Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Fail to prepare for Q4 and prepare to fail

As a successful entrepreneur, agency owner and investor Amanda Perry has her fingers firmly on the pulse when it comes to predicting consumer trends. She’s the founder of performance marketing agency, SOUP as well as the go-to place for ecommerce brands, The Ecom Growth Hub. In her first column for ECA, she shares her advice on coping with the challenges facing all businesses as we enter the last quarter of the financial year

Many retailers I have chatted with have shared, unsurprisingly, their worries about the future. After nearly two years of being bombarded by restrictions, shortages and battling the pandemic, there are still many issues on the horizon that they will have to navigate their way through.

Let me start by saying Q4 is set to be a bumper time this year… but only for those who are ready and prepared. You know the saying, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”? Well, it’s never been so pertinent as it is now. The wisest businesses are undoubtedly those that have anticipated the warning signs for trouble ahead, acted on them and planned well in advance to see them through the next few months in one piece.

Every company, from beauty and homewares to fuel and food, is facing huge supply chain issues. There are several issues impacting this – Coronavirus, Brexit and a lack of shipping containers, to name a few – and this has resulted in uncertainty, with severe stock and packaging delays across the board.

Add to this the predictions that there will be a serious lack of staffing as businesses struggle to fill those all-important temporary Christmas staff; as well as driver and vehicle shortages for courier and logistics companies, thanks to the bigger players commissioning all the rental vehicles available.

But the way to combat this is to take a serious look at how your company works, a deep dive if you will into what it does well and what it does not so well and draw up an immediate action plan.

1: Start by creating a sales forecast and plan now. I understand that many of you are facing a frustrating situation: demand is certainly there, for both on and offline retail, but ensuring that supplies are fulfilled is tough. Ensure you give yourself plenty of time to find alternative second and even third supply back-ups and logistic providers to make the most of those potential sales.

2: Look at messaging and key dates for Q4. Last year was tough for customer services teams as people were kept waiting for their purchases with no updates. It’s vital that customers are kept in the loop with any issues relating to dispatch dates. This communication is more important than ever; believe me, consumers are far more understanding if they know what is going on, and you won’t be alone in experiencing problems.

3: Get your resource plan in place and by this, I mean allocating tasks early to maximise efficiency. This is a great way to help your teams understand what to work on and when, manage their resources accordingly and keep projects on budget before problems arise. If you find gaps that need filling, consider remote outsourcing to virtual assistants if needed.

4: Get ready to sweep up those last-minute sales with gift cards and digital products as panic buying ramps up – but don’t start slashing your prices just yet. I’ve seen a lot of retailers move away from discounts in favour of offering added value instead. Think outside of the box and look at product bundling, for example, as a great way to increase order value whilst protecting profit margins. 

Being at the mercy of a fragile supply chain and having no control over it is being compounded by the media. If your target audience is reading horror stories about empty shelves day in day out, then the fear is this will lead to lead to panic buying – which will exacerbate the issue further.

Without doubt all these issues are leading to a ‘levelling’ period in business where it will be vital to adapt or fail and for many, Q4 will be the catalyst for those who do and don’t survive next year. The future IS online, and we all must accept that e-commerce isn’t going anywhere. A period of adjustment is necessary for us all; sadly, it will be a brutal time for some more than others.