For wholesale distributors, retails, and many other types of businesses, the holiday season, and the lead up to it, can be a stressful time. With added activity and time-sensitive pressures, it’s easy to get stuck in “just getting things done” mode. And that often equates to losing sight of what’s needed to maximise your opportunities and increase sales and profit during the busy period.
Getting prepared early and having the right tactics in place to boost sales potential can make it a season to remember. Here are the top tips on how to increase sales and profit this holiday season.
Back to basics with the right reporting
Having accurate, reliable reporting in place before the rush is a crucial component in boosting sales. Reporting can give you a better understanding of your customers, their buying habits and the expected stock fluctuations over the coming months.
Some businesses try to report on individual products to identify trends, but individual products change over time. They can be obsoleted, discontinued, or replaced with improved versions. Instead, run reporting based on product categories. Classification of products with categories and subcategories can help identify increases or decreases in category demands, month-to-month. Regardless of whether an individual item has been replaced, you’ll still see the bigger picture and know which categories and sub-categories for which purchasing needs to be adjusted.
When putting together your reporting, you can additionally include data on sales revenue per product category, profit margin, the geographic location of buyers, and whether new customers are buying different products to your repeat customers.
When looking at reporting, you’ll want to see accurate, real-time information to know you’re making agile business decisions. If you also have the functionality to set up automated reports, this can be a huge time saver - having up-to-the-minute reporting delivered to you when you need it, without any additional manual effort.
"Classification of products with categories and subcategories can help identify increases or decreases in category demands, month-to-month. Regardless of whether an individual item has been replaced, you’ll still see the bigger picture and know which categories and sub-categories for which purchasing needs to be adjusted."
The demand for certain product categories can decline after the busy period, and it’s a trend to be expected. Having a clear view of the types of products affected (which you’ll gain from your reporting) will help proactively adjust purchasing and optimise your warehouse or store space to carry just enough of what’s likely to sell. In a nutshell, the closer you can match supply to demand, the less likely you will be to have stock left over and be forced to reduce pricing to run out that stock.
Having non-moving stock sitting in your warehouse or on shelves can take a toll on your cash flow and be costly. Not only will it reduce your available warehouse or storage space that could be used for faster-moving items, but the value of slow-moving products will potentially be depreciating over time. You’ll want to prioritise moving this stock quickly to keep your costs minimised.
Scrutinise stock supply
With accurate, real-time reporting in place, you’ll also gain a better understanding of your stock supply situation. How long are your suppliers taking to deliver? What delivery costs are you incurring across your product lines?
Taking a deeper look into your stock supply can start to uncover opportunities to boost reduce costs and boost profit. For example, can you cut down the total time waiting for product deliveries by ordering larger quantities less often? Could you secure additional discounts from suppliers for those larger quantity orders and reduce your shipping costs? Could it be more cost-effective to order similar items all from the same supplier and reduce your shipping? Taking some time to scrutinise stock supply and finding ways to cut costs can have a significant impact on the profit margin you’re making.
"Having non-moving stock sitting in your warehouse or on shelves can take a toll on your cash flow and be costly. Not only will it reduce your available warehouse or storage space that could be used for faster-moving items, but the value of slow-moving products will potentially be depreciating over time. "
Get physical with stock
Getting your warehouse or store physically prepared can improve your operational efficiency and keep things running smoothly throughout the busy period. For example, consider where you’re positioning your most popular items. Is your popular or fast-moving stock positioned in the warehouse close to where the pick, pack, ship process is taking place?
Grouping similar items together can also help pickers work more intuitively, knowing where to look for similar products to be picked. This tactic can be especially helpful for overflow staff hired to cover periods of increased activity.
Decreasing the walking time for warehouse staff to pick products or making it easier for them to find products might not sound like a big deal. But you’d be surprised how quickly these time-savings can add up. As repeatable processes speed up, more of a rhythm naturally develops. The workers performing those processes start to become even more efficient – and that means increasing your stock turn and your warehouse capacity. You’ll be able to sell more, faster, with optimised processes in place.
Also, consider whether your inventory management software supports automated alerts and re-ordering points to be triggered based on minimum defined stock levels. You want your warehouse or store to consistently be stocking the right amount of product - not too little and not too much. Triggers and automation can safeguard against this.
If you’ve run your inventory management reporting, you should have a clear picture where to place upper and lower product stock limits. Automated re-ordering also reduces the amount of manual work needed to keep your stock at its optimum levels. And that’s time saved which your team can spend on more revenue-generating activities.
"Consider whether your inventory management software supports automated alerts and re-ordering points to be triggered based on minimum defined stock levels. You want your warehouse or store to consistently be stocking the right amount of product - not too little and not too much."
Work on your website
Reviewing your web presence and implementing improvements can help maximise your online sales potential. Your web presence isn’t just about attracting new customers – it’s also about providing another medium for repeat customers to do business with you. So, you want to ensure your site focuses on the customer experience. Is your website consistent with your brand and in-store presence? Consistent branding is a great place to start in driving a more memorable user experience.
Take it further by turning your website into a revenue-generating eCommerce platform. Think about aspects such as providing login capabilities for your customers to access their invoices and order history. Let them see real-time stock availability and easily re-order using favourites and lists. Set up detailed product information including size and weight, multiple product images and potentially even reviews from customers who have purchased those items previously. These kinds of added functionality and information can make sure customers keep coming back to your eCommerce site.
Review whether your website is mobile friendly and incorporates responsive design. With a major shift from consumers in recent years wanting to access sites from mobile devices, it’s essential to offer a seamless, adaptive experience across devices. Also, make your business contact number prominent and hyperlinked so customers can call you straight from their mobile device. You might also want to consider providing links to your Google Maps location to make it quicker to find your physical store.
Lastly, you might want to focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to help customers find your company when they’re searching online for products or solutions. Start thinking about the keywords or phrases consumers might use to find your business or its products. Incorporate those keywords into your product information or descriptions.
If you think potential customers will be searching for stores in their local geographical areas, it’s crucial to have your physical location listed on your site and search engine listings such as Google My Business.
SEO is an entire industry to itself, so enlisting the help of an SEO expert can help you boost sales by getting your business found online more easily.
"With a major shift from consumers in recent years wanting to access sites from mobile devices, it’s essential to offer a seamless, adaptive experience across devices."
Tying together your online and in-store platforms can create a well-rounded and memorable customer experience, which all helps to increase sales potential. There are several ways to create a cross-platform experience that drives sales. For businesses with shop fronts, you could offer special discounts or rewards online to be redeemed in-store – the objective here to be increasing your in-store traffic. You may want to allow customers to complete product returns online and bring physical products back into the store – the aim being ease of transactions that improves the customer experience. You could even offer in-store collection for orders placed via the web, focusing on added convenience.
Creating omni-channel experiences isn’t exclusive to businesses with shop fronts. Wholesale distributors, for example, can focus on using systems that provide visibility across the company. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is an included part of most ERP systems and helps create transparency of customer interactions. Whether a customer calls through, transacts online, or emails your team, everything is logged within the CRM. Everyone from your company can see a full history of customer interactions so they can provide a consistent message that builds trust and earns more repeat business from regular customers.
Start thinking from your customer’s perspective about what can make life easy for them. The better the experience, the more chance they’ll remember your business and buy more from you in the future.
Wrapping it up
With the right preparation in place across reporting, purchasing and supply, inventory, eCommerce and omni-channel strategies, you’ll have the building blocks on how to increase sales and maximise profit this holiday season.
Start with the right reporting that will help you identify stock demand trends. Adjust your purchasing and look for opportunities to reduce supply costs. Organise your store or warehouse to be more efficient during the busy period. Provide a consistent experience across your online and in-store channels and make it easy for customers to move between different sales channels – all the while creating a memorable experience that drives repeat business.
Make the most of this year’s busy period and have yourself a holiday season to remember.
JCurve Solutions (ASX: JCS) provides award-winning cloud ERP solutions that can reduce operating costs, increase efficiency and improve overall profitability. The experienced team at JCS delivers best-practice processes that focus on helping businesses grow, faster. Schedule a tailored demo of cloud ERP software that’s focused on your specific business needs and start your business growth story.