain

The last thing any retail business wants during the holiday season is a stockout, but with a complex, unpredictable supply chain, this is easier said than done. Last holiday season, many businesses experienced unprecedented delays and disruptions in their supply chain, not to mention higher prices than ever before. 

This year, the supply chain has stabilized somewhat, but experts assert that supply chain disruptions aren’t going away any time soon. Therefore, it’s important to prepare your supply chain for anything. The following tips will help you ensure that your supply chain is ready for the holiday season.

Strategize and Plan Ahead

The 2021 holiday season was characterized by bottlenecks and supply shortages. ECommerce businesses were advised to order as much as they could as soon as they could. This year, however, your strategy should be a bit more nuanced. No matter your approach, however, ordering inventory well ahead of Q4 is a great way to avoid the holiday rush.

Decide on a strategy for the holiday season, and plan ahead accordingly to make sure you can achieve it. Due to the current economic climate and high inflation, it is a good time to focus on your best-selling products, those whose supply chain you know well. These are the products that are least likely to cause you grief both in terms of supply and sales.

Consolidate and analyze your data from last holiday season in order to draw conclusions about how much inventory you’ll need this year. You can also use data from past years combined with current consumer trends to forecast customer behavior.

Optimize Your Supply Chain for Flexibility

When it comes to making sure that your supply chain is resilient enough to carry you through the holidays, flexibility is key. Optimizing your supply chain for flexibility is an invaluable strategy, particularly during times of chaos. 

Diversifying your supply chain is a great way to start. Supply chain diversification means including different options of partners at various stages. For example, diversifying your suppliers means having more than one supplier to choose from. Then, if you have a problem with one supplier, there is another on standby so you can avoid delays.

Another great way to inject flexibility into your supply chain is to order smaller batches of product more frequently. That way, if one batch runs into a problem such as damage or a shipping delay, you’ll lose less and the next batch will be on its way more quickly. In other words, you avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. Smaller batches may cost more in the short term, but they can pay off in the long run.

Increase Communication and Transparency

Communication is key in a well functioning supply chain. After all, if you aren’t aware that you have a problem, you won’t be able to fix it in a timely manner. Therefore, it’s important to have open and fluid channels of communication with your various partners, from your suppliers to your freight forwarders. In addition, make sure that you and your suppliers, carriers, and fulfillment centers are aware of each others’ requirements and deadlines as early as possible to decrease the chances of miscommunications and delays. 

Increasing transparency in your supply chain strengthens it ahead of the holidays. You want to ensure traceability throughout your supply chain, so you know what’s going on with your inventory at all times. This will help you keep an eye on bottlenecks and potential disruptions. Then, if an unexpected issue does occur, you’ll know about it more quickly and will be able to minimize damage.

Finally, giving your customers visibility into their orders is a good way to keep them happy and loyal. It also lowers the number of customer service inquiries. If a shipment is delayed, it’s better to let your customers know, so they know when to expect their delivery and maintain confidence in your business.

Manage Your Marketing

Your marketing approach is an integral part of your holiday success. Many costs increase during Q4, so it’s important to put a good deal of thought and effort into cost-effective strategies that give you the highest possible ROI (return on investment). The following tips will help you optimize your marketing efforts ahead of the holidays.

Start Early and Keep Campaigns Going After Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Particularly with the recent rush of early shoppers, starting your holiday marketing push early is a good way to increase sales. Many consumers are now starting their holiday shopping earlier than ever before, so launching marketing campaigns well in advance of the holidays is crucial. You don’t want to miss out on those early sales.

Moreover, with the increased demand for advertising space, it’s wise to set up your campaigns and placements as early as possible. If you’re working with affiliates and influencers, they tend to fill up quickly during this season, so secure your slots early. 

As important as starting your marketing efforts early may be, it’s equally important to remember that holiday shopping continues after Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) end. Don’t get so caught up with your BCFM marketing strategy that you neglect the rest of the season. Many people continue making purchases right up to Christmas.

Look to Influencer and Affiliate Marketing

During the holiday season, choosing the most effective marketing strategies can make all the difference in your profits. With higher than usual costs for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and competition across channels, influencer and affiliate marketing is one of the best options for eCommerce brands.

The benefits of affiliate marketing and influencers are vast. Since you only pay your affiliates for leads, downloads, or clicks, it’s a lower risk strategy than other advertising methods. In addition, the average ROI of influencer campaigns is quite high. According to Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2019, the average ROI for every $1 spent on influencer marketing is a whopping $18.

Another important advantage of this sort of marketing is related to consumer trust. Shoppers are much more likely to trust recommendations if they come from influencers or people they know. Only 38% of consumers trust recommendations from brands, while 61% of consumers report that they trust social media recommendations from influencers, friends, and families. If you’re looking for high conversion rates, utilizing affiliates and influencers is a great option.

Monitor and Adjust Campaigns

It can take some time to optimize your marketing efforts, so even though it may be tempting to sit back and relax once your placements are secured, your work isn’t over yet.

If you want to ensure that your marketing efforts pay off throughout the holiday season, it’s vital that you monitor your campaigns and strategies and adjust them accordingly. Pay attention to which affiliates and influencers are converting customers, and consider increasing your collaboration with them. This can take the form of dedicated landing pages, promotional codes, or special offers. If certain affiliates don’t seem to be working, do some research to find out why they’re not performing as you wish, and try to improve them.

Keep an eye on your other advertising campaigns as well. If your PPC campaigns aren’t getting the click-through rates or impressions you aimed for, adjust your bids respectively.

Keep Your Supply Chain and Marketing Efforts Going Strong

The holiday season is one of the most exciting and challenging times of the year for ecommerce businesses. In order to maximize your profits and make the most of this year’s shopping rush, it’s important to ensure that your supply chain and marketing efforts are ready for the long haul.

Plan ahead and get things rolling well in advance of the holidays for both the success of your supply chain and marketing strategy. When it comes to your supply chain, optimize for flexibility and transparency, and strengthen channels of communication. For your marketing efforts, utilize affiliate marketing and influencers and monitor your campaigns and strategies throughout the season.
With enough forward thinking, strategizing, and a bit of working capital, you can make the most of the holiday season, grow your business, and maximize your success.

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Written by

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey