eCommerce Seasonal Inventory Planning

It’s finally here: the holiday shopping season! But before your brand gets busy cooking up sales, first, we need to talk about seasonal inventory. 


So what does your seasonal inventory look like? Generally, it will consist of products in high demand within a specific window of time, like Christmas decorations and Halloween costumes, for example. Other products like sweaters or snow boots, though not usually purchased year-round, have a longer seasonal period.


In the world of eCommerce, seasonality can make it more challenging to track and control your stock. But inventory management is pertinent to making holiday sales and generating positive customer satisfaction. 


Not sure where to begin? We are! Our expert team at CAKE has whipped up something special to get you started. Follow our seasonal inventory planning guide to get your products ready for holiday shopping!

Organize & Categorize 

The secret to any good recipe is organization and categorization. The same goes for eCommerce inventory. We suggest categorizing your stock based on its lifecycle to identify which products are “seasonal.” If a product’s lifecycle is limited to a specific period of time – like a holiday or a season – then it is only purchased seasonally. 


Other elements to consider when organizing and categorizing your products are the season length (the duration of time over which a product is sold) and the lead time of a purchase (which determines the degree of risk). Because seasonal products won’t acquire much (or any) demand outside of their designated season, it’s important to organize them accordingly to help you plan when to stock up on, release, and advertise them. 

Predicting the Demand

If a product is strictly seasonal, there is also a high risk of residual (or leftover) stock post-season. This is why it is important to determine how much of a product you’ll need before stocking to avoid having anything leftover. To do so, you’ll need to attempt to predict the demand for each seasonal product. 


First and foremost, as lifecycle will have the biggest effect on forecasting the demand, it’s important to consider the duration of time in which seasonal products are purchased. Then, to project how much of each item is going to sell, you should consider sales data from previous years and use this as a guide. Because you don’t want to overstock on a product (for the risk of losing money) or understock (because this could negatively impact sales and customer satisfaction), this could be the most important and difficult step in seasonal inventory planning.

Another way to attempt to anticipate demand is to identify trends from previous holidays alongside new trends in seasonal shopping. Consult social media and Google searches to see what is seasonally trending amongst users. Then you can relay this information back to your own stock and determine which of your products may become more popular or seasonally purchased this year. 

Timelines

Making timelines based on previous seasonal sales is another way to help you predict your inventory in terms of when and what to purchase. Understanding the length of the “season” for a product and exactly when these items are going to reach peak sales can help you with stocking preparation and determine when it is appropriate to start a campaign for these products. Seasonal timelines can be as long as a Q4 (October 1st to December 31st) or as short as Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend.  

Communication

For a successful season, it’s important to have open communication with both your suppliers and your customers. When it comes to your inventory, there needs to be both visibility and transparency with your supply chain so you can make informed decisions about choosing a reliable supplier.


In the event of an inventory crisis, it’s equally as critical to communicate with your shoppers to avoid customer dissatisfaction and loss of business or loyalty. If a high-demand seasonal item does go out of stock, let your customers know and be transparent about the possibility of future shipments and restocks. 

To get ahead of the game, keep a finger on the pulse of what your inventory is selling. If something is hot, give your customers a heads up that it’s selling out. If an item from your seasonal selection is not performing well, feature this product to customers in an ad campaign and encourage them to check it out to reduce the risk of residual stock. For a low-stock product that is sitting in a user’s abandoned cart, send them a note reminding them to get it before it’s gone. 

Out of Stock Items

Despite your best efforts to plan ahead for season inventory, sometimes the inevitable can happen: A product in high demand goes out of stock. But take this sticky situation and turn it into an opportunity to direct interested users to other seasonal products. Your site should naturally guide or suggest shoppers to similar seasonal products – especially ones that are at risk of creating leftover stock – and give them an extra nudge like, “Here are some similar items we think you might like!”. 

Featuring the Seasonal Collection

One final touch: Highlight your season collections on your site page. Whether you decide to do this in the navigation or with a special feature on your homepage, make it clear to users to shop the seasonal selections. Grouping all your seasonal products together into one categorized page allows users to easily access, browse, and purchase these items. You can label them anything like “holiday picks” or “seasonal favorites.” 


By featuring a seasonal collection, this will help you to keep your seasonal inventory organized on your site, allowing you to better track user activity and engagement with these products. 

Shipping

Every brand knows that the holiday season has a significant impact on shipping. From delays to an increase in shipping costs, this issue can factor into your ability to manage inventory. So plan ahead, and order your seasonal inventory early when shipping costs are down and before delays become problematic. 

Have a Slice of CAKE!

We know seasonal inventory planning for the holidays is tough (especially if you’re working in a time crunch). So let us take a load off your plate! Contact our team for all your eCommerce marketing needs because no one does the holidays as sweetly as CAKE!