Let me tell you a quick story. My own version of the "Ghost of Retail Christmas Past."
My wife and I used to own a few small retail stores. This is back in the 1990s when traditional bricks and mortar malls ruled the retail world at Christmastime. As the holidays approached each year we literally would rent additional storage space near each location and stuff it to the gills with merchandise in October and November because the greatest retail sin we could image was running out of stuff to sell when everyone was buying.
Anyway … I was walking around one of our malls in Late October and came across a man who was meticulously arranging the merchandise in his new holiday store. Seriously … his little shop looked really good. We struck up a conversation. This was his first venture into retail and his first holiday season. He had signed up for a temporary mall lease during the holidays. In those days that was VERY expensive, but you could make a ton of cash if you did it right.
His temp store was a small, unleased corner of the mall. He had a good location but no rear entrance or storage. I asked him where his holiday back-stock was. He said he had none. I looked around his shelves and saw maybe $13k to $15k worth of stock in total. I quickly asked if the rest of his holiday orders were in route. Nope … he was going to order as he needed … during the holidays.
He was out of inventory before the end of November. But due to the requirements of his lease with the mall, he had to keep his store open with an employee sitting there until mid-January. Can you imagine anything more frustrating and demoralizing? When I would step out for a cup of coffee I had to walk right by. For more than a month it would just be a teenager reading a book in an empty store as thousands of Holiday shoppers walked around.
Perfecting Shopify Holiday Inventory in the eCommerce Age
Things have changed radically over the last twenty years! We use technology not only to sell our wares to a world-wide audience, but also to manage all the logistics of a modern retail operation – from inventory to shipping. But at the center of the gift-giving season it remains the same … it’s a retail sin to have nothing to sell during the last sixty days of the year. It will definitely get you on the eCommerce naughty list.
But sales forecasting is equal parts science, art, and luck in the best of circumstances. And even your most reliable suppliers can have trouble getting bulk shipments to you when all the UPS trucks are deployed to residential streets dropping off fruitcakes and knitted sweaters.
Fortunately, technology has delivered a few back-stops to help you fill out your holiday wish list – more sales. Let’s look at a few ways that every online Shopify merchant can add sales opportunities without adding a lot of risk and make sure that “out-of-stock” is a rare occurrence this holiday season.
Some people think of gift cards as a holiday cop-out. Not me. Especially if your eCommerce site carries specialty products. Sometimes picking EXACTLY the right gift for a person is hard – even if they know you well. Heck … my family loves me, but I am the only Jazz-loving Whiskey-sipping Bass-playing Content-writing member of my tribe. The good people that they are, they can’t tell the difference between a Single Malt and Johnny Walker Black or unerstand that I still need a few of Ray Charles’s rare pre-Atlantic recordings for my collection. A gift card will do just fine, thank you very much.
But gift cards are also the PERFECT tool for eCommerce store owners to balance out their inventory flow. You capture the sale now and then process the orders after the holidays when the calendar and clock are more your friend. The best part is that gift cards sold from your Shopify store have zero up front cost and zero carrying costs. And multiple Shopify Sales Channels support the native gift card tools – including Pinterest, Facebook, and Messenger. It’s just a total win all the way around.
If you are in a "Shopify Plan" and above (middle tier and higher) there is Gift Card functionality already built-in. You can find information in the Shopify online help docs. But there are also a bunch of third-party apps to help you out if you are on a lower plan or need some specialty functionality.
Add Subscription Gifts to Your Holiday Product Portfolio
Think about it. This is a holiday gift-giving retail strategy that has been proven for generations. Companies sell monthly gift packages of everything from perfumes and cosmetics to fresh fruit and cheese. I once gave my dad a six-month subscription to “Beers of the World.”
This is great for the gift giver and receiver. But it's super-awesome for online stores. If you have a product line that lends itself to this kind of thing, you can dribble out featured products as a part of the subscription and – so long as you fulfill the requirements of your subscription plan and continue to delight the receiver – there is no limit to the kinds of products you can include or the order in which you are required to send them. And all of that happens AFTER the holidays when suppliers can get you what you need more easily.
There are several apps available in the Shopify App Store that can help you get started.
In-Shopify Product Sourcing
First, a word of caution. Your brand is important. As tempting as it may be, you do not want to sell anything and everything on your Shopify eCommerce site. Your customers are likely coming to you because of the kinds of products and services you sell now, and you have likely designed your site to cater to a specific target market. Do NOT mess with that.
That said, there are a bunch of companies whose sole purpose for existence is to become a third-party sourcing and fulfillment arm of other Shopify stores. They provide the product, delivery, and sometimes even customization. If these Shopify apps – available from the Shopify App Store – have products that fit neatly into your core target market and style, then the holidays just might be the perfect time to try them out by carefully curating the products you add from their services.
Again, it’s a great way to augment your product offerings and provide more selection – especially during the holiday season.
If You Need More Shopify Inventory Help During the Holidays
It’s going to get crazy out there. The stock market, consumer confidence, and macro-economic indicators are all pointing positive this holiday season for the first time in years. There are no guarantees, but this year has the makings of a record-breaking eCommerce season. Make sure that your inventory and strategy are ready for the potential.
If you need help implementing any of these things in your Shopify eCommerce store, start a task and we’ll get right on it. And if you are just getting started in eCommerce and want to give Shopify a try, use this special link to sign up and get started with the most innovative online platform available today.Thanks for reading!