September 18, 2023 I E-Commerce Reverberations I by Jamie Major

Holiday Prep Starts Now

While September weather might feel more like a trip to the beach and less like changing leaves, we’ve officially made it past the dog days of summer. What is traditionally a slower period is finally behind us, and while we’re not off to the races just yet, it’s time to look ahead to starting our engines in just a few weeks. Trust me, you’ll be wishing for peace and quiet again soon enough.

According to market research company Insider Intelligence, the holiday season has grown to encompass all of Q4. Early holiday shopping – which kicked off with an October Prime Day event last year – is going to be the new normal going forward. That’s right: You’ll be caroling from October through December, and now’s the time to prepare.

In Reverb’s last column, my colleague Mark Anzelc spoke about diversifying inventory. Guitar players experiment on synths and drummers are no longer afraid of beat-making machines. That certainly still applies, but my overarching message is to take this time to ensure that you not only have the right inventory, but that you’ve got a handle on the gear you’ve got.

Whether it’s cataloging the instruments in your shop or ensuring that you’ve got a pipeline to additional gear when the rush begins, the end of summer is when you set yourself up for shopping season success.

Another way to do this is through off-season sales. While Q4 generally means open wallets and splurging on that coveted instrument your customers have longed for all year, that doesn’t mean buyers don’t expect sales. However, like many things in life, timing is everything.

Driving demand by offering gear at price points customers find fair is a major part of capitalizing on holiday season demand — with well-priced gear on Reverb selling in a week or less — but so is doing so at specific points throughout the fall and early winter. As you see more and more businesses in the greater consumer space offer deals in non-traditional “holiday” months like October, joining in allows you to take advantage of those looking to buy. Take a cue from Costco: “Come for paper towels, leave with a TV.” When musicians are ready to buy, you’ve got to be ready to entice them. And you’ve got to get them the gear they want when they want it.

In recent years, as e-commerce has become even more prevalent, consumer expectations have risen when it comes to shipping. While music-makers aren’t expecting a drone to deliver their new guitar the same day they ordered it, they are expecting timely (and free) shipping. Fortunately, you’ve got options.

First and foremost, be open and upfront about shipping. If you can’t get the package into the mail the same day, let your customers know the standard shipping time so there are no false pretenses. And, as with any product, name-dropping the word “free” goes a long way — and should result in greater volume for your store. That said, Reverb’s got a great tool to help you get your gear to potential buyers for less.

With Regional Shipping Rates, you have the flexibility to create different shipping rates for buyers in different states. For example, if you’re in Chicago, you might charge $10 for shipping to most states, but ship for free to buyers in Illinois and charge only $5 to buyers in Indiana and Wisconsin, knowing that those nearby locations will cost you less. Offering free and/or two-day shipping is a great way to make your inventory more desirable.

But don’t just take it from me. What are other store owners saying? Is it really helpful, or is it just another headache? That’s what I asked Matt Piermani-Brace, drum and online sales manager for N Stuff Music in Pittsburgh. Turns out Piermani-Brace said he’s found success utilizing the demand from customers who want their gear faster.

“We saw a major increase in orders almost overnight thanks to regional shipping,” he shared. “When talking with our customers we discovered one of their deciding factors to shop with us was the guarantee that we could deliver their instruments within two days.”

Winter is coming, and so is the busy holiday season. While you might still be daydreaming about your latest summer vacation, now’s the perfect time to look ahead to months filled with warm apple cider, cozy fireplaces and a plethora of buyers that are ready, willing and able to get their hands on the gear they’ve wanted all year long. Prep now, and succeed later. MI

Jamie Major is Reverb’s seller engagement manager.

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