The Ultimate Guide to Prepare for Q4 on Amazon

The Ultimate Guide for Planning Your Amazon Q4 Holiday Strategy

Brittany Startzel

Table of Contents

Updated September 2022

Remember the days when Q4 was the focal point of the year for retailers? 2020 certainly stole that spotlight and pushed any semblance of normalcy to the back seat for much of the year. Unfortunately, many of 2020’s issues have carried through to Q4 2022. 

Year over year, restrictions on Amazon continue to increase, so it’s imperative that you start planning no later than late June. (If we’re past June when you’re reading this, you may want to skip the supply chain section and scroll all the way down to marketing tips.)

That’s why we’ve put together this prep guide. This guide will help you put Amazon Q4 prep back on the roadmap and set yourself up for success. (Here’s hoping we don’t get yet another curveball – like locusts, that would be very bad.)

How to Start Q4 Planning for Amazon

Designate Leaders to Guide Strategy

Your future success ties back to your team and partners. You need to start with a look at your internal teams and answer these questions:

  • Who within your organization is taking ownership of Amazon? 
  • Does that person need additional support?
  • Who are your warehouse and shipping partners?
  • Do you have SLA’s in place that you can count on? 

Many brands turn to an expert partner to help fill those gaps, leaning on Amazon-focused digital agencies or retail partners that conveniently come with a fully stocked tool belt of standard operating practices and resources. 

Regardless of what your team looks like, you need to finesse and develop an org-chart that explicitly designates working procedures, growth targets, demand forecasting, warehousing solutions, and marketing per person. Your success is tied to those KPI’s, and your team should have them top of mind as well. 

Schedule Regular Business Reviews with Internal & External Partners

If you don’t already, begin scheduling quarterly business reviews to allow for pivot time if the KPI’s are not lining up with targeted goals. Take inventory of segmented portions of your operation: 

  • What do stock levels look like? 
  • Have we heard of sourcing issues?
  • What are our customers saying?
  • Are there any product issues noted from reviews?
  • What does your Amazon presence look like?
  • How are advertising budgets performing? 

The answers to those questions will drive the strategic implementation and changes for the upcoming quarter and help position you well heading into Q4 on Amazon and beyond.

Conduct a Content Audit

In line with the basics, commence an audit of your catalog and corresponding creative assets. As Kaspien says, “People remember 80% of what they’ve seen and just 20% of what they read, which is an important reminder. 

At minimum, the top 20% of your product catalog should have Amazon-compliant and visually exciting A+ Content to boost shopper buying confidence. Then stroll on over to your Amazon Brand Stores – have you organized your product categories in a logical fashion? Is your brand story being portrayed to meet customers at an emotional level? 

A+ Content and Amazon Brand Stores are one of the simplest ways to communicate who you are as a brand and reduce negative reviewsIf you can write a big green check mark next to that advice, then take it one step further.

Determine which products could use a ‘seasonal facelift’ and find ways to incorporate holiday themes into the gallery of your product detail pages. If you are a manufacturer of photo frames, could you photoshop a snowflake into the frame? Small changes to your organic marketing efforts can make a big difference when customers are scrolling through hundreds of products trying to find a gift. Simple images that naturally connect dots in our brain are a surefire way to stand out from the crowd. 

A+ Content Page on Amazon

Ongoing COVID-19 Impact to Supply Chains

Remember the wonderful year of 2020? Yeah, me neither. What we do remember are extended lead times and quantity restrictions imposed by Amazon, because those problems are still ongoing. Yet as we recently discussed in our 2022 Mid-Year Review Webinar, there still many strategies you can implement now to maximize your Q4 profits. Our experts still agree, however, that early planning is still the most winning strategy. 

How to Plan Earlier for Q4

Given the turbulence of 2020, we asked Ned to share some advice for why and how brands should be planning for Q4 earlier this year. He recommended:

  • Start talking to your manufacturers earlier to ensure you can source inventory to support your holiday sales. You may need to arrange sailings at origin a month or two earlier than you would have in past years. Source domestically as much as possible.
  • Budget for higher freight costs when sourcing out of China. The 45%-50% freight increases could be here to stay well into Q3 and beyond based on market expert predictions.
  • Have fulfillment options to back up your FBA stock (MFN, SFP, Deliverr) in case AQLs are still around come Q4. AQLs will limit what you can send in and tight timelines for replenishment into FBA could lead to out of stocks. Brands can no longer rely solely on FBA to ensure success through the holiday season on Amazon.

Amazon Q4 Timeline & Important Dates

Determine Q4 Stock & Lead Times

Given how tough Q4 was in 2020, it’s even more important to do your due diligence this year. Determining stock and lead times is one of those tasks that will be critical for a brand to take ownership of. You need to know what your expected lead times will be, based on where your product is manufactured.

If that’s proving difficult due to the coronavirus still affecting predicted ship windows, you’ll need to be ready to invest in more expensive options. Air freight is the most expensive option, but it delivers results. Costs range greatly by product and day, and fees are based on “dimensional weight,” so cost also varies greatly by the volume you ship. Due to COVID-19, the costs of air freight have increased dramatically from where they were a year ago, so this should be a last resort. 

Get creative with your strategy and think outside the box. If you have sourcing issues with your manufacturer, look for unique ways to fill in the gaps. Are portions of the product or packaging not sustainable? Could you find a U.S. based manufacturer that can make the product out of recycled materials instead? Invest in new partnerships right now to ensure you don’t reach 10x growth without inventory to continue the trend. 

Amazon FBA Inventory Due Dates

Some sellers have learned a hard lesson about tardiness in past years, and we’ve all learned from those mistakes. Amazon implemented key inventory deadlines for Q4 2022 that can act as a guide right now. Although September 2, 2022 was the last day to submit holiday 2022 promotions, November 2, 2022 is the Inventory cut-off date for FBA sellers.

Apply to Applicable Categories ASAP

New brands and products have an increased hurdle this year, as Amazon continues to increase its barrier of entry for some categories. In 2020, some brands experienced issues accessing the Personal Safety and Household & Medical Supplies and Equipment categories, requiring them to apply and, in some cases, wait over a month for any response. 

Start this process immediately to ensure you gain access prior to using expensive shipping methods to get your product here in time. On this note, it never hurts to have a marketplace back-up plan. Is Walmart a good fit for your products? If so, begin the process of either finding a partner to help you launch there or apply on your own. For more information about Walmart, read our blog here. 

Use Prime Day to Inform Amazon Q4 Strategy

While certainly not its primary purpose, Amazon does provide a convenient holiday that is a perfect opportunity to analyze sales, brand visibility, and advertising performance – Prime Day!

Prime Day is a phenomenal opportunity to get a peek into the future and collect data points that should be used to develop a Q4 strategy. The increased volume of shoppers, increased ad spend, and heightened opportunity to rope in new loyal customers creates a similar landscape to what Q4 looks like on Amazon – namely, weeks prior to Black Friday and up until December 15th. Check out our top 5 tips for how to maximize Prime Day sales.

This year, sellers have the added advantage of a second prime day event which will occur on October 11th and 12th, 2022. 

Amazon Marketing for Q4

Create a Product-Level Advertising Strategy

If ever there was a secret sauce for Amazon, advertising is it. Amazon Advertising is one of the most profitable areas of Amazon, and Pivotal Research reported that, Amazon is expected to reach $38 billion in advertising sales by 2023.” If something is making Amazon money, you need to pay attention to it, because you can guarantee they are. 

Many brands find this planning metric quite difficult, given the variety of aspects that span budget constraints, inability to see into the landscape future, and catalog size. To avoid a drinking from the firehose situation, go back to your basic target planning. If you have a partner, sit down with them and discuss what your high-level goals are. Use resources around you to understand target ACoS, ROI, ROAS, and budgets. Spend some time doing the math to understand your per product margin, and work backwards to figure out how much you’re willing to spend on customer acquisition. 

Many brands fall victim to assigning one target for their entire catalog, but if you have multiple products with varying price points, then you should be developing an advertising strategy at the product-levelA product that’s 5% over the target ACoS needs to be optimized differently than a product that’s 20% over the target ACoSEven if your target ACoS is the same across the board, varying price points necessitate a product-level strategy. A $10 product with a 10% target ACoS needs to be optimized differently than a $100 product with a 10% target ACoS.

Amazon PPC Management Software Can Help

This is no small feat, so find time and cost saving tools to help you do this. We’ve even built one: Kaspien AdManager. Our 30-day trial allows brands to test our strategies and see results before committing to a subscription. Explore your resources and network with others in the industry to help yourself. 

Work Backwards from Goals

To understand performance and refine strategy, you’ll need to track advertising KPI’s. Start with goals: Define when you will bid up and bid down, how you’ll mine high-converting search terms and at what frequencyin what ways you will identify low converting keywords to be added as negative keywords, and finally, what your daily spend budgets need to be in order to work within your product level marginRemember, Amazon only gives you advertising data for about two months, so find a way to store this insight and lean on the findings once Q4 rolls around.

Use Amazon Promotions Before Q4

Seemingly overshadowed by the power of Amazon Advertising are evergreen marketing tactics that deserve a fighting chance: Promotions! Start running promotions now, collect the data, store it, and analyze it. Lean on a combination of tactics, including coupons, Deals, BOGOs. While each targets a different subgroup of shoppers, you’re gaining insight into what lowered price points increase sales and which promotion types yield successful results and should be used during Q4. 

Hot tip: Today’s Deals during Q4 are about as crowded as B&M stores on Black Friday, so think about using other promotions, like coupons, to help carve out a space for your products in the rush. 

beauty products with a bow

Advertise Beyond Amazon

Additionally, one of the most successful tools Kaspien has used to circumnavigate the crowded Deals section during Q4 is off-Amazon advertising. Inventory your visibility on other platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc., and start A/B testing ad types on those platforms.

While some categories are better fit for social advertising, don’t be afraid to get creative here. Who would have thought that a face shield would be a prized holiday gift? Use that to your advantage and sync up with partners in the space to help build content and advertise your product in ways that you hadn’t previously

Social media marketing for Amazon

Influencers are another incredible way to call out to both niche and major segments of the population and get eyes on your brand. Many brands halt at the thought, thinking their products just aren’t a great fit – but you’d be surprised. And you don’t have to spend a fortune, tapping into micro influencers can be a powerful option. 

Take this example:
Watchmaker Daniel Wellington is known for collaborations with fashion and travel influencers, but the brand also frequently works with CanadianBros (@CanadianBros), an Instagram account for two dogs named Jasper and Louie. Though dog lovers isn’t an obvious audience for a watch company, the fact that the account has featured Daniel Wellington on more than one occasion indicates it’s working. In one post, Louie gazes up at his owner who just happens to be wearing a Daniel Wellington watch. Like many of the account’s other posts, the caption is from the pup’s point of view. 

The big bonus here is most influencers allow brands to have rights to the content they develop which can be used on your direct sites, social pages and even Amazon. 

More free resources

Q4 Planning Starts Now

We are living in a different time, and while nothing is certain, being a brand on Amazon puts you at an advantage during the holidays. Customers can shop from the safety of their couch, and you can help put a smile on the face of recipients around the country. 

Think of the extra time you have as an opportunity to really give Amazon Q4 the planning it deserves. Sit down with your teams, cultivate your goals, develop new relationships, and talk reality with your suppliers. Look at your products through a new lens, play around with organic marketing tactics, and take the time to implement an advertising strategy that spans both marketplace and beyond. The time is now. And if you need support, you can always reach outWe’d love to chat about your goals and the tools and services we have to help you reach them.

Happy Q4 planning! 

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More About the Author

Brittany Startzel