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Amazon Sellers Q4 Survival Guide 2021

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amazon q4 danny carlson kenji roi

This guide will cover all the best strategies we and many of our 7 and 8 figure Amazon seller clients have used to dominate Q4 sales in past years.

Q4 October to December is a different beast altogether. The FOMO is justified, brands make upwards of 70-90% of their annual revenue in the fourth quarter alone. Each year seems to smash the previous year’s all-time sales record.

In Q4 2021, E-commerce sales are expected to rise 11.3% to $206.88 billion, up from $185.88 billion in 2020. Not to mention, Amazon’s net income has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses… Amazon Sellers caught out by the many dangers of Q4 madness are perhaps more common, just less likely to shout their failure on social media.

If you read this guide to the Q4 strategy on Amazon in 2021, you’ll be well prepared to win big but even more importantly, how not to lose big.

amazon ecommerce holiday q4 sales growth graph

Rule #1 of Business: Avoid a Mortality Event

Q4 is time to be aggressive and make massive sales but it also comes with higher risk. No matter how tempting it may be to “go all-in” and “risk it for the biscuit,” we must remember the #1 rule of business… don’t out of business, period.

Run a thought experiment for every major decision in your Q4 planning “If this didn’t work, would I go bankrupt?” If the answer is yes then it’s a poor business decision, no matter how big the upside is.

Bankrupting your business and being left with tens or hundreds of thousands in debt is a very real potential outcome. Making a few extra hundred K’s in Q4 would hardly be life-changing. Bankruptcy, however, definitely is. Just not in the direction you’d probably like.

In later sections, we’ll go into actionable things you can do now to avoid mortality events in Q4. But to name a few:

  • Ordering way too much inventory and being forced to liquidate it or sell at a loss
  • Having inventory shipments severely delayed, lost, or damaged, leaving you with nothing to sell
  • Amazon account suspension (just don’t do review manipulation or IP infringement and you should be fine)
  • Going way over-budget on advertising without a big enough return on ad spend

Use Historical Sales Data to Make Better Decisions

Calculating how much inventory you’ll sell each Q4 is part science, part art. Balancing risk, reward, cash flow, and inventory/ shipping restrictions could give a NASA engineer a headache.

But there’s definitely some data and strategies at our disposal to make things easier and more accurate.

q4 amazon ecommerce holidays
Q4 has a lot of “shopper happy” holidays

Look at Last Year’s Q4 Sales on With a Sales Estimator

There are dozens of software that will show estimated sales data for your main keyword. Most of them, like Junglescout, or Market Intelligence will show historical data as well.

  1. Look at the previous 2 years of historical data. By how much did sales volume increase in Q4 compared to the rest of the year?
  2. Multiply this amount by your own actual revenue numbers for that product to get a rough idea of what your sales will be like this year.

This approach is not perfect, but it will give you a ballpark figure for how much inventory you can potentially sell in Q4

Hedge Your Downside Risk With Backup Channels

I’m a big believer that Amazon should be the main focus for 99% of brands reading this, but it’s smart to have at least 1 backup sales channel if something goes horribly wrong with Amazon.

Any time you have a huge chunk of your business capital tied up in a do-or-die situation like Q4, it’s important to limit your downside risk.

I’m not saying to divert valuable time, energy, and cash flow into trying to establish a sales channel that rivals Amazon, I think that’s a bad idea.

Just do the minimum necessary work to set up 1 other sales channel whether it’s your own website, Walmart, etc. That way you have a way to move inventory in a worst-case scenario on Amazon and you won’t be stuck with $75,000 of grill brushes.

Use Monitoring to Stop Black-Hat Sellers

Unfortunately, everywhere there are massive financial gains to be had, black-hat businessmen are playing as well.

Amazon Q4 is the perfect opportunity for competitors to gain easy market share. All they have to do is get their top competitor suspended for a few days and thousands in revenue suddenly come their way.

While it’s impossible to stop anyone from messing with you there are some things you can do to make it harder.

  1. Use an Amazon Listing Monitoring software like SentryKit to give you real-time alerts for any listing issues
  2. Respond immediately to listing suppressions, a string of negative reviews, listing issues that break TOS, or any other problem with your listing

In Q4, every hour your listing is suppressed can mean thousands in revenue lost. Speed is everything and having software alerts makes this much easier.

Train a team member how to communicate with Amazon Seller Support

In many cases, the fastest way to fix an issue is to phone seller support. The problem is it can often take an hour or longer waiting, getting transferred to other agents, and dealing with the often “sub-optimal” knowledge and experience of the reps. It’s mentally draining, frustrating, and time-consuming.

Training an entry-level employee to manage these situations will help solve listing issues faster without draining your valuable time. In the beginning, simply train them how to get the agent on the phone, then give them a way to loop you in on the conversation when it actually happens. That alone will save you hours.

But with consistent training you can get them to deal with the issues that come up over and over again, so you’ll never again have to deal with Amazon’s abysmal seller support agents.

Pre-Ranking Q4 Marketing Campaigns

Because sales are so much higher in Q4, it takes more sales volume to gain ranking on your top keywords. That’s why savvy sellers run aggressive marketing campaigns BEFORE all the craziness in hopes their ranking will stick through the holiday season.

Pre-holiday season always has cheaper advertising and less competition so a well-timed marketing strategy can pay big dividends when November and December roll around.

Use Google SEO Blog Traffic

Organic traffic from Google SEO is a seriously underrated way to get new customers. The big advantage over other types of marketing is that it’s “evergreen,” meaning a blog post that’s getting traffic now often still gets traffic 2 years from now. Unlike social media where traffic dies the day you stop posting, blog posts stack on top of each other, building into a reliable traffic machine.

The big downside, and the reason it’s grossly overlooked, is that it takes time to see results. A brand new website might take months to start bringing in real traffic, it’s not the same “quick hit” that ads give. But the compounding effect and consistency of that traffic make it all worth it. The challenge is being able to put in the work long enough to actually see the results.

Probably the most comprehensive free resource on Google SEO is AHREFS’ blog. They’re a software tool Kenji ROI uses to manage our own SEO and the guys there are world-class.

Be Searchable When Shoppers Look You Up

The other benefit of blog posts is that shoppers who see you on Amazon then Google search will find a brand that looks legit.

If they read your blog post and see you’re a legit company that knows and understands their needs and problems, you’re now in a different league than all the white-labeled commodities out there.

It’s impossible to know how many shoppers Google search for a brand when making a buying decision on Amazon, but in today’s e-commerce world we do know the average consumer has 2.8 touchpoints before purchasing something online.

You can also run retargeting ads to everyone who visited the blog page, directing them to Amazon to drive sales further.

Drive External Traffic & Earn Affiliate Commission

It used to be against Amazon TOS (terms of service) to use Amazon’s affiliate links on your own products, but recently Amazon changed that and is now encouraging sellers to do so.

Just sign up for an account on Amazon Associates, and you can earn a commission for anyone that clicks your link and buys, even on your own products!

This can help offset advertising costs and while it’s hard to verify, many sellers report seeing a small keyword ranking boost when running Facebook or Google ads to their Amazon listings.

Amazon benefits from 3rd parties paying for ads to their site, so it would make sense their algorithm likes this. For this reason, you may consider running ads even if they are mildly unprofitable.

Small Listing Optimizations, Big-Time Sales Gains

As one of the leading Amazon listing optimization agencies since 2016, Kenji ROI has seen some incredible sales growth from small listing optimizations.

We’ve seen 1% of smaller conversion rate increases translate to more than $20,000 per month in additional sales. And 0.3% click-through rate increases resulting in an extra 100,000+ people per month viewing a product page.

The key with Amazon listing optimization is identifying which products are worth optimizing, and what needs to be optimized. If you have 25 products, optimizing specific parts of 2 or 3 of them will likely net more sales than the other 22 combined.

How to Decide Which Products Are Worth Optimizing

As a general rule, the more a product is already selling, the more revenue there is to gain from investing in listing improvements.

If you improve the conversion rate by 1% on a $10,000 per month product, you might make an extra $3k. But on a $50,000 per month product it would bring in a whopping $15k in additional revenue.

Your first priority should probably be your top-performing listings. Most sellers focus on trying to make their worst-performing products sell more when they would get 10-100x more returns focusing on making their winners win even more.

The only time to focus on optimizing low-performing products is if you think that’s the only reason the product is failing. In that case, go for it. What you don’t want to do is waste time and money on product photos, A+ Content, and videos for a product that still won’t work after the optimization is done.

So now you know which products are worth optimizing, now let’s look at what to optimize first.

Amazon Main Image Optimization

Usually, the most important thing to optimize first is the main image, because that’s what customers see on search results and ads. Even a 0.1% improvement often means thousands more clicks to your product page.

Check out our full guide to Amazon main image optimization here.

Amazon Product Photography - Defrosting Tray - Main-1

Adding A+ Content

If you have Amazon Brand Registry, A+ Content is a no-brainer way to crank up your conversion rate by a percent or two. On average, Amazon reports a 5% conversion rate increase after adding A+ Content.

We have a super in-depth guide to A+ Content here.

Product Photography That Sells

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again, product photos are the most important part of a successful product listing. We encounter sellers every day that are struggling because they cheaped out on their photos and are now having to redo everything.

Yes, great product photography can cost a lot. But weighed against the lost sales from a low conversion rate or even worse, a failed product, it’s a small price to pay.

See our full guide to Amazon product photography here.

Amazon Product Photography - Cocktail Shaker Bar Set - Infographic-3NEW

A/B Testing Before Q4

A/B testing or “split testing” allows you to test how 2 different versions of your listing perform. It’s often surprising which version ends up winning, so don’t get lazy and rely on your subjective opinion.

Do this before Q4 so you can reap the rewards when the sales are rolling in. Otherwise, you may get caught with customers seeing a bad version of your listing half the time.

Amazon has a built-in split testing tool you can use in Seller Central, but there are more robust 3rd party software such as Splitly that give you more data.

Another way to test off Amazon altogether is PickFu. They take a different approach and survey consumers who meet your criteria who provide feedback on anything you want. Try some of these proven PickFu split tests Anthony shared with us that have gotten good results.

Avoid Amazon’s Q4 “Shipping Kiss of Death”

Don’t underestimate this one, shipping issues during Q4 have bankrupted many brands before.

With the massive spike in demand, shipping companies of all kinds get massively overloaded. Every loading dock, shipping port, and airport mail center is rammed solid for the entire Q4 season and there’s nothing you can do to avoid higher costs and longer wait times.

We CAN however take some precautions to avoid a shipping issue turning into a potential business killer.

Make Split Air Shipments Instead of 1 Big Sea Shipment

While sea shipping will cost less it’s also at a much higher risk of catastrophically long delays. A 1 month or longer delay might mean you miss Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or an entire month of Q4.

Making multiple air shipments instead limits your risk in case 1 shipment is delayed/ lost/ damaged and gives you a lot more wiggle room for potential delays. In my opinion, it’s worth taking a cut on profit.

Do Your Research On Logistics Company’s Track Record

While it doesn’t guarantee no problems will arise this time, looking at a company’s past year performance can be a good indicator of what to expect.

Search in large Amazon FBA Facebook Groups for the company name to see if anyone has posted negative experiences. If there’s a string of angry sellers who’ve had nightmarish experiences, stay well away from these companies. Many of them over-promise, mismanage, and are so disorganized during Q4 that they lose entire shipments.

Have Multiple Backup Shippers

Just because your current logistics company is doing great now doesn’t mean anything. In Q4 everyone gets severely overloaded and it can change overnight. Make sure to establish a relationship and contact with multiple backups in case something goes wrong.

Managing Amazon Q4 Inventory Restrictions

Amazon is notorious for announcing strict inventory limits for certain sellers at the last minute, leaving many in a hard place. In Q4 usually, there is a reduction in the amount of inventory you can send in at a time, and also the time it’s allowed to sit there.

Amazon FBA warehouses are so jam-packed, they need to aggressively remove products that aren’t selling fast enough, and certainly aren’t ok with you loading up 2 months of inventory at a time.

Use 3rd Party Warehouses to Drip Inventory

The best way to manage this is the send larger shipments directly to a 3rd party fulfillment center instead of Amazon FBA warehouses. From there you can send smaller shipments into Amazon to stay under their inventory caps and reduce risk of storage fees.

In Q4 you’ll be charged storage fees within a shorter timeframe, and remember that removing products from Amazon warehouses or destroying them also incurs a fee ($1 per unit).

Just like shipping companies, the best 3rd party warehouses is moving target. The ones people are recommending as great 6 months ago maybe totally overloaded and a mess now. Make sure you have multiple options as a backup.

Amazon Ads on Steroids

During the 4th quarter holiday season, you’ll have to pay more for Amazon Ads, period.

Companies that don’t normally run ads get emails from Amazon pushing them to run ads and even giving them free credits.

So what can we do to avoid losing tons of money on Amazon Ads in Q4?

Broad Match Modified - Featured

Easy Q4 Holiday Keywords with Modified Broad Match

Many people don’t know about Amazon’s secret 4th match type, modified broad match. You can’t select it as an option when adding keywords, it has to be done a specific way. It’s the perfect weapon for thorough and quick to setup holiday campaigns.

I made an in-depth article about Modified Broad Match on Amazon Ads here, so check that out for more detail. But basically, it allows you to target all search terms that include your target phrases, in any keyword order. Less restricted than Phrase match, more restricted than Broad match.

  1. Create a list of single keywords related to holiday “xmas, Christmas, black-friday, cyber-monday” etc.
  2. Take your main product keyword and add it to the front of each holiday keyword like “bbq glove xmas, bbq glove Christmas” (make sure it’s a high traffic keyword but also specific enough it describes your exact product)
  3. Add the + symbol in front of each individual word like “+bbq +glove +xmas, +bbq +glove +christmas”
  4. Add the keywords to a new campaign and choose Broad Match as the match type. Because you added the + symbol in front of the keywords, they will be in Modified Broad Match, not regular broad match.

Essentially you’re now bidding on every possible search term that includes those single keywords, and it doesn’t restrict the keyword phrase order like phrase match, but it’s still very targeted because all search terms must include those keywords with the + symbol in front.

Need Help Winning in Q4?

So now you have the playbook on how to win on Amazon in Q4 2021, but you may not have the team behind you to take action on it.

That’s why we’re offering special Q4 2021 packages to help ensure you’ll be one of the big winners of what will surely be another all-time Amazon sales record-breaker.

Check out the special offers here.