drop shipping - Is Santa's Sleigh Big Enough for YOUR Business?
by Chris Malta
Yes, it’s here again. The much anticipated, and equally dreaded, Retail Holiday Season.
While their children’s’ eyes sparkle with glee at the prospect of Toys, Trees, Candles and Parties, parents and all the other adults who own Internet Ecommerce Stores eyes’ glint with a nervous twitch at the approach of the busiest retail season of the year.
‘Will my suppliers be able to handle the load?’ they wonder and worry. ‘Will I be stuck with orders I can’t fill, and customers unhappy about backorders this Holiday?’
If you’re a Home-based Internet Business owner, you know just what I mean. I go through it every year myself. The tremendous amount of buying that goes on during this season empties Wholesale Suppliers’ warehouses faster than a fire alarm in a hay barn. Whether you stock and ship products from your home, or you use Drop Shippers, you can never feel certain that all your customers’ orders will be filled in a timely manner during this retail feeding frenzy.
You’re not alone. The Wholesale Suppliers are feeling it too. They’ve already spent months preparing for the crunch; they began doing so during the late summer and early fall months. They’ve been analyzing past sales years and trying desperately to make sure they stock just enough product to carry them through the Holiday Season, but not so much that they’ll be left with too much extra in January. They have to balance how much they’ll spend on stocking their shelves, with how much they anticipate selling through retailers like you and me.
Wholesale Suppliers have bills to pay too. They can’t afford to simply fill their warehouses with thousands of every single product they carry.
Here at Worldwide Brands, one of the Customer Service questions we begin to see in increasing numbers at this time of year is “How can I be sure that my Wholesale Supplier will be able to supply my orders through the Holidays?”
Well, that’s certainly a valid question.
The answer is this: You can’t be absolutely sure. That’s the nature of business. Sometimes you eat the Bear, sometimes the Bear eats you. It’s always been that way. It’s a normal part of the roller-coaster ride that we retailers, both online and offline, go through every year. There’s always a chance that during the Holiday Season, you are going to end up with a few customers who get backordered.
However, there are definitely a few things you can do to stack the deck in your favor!
Wholesale Suppliers know how much inventory they have. They also have a pretty good idea how quickly each product is going to sell. So, don’t just sit there and wait for the email that finally tells you “We’re sorry, but the item you ordered is out of stock”.
Be proactive. Take as much control of the situation as you can.
Check with your Supplier
Right about now, retail sales are going to start heating up. Contact your Wholesale Supplier by email and say, “Right now, I’m carrying these products of yours in my online store.” (List the products for them).
“Please let me know which products I should continue to advertise throughout the Holidays, and which ones I should prepare to remove due to possible backorders.”
Any Wholesale Supplier worth their salt will be able to respond and say, “This product is stocked in very large quantities, that one is fair to middlin’, and we will probably run out of that other one by the middle of November”.If they don’t respond in a reasonable amount of time, call them and ask the same question.
Stay in touch with your Supplier on a regular basis through the Holidays, and ask that same question every couple of weeks.
Cover yourself on your site
Somewhere on your site, you should say something along the lines of “Please remember that these great products sell very quickly during the Holidays. It’s a good idea to order early before they’re gone!”, or something similar. Your visitors will understand that, and it will help to pace your sales out more evenly during the Season.
Make sure you have a Backorder Policy in place. Somewhere in your site info, make it clear that backorders are possible, though rare. Explain to your visitors what you will do in case of a backorder. Most of the time, it’s enough just to say that backorders will be shipped immediately upon the products being returned to stock. Explain that you cannot be responsible for damages (someone not getting a Holiday gift on time) resulting from backorders.
Prepare an alternate source
If a product does go out of stock, and you end up with a backorder situation, chances are you won’t have more than two or three of your customers backordered before you realize what has happened. If that happens, immediately pull the product from your site. You can leave the image and description up there, but make sure you turn off the Sale button. Put a note in the product description explaining that the product is out of stock, and point your customer to
another similar or complementary product on your site that they might like instead.
Then, know where to find that backordered product at another store, even if you have to drive to the local Mall. Buy it, and ship it to your customer.
It doesn’t matter if you pay full retail price for it. It doesn’t matter if you even lose a couple of dollars to do this. During the Holidays, Customer Service is King. If your supplier runs out of stock, and you have to buy a couple of products somewhere else in order to fill a couple of backorders, be sure to tell the backordered customer what you have done for them. I guarantee they’ll think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, and they’ll not only be back, they’ll tell their friends. I’ve done this a few times, and never regretted it.
If you go into the Holiday Season with your eyes wide open and your business prepared, Santa’s Sleigh will always be full. Or at the very least, it will always appear to be. :o)