19 Aug How to Prepare for Q4 2021
…And just like that, we’re back and covering how to prepare for Q4 and the holiday season.
If you’re a small business owner – especially in e-commerce and related supporting industries – it’s time to start prepping for the holidays. While the end of August and back to school season are typically good markers for starting to prepare, you know it’s officially time for Q4 prep when Costco starts bringing in seasonal merchandise.
2020 was a blur, and most retail businesses saw a year-over-year decrease in sales except for the Q4 boom. For many, the 2020 holiday season also precipitated consistent sales during the first half of 2021. Our mission is to support small businesses with digital marketing, so read on for retail and B2B tips from our experience for closing out 2021 on a strong note!
Here’s how retail and e-commerce businesses can prepare for 2021’s Q4 holiday season.
November 1-25: The Lull Before Black Friday
Because customers anticipate sales later in the month, there’s typically a drop-off in sales leading up to the end of November. The first few days of November, decide if you’ll offer early-access sales or VIP / loyalty program special offerings.
If you’re not planning to incentivize purchases with sales before Black Friday, October and the very beginning of November can be a good time to launch new merchandize or products. That way, you’ll be top of mind and have some buzz working in your favor before Thanksgiving. Plus, you can still make your margins and sell at full price before the holiday sales in late November.
In the first part of November, you should also evaluate your inventory. You want to make sure you’re stocked up on best-sellers and products that performed well during the holidays last year. Order additional inventory in advance if there’s any chance you think you’ll run out!
Starting mid-November, before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, start putting out content about upcoming deals (if you decide to offer them). You can also plan this info in advance using the tactics we explain in our Authentic Marketing Calendars blog post.
November 26-29: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday & Cyber Monday
First decide if you will be participating in any (or all) of the sales periods.
If you decide to join in, define your discount (ex. 30%). Consumers know to wait for Black Friday sales, and they also know that companies typically give their biggest discounts of the year during the three-day period, so factor that into your decision making.
There have also been increasing numbers of businesses opting out of participating in Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. The most popular example being REI’s Opt Outside campaign. If you decide to pass on Black Friday / Cyber Monday, have your rationale prepared and use it to your advantage. For example, if your business only sells products ethically made in the USA, opting out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday both aligns with your mission (fair wages) and makes sense for your bottom line. There are endless reasons to opt out
Whether you decide to participate in Black Friday / Small Business Saturday / Cyber Monday or not, you will still likely see a sales bump over the weekend because it’s such a popular time to shop for the holidays. That being said, if you’ve done discounts in the past and choose to refrain this year, you may see a year-over-year decrease in sales. Follow your intuition (& cash flow) about what’s right for your business this year, and remember to analyze year-over-year results to see what tactics works best over time.
November 23: Giving Tuesday
Perhaps the least well-known of the November sales rush is Giving Tuesday. Immediately following Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is another opportunity to tune in to your brand voice and find a way to give back to your community.
First, ask yourself if it fits with your brand or your personal mission. Is there a cause or an organization that’s aligned with your values? If there’s a particular cause you’d like to give back to, it’s easy to start with a Google search, and then refine your nonprofit choices using the information and reporting on GuideStar. You can search for nonprofits on GuideStar here to verify their 501(c)3 status.
December 1 – 24: Early December through Christmas Eve
This is the final push! The month of December tends to be action-packed between sales, answering questions, fulfillment and advertising. Integrate the three tips below for more ease during your holiday sales rush.
1. Plan your marketing campaigns ahead of time. Have automated email campaigns scheduled to promote specific gifts, gift guides, and more. And if you have a retail storefront, remember to schedule a final push during the last week leading up to Christmas (12/17-12/24). Update your hours in Google My Business, Instagram, and wherever else you interact with your customers.
2. Make your last shipping days extra clear for e-commerce. Consider adding a specific Holiday FAQs page to your website if you anticipate a lot of questions. People are shopping online more than ever, so they need to know how long it will take to receive their friends and families’ gifts.
3. Create holiday-specific bundles of your best-sellers or add-ons like gift wrapping at checkout. These offerings allow you to boost average order value while making things easier for your customers. In Shopify, there’s a free, quick tutorial that gives you gift wrapping functionality. In WordPress / WooCommerce, the Gift Wrapper plugin is a good option.
Here’s how B2B businesses can prepare for 2021’s Q4 holiday season.
With retail in full swing for Q4, service-based support businesses (coaching, consulting, etc) can also expect an uptick through the end of the year. At the start of Q4, reach out to existing clients to see if they need support in advance of the upcoming sales rush. Advertise closing dates for new clients, leading up to the end of the year.
For businesses with an onboarding process or set delivery timeframe for services, you may also experience a flurry of activity leading up to the end of December. Many clients put off larger projects until the end of the year, and then realize they want to complete something in the current accounting year. Give yourself some buffer time if that’s the case for your business.